Defining Islamism.

August 31, 2014

There has been a curious holding of hands in recent years between the Western political far right and those of the Islamist persuasion, both insisting that any individual interpretation of Islam and the definition of Islamism are in fact one in the same. The rhetoric from both is eerily similar in many instances. They both do not care too much for equal secular and liberal protections, and seek to restrict liberty for those they don’t particularly like – this is clear from the Bendigo Mosque case, and the anti-secular opposition to it – and they both insist that a state controlled by the dictates of one faith, is a duty for every Muslim to work to fulfill; a narrative used to justify oppression from both sides of that aisle. The implication is that anyone identifying as a Muslim, but not subscribing to a World domination interpretation of their faith, is not a ‘real‘ Muslim. When it comes to conflating personal faith, with political ideology, both the Western far right and Islamists agree.

The implication that any Muslim not actively pursuing a Caliphate is not a ‘real Muslim’ is a weak one of course, because no single Muslim has the privilege of speaking for the entire faith, nor carrying the definitive interpretation of the faith. Belief is dependent on a variety of concepts, not least personal life experience, socio-economic status, all working in unison to produce an individual interpretation. Islam; the Qur’an and Hadith are so vast in content, anchored to a time and place we know so little about, with a long history of contradiction that no one in the 21st Century can claim a definitive interpretation. Indeed, whilst we see Islamists insisting that homosexual people must be oppressed in the most abhorrent ways, we also see a Swedish Imam blessing a Muslim same-sex marriage last week, and wonderful Islamic gay rights groups like the Al-Fatiha Foundation working to protect and advance the rights of the Muslim LGBT community. Whilst we see ISIS beheading its way across the Middle East, justifying its hideous actions with Quranic passages, we see Imam’s like Dr Usama Hasan issue religious edicts condemning the group, using Quranic passages also. The scope for interpretation is so vast, that for anyone to claim to be speaking for the entire faith, speaks only to their own deluded sense of superiority.

So what do we mean by Islamism? Some claim it is a term that is so diluted, it is indefinable. I disagree. I think it has a clear definition. I’ve had this debate on social media over the past few days, and I’m yet to come across a notable objection to the term, that offers any reason to think the term itself is indefinable.

How I define & use the term Islamism:
A desire to enshrine Islam into the mechanisms of state, with law and rights based on the Shariah. The desire to elevate Islam to state privilege and power.
You may reasonably be described as Islamist, if you believe that I should be free, until my freedom contradicts the Shariah.

Indeed, the Sudanese Islamist leader Hasan al-Turabi uses the term ‘Islamism’ as I use it, in his book ‘Islam and Government‘. Al-Turabi notes that Islamists are:

“Political Muslims for whom Islam is the solution, Islam is religion and government, Islam is the constitution and law.”

– That’s it. It’s that simple. If an individual believes my liberty should be dependent entirely on the dictates of Islam – believing Islam having any inherent jurisdiction over my life whatsoever – this is Islamism. this is Islamism. Erecting institutional barriers to freedom according to the principles of Islam (however you interpret the principles), is Islamism. If an individual believes Islam must be granted state privilege of any variety, this is Islamism. If an individual believes my right to pursue my own goals ends where the religion of Islam begins, this is Islamism. The means of achieving that end may vary between democratically elected heads of state like Erdoğan slowly de-secularising a country and privileging one faith, or violent extremists willing to go the extra mile and wipe out all opposition (note; that is not to say that all violent extremists are Islamists). Indeed, the two may vehemently disagree with each other on progressing the end goal, or may differ theologically (some may argue that apostates deserve execution, others may not; the fact that both believe they have a right to decide whether an apostate lives or dies, rather than neither a believer nor an apostate having any right to decide who lives or dies, is the point), but the end goal remains the same. Whether you parade the streets of London with a sign reading ‘Freedom go to hell!’, or you wear a suit, attend a nation’s Parliament and seek to impose Islam by restricting equal civil liberty via an outwardly respectable legislative process; the end goal is the same.

When I peer out of my window, I see two trees, both of different appearance and levels of imposition. There’s a big tree with red leaves that blocks direct sun light from entering my window after a certain time. There’s a tiny tree with green leaves that balances precariously during windy nights. The two are very similar yet contain nuances that suggest differences; we still call both a tree, because the nuances do not negate the roots. It is fair to say that all ‘isms’, though rooted to the same principles, contain degrees of nuance to the point where one may refer to another as ‘not a real…[insert ism as applicable]’. An ‘ism’ is an umbrella term for a set of ideas. Socialism has a wildly varying degree of proponents from the peaceful to the violent, all seeking a similar goal. With Islamism, the nuances – the means of achieving control of the apparatus of state for Islam; thus the lives of others – may differ, but the principle itself remains the same. If you believe the liberty of others should be chained to the religious dictates of the faith of Islam – however you see that goal achieved – this is Islamism. I am yet to understand why this is a controversial definition, though I suspect it is less controversial, and more uncomfortable for some who fall under this definition.

One objection appears to be that we do not share similar terms with those of others faiths working toward the same end. I agree with this objection to a point, though fail to see how it negates the solid definition of the term ‘Islamism’. It simply – and rightly – suggests inconsistent use elsewhere. In the past, we have used ‘Clerical fascism’ – a well defined term focused on Christianity. In the 21st Century, we tend to refer – perhaps sloppily – to those we should refer to as Christianists as the Christian-right. We don’t refer to Islamists as the Muslim-right. This isn’t a distinction without meaning. We do this largely because by the 1950s, what we should call Christianism started to become aligned to the mainstream political right wing, especially in the US, and had several successes, not least ‘In God We Trust’ placed everywhere, slowly chipping away at the principle of church/state separation. The Christian-right are to this day aligned to the Republican Party, continuing its fight to enshrine Christian privilege into the mechanism of state (particularly Oklahoma). It is a similar tale in the UK. It was unsurprising that the voices of dissent over the UK’s same-sex marriage bill, were almost all conservatives (Tory and UKIP), using a Christian narrative in order to withhold equal rights for others. Tony Abbott’s right winged Liberal Party in Australia, appears to favour Christian dogma, over secular liberalism. That relationship between Islamists and mainstream politics isn’t as clear as it has been for their Christianist counterparts and so the term ‘Muslim-right’ would be wholly inadequate. So we use ‘Islamism’ – a term that seems to have gained its rebirth as an new concept in the aftermath of the Iranian revolution through to 9/11 and beyond; and so both ‘Christian-right’ and ‘Islamism’ are founded upon a social, historical context, both with a very clear foundation in the desire to impose the faith of one, over the lives of others through the functions of state.

Perhaps our familiarity with the term ‘Christian-right’ is a reason we do not change it to ‘Christianism’, we already have an established term. Indeed, whilst the term ‘Christianism’ and ‘Christianists’ is at times used – A Time article and Guardian article use it – I would argue that it isn’t used enough (on this blogging platform ‘Islamist’ is recognised as a real word, whilst ‘Christianist’ is underlined to suggest a spelling error) and that it is an objection Muslims are right to raise, though not in the context of negating or diluting the clear definition of ‘Islamism’ (as the Chairman of the Conservative Muslim Forum, Mohammed Amin implied here, whilst bizarrely questioning why the media doesn’t offer a positive image of Islamism from time to time).

As noted at the beginning of the previous paragraph, the lack of a similar word (not a lack of any word, because we absolutely do use other terms to describe them that mean the same thing) for those of other faiths progressing the same desire, does not negate the definition of Islamism as an ideological narrative that seeks to control the lives of others, according to the dictates of Islam. This is a political narrative, and regardless of what both Islamists and the Western far-right insist, is not a term to be used interchangeably with Islam. And so as far as I can tell, the definition of Islamism may be uncomfortable for some, but stands as a perfectly adequate definition.


As the Yazidi face extermination by ISIS: Where are the Western Left?

August 7, 2014


Vian Dakheel Saeed Khadher MP making an impassioned and emotional plea in the Iraqi Parliament for humanitarian solidarity in confronting the extermination of the Yazidi population by ISIS.

Where are the protests in the streets of London and beyond for the people trapped on Sinjar? Where is the Western outrage? Where is the solidarity movement? Where are the angry demands for the right to return for the thousands displaced from their stolen lands? Where is Mehdi Hasan (currently Tweeting his distaste at ‘Conservative Friends of Israel’)? Where is Owen Jones (currently blaming the slaughter of Christians in the Middle East on the war in Iraq, obviously)? Where are the Ministerial resignations from a government remaining silent on constant torture, beheadings, and mass slaughters? Where are the ‘Free Iraq’ banners? Where is the pressure on the UN to uphold its human rights declaration and protect the most vulnerable? Where are the constant stream of images showing the grotesque result of what is slowly turning into a genocide? Where is the solidarity with the Kurds resisting ISIS? Will the Galloway’s of the World be cynically using the slaughter of the Yazidi people as a badly masked pretext to express how much they dislike Blair again? What use is a modern left that traditionally transcended international borders, if it now picks and chooses its relentless fight for basic human rights, based entirely on that population’s relation to US/UK foreign policy? The crisis in Syria and Iraq with ISIS is quickly highlighting the failures of the 21st Century Western Galloway-left’s outrage machine. It is a machine that is focused entirely on expressing its distaste for the US/Israel/Blair and will seemingly, and without a sense of shame, use any crisis to highlight that distaste. It is a left I no longer identify with.

The quickness in which the Western left springs into collective action became apparent over the past two weeks, when it responded with pictures, demands, articles, leaflets, debates, protests, and pressure over Israel’s violent incursion into Gaza and the awful human suffering that followed. This response from the Western left was admirable at times, and manipulative and slightly unsettling at others. It saw Mo Ansar try to underplay the effects of Hamas’s rockets. It also saw writers like Mehdi Hasan and musicians like Brian Eno try to justify a lack of anything close to a similar reaction to any other humanitarian crisis when that crisis doesn’t directly involve Israel or the US. A cynical attempt to justify singling out people, based on incredibly faulty, desperate logic, that may lead one to conclude that behind the poor justifications, lies the stench of bigotry. Because right now, ISIS has captured an area larger than Great Britain, controlling the lives of 6,000,000 people, whilst tens of thousands of innocent human beings – many children – from a religious minority are stuck on Mount Sinjar, threatened with starvation and dehydration if they stay, or execution for apostasy by ISIS if they leave. The women and young girls face enslavement. The men face slaughter. A further 130,000 have fled to the Kurdish north to escape death, forcing a humanitarian refugee crisis in the north of Iraq. Amnesty has noted how desperate the displaced people are for aid in the region. Unicef noted the deaths of 40 children as a result of dehydration and violence. This isn’t a crisis that the World can ignore. As ISIS spreads its net further, more human lives will absolutely fall into its hands to be crushed. It threatens to engulf the region, and beyond, and we have seen what this group is capable of. It is a crisis of massive proportions, and through it all, there is barely a mention from the Galloway, Jones, Hasan Western Left, unless they can find a way to use the human suffering to express their dislike of Blair or the US. A whole new meaning to the term ‘disproportionate response’.

