It was announced only a mere few minutes ago that the former Conservative Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, passed away due to a stroke this morning. She was Britain’s longest serving post-war PM and the only woman to ever hold the job.
I will be honest, on a political level, Thatcher symbolised and represented nearly everything I stand against. Her policies as PM have done more untold harm than of any PM since the war. But on a personal level, I do have great respect for her. The thought of a woman PM in the early 1970s was almost unthinkable, even to Thatcher herself at the time. Upon becoming leader she spent the next seven years fighting an uphill battle, effectively fighting those within her party who deemed little would become of her leadership and then Administration. No post-war Prime Minister has so radically shifted the discourse of British politics (with the exception of Attlee). Taken all together she commands at the very least, considerable respect for how radically she changed and shaped Britain for better or worse. I do admire most principled individuals and Thatcher is no exception.
This is how I will remember Thatcher, a skilled, principled and determined supreme heavyweight figure of 20th Century politics, but a political opponent and adversary all the same.
So how much of the Welfare budget do you reckon is spent on unemployed people? 42%? How much do you reckon is claimed fraudulently from the Welfare budget? 27%? Who do you reckon will be hit most by the 1% limit on benefits, the unemployed “scroungers”? And how much do you reckon is given to the skiving “scrounging” b*rstards on Job Seeker’s allowance (2 kids aged 6 and 10) a week? £147?
If you’d given answers close or on the same as the ones suggested, well, then, you’re completely full of sh*t.
This is what was revealed in a YouGov poll where respondents gave answers similar to the ones suggested. Want to know the real answers?
(Don’t believe me, check the link above).
This is of course shadowed by the outright attempt by Conservative HQ’s attempts to divide the nation like never before by turning the working poor on the unemployed poor (most of whom are seeking work).
While instead, this is the poster they should have published.
I’m tired of this, I’m tired of the demonisation and scapegoating of the poor. But hey, why try solve society’s real problems when you can lie and create scapegoats out of the most vulnerable in society?
I’m not naturally a fan of Piers Morgan (who is), but something clicked yesterday (don’t worry, I will get back to this original point). Admittedly I’d spent a very long time at work, (same lifeguard in two days was over half an hour late to relieve me from poolside, not a happy bunny) I was listening to the radio on the way home and I just happened to stumble upon the speech being delivered to a press conference by Wayne LaPierre, chief executive of the National Rifle Association (NRA). This was then followed by an NRA spokesperson being interviewed live on BBC Radio 5 Live.
Even now, over 24 hours after hearing these two men, I’m still struggling to comprehend and properly articulate a response to the sheer detachment from reality and supreme level of wheedling these two men committed. In case you missed either men, LaPierre advocated that US schools should be guarded by armed guards and that ”The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,”. The latter blamed gun violence in the US on mental health issues and lack of proper treatment.
At this point I was seething in the car. Now, I’m not saying I have all the answers, but I have a pretty good idea of what the problems are. No Mr LaPierre, giving “good guys” gun to stop “bad guys” is not a good idea. You see Mr LaPierre, I’ve never had crack cocaine for breakfast, one because I never would, but mainly as I don’t keep it in the fridge. I’ve never been butchered by my slave’s in a bloody uprising, primarily by not keeping slaves. Because you know what Mr LaPierre, not having the means to commit crimes is a far better method to preventing gun homicides than simply believing everyone should arm themselves in the name of mutual deterrents.
I’m not advocating outright banning of guns in US right now, as like I said, I don’t have all the answers and there’s a chance there’d be a backlash against such a move. But when you live in a country where there’s no nation-wide policy on firearms this allows dangerous people to easily buy guns from other states without any background checks and then bring them into other neighboring states. The system also has no check for those “good guys” who you so uphold Mr LaPierre who may turn dangerous (and indeed they do, for whatever reason). It gives no account on a federal level for other members of a family who may own firearms (as what happened with the latest Connecticut shootings). And Mr LaPierre, you live in a country where there are roughly 300 millions guns or 89 firearms per 100 civilians and have an average death toll of around 10,000 gun homicides a year (roughly 3.2 deaths from guns per 100,000 people). This is in direct contrast to countries like here in the UK or in Japan, (countries you probably believe have “bad guys” running around unchecked) have roughly 6 and 0.6 guns per 100 civilians respectively yet have a mere 0.1 and <0.01 deaths by firearms per 100,000 people respectively.