After witnessing how quickly people can mobilise – especially in the age of social media – when it came to the crisis in Gaza and the constant stream of anger from protesters across the World, the quickness by which images were shared (some manipulated from previous conflicts) to create a sense of outrage, article after article, news report after news report, and international pressure rightly put on Israel for its violent incursion, I am left wondering why that Western liberal left moral compass has now been securely locked away during one of the biggest humanitarian crises in living memory.


Ten Tory MPs with less than 50% of the vote.

July 10, 2014

200101_10150108016740904_625467_n

It is true that if you were to include the number of potential voters in each constituency, no current Cabinet Minister would have received over 50% of the vote. But with the freedom to vote, comes the freedom to not vote, and with that in mind we should look more closely at the the percentage that current Tory MPs – seeking to impose voter threshold on strike action – managed to win at the 2010 general election, among actual voter turnout.

So here’s a quick list of ten:

  • Sajid Javid – MP for Bromsgrove and Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and Minister for Equalities – 43.7%.
    – A man who is in control of the state’s involvement in culture, media, sport, and has the key responsibility for equality in the UK, was elected with less than 50% of the vote in Bromsgrove.

  • David Jones – MP for Clyde West and Secretary of State for Wales – 41.5%.
    – A Secretary of State for an entire country, elected with a little over 40% of the vote.

  • Oliver Letwin – Minister of State at the Cabinet Office and Chairman of the Conservative Party’s Policy Review – 47.6%
    – Letwin – after winning less than 50% of the vote – insisted that public sector workers require “discipline and fear”. On a completely unrelated note, Letwin used £2,145 in Parliamentary expenses to fix a leaking pipe on his tennis court.

  • Mark Garnier – MP for Wyre Forest -36.9%
    On his website, speaking of strikes in November 2011, Garnier writes:

    “These strikes, which will cost the economy up to half a billion pounds, were not voted for by a majority and will hit ordinary working people hardest.”

    – Replace the words “strikes” with “Tories” in this massively ironic statement, and you have a far more honest sentence.

  • Jessica Lee – MP for Erewash & Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Attorney General Dominic Grieve – 39.5%.
  • Stephen Mosley – MP for the City of Chester – 40.6%
    – On his website, Mosley says:

    “The strike action undertaken by PCS union members in June highlighted the unconsidered approach that appears to be the default setting for many unions.
    Less than 20% of their members voted for the industrial action and less than half walked out on their responsibilities that day.”

    – Interesting admiration for majority votes, when almost 60% of Mosley’s own constituency doesn’t want him representing them.

  • Nicky Morgan – MP for Loughborough – 41.6%
    – Elected with a minority of the vote, and yet voted in an attempt to ensure same-sex couples couldn’t get married. She believes with less than 50%, she gets to regulate the love lives of others.

  • Edward Garnier – MP for Harborough, Knight Bachelor and former Solicitor General – 49%.
  • James Morris – MP for Halesowen & Rowley Regis – 41.2%
  • Paul Uppal – MP for Wolverhampton South West – 40.7%
    – Uppal voted in favour of a change to striking laws that would prohibit strikes in the transport sector unless a majority of the workforce voted in favour and not merely a majority of those voting. This same principle, if applied to Parliament, would mean every Cabinet Minister would not have been elected. The closest would have been Theresa May, though she’d still have fell short by 7%.

    – If a Conservative Party wishes to impose a 50% voter threshold on strike action, then I see no reason why there should not also be a 50% voter threshold on the ability to propose legislation and vote in Parliament. Indeed, if MPs with less than 50% of the vote in their own constituency can vote to restrict pay and pensions for public sector workers, I see no reason why those same public sector workers can’t then strike with less than 50% of the vote.


  • Trolling UKIP: #WhyImVotingUKIP

    May 21, 2014

    It’s a day before the European election, and the #WhyImVotingUkip Twitter trend has spectacularly backfired on the Party this morning. Once you make your way through the three pro-UKIP tweets, you find yourself in a forest of wonderful satire. And so, here are a few of my favourite #WhyImVotingUKIP tweets so far:

    btfd

    fff

    ddddde

    fffffg

    nhgnr

    rfrr

    trey

    untitled1

    Untitled-2

    Untitled-2d

    Untitled-2e

    Untitled-2r

    Untitled-3

    Untitled-r2

    At least, I think these are satire. Given the frequency by which Tea Party-esque comments are publicly made by UKIP members, all of the above tweets could just as easily be actual UKIP comments.
    Tomorrow is election day. Get out and vote!


    What secularism isn’t…

    March 30, 2014

    I’ve always been ever so slightly bemused by the term ‘militant secularist’. It is generally used by two groups primarily; those who wish to oppress the rights of the religious and presume secularism is a backdoor for Sharia. And ironically, the religious sects who think secularism is out to destroy their religion. From both sides, it’s an odd attack.

    Secularism is particularly easy concept to grasp. It is quite simply the denial of religious supremacy and privilege – through the power of state – over the lives of others. Civil rights and protections come first. Religious belief is not inherently permitted to interfere with this. And so the term ‘militant secularist’ seems to be an attempt at a slur by religious sects unhappy that their institutional privileges – gained through centuries of erecting hideous barriers to equal civil rights – are increasingly under scrutiny. What is it that constitutes a ‘militant secularist’? Someone who militantly wishes the same protections for you, as for they? Baroness Warsi gave us her unique interpretation of the phrase, whilst completely misrepresenting what secularism actually is:

    “For me, what I define as a secular fundamentalist is somebody who says that there should be no public space for faith.”

    – And so begins my ‘what secularism is not…’ rant. Secularism is not seeking the outlawing of faith-based arguments in the public space. If someone wishes the state to punish those who argue from a position of faith in the public sphere, they aren’t secularists. For example, every argument against same-sex marriage in the Commons in 2013, was based on faith to some degree. This isn’t banned, nor do secularists wish to ban it. We do not advocate the state punishing anyone for arguing a principle according to their beliefs, nor, even, to stand for election according to those beliefs. I am absolutely fine with The Christian Party existing, with The Islamic Party existing, and I’ll always defend their right to exist. Progress and knowledge derives from free debate and inquiry, on a framework protecting all from oppression. Secularism protects free expression, inquiry, and belief for all. What you are not allowed to do, is force others to live according to the dictates of your religious beliefs only. To do so, is by its nature advocating the supremacy of your individual faith over the freedoms of those who do not subscribe to your beliefs. It presumes the superiority of your beliefs. You’re entitled to this belief, you just have no right to enforce the rest of us to accept it.

    In 2012, Peter Popham – foreshadowing Warsi two years later – writing for the Independent, published a curious article entitled “No secularism please, we’re British“. A horrid title that presupposes those of us that hold secular principles dear, are not to be considered British. In it, Popham goes on to misrepresent – or simply misunderstand – secularism, and conflate it with a plethora of completely unrelated ideologies and concepts:

    “But the fanaticism of the Islamists has provoked an equally intolerant and intemperate reaction from secular and other quarters, with the ban on headscarves in France and on mosque-building in Switzerland and the rabid anti-Islam rhetoric in the Netherlands; while in Britain it has produced a sudden lurch of opinion among our noisiest public intellectuals against any and all religion. All religions are wrong, goes the argument, everyone knows they are wrong, and their time has expired. As Dawkins put it at the Jaipur Literature Festival last month, faith is “a virus”; he looked forward, he said, to the “complete death of organised religion” in his lifetime.”

    – This brings me to my next point on what secularism isn’t. Secularism is not anti-religious oppression. Indeed, for secularists, the idea of the state punishing people for their choice of clothing is grotesquely anti-secular. Whether the state punishes someone for choosing to wear headscarves, or the state punishes someone for choosing not to wear headscarves, for secularists it is equally as oppressive. It is not secularism. Secularism does not grant certain faiths privileges over others. To deny others the right to worship freely where they choose, and to develop property that they are as entitled as me to develop, denying them purely on the basis of what they choose to believe is an act of supremacy and oppression. This is not secularism.

    The second point to take from the quote above, is that Popham apparently sees no difference between the French state banning religious garments, and criticism of religion in Britain in general. The two are entirely different concepts, and both have nothing to do with secularism. The former is the state interfering with the private lives and choices of its citizens through threat of punishment – a clear violation of the separation of church and state principle – whilst the latter is individual expression and critique of religion. Secularism ensures an individual the right to wear whatever she or he chooses, without fear of punishment, as well as ensuring the right of the individual to criticise all ideologies. Thus, Popham conflates secularism, with atheism. This ridiculous conflation ignores the myriad of religious secularists, like the wonderful ‘British Muslims for Secular Democracy’. We atheists do not have a monopoly on secularism.

    Popham then goes on to rewrite history, in justifying his anti-secular, pro-religious supremacy position:

    “What is staggering about the secularists is their arrogance and the shortness of their memories. The materialist utopianism of the Communists and Nazis is to blame for all the worst atrocities of the past century.
    Dawkins may appear to make sense, but it is incredible that we should be ready to pay serious attention to a prophet whose message is the same as those whose schemes led straight to the hells of the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, Mao’s Cultural Revolution and the Khmer Rouge.”

    – It is difficult to know where to be begin with this, given the amount of misrepresentations to appear in such a short paragraph. I’m choosing to ignore the ridiculous comparison of Richard Dawkins, to every major dictator of the 20th century, because it’s pathetic. I will address the premise of the argument itself. Here, Popham – again conflating secularism with atheism, and both with anti-religious oppression – is entirely wrong. Secularism ensures equal protection for all, regardless of gender, sexuality, ethnicity, or belief. No single ideology allowed a privileged position to oppress at will. Here’s the wonderful thing about secularism; you can be a secular Christian, a secular Muslim, a secular Atheist, a secular Communist, a secular Fascist. You’re beliefs still are not permitted a place of privilege above any others. You are equally protected, equally free from oppression. The right of Christians to publicly say that homosexuality is unnatural, the right of Wahhabi Muslims to insist that Sharia is greater than secular democracy, is protected by the same laws that protect my right to blaspheme and mock religion. What secularism doesn’t allow for, is a Nazi-esque extermination of an entire religious sect based on the dictates of one ideology (despite Popham’s claim, I am yet to see Richard Dawkins advocate this). For that, a state requires centuries of religious propaganda:

    In Germany in 1543, Martin Luther produced his work “On the Jews and their lies“. In it, Luther calls for Jews to be put to work as slaves, for Jewish schools to be burnt to the ground, that Jewish people are the enemy of all Christianity. Johannes Wallmann writes:

    “The assertion that Luther’s expressions of anti-Jewish sentiment have been of major and persistent influence in the centuries after the Reformation, and that there exists a continuity between Protestant anti-Judaism and modern racially oriented antisemitism, is at present wide-spread in the literature; since the Second World War it has understandably become the prevailing opinion.”

    – Nazi policy toward Jewish people was not a new thing. It was the conclusion of 2000+ years of hideous Church sponsored anti-semitism. Luther is vicious in his criticisms and his ideas for the future. But it wasn’t just Luther. The Nazi precedent of forcing Jewish people to wear something that makes them identifiable as Jews, and inferior to the Christian population, was not a Nazi precedent at all. It began much earlier. The Nazis simply appropriated it. Pope Paul IV issued Papal bull Cum nimis absurdum in 1555. The bull states:

    “Moreover, concerning the matter that Jews should be recognizable everywhere: [to this end] men must wear a hat, women, indeed, some other evident sign, yellow in color, that must not be concealed or covered by any means, and must be tightly affixed.”

    – The Bull also insisted that Jews be moved to Jewish ghettos:

    “…all Jews are to live in only one [quarter] to which there is only one entrance and from which there is but one exit.”

    – To suggest that the concept of separating church from state – ensuring freedom of, and freedom from religion – is responsible for the terrors of the 20th century, is so incredibly short sighted, and requires a complete rewrite of history. Indeed, if you need to rewrite history to make your case; you’ve already failed.

    As is usually the case when an argument fails on so many logical standards, Popham predictably then gets insulting:

    “… religious faith can do what secularism cannot: open doors on to areas of human experience – compassion, altruism, serenity, even enlightenment – which have no meaning for the secularists.”

    – Here, Popham has decided not to conflate atheism with secularism anymore, because it suits his purposes not to. For Popham, secularism is now soulless. Divorced from all ethical standards. A big grey wall blocking human compassion and enlightenment. And so again, here is what secularism is not. Secularism is not and does not claim to be a ‘moral anchor’ (as Hamza Tzortzis likes to call it) to one specific time and place (1st century Palestine, or 7th century Arabia). It makes no moral judgement. It isn’t trying to be a system of morality. This is why it isn’t an atheist concept. It appeals to all concepts. It rightly presupposes that the state has no right to claim religious truth and force uniformity through it. It acknowledges that you do not get to force the principles and beliefs that guide your life, onto me, and vice versa. Equal protection on a line of equality, ensuring that no ideology be granted special privilege. How you frame your individual moral compass, is then up to you. I see no example of state power combined with religious power, that ended in anything but oppression of those that did not fit its dogmatic heavenly vision.

    Indeed, over the centuries compassion, altruism, serenity and enlightenment were strangely absent from religious societies (unless you observed the state religion as instructed). Prevalent in non-secular states; forced conversions, state murder for anyone deemed to say something heretical, forced payment to uphold the state faith, rampant homophobia (see Uganda). Most of those, still occur in nations whose institution of state is shackled by faith. For this, Popham has no basis by which to tell me, as a secularist, that compassion, altruism, serenity, and enlightenment have no meaning for me. I decide that, not him. Further, I believe Popham has the same right by which to decide what compassion, altruism, serenity and enlightenment mean for himself, as I do for me, without fear of state interference.

    Another description of constitutes a ‘militant secularist’ comes to us via Mo Ansar:

    mo8
    – If opposing the ritualistic genital mutilation of children is to be considered ‘militant secularist’, I am happy to wear that badge. No one has a right – under any pretext, including ‘religion’ – to mutilate anyone else, especially children. There is no other area of life where this would be considered even slightly acceptable, and it doesn’t get a free pass simply for being shrouded in ‘faith’.

    Secularism, coupled with democracy, is the only system that has an inbuilt mechanism by which we progress. Since its inception, we have slowly worked to break down oppressive barriers (most, originally erected by the parties of faith). I cannot imagine that states with an enshrined religion are ever likely to accept they have no right to viciously oppress sexuality. For this, secular democracy is necessary.

    Secularism protects us equally. It is a system that allows for the religious to believe and express the violent notion that we non-believers are cursed to spend eternity burning in the unforgiving flames of hell. That is your right to believe and to say. Similarly, I have a right to say that I find that to belief to be horrific, outdated, and worthy of nothing but ridicule and condemnation. I have no right to censor that belief, in much the same way as you have no right to censor my expression.

    It is secularism that protects religious minorities. No longer are Catholics permitted to utilise the power of state to oppress Protestants or vice verse. Sunni Muslims are not permitted the power of state to dictate how Shia Muslims observe Islam according to their own conscience, and vice versa. The secular state cares not for whether you believe the Pope to be the authority on Christianity, nor whether Abu Bakr, Omar and Uthman were rightful Caliphs. That’s up to the individual believer to decide. Evangelical Christian sects in the 1770s aligned themselves with the secularists in public life, in the hope of enshrining secular protections for all religious denominations. Within a century, the US was filled with a variety of denominations, from Catholics, to Mormons, none having power over others to enforce uniformity through privilege and oppression. The playing field is level. This is secularism.

    The prominent arguments against secularism seem to follow the same underlying logic, regardless of how it’s presented. Firstly, the argument tends to be a misunderstanding of secularism as anti-religious oppression. Perhaps this is derived from fear of retribution for centuries of religious oppression. But it isn’t actually true. If indeed a state pursued policies designed to oppress the religious, it would follow that the state lost its secular title the moment the oppressive policies were instituted. Secondly, the arguments – especially from the Christian right in the US, and the more Wahhabi Muslim sects in the Middle East – tend to be nothing more than a child-like refusal to accept that their faith does not inherently deserve a place of privilege to interfere with the liberty of others. The former argument, is often an obvious mask for the latter.

    It is perhaps worth remembering that had religion not so horrifically abused state power through grotesque persecution when it had it, there would be no need for ‘secularism’. The concept would almost certainly be considered a natural societal condition. The fact that we need a specific ‘ism’ to protect basic individual rights, speaks volumes of the history of religious oppression that preceded it, and how fast and loose they tended to play with human lives. Today, secularism must be the starting point. No one gets to claim their personal religious belief is more worthy of privilege and supremacy, over any other. A line of neutrality, on a framework of civil rights regardless of sexuality, gender, ethnicity and belief, is the only natural and reasonable position for a state to observe. If you wish to impose your personal religious principles on a population, you need to (not be forced to) accompany it with a reasoned argument. Your personal belief is not an adequate reason in itself. If the argument stands up to scrutiny, then it will stand by itself. If you wish your faith to be granted specific institutional privilege – as with the institution of marriage, for example – you’re going to have to provide a reasoned argument as to why the rest of us should accept your inherent right to a position of superiority, and live according to the dictates of your personal faith. If your argument doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, it would be prudent not to take this as a green light to claim oppression. To do so, comes across as one big child-like tantrum.

    Secularism isn’t anti-religious oppression. Secularism isn’t the wish to ban religious folk from the public sphere. Secularism isn’t a system of anchored morality. Secularism isn’t Atheism. In short, secularism isn’t anything that anti-secularists seem to believe that it is.


    The Frackers of Downing Street.

    January 17, 2014

    There are very few more pressing issues on the planet right now than climate change, and sustainable energy. For that reason alone, throwing dangerous chemicals down a well and splitting rocks to extract gas, leading to complaints of contaminated water supplies in Texas, and earthquakes in Blackpool, was always going to be a controversial topic. Without getting into the pros and cons of the industry and the practice, I thought I’d focus on the names and faces attached to fracking in the UK, who seem to be extraordinarily close to a government that is now suddenly fully embracing fracking.

    Lord Browne is the Managing Director of Riverstone – a private equity firm that backs Cuadrilla Resources (of which Lord Browne in the Chairman). Cuadrilla is a Shale Gas operator that was found to be the likely cause of two minor earthquakes in 2011 through its drilling in Lancashire. Lord Browne is lead non-executive director – a Coalition advisor – at the Cabinet Office and a crossbench member of the House of Lords.

    Also at Riverstone was Ben Moxham. Moxham was a vice President at Riverstone – the equity firm that backs a company responsible for a small earthquake – until 2011. Moxham was then a lead advisor for the Coalition on climate change issues, and a senior policy advisor for energy issues, to the Prime Minister. Moxham, like Lord Browne, was also at BP for a time.

    The Senior Independent Director of of BG Group PLC is Baroness Hogg. BG Group is a British oil and gas company with interests across the planet, including shale gas in the US, where it claimed to be wishing to produce 80,000 barrels a day by 2015, growing up 190,000 barrels a day by 2020 through its shale production. Baroness Hogg was appointed Lead Non-Executive Board Member to the Treasury.

    Sam Laidlaw is the CEO of Centrica. He was also Lead non-executive director on the board of the Department for Transport, and a member of the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Group . Also at Centrica for a time, was Tara Singh. In May 2013, Number 10 announced that Ms Singh would be the Prime Minister’s personal advisor on energy and climate change. This is the same Tara Singh whose previous role was Public Affairs Manager at Centrica – owner of British Gas. A few weeks after Singh was appointed to a government advisory role, Centrica – her former employer – bought a stake in Lord Browne’s Cuadrilla for its shale gas production. Singh has also worked for PR firm Hill & Knowlton, a firm that represents the Norwegian energy giant Statoil, a company with investment in fracking in North America.

    Lord Green, the Minister of State for Trade and Investment, was also non-executive director of chemical giant BASF. BASF supply gas-based chemicals for the fracking industry.

    The Windsor Energy Group in March 2013 discussed, according to its own documents:

    “…the energy revolution from shale gas and tight oil and other game-changers so far looking east, west and south…”

    – This excitement was echoed by the Chairman of the Windsor Energy Group – Lord Howell – who told Parliament that the former colonies were ripe for picking:

    “…wake up and realise where our future and our destiny lie…the new range of Commonwealth countries coming into the prosperity league either side of Africa, as they find through the shale gas revolution that they have fantastic raw energy resources and prospects.”

    – Lord Howell – the Chairman of the W.E.G – also happens to be the father-in-law of Chancellor George Osborne. The Windsor Energy Group takes time on its website to thank Shell and BP for its support. It is unsurprising that two of the biggest players in the oil industry might choose to be close friends with an organisation whose chairman is the father-in-law of the Chancellor. Lord Howell was also former energy advisor to William Hague.

    Lord Howell – the Chairman of the W.E.G and father-in-law of the Chancellor – is also the President of the British Institute of Energy Economics. The BIEE is sponsored by Shell and BP. In 2013, Howell was appointed President of the Energy Industries Council.

    It comes as no surprise then, that in July 2013, Howell’s son-in-law Chancellor George Osborne announced a massive tax break for the fracking industry, setting the rate at 30% for onshore shale gas production, as opposed to 62% for new production of North Sea Oil. Echoing the wording by his father-in-law, and the Windsor Energy Group that his father-in-law Chairs, Osborne referred to fracking as a revolution:

    “This new tax regime, which I want to make the most generous for shale in the world, will contribute to that. I want Britain to be a leader of the shale gas revolution”

    – But it isn’t just Osborne. Vince Cable, whose Party spent the best part of the last decade insisting it was the party of green energy, took to TV news to defend the tax breaks. The fact that Cable here suggests that fracking would have to be heavily regulated and watched, must raise eyebrows as to its potential dangers. It is worth noting that Vince Cable was the former Chief Economist at Shell (supporters of the W.E.G, and financial backers of the BIEE, both run by George Osborne’s father-in-law) and that Malcolm Brinded – the former Chief Executive of Shell Upstream International – referred to Cable in a letter to the Secretary of State as the “Contact Minister for Shell”. Here:

    shell
    – Shell is positioning itself to be a major player in the UK Fracking industry. It’s also worth noting that William Hague worked for Shell UK before entering Parliament.