I’m sick and tired of hearing such divorced ideas from reality that if you give people more guns there’ll be less gun crime. This is something that really struck me with Piers Morgan, I actually agreed with him on something:
Like I said, I don’t have all the answers, but how many more people are going to have needlessly die before the likes of Mr LaPierre realise that having more guns to solve gun crime is an absurd idea?
For Jack Matthew’s benefit (and yes, Norway is included).
This is the result of a compilation of results taken from a website called Political Compass that enables you to complete a test that determines where you are ‘politically’. Both of these ‘Crowd Charts’ (a new feature to Political Compass) were put together on the Birmingham University Labour Students (BULS) and Birmingham University Conservative Future’s (BUCF) Facebook groups respectively. Yes, more results will be added given enough time, but for now, I though it’d be nice to have a compare of the results so far.
Here we have the results from BULS:
And here are the results from BUCF:
It seems our Tory counter-parts in BUCF have gathered tonight to watch a film called ‘Tory Boy’. At this a certain sketch by Harry Enfield springs to mind.
Enjoy. Maybe this was BUCF members 5 years ago?
This may be the third or fourth time I’ve posted this, but still good fun.
It turns out the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, was due to deliver a speech in support of gay marriage which criticised those who opposed said government proposal as “bigots”. Sadly, it seems Clegg and his aides have quickly removed the “bigot” parts of his speech on the grounds that it was included as a “mistake”. It seems the only “mistake” Clegg had made was removing the term “bigots”, and for incredibly good reasons.
I have long despaired at the remarks by opponents to gay marriage from the Catholic Church, the Church of England and other smaller organisations. This is something we here in the UK have been able to watch, almost smugly, across the Atlantic in the USA for many years now. But no, it turns out the UK has it’s bigots on this issue as well. Yes, that’s right, I’m willing to say what Clegg never could. Given there is no reasonable or legitimate secular reason to oppose gay marriage, what so ever, I am fully inclined to regard those who oppose gay marriage as bigots. This is not said in attempt to silence opponents, it’s not an attempt to close the conversation but it is simply the most logic explanation given the reasons we’ve heard so regularly in the USA and now here. And I’d like to take a moment to address four of the most common I hear:
- So? Your point being? First off, marrying for love is a rather recent idea, until the last 150 years or so marriage was arranged around power relationships between families and often the woman would become property of the husband…but we re-defined that. In fact, the ‘re-defining’ argument fails to provide any reason why this would be a bad thing to do in the first place, but all is given is vague unfounded assertions.
- Well ok, you’re welcome to oppose upon religious grounds. But the thing is that we make laws based on secular reasoning. You can’t force your religious views on another section of society…period.
- Now this is what we call a slippery slope fallacy. Just because one thing is allowed it does not mean we’ll move onto other actions. That’s why when homosexuality was decriminalised under Roy Jenkins in the mid-1960s, bestiality and polygamy have still yet to be legalised by this obscure argument. Hell, while I wouldn’t call it polygamy (polyamory for a better term), I would have absolutely no problem with polyamorious (if that’s how it’s spelt) marriage.
- There’s two problems to this assertion. 1 is that there’s absolutely no evidence that a gay couple would fair any less in raising a child than a straight couple. 2 this argument implies the sole purpose of marriage is to produce children which is just nonsense on so many levels. First off, would you then not bar seniors or infertile straight couples from marrying as apparently the only purpose of marriage is reproduction? It also implies that having children out of wedlock is fundamentally wrong, which of course is complete bull, don’t even go there.
For once, Clegg could’ve made a principled stand on something that really matters to ending LGBTQ