    The tax breaks must have felt like a wonderful victory, not just for Shell and Osborne’s father-in-law, but for everyone’s favourite soulless lobbyist Lynton Crosby. The Prime Minister’s election advisor and strategist founded the lobbying firm Crosby Textor, which lobbies on behalf of The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, and fracking is one of its main objectives. One of the members of The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association is Dart Energy, whose UK subsidiary holds a fracking licence in the UK.

    So to summarise, Lord Browne from Cuadrilla is a coalition advisor, and Tara Singh from Centrica who own a stake in Cuadrilla is a coalition advisor, and Sam Laidlaw – the CEO of Centrica – was a coalition advisor. Baroness Hogg – a lead non-exec. board member to the Treasure – is Senior Independent Director at a company with huge interests in fracking in the US Ben Moxham – an advisor to the Prime Minister on climate change and energy – was at an equity firm that backed Lord Browne’s Cuadrilla. Lynton Crosby whose firm lobbies on behalf of the fracking industry is a key strategist to the Conservative Party. George Osborne’s father-in-law is the President of a group financially backed by BP & Chairs another organisation supported by Shell among others that pushes for the fracking industry at the same time that his son-in-law announces incredibly generous tax rates for the fracking industry. And the Business Secretary is referred to as the “Contact Minister for Shell” by a former Shell CEO. It is an incredible state of affairs.

    Those who are in a position to be making a very large amount of money from fracking, also appear to be at the centre of a government that will make the key decisions on the future of the industry including its regulations and safety procedures. By contrast, there don’t appear to be any members of local communities close to proposed fracking sites, at the centre of government. For a Tory Party needing to shed its image as the Party of big business, this isn’t helping. The fracking industry hasn’t even taken off in the UK to any great extent, and yet it would appear its representatives are well placed right at the very heart of government.


    Operation Christmas Child: The Cult of Franklin Graham.

    November 18, 2013

    operation christmas child, atheists north carolina school, samaritan's purse, franklin graham, atheism,

    It is around that time of year again when the cries of “Keep CHRIST in Christmas!” spring up, the same time of year we hear that there is some sort of conspiracy of Atheists and Muslims trying to ban Christmas. The persecuted Christians (who oddly, are in all major positions of power in the US) spring to life in an attempt to conceive of an anti-Christmas Atheist agenda that doesn’t actually exist. Sarah Palin has already used the phrase “The War on Christmas” this year and it isn’t even December yet.

    This week saw a new apparent example of heartless Atheists attempting to undermine the spirit of Christmas whilst simultaneously impoverishing children further. The story is brought to us across the evangelical blogs and news sites. For example, WLTX reports that due to the big bad Atheist bullies, East Point Academy in Cayce South Carolina had cancelled its toy drive after being threatened by the American Humanist Association, simply because it was a Christian concoction. That’s the story posted. They even include a back up quote from the Principle Renee Mathews here:

    “There’s no religious literature tied with it. There’s no speakers who come. There’s no religious affiliation at all.”

    – The problem is, this isn’t true. It isn’t a case a benevolent charity giving gifts to the needy, for benevolent reasons, with no religious affiliation at all, as Mathews claims. Quite the opposite, and rather sinisterly so.

    Operation Christmas Child, ran by Reverend Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse is an evangelical program designed to bribe the most vulnerable people into converting to Franklin’s particular brand of Christianity. They openly state their goal is:

    “…the advancement of the Christian faith through educational projects and the relief of poverty”.

    – Relief of poverty for the sake of itself is not good enough for this organisation, it must be linked intrinsically to the spread of the cult of Franklin Graham.

    The cult preys on US school children by inviting them to give to what is believed to be an honest charity dedicated to helping the poorest children in the World, but before delivering those gifts, they slip in Reverend Franklin Graham’s propaganda material. Your children are not sending toys to vulnerable children, the toys are just a marketing technique for a cult that wishes to spread to message.

    As chairman of Samaritan’s Purse, Franklin Graham is given around $400,000 a year. Graham is as Tea Party-esque as the Christian Right gets, having once claimed:

    “The Muslim Brotherhood is very strong and active in our country. It’s infiltrated every level of our government. Right now we have many of these people that are advising the US military and State Department on how to respond in the Middle East, and it’s like asking a fox, like a farmer asking a fox, “How do I protect my henhouse from foxes?” We’ve brought in Muslims to tell us how to make policy toward Muslim countries. And many of these people we’ve brought in, I’m afraid, are under the Muslim Brotherhood.”

    – He also claimed that the Japanese tsunami may have signalled the beginning of Armageddon. He publicly maintains that President Obama is not a Christian – which he deems to be unacceptable – has said that the President was born Muslim, is influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood, and he recorded a public message insisting that same-sex marriage should be banned, with no same-sex union recognised by the state at all. Graham, therefore, has a very political agenda. A very public agenda. Whilst pushing this public agenda, he also have a right winged Christian agenda, that Samaritan’s Purse manipulates school children into being an unwitting part of. Why not agree to send those toys without any mention of religion, or Jesus, or God, as defined by a right-winged American evangelical?

    When they seek out donors, Operation Christmas Child usually downplays its evangelism, so as to attract funding. So much so that South Wales Fire Service here in the UK halted their involvement with Operation Christmas Child after discovering the true nature of the ‘charity’. Director of Corporate Services for South Wales Fire Service, upon discovering the real motives of Operation Christmas Child wrote:

    “Our involvement in Operation Christmas Child has been on the basis that the project was no more than a charitable event. We do not lend support to any political or religious organisation in their own right, neither do we wish to be associated with anybody whose activities would bring the brigade into dispute.”

    – It seems Samaritan’s Purse completely manipulated the fire service, and abused their generosity.

    In 2001, in response to two earthquakes in El Salvador, Samaritan’s Purse received $200,000 of federal aid money to provide relief in the country. They then proceeded to hold prayer meetings, before showing people how to rebuild their homes. Franklin Graham wrote:

    “When we go into these villages and help people get back into their homes, we hope we’ll be able to plant new churches all over this country”

    – The use of US aid money, to spread a cult defined by the Graham family, is not a cause that the US government should be funded, nor should it be allowed in US schools.

    In 2003, Samaritan’s Purse released a report, which seems to boast of their manipulative efforts to bribe children. This is the case of a 13 year old boy who’s enticed into the stranger’s ‘house’ with gifts:

    “Every day, Ramakrishna’s work route took him in front of a Christian church. As he picked up trash from the gutter, a woman invited him into the church. He always refused. Then one day the woman asked him inside to receive a gift. He was still wary of Christians and their strange beliefs, but the offer of a gift was too tempting. He accepted.”

    The report then goes on to give us the real reason they use shoebox drives. To get around anti-conversion laws:

    “India can be a difficult mission field. Many states have anti-conversion laws that make it hard for Christians to work. But Operation Christmas Child breaks down barriers and provides a way to reach the children. More than 325,000 shoe box gifts were distributed in 2003, and 265,000 children were enrolled in follow-up Bible study programs.”

    – The imperialist cult of Franklin Graham.

    Operation Christmas Child sends its propaganda to places that are mainly Muslim; they sent 30,000 Arabic Bibles out to Iraq after the first gulf war. They also aim their propaganda at poorer Hindu communities. This, after Franklin Graham once said of Hinduism:

    “… hundreds of millions of people locked in the darkness of Hinduism… bound by Satan’s power”.

    “… no elephant with 100 arms can do anything for me. None of their 9,000 gods is going to lead me to salvation”

    – This isn’t about giving gifts to vulnerable children, this is about spreading a Biblical cult through any immoral means necessary; including the spread of bribery and bigotry. Visiting struggling countries, and offering food and aid, along with a Bible, is not something I am at all comfortable with, and it is not something that should be allowed to infect secular schools.

    As a private organisation – regardless of how dubious and politically motivated their aims are – we cannot stop them. But it is entirely irresponsible and wrong to be manipulating state school children, in a secular society, to give up their belongings to a cause they believe is innocent whilst at the same time using that innocence to help spread the message of a fundamentalist cult, and the power of a very unlikeable evangelist.

    For the cult of Franklin Graham, poverty and war are very profitable. Viewing poverty and destitution as a way to spread a religious agenda by preying on the most vulnerable, is so horribly wrong, it’s difficult to know where to begin.

    It is not giving that is objectionable to non-believers. It is the use of propaganda in order to convert the most vulnerable, alongside the giving. I would encourage anyone who is worried that their good will and generosity may be the victim of a group like Samaritan’s Purse, to give to far more reputable sources. Oxfam Unwrapped for example, or Link To Hope’s shoebox appeal. Neither of these will include any form of political or religious propaganda, nor the spread of the message of a cult. Your gifts will be safe.

    This hideous group should not be allowed anywhere near children.

    It’d be nice for the news media to tell the full story.


    To be unemployed.

    October 31, 2013

    You will have to forgive me for my break in usual political/religious blogging, but as this is an outlet for me on a personal level also, it is a necessary piece of writing to get off my chest.

    I cannot find work anywhere. I am 27, a freelance photographer, with a degree in Politics & Journalism, I am addicted to writing, I write almost daily on here as well as separately and more personally on another blog, I am fascinated by the World, I utterly adore history (mainly French Revolution and the US Civil War and revolution, but Tudor History and early Islamic history play a role too) and philosophy, I’m teaching myself to speak French, and I am desperately seeking a graduate/entry level position in communications, or PR, or digital marketing, anywhere in the country. I wouldn’t mind teaching either for which I’m currently applying. My dream is to live and to work and settle in the US. But I can’t even find a position here in the UK to gain any sort of experience. And it’s becoming a bit too much to deal with at the moment.

    Unemployment has the unique ability to completely destroy any ounce of confidence or love of being alive one may once have enjoyed. I just feel completely empty, all the time. It becomes difficult to sleep as financial worries stack up and food becomes a luxury. Your social life dies because you can’t keep up with friends. You look at your degree certificate with contempt, like it is just another worthless piece of paper that reflects nothing and it no longer feels like any sort of achievement, and for every 300+ applications you send out, you receive maybe two replies because for every job you apply for, 100+ others are applying for daily. Every job labelled ‘graduate’ or ‘entry level’ seems to then demand 2+ years of experience. The very few that offer experience rather than demand it of graduates, seem to have half of Britain applying to. You become an insignificant face, in a sea of insignificant faces and you’re treading a water that is pulling you deeper in every day. Why bother to resist at all?

    The latest position I applied for comes with this confidence killing disclaimer:

    “Applications: 92
    Please be aware we receive a high volume of applications for every role advertised & regularly receive applications from candidates who exceed the job credentials.”

    – In other words…. don’t bother. You’re probably not good enough.

    The Job Centre is a place of pity, of shame, and a broken, forgotten system with a thin veil of modernity covering its massive cracks. I sat next to a girl who had been coming to the Job Centre for over a year, and as she said that, she laughed nervously and said that if she didn’t laugh, she’d cry. The archaic job search system does not recognise the key words “digital” or “PR” and has trouble with the word “media”. These terms are too new for it, what with being introduced in the mid-90s. But the sofas are comfortable. So that’s just great. The staff talk to you patronisingly, like you’re probably just playing the system, a waste of oxygen, and so deserve to be spoken to like a child. You then get home in time to see a Tory politician continuously tell us all how shameful it is to be unemployed, and how we must be treated with suspicion and anger.

    If you’re lucky enough to get an interview, you are one of about 50+ other candidates and if you wish to impress at an interview, you need an extraordinary degree of confidence in yourself, which you now don’t have. Couple this with constant dehumanised “lazy” or “we must be tough on them!” rhetoric by politicians in both major political parties trying to win over a middle class, and a thoroughly right winged media treating you as a statistic, and a shameful drain on society, and you quickly descend mentally to a place where life seems entirely pointless, because you’re convinced that you have no worth. And whilst feeling entirely worthless, you dread the postman’s footsteps every day, because it’ll just be letter upon letter of threats from companies you can no longer afford to pay. Car insurance. Phone bill. Broadband. Every letter includes a subtle declaration that because you can’t afford to pay, they’ll charge you even more. Which you also can’t pay. And so they’ll threaten you with court. And then the bank charge you because your direct debit didn’t work when the company charged you extra for not being able to afford to pay in the first place. And then the bank will charge you more because you couldn’t pay the charge. And it never stops. Why would anyone have children here? What a fucking cruel thing to do.

    The feeling that you are worthless isn’t fleeting, it doesn’t subside, it grows until it feels endless. And every slight knock back amplifies it. This is my current reality and I hate it.

    If anyone knows of any opportunities, feel free to get in contact because I need just one place to give me even the smallest of opportunities to be able to prove my worth.

    Regular blogging will resume tomorrow.


    Ask British Gas. The Titanic of PR Campaigns.

    October 17, 2013

    You have to question the wisdom of the social media team at British Gas who thought it a wonderful idea to begin a Twitter based #AskBG campaign on the same day the company announces a 9.2% price hike beginning on November 23rd.

    In May this year British Gas insisted their 6% increase made from bills last winter (an extra £75 per customer) would be used to “put off” a price hike for as long as possible. Today it would appear that “as long as possible” to British Gas, means about five months. If today they were under any illusion that a Q&A Twitter session was going to achieve anything but a major PR disaster, that illusion was soon shattered. Here are a few of my favourite ‘Ask British Gas’ Twitter questions:

    British Gas, Ask British Gas, Twitter, #askbg, energy prices

    2

    3

    13

    4

    5

    17

    british gas, ask british gas, #askbg, electricity and gas

    6

    7

    16

    8

    9

    10

    11

    12

    14


    #MyDadHatedBritain

    October 1, 2013

    When the Tories unleashed the racist van a few months back, social media sprung to life in parodying it, thus rendering the miserable venture an episode in ridicule, taking the sharpness out of its nasty sting. Today, Twitter sprung back to life with similar humour, intending to render the Daily Mail’s vicious piece on Ralph Miliband, a piece worth nothing but ridicule. And they succeeded beautifully.

    The Daily Mail accused Labour Leader Ed Miliband’s late father Ralph Miliband, of “hating Britain”. So twitter users took to the social media site to confess their own worries that their father might also hate Britain. Here are a selection of my favourites:

    del

    Untitled-2

    Untitled-3

    dsfds

    Untitled-1

    4

    5

    9

    6

    7

    8

    Wonderful. And it’s still continuing on Twitter as we speak. Ridiculing irrational slur stories, is a fine way to discredit and disempower the original piece.


    My Dear Fuhrer: A Quick History of Daily Mail Fascism.

    October 1, 2013

    blackshirtsI can imagine there are very few people on all sides of the political spectrum in the UK that do not support Ed Miliband in his fight against The Daily Mail’s vicious smear campaign. Miliband took the rather unprecedented step for a politician when he decided to take on the Daily Mail directly. The hate rag, that apparently has no issue hounding vulnerable people to suicide aimed their most recent attack at the Labour leader’s late father; the revered Marxist academic Ralph Miliband. The Mail wrote:

    “The man who hated Britain: Red Ed’s pledge to bring back socialism is a homage to his Marxist father. So what did Miliband Snr really believe in? The answer should disturb everyone who loves this country.”

    – The entire piece surrounds a quote from Miliband Snr’s diary from the age of 17, in which he refers to Brits as ‘rabid Nationalists’. The entire piece asserting that the Labour leader’s father ‘hated Britain’ rests on that one quote. It is the mark of a paper that has no reasonable argument to make, and so just attacks, just hounds, and just aims to hurt lives. This is how the Daily Mail operates. It exists not to inform, but to injure. Not to progress debate, but to mislead and misrepresent. They do however present one aspect of the story, that they predictably quickly gloss over, but it is worth expanding on. The quote from the piece in question is:

    “Ralph Miliband then served three years in the Royal Navy…”

    – This is a particularly important quote, because whilst the father of Ed Miliband was fighting the Nazis by manning a destroyer during the heroic Normandy landings, the great-grandfather of the owner of the British-loving Daily Mail was back in the safety of Britain, supporting Hitler.

    In fact as early as 1926, the Mail was known throughout Europe as a Fascist publication. In that year, Benito Mussolini wrote to the new Chief Correspondent at the Mail, G. Ward Price:

    “My dear Price, I am glad you have become a director of the Daily Mail, and I am sure that your very popular and widely circulated newspaper will continue to be a sincere friend of fascist Italy. With best wishes and greetings, Mussolini.

    A few years after a delighted Mussolini congratulated the Mail’s new Chief Correspondent on his position on the Fascist supporting paper, the proprietor of The Daily Mail, Harold Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Rothermere in 1933 took that support one step further:

    “I urge all British young men and women to study closely the progress of the Nazi regime in Germany. They must not be misled by the misrepresentations of its opponents. The most spiteful detractors of the Nazis are to be found in precisely the same sections of the British public and press as are most vehement in their praises of the Soviet regime in Russia. They have started a clamorous campaign of denunciation against what they call “Nazi atrocities” which, as anyone who visits Germany quickly discovers for himself, consists merely of a few isolated acts of violence such as are inevitable among a nation half as big again as ours, but which have been generalized, multiplied and exaggerated to give the impression that Nazi rule is a bloodthirsty tyranny.”

    – This was in the same year the Nazis implemented the Jewish boycott, leading to state managed harassment, beatings, and forced removals of Jews by Nazis. Less than a year later, the Nazis would engage in what is commonly referred to as the “night of the long knives”, in which political critics of the regime were brutally murdered. Lord Rothermere believed at this point that the Nazis bloodthirsty tyranny was being misrepresented.

    In 1934, The Daily Mail began openly supporting the blackshirts; The British Union of Fascists, through its leader Oswald Mosley (himself heavily influenced by Mussolini, whom he met earlier in the decade). In 1934, the Mail wrote that the British Union of Fascists were:

    “…a well organised party of the right ready to take over responsibility for national affairs with the same directness of purpose and energy of method as Hitler and Mussolini have displayed”.

    – This makes the “rapid nationalists” quote of Ralph Miliband seem completely uncontroversial. The Daily Mail openly supporting the methods and purpose of Hitler and Mussolini, for the sake of Fascism in Britain.

    In the 1934, Harold Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Rothermere, and owner of The Daily Mail flew to Germany, and met with Adolf Hitler. Here are the happy couple:

    Rothrmere.Hitler
    – This is at a time when Daily Mail editorials were used as propaganda, by the Nazis.

    In 1938, the Nazi owner of the Fascist-supporting, anti-British Daily Mail sent a telegram to Hitler to announce his support for the Nazi annexation of the Sudetenland. In it, Rothermere wrote:

    “My dear Fuhrer everyone in England is profoundly moved by the bloodless solution to the Czechoslovakian problem. People not so much concerned with territorial readjustment as with dread of another war with its accompanying bloodbath. Frederick the Great was a great popular figure. I salute your excellency’s star which rises higher and higher.”

    – Rothermere was fully supporting an apparent Nazi (not German) right to empire in Europe. The annexation of Sudetenland lead to its Jewish inhabitants rounded up and thrown into concentration camps, alongside any left leaning opposition in the territories. A month after Rothermere sent his telegram of support for the “bloodless solution”, Sudetenland and the rest of the Nazi empire experienced the truly horrific night of broken glass, in which 91 Jews were murdered, Jewish homes and businesses destroyed, and 30,000 Jewish men, women and children rounded up like animals and thrown into concentration camps.

    A letter from Rothermere in 1939 (six years into Nazi control of Germany, and thousands of political murders later) congratulated Hitler on his success in Prague, and urged him to move on to Romania. Rothermere had befriended and was paying a Nazi spy in Britain – Stephanie von Hohenlohe – to further his contacts in Nazi Germany, and pass correspondence between himself and the regime. The brutality of the regime at this late point was obvious. Rothermere and the Mail turned a blind eye to it.

    So, when you hear the Daily Mail insist that it is relevant to point to brief notes from the mid-20th Century childhood of the father of a political leader in the 21st Century as proof of his “hate” for Britain, and as an attack on his son today… we must keep in mind that during the same period of time, their paper and its owner (the great-grandfather of its current owner) were hoping British troops would fail (including the bravery of Ralph Miliband), and openly praying for a Nazi victory, and dictatorial Fascism across Europe and Britain.


    E.ONs misleading response to Miliband.

    September 25, 2013

    In August 2013, E.ON Energy saw profits jump 14.7%, with their profit margin rising to 6.25% from 5.97% after price hikes of 8.7% for duel fuel customers. In the winter – the time when people struggle the most to pay their fuel bills, and in the middle of economic downturn – E.ON decided to put their prices up. They then claimed the profit increase was due to the cold weather….. in winter….. after they put their prices up. Seriously. Remember that when you read E.ON insisting that government programmes are to blame for customers paying more.

    When reading E.ONs response, keep in mind that the Big Six netted the following profits collectively since 2009:
    2009: £2.15bn
    2010: £2.22bn
    2011: £3.87bn
    2012: £3.74bn
    Over £1.5bn more in 2012, than 2009. They managed this during a period of economic stagnation, unemployment, and households struggling to put food on their tables, the big six were happily swimming in pools of profit. Remember that, when you read E.ON insisting that government programmes are to blame for customers paying more.

    We can say for certain that Ed Miliband has finally struck the right chord, when energy companies who have seemingly experienced complete impunity with their mistreatment of the entire country for far too long, start to throw their toys out of the pram. Today was E.ON’s turn to act the spoilt brat. We must remember that, like the banks insistence that all the best people would leave the UK if the financial sector was in any way regulated for bringing down the entire system…. energy companies will start insisting that the UK will suffer intense blackouts, if we dare to put the breaks on their exploitation. Threats are worthless, and should not factor into discussion.

    Labour’s plan isn’t just a price freeze until the end of 2017, but also the breakup of the big six to ensure a more competitive environment not dominated by what is becoming increasingly clear as a monopoly; and a new regulatory body to ensure necessary investment in greener technology. A completely new energy market. This is absolutely necessary. Centrica’s boss predictably reacted by suggesting that more competition, would lead to economic ruin. The spirit of Capitali….oh wait.

    In response to Milibands speech, and the full Labour plan, E.ON UK released this press release, predictably not happy that their gravy train may now be coming to a end. Only an energy company could endeavour to write one long, deluded and manipulative piece that can be summed up with simply: we love our customers that much that despite their struggles in this tough time, we want to keep raising the price of their bills without consequence.

    First thing to note is that E.ON are rather adept at misleading responses to customer’s worries. When asked about January 2013 price hikes, E.ON said this:

    “Some 16 months after our last price increase, and almost a year since we actually cut our electricity prices, we have had to make the difficult decision to increase our prices in January.”

    – A cut? That sounds like customers saved money over the previous year! Well, no. It’s a misleading statement to say the very very least. Which.co.uk provided this graph to show E.ON price hikes over the past three years:
    eon
    – Dropping £30, after a £160 increase, followed by another £100 increase, and (the graph doesn’t give 2013 date) a further increase of £110 for 2013…. does not in anyway represent a “cut”. The average household energy bill will now be 23% higher than in 2011. E.ON will now be the most expensive for average household energy bills, of all the big six, and £18 higher than the Big Six average. In 2012 the energy watchdog noted that the average annual profit margins per customer for the big six energy companies had risen to £125 in October, from just £15 in June.

    In the press release today, E.ON boss Tony Cocker says:

    “Let me start out by making clear where we absolutely agree. Our customers are the most important people in the world.”

    – So much do customers mean to E.ON, that they rose their prices by over 8% for the first half of the year, increasing their profit margins, whilst knowing that customers would be needing to heat their homes during the cold winter months and in the middle of an economic downturn. So much are customers ‘the most important people in the World’, that Cocker goes on to spend the next 800+ words of the press release arguing his case for continued price hikes that his customers are struggling to afford.

    Quick stat: Between 2005 and 2010, energy prices increased 57%:
    chart1r2
    – There is no positive outcome, is this trend continues. Everyone suffers unless those bars start to fall. E.ON cannot manipulate their way out of that responsibility. What we can deduce from E.ONs angry response to the Labour’s price freeze idea, is that E.ON intend to make those bars keep rising, until at least 2017.

    In 2009 The Independent reported that whilst wholesale gas prices had halved, bills had fallen by just 4%. It took campaigns by newspapers, and grassroots groups to convince people to shop around, after discovering that the Big 6 were charging almost £200. The Independent noted:

    “Quarterly and pre-payment customers who switch to Ovo or First:Utility would save £287.”

    The Energy Contract Company, an independent energy forcaster said:

    “The fall in spot prices has meant the domestic market is now highly profitable”.

    – E.ON knew what it was doing. They knew that people were struggling, and that energy bills were one main reason, and they did nothing. But then, how else would they pay for E.ON CEO Johannes Teyssen’s £3.6mn in salary and bonuses for 2011?

    “You’ve called for us to be fair and reasonable in our pricing and our profit levels. We already are.”

    – This is an opinion. I do not believe it fair to inflate prices during the coldest months, and during economic stagnation, knowing people are struggling, and forcing the most vulnerable into further hardship and debt, whilst profits soar. The Poverty and Social Exclusion (PSE) Project, in March, published its report into poverty in the UK. The report – ‘The Impoverishment of the UK‘ – found that one in three people couldn’t afford to adequately heat their homes throughout the winter in 2012.
    Save The Children reported that families are going without food, to stop getting into debt over energy bills they cannot afford. This must be what E.ON believes is “fair and reasonable”.

    “Read the letters from customers telling us of the difference to their lives, not just their homes, that the insulation we put in has made. Meet our customers at our Open House store in the middle of Nottingham who value and appreciate the extra help our people have given.”

    – Why are we even discussing this? Everything is great! It’s like being mugged for £10, and then given £1 and the mugger telling you that he’s only trying to help.

    Mr Cocker then writes:

    “What do I mean by political programmes? Successive governments have collected taxes for different schemes through energy bills and this has added extra pressure and is a factor in why bills have risen over a sustained period of time. All politicians, from all sides, need to acknowledge that fact. At a stroke you could remove a large cost from energy bills simply by moving these costs to general taxation.”

    – This is the crux of the entire press release. It is one big “tax us less, and we might consider not leaving pensioners to rot in fuel poverty. Deal?” And whilst we’re at it…. General taxation. Take the ‘burden’ away from massive profit making companies that pay their CEO’s extortionate bonuses, and onto the general public who are already seeing incomes drop? And what should those taxes be used for?…..

    “So I’m asking all politicians: Help me to get Smart meters into more homes more quickly. Help me to get British homes up to a modern, energy efficient standard. Help me to get UK businesses on top of their energy use.”

    …. of course. Those general taxes should go to E.ON! They want to pay nothing, and reap the benefits of everyone else paying. They don’t want a more competitive environment, they want the government to help their own company get ahead. What Mr Cocker is admitting here, is that despite vast profits, they are still unwilling to do anything to help bring your bills down, without government subsidies. A failing sector. More competition is absolutely vital. Force them to act for the benefit of their customers, through well regulated competition.

    If successive government programmes were in fact responsible for much of the size of an energy bill… then it stands to reason that E.ONs profits should be at best flatlining, rather than skyrocketing. There would be no 14% profit jump. Government programmes have apparently been that restrictive on an incredibly small number of energy companies, that in 2012, they still managed to net £3.74bn between them, according to the regulator. How terrible!

    Mr Cocker writes:

    “Of course there are people who need our help and yes, there are a few we’ve let down but we have, and we are, making the changes needed to get things right: Simpler bills, clearer products, changes for businesses. Of course we need to rebuild trust with our customers, and reset our relationship. We acknowledge that, we have made changes, and we are making changes.”

    – I’d like him to elaborate on who he thinks he’s let down? Perhaps the 100,000 former customer they overcharged for switching to a different provider, and which took the regulator to investigate and actually force E.ON to act? And when they speak of the changes that they are making…. how many of those were not forced upon them when it became clear that E.ON and other energy companies were ripping customers off at every possible opportunity? Clearer products – forced. Simpler bills – forced. Ed Davey insisted that the energy companies and the government were working to make bills more transparent. The fact that the government had to get involved and energy companies weren’t willing to make bills transparent in the first place, is a problem. You do not ‘rebuild trust’ by claiming to be fixing the problems of your own generous, good will, when in fact, you were forced. And until they’re forced to bring down energy prices, they will continue to manipulate, blame everyone else; usually government, kick and scream, and then eventually give in and accept that ‘we need to rebuild trust’.

    Gas and electricity isn’t a commodity like any other. It is a necessity for most. It can be the difference between life and death, and therefore energy companies must put people before shareholders. They sell an extraordinary product that cannot be allowed to reap great profits for companies at the continued expense of the lives and finances of the public. During economic downturns, if the price of energy is causing economic pain across the country, then I would suggest that energy and gas profits should be minimal. This is not like selling jam, or Xbox games, or football shirts. If profits soar, whilst fuel poverty soars, something is deeply flawed, and the market is broken. E.ON call this “reasonable and fair”. Right there, is the problem. They see no problem.

    And as I noted previously, we can deduce from E.ONs angry response, that they have every intention of rising prices over the next five years; the same period of time that the Chancellor announced austerity will now last until. The hardship and the economic pain will only continue, prices will rise, there will still be a lack of competition, and that’s what E.ONs press release argues for.

    So, they don’t control much of the price, the government are to blame for the majority of the Bill, and they want the public to be taxed more to pay for their lack of investment? Why not just renationalise gas and electricity? I see no use for these big six companies any more. And judging by his statement today, neither does Tony Cocker. He doesn’t seem to see any issue whatsoever. For Cocker, they cannot afford to modernise, without government help, and according to Cocker, all the problems can be fixed by taxing them less, and taxing people more to fund E.ON. So why not just cut out the middle man? They were given a chance, they enriched themselves, and immiserated everyone else, whilst calling it ‘fair and reasonable’. Nationalise them.


    The Grant Shapps Embarrassment.

    September 12, 2013

    The Conservative Party must be thoroughly embarrassed with their Chairman this week. Grant Shapps has not only begun an ill-informed argument with an informed UN Official and international housing expert of 30 years experience, appointed by the UN, for her vital report into the horror of the Bedroom Tax, he did so with what seems to be completely invented reasoning.

    Upon reading the report by the UN special rapporteur on housing, Raquel Rolnik into the dehumanising, and poverty-inducing effects of the Bedroom Tax, Shapps said:

    “It is completely wrong and an abuse of the process for somebody to come over, to fail to meet with government ministers, to fail to meet with the department responsible, to produce a press release two weeks after coming, even though the report is not due out until next spring, and even to fail to refer to the policy properly throughout the report.”

    – This is almost entirely ill-informed, and wrong. Raquel Rolnik absolutely did meet with not only DWP officials, but also two Ministers to discuss the report, neither of which had any problem with her “coming over” to conduct research. Not only that, but she acted well within her remit. There is no debate. She’s right, and he’s having an ill-conceived tantrum.

    Secondly, Shapps complains that she isn’t using the name of the policy properly. What he means by this is, the “Spare Room Subsidy”. A name that no one uses, because it is a brazen insult to the intelligence of the electorate. A name that isn’t actually based on anything remotely reasonable, because there is no law that grants a subsidy based on a spare room. So the manipulative name is simply what Conservatives wishing to water down the damaging effects of the policy wish to call it. The rest of us don’t. He can whinge that we’re all not willing to polish his turd, and insist that it has a “proper name” all he wants. No one has to accept that name as fact. Rolnik is entitled to call it whatever she feels it is, and she clearly agrees that it is a Bedroom Tax.

    Rolnik appeared on Channel 4 news last night, and responded to equally ill-informed Tory MP Nadhim Zahawi, by insisting that it is her obligation and her UN mandate to highlight those significantly harmed by government policy on housing. A much needed role. Nadhim Zahawi then complained – echoing Shapps – that she hadn’t met officials from the DWP. She responded by saying that the UK Government arranges her specific meetings during UN fact finding missions, and that she had in fact met with officials from the DWP. So, discrediting Zahawi instantly.

    Rolnik then further backed up her point:

    “I requested to meet with the highest possible officials, and I met with the DWP, and had more than one meeting with the ones in the DWP who are responsible.”

    – It turns out she not only met with officials from the DWP, but she also met with Don Foster and Eric Pickles. Two Ministers. I predict that Shapps will next register his disgust that she hadn’t specifically spoken to the Prime Minister. He’s likely to get more absurd by the day, as his case slowly crumbles beneath him.

    Shapps then unable to defend his discredited reasoning, and not willing to apologise for lying, went for the typical ad-hom attack, shamefully insulting Raquel Rolnik based on her nation of origin:

    “How is it that a woman from Brazil – a country that has 50 million people in inadequate housing – has come over, failed to meet with any government minister, with any official from the Department [for] Work and Pensions [DWP] or to refer to the policy by its accurate name… She has come over with an agenda and clearly has an axe to grind.”

    – Suddenly, he’s mentioning specific departments. Predictably, after being proven completely wrong, he’s now dropped his claim that she hadn’t met with any ministers. But demands she see officials from a specific department. A department that she in fact, did meet with, did request a meeting with Iain Duncan Smith. It seems the Tories don’t know what their argument is.

    But when we cut underneath the surface layer, just a little, it isn’t difficult to note that Grant Shapps wants a UN report to reflect Government bias, rather than focusing on the effects felt by the most vulnerable.

    Shapps’ also dropped his criticism of her conducting a report, that is actually within UN framework for her to conduct in the first place, because again, he was wrong. And I can guarantee, had her report shone a positive light on the Bedroom Tax, Shapps wouldn’t be on the ill-informed offensive that he’s now on, embarrassing himself everytime he opens his mouth.

    Secondly, it is irrelevant where she is from. She is a respected member of the UN team with decades of experience around the World. She is the UN special rapporteur on housing. She knows what she’s talking about. She’s an expert. Being Brazilian is irrelevant, and to attack her for where she was born is a very weak line of attack from a Tory Chairman quite obviously losing the fight. She isn’t just “a woman from Brazil”. And perhaps being from a country that has inadequate housing, and suffering terribly for that, makes her far more able to understand the horrendous situation the most vulnerable people in any country face, when very wealthy people in very big houses conceive of such a heartless policy. It is also irrelevant where Rolnik is from, because Shapps is completely unwilling to listen to the plethora of charities and experts from Britain who register disgust and concern about the Bedroom Tax.

    Shapps has since wrote a letter demanding an investigation, to……. Ban Ki Moon. The Secretary General of the UN currently working to try to resolve a crisis of unbelievable magnitude in Syria, will now have to deal with a whimpering Tory throwing his toys out of the pram for not being allowed to influence a UN report. In his letter, Shapps writes:

    “I believe that the Special Rapporteur’s report has been influenced by political bias and suggest that the UN withdrawn her claims”

    – Naturally he doesn’t actually elaborate on that ‘political bias’. It is eerily similar to Michael Gove’s continued insistence that if teachers disapprove of his changes, they must be Marxists. Reds! Reds everywhere! If you’re going to write a horrifically condescending letter to the Secretary-General of the United Nations insisting that a respected member of his team is influenced by political bias, perhaps it would be to your credit, to prove that assertion. Otherwise, you’re just having a tantrum.

    Rolnik travelled around the UK speaking to the only people that matter; those affected by the policy. Those who have been driven to food banks, and those who spend every waking hour worried about their future, and how they will afford to live. These are human lives that Conservatives like Grant Shapps would like to completely destroy with impunity. Rolnik concluded that the Bedroom Tax breached the human right to basic housing, because there are not enough smaller properties to downgrade to. And she’s correct. We all know it. Which is why it is a tax.

    Earlier this year, Shapps said:

    “It is wrong to leave people out in the cold with effectively no roof over their heads because the taxpayer is paying for rooms which aren’t in use.”

    – People would not be ‘left out in the cold with effectively no roof over their heads’ if government policy had not, according to figures by the Department for Communities and Local Government, forced a 14% leap in households registered as ‘homeless’. The largest in nine years. Let’s not take lectures on homelessness from a Party that is responsible for rising homeless rates. A report from the same department also showed the number of people sleeping rough had jumped by a fifth, in a year.
    Leslie Morphy the Chief Exec. of Crises said:

    “Our worst fears are coming to pass. We face a perfect storm of economic downturn, rising joblessness and soaring demand for limited affordable housing combined with government policy to cut housing benefit plus local cuts to homelessness services.”

    Similarly, the Chief Exec. of Shelter, Campbell Rob said:

    “These figures are a shocking reminder of the divide between the housing haves and have nots in this country,”

    Similarly, Matt Harrison, interim chief executive of Homeless Link said:

    “This comes at a time when reduced funding has already hit services and further cuts are expected this year. Our research indicates that there are now fewer projects, fewer beds and more of our members are turning people away because they are full.”

    Predictably, as with every overwhelming indication that Conservative policy is failing the most vulnerable, the Party refused to accept that the situation could ever be blamed on them. Grant Shapps said:

    “the debt-laden economy we inherited is leaving a legacy of hard-up households across the country”.

    – So, charities, The British Academy of Childhood Disability, the UN, those most vulnerable, as well as the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist and United Reformed Churches and Church of Scotland all calling these policies completely unacceptable and unjust, Grant Shapps still insists he is right, and will not be swayed by attempts to reintroduce a human aspect to the debate. The refusal to even acknowledge the damage austerity poverty-driven policies have on the most vulnerable, and his indifference toward the problem, choosing instead to try to score, weak and cheap political points, or to attack a nation of origin, should be enough to disgust anyone with even a fundamental sense of social justice.

    Rolnik said:

    “During these days of my visit, the dramatic testimonies of people with disabilities, grandmothers who are carers for their families, and others affected by this policy, clearly point to a measure that appears to have been taken without the human component in mind.”

    – And she’s absolutely right. Conservatives tend to get very defensive when presented with the human cost of their dire policies. The insistence that cutting housing benefits for those considered to be in a house with one bedroom more than they “need”, will save £500,000,000 highlights the mentality of the party of Grant Shapps. Money first.

    In March this year, grandmother Stephanie Bottrill committed suicide, after telling neighbours that she couldn’t afford to live any more. She could not afford the cost of living in her house, a home she had lived in for 18 years, because a government of millionaires decided she had too many ‘spare’ bedrooms (let’s not forget that Lord Freud, staunch defender of the Bedroom Tax, lives in a massive country estate). Grant Shapps and others like him, do not like attention drawn to the human cost of this dreadful and dehumanising policy. They wish the debate to be centred purely around money. The argument for freeing up housing, falls down because the supply of social housing is woefully inadequate. There is no other argument. The Bedroom Tax is a further attack on the most vulnerable, for no discernible reason. There is no positive to take from the policy. When this is the case, it is natural for the Conservative Party to resort to absurdities, and ad-hom abuse. You can almost set your watch by it. Shapps didn’t disappoint on this one.

    It is one in a long list of embarrassments for Grant Shapps, who previously admitted to editing his own Wikipedia page to remove embarrassing gaffes, he’s changed his mind about where he was born depending on where he was standing for election, and according to his name badge at a Las Vegas internet conference in 2004, he is actually “Michael Green, a ‘multi-million-dollar web marketer’”. Whilst Shapps was inventing fake names for his dodgy business ventures back in 2004, Raquel Rolnik was focused on international housing concerns.

    Rolnik is right to focus on the human aspect of the Bedroom Tax – an aspect that the utterly horrendous Grant Shapps, in his quest to apply unnecessary and heartless pressure to the lives of the most vulnerable, will never understand nor be the slightest bit concerned about. The human aspect is an aspect that has been missing from the debate on the Bedroom Tax and from the Conservative Party in general for far too long.


    … at least you don’t have an I.D Card.

    September 8, 2013

    In 2010 – and still taking a prominent place on their website today – The Conservative Party released their ‘Quality of Life Agenda‘; a pamphlet setting out Conservative values for a modern age. Section 4 is titled ‘Defending Civil Liberties‘ and lists the Labour Party’s civil-liberty failures whilst in government:

    “Labour have shown complete contempt for the rights of the individual. In opposition we have fought them every step of the way; forcing them into a humiliating u-turn over 42-day detention. In government we’ll go further, scrapping
    the Contactpoint database and abolishing ID cards. But these blows for our civil liberties will only happen with the clean break of a new Conservative government.”

    – So, please note….. effortlessly carrying around an inconsequential ID card is – according to the Conservative Party – an unacceptable attack on individual civil liberties. Keep that in mind throughout this article.

    In July 2013, Conservative MP Philip Hollobone – who voted strongly against any ID scheme – introduced a Bill into Parliament calling for a compulsory one year National Service for 18-26 year olds. The Bill reads:

    “Non-exempt individuals who do not serve one year of national service before the age of 26 years shall be guilty of an offence.”

    – So for Philip Hollobone, effortlessly carrying around an inconsequential ID card is an unacceptable attack on individual civil liberties. Stealing a year out of the life of young people and punishing them if they don’t comply with that theft, is perfectly acceptable.

    Parliament’s website describes the Bill in rather manipulative language:

    “A Bill to provide a system of national service for young persons; and for connected purposes.”

    – This Bill doesn’t “provide” anything. It removes. It forcibly takes a year from the life of every young person in the country.
    When a young person finishes college or university and perhaps has the perfect career opportunity presented before them with which they would ordinarily choose to pursue, would – upon passage of this Bill – have to factor in leaving that position within 8 years whether they wished to do so or not, to comply with Hollobone owning a year of their life.

    The horrific Bill continues:

    “(2) Regulations shall also provide that the scheme shall include—
    (a) a residential element, requiring that participants live away from home;”

    – Not only will you not be able to take on the job of your dreams because you’ll inevitably have to give it up whether you wish to or not, but you will have to live where Hollobone demands that you live. Don’t you dare stay at home. You will face punishment. It doesn’t set out the punishment, but that is irrelevant. The fact that a punishment exists at all, and thereby criminalises the act of staying at home, and not wilfully giving up your right to owning your own life, cannot be spun as anything other than an extreme overreaching of centralised government into the lives of individuals, on a level far beyond anything the previous Labour government could have even proposed.

    If an 18 – 26 year old is to give up one entire year of his or her life through no free choice, and not as a result of an intrusion upon the rights of others, but through compulsion by threat of punishment, a liberty has therefore been offended. Life is short, and our life is our most sacred property, and with this Bill Philip Hollobone – espousing a Paternalistic society based on the born-to-rule-over-you delusions of Tory Party members – proposes stealing that sacred property. He proposes owning a year of a human being’s life without that person’s consent. A year will been stolen and whilst those who vote “Yes” on the Bill – and if it passes – are the ones who partook in the theft of a youth’s liberty, the author of the bill is the ringleader. He orchestrated it. He is to blame. That year of your life belongs to Hollobone, and if you disagree you will be punished.

    The Conservative ‘Quality of Life Agenda’ states:

    “And what about giving people more power over their lives?”

    – Before launching into a tirade upon the legacy of the previous government. But if an 18-26 year old did not owe a year of their life to a Tory MP before 2010, does owe a year of their life to a Tory MP by 2015, then I’m afraid the Conservatives have taken more power away from that individual and handed to the State, on the terms of Philip Hollobone. And this is a rather massive intrusion upon the civil liberty of an individual. And what will the individual be compensated for being forced to give up an entire 12 months of their life on the terms of one Tory MP?

    “Participants in national service shall be paid the national adult minimum wage.”

    – Of course. The bare minimum. The least he can possibly pay someone. This is grotesque. Not only is he suggesting paying the bare minimum for labour, but he is suggesting paying the bare minimum for forced labour. That giving up the liberty of owning every year of our life through no choice of our own, is worth nothing to this hideous man. Your labour, and a year of your life combined are only worth the bare minimum to Philip Hollobone. One suspects that if he could get away with it, you’d be paid far less.

    Article 2(c) leaves me a little bewildered. It sets out what you will be required to learn:

    “treating elderly and disabled people with dignity.”

    – I’m not entirely sure that when I was 18-26 (I’m now 27) I would be happy to take deluded lectures on the treatment of the disabled or the elderly from a Party that has systematically abused both over the past three years to the point where every charity for those with a disability that I can find, insists that the people they represent – and those in the most need of care – are the hardest hit by the Conservatives dogmatic obsession with rolling back the State. I would suggest that the majority of young people in this nation are far more respectful toward the sick, those with disabilities, and the elderly, than the entire Conservative Party – and its bedfellows over at Atos – have ever been.

    Hollobone makes the Conservative line of “defending civil liberties” appear almost a parody. Not only does he wish to steal and own a year of the life of every young person in the country, he’s also voted against the right for a gay couple to marry, and against removing Hereditary Peers from the House of Lords, and in favour of raising tuition fees to £9000. So if you’re between 18-26 and you happen to be gay; remember that Philip Hollobone is the reason that you cannot afford to go to university, he tried his best to ensure you can’t marry your partner, and now he wants to own a year of your life, uproot you from your home, and all for the bare minimum he’s legally allowed to pay you. But at least you don’t have an inconsequential ID card.

    The Conservative Party; defending civil liberties!


    The Human Cost of the Bedroom Tax

    July 30, 2013

    In May this year, Liverpool’s Riverside Housing Association called for the urgent help of the Samaritans, to deal with the rising number of people on the brink of suicide because of the misery inflicted by the Bedroom Tax. The country’s most vulnerable – and subsequently, the easiest for a Cabinet of millionaires to belittle, humiliate, and immiserate – are having to pay (some, with their lives) for the failure of the Banks, and the offshore donors love affair with the Conservative Party.

    In March this year, grandmother Stephanie Bottrill committed suicide, after telling neighbours that she couldn’t afford to live any more. She could not afford the cost of living in her house, a home she had lived in for 18 years, because a government of millionaires decided she had too many ‘spare’ bedrooms.

    Today the High Court ruled that the Bedroom Tax legally discriminates against people with disabilities, and so, could not be overturned by the Judiciary. The case brought by ten families who will suffer from the Bedroom Tax, had asked the court to determine that the rules do not recognise additional needs required by disabled people and families. The ten households that brought the case argued that the Discretionary Housing Payment was woefully inadequate. Shelter agreed. As did other charities in the sector. The wealthy judges, unsurprisingly, didn’t.

    Firstly, it is important to note that the Court did find that the policy was discriminatory toward some disabled people. Try to remember that, when you hear the joyful response from Conservative MPs. They are expressing delight at the fact that they now have a legal right to discriminate against people with disabilities. This is the nature of the Conservative Party in 2013.

    In the coming days, we are likely to hear analysis on policy, on the Court’s role in challenging policy, we’re likely to hear how the bedroom tax is ‘already helping’ bring down costs, we’re likely to hear about logistics, and how unaffordable the housing situation is in the UK, we’re likely to hear about how the DHP is incredibly well funded and how Iain Duncan Smith finds everyone working at Shelter to be secret Marxists. All faceless, soulless discussion that works only to dehumanise the consequences of the policy. We’re likely to hear all of this, from very wealthy individuals, in very large houses, coming from the gleaming faces of Iain Duncan Smith and others like him, who do not have to deal with the horrendous circumstances they choose to inflict upon the most vulnerable. For example, this charming chap:

    screen-shot-2013-07-30-at-11-46-17
    – On a side note, disabled people aren’t the only people Bob Blackman insists are less than human. He also told BBC News that gay marriage legislation was wrong “on principle”, insisting it could only work between one man and one woman….. The Mirror then exposed Blackman as a cheat. So, let’s be clear, Bob Blackman and others like him, enjoy inflicting misery on others. He has no principles. He has hobbies. Those hobbies include contempt for anyone who isn’t Bob Blackman.

    What we are unlikely to hear, are the human stories from those who will be most affected by today’s decision. Those that are forced to make heartbreaking decisions. FutileDemocracy spoke to two of those people, and so here are their stories, in their own words:

    Jacqueline Leeson, in Lincolnshire has two children; Ashley and Jake.
    Jacqueline told me:

    “One child is suspected autistic spectrum, he has social difficulties, he also suffers from short term memory, dyspraxia of the mouth and petit mals, he has a life threatening allergy to grass and is asthmatic, my other son has short term memory and also is asthmatic, my son with the social difficulties spends much of his night time talking in his sleep, falling out of bed, crying out and making dashes to safety from his night terrors, he’s now 11 and always been this way, I have a three bed house.

    “A short time ago I managed to find an exchange to Cornwall to another three bedroom house. It was the closest I could get back to my family and it took over a year to find this exchange, the school down there had autistic and a short term memory units meaning both of my children would have been supported, where I live now none of this is available at all, in fact hardly any support in these area’s are available.

    “Cornwall council deemed I was going to be over housed and removed me the move even though my children had been accepted in the new school and the disability care was already being arranged.

    “The bedroom tax has lost my children’s right to a better education and have their disabilities supported, I’ve also lost my partner as he’s working in Somerset as there is no work up here for his industry and the distance was too far for him to travel.
    My family have split up, my children have been left with the bare minimum chance of success and I’m still nearly 300 miles away from my disabled Mum who is very poorly, all because of the bedroom tax.
    Jakes also had his DLA slashed as well by about £75 a week.”

    – The Bedroom Tax – especially when taken with other harsh cuts – in this situation, not only punishes Jacqueline and her children, who are in a situation not of their own making, for wishing even a slightly better situation for herself and her children after years of difficulty. It is also a notice that the future must be bleak also. That their suffering is necessary. That Conservative policy, does not care much for family. That successive governments’ failure to deal with a housing crises, whilst Minister’s in control of policy – like the Bedroom Tax – such as the truly insufferable Lord Freud sat back relaxed in the comfort of luxury, knowing they didn’t have to act, because it didn’t affect them.

    Freud isn’t the only one.
    Liberal Democrat leader and Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg insisted that the Bedroom Tax was necessary to deal with the 2,000,000 people on social housing waiting list, by evicting those in houses that have one too many bedrooms than necessary. Incidentally, Nick Clegg, upon his appointment as Deputy PM, gets to live here, somewhere among the 3,500-acre, 115 roomed estate at Chevening…. and he lives here, free:

    Upon appointment as Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg was given this 3,500-acre, 115 roomed estate at Chevening, to live in for free. Source: Wikimedia Commons. Author: By Dhowes9.

    Upon appointment as Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg was given this 3,500-acre, 115 roomed estate at Chevening, to live in for free.
    Source: Wikimedia Commons.
    Author: By Dhowes9.


    – Though, he does have to share the 115 room Estate, with Foreign Secretary William Hague. So, he only has 113 spare rooms really.

    Sue North-Blake and her husband are having to cope with cutting down on the most fundamental necessities, like food, and heating. Their choice is; cut out meals, or leave their home. This is the reality of the choice handed to families that have to deal with the hardship of disabilities, by a government of multi-millionaires who themselves, own multiple mansions.

    My disabled husband and I live in a two bed bungalow. I am his full time carer. Because of his disabilities I use the second bedroom. It is NOT spare!. We applied for the DHP but were turned down because the council counts DLA as income, and said we should be using that to pay for the room.”

    “So we had to cut down on food, and in the winter the heating will just not go on. Yet if we had a night carer come in we would be able to have 2 bedrooms! The government is discriminating against married couples who need two bedrooms for medical reasons.”

    So, the legacy of the Bedroom Tax is one which promotes further hardship for those in the most vulnerable of situations. Conservatives and their voters should of course be ashamed, but it isn’t surprising. This is what Conservatives do. They measure the success of a government, by the wealth of its richest, rather than the poverty of its poorest. The real shame, should be reserved for the Liberal Democrats, whose support is necessary to enact such horrendous policy decisions.

    It is worth noting just who the Minister for Disabled People, Esther McVey, actually is. She spouts the usual “Labour’s legacy” defence whenever questioned on the human cost of her soulless policies. Do we really believe that if Labour had left a strong economy, a Tory government wouldn’t be doing the exact same as what they are doing now? Do we really believe that this is all due to addressing the deficit, rather than a Conservative ideological dream? Do we really believe that having spent thirty years extolling the virtues of leaving the most vulnerable to suffer by themselves, this is happening because it is ‘necessary’ rather than a Conservative ideological dream? Well, one must examine Esther McVey’s ideological leanings, for the answer. And it comes all too easily.

    It is unsurprising that McVey feels it necessary to inflict more misery upon those who need the most support, given that she is a keen supporter of ‘Conservative Way Forward’, a group that dedicates itself to the further realisation of Thatcherite principles. Thatcher; ideologically dedicated to removing as much State support for the most vulnerable as possible, promoting the truly monstrous ‘care in the community’ scheme, alongside horrendously degrading and humiliating procedures in order to receive Disability Living Allowance. McVey is one part of the Thatcherite poison that infects the government and its disabled policy. The new PIP rules set to replace DLA, contain some awful details, when examined,(for example, the truly horrifying new rule that to qualify for Motability support, one must be unable to walk more than 20 metres) but again, when these people control the country, it is of no surprise that disabled people suffer the most. I’m sure joyfully slashing support for those already having to cut down on food, and having to deal with unheated homes, and care for disabled family members, pushing more and more to the brink of suicide, comes easy to the heartless Esther McVey, and the £51,737.22 she claimed in expenses alone for 2012/2013.

    Hitting the Conservatives with real life stories of the misery that they purposely inflict upon the most vulnerable families, highlights just how monstrous their dehumanising policies are in the 21st century. Especially from a Party whose donors cash in so heavily on that misery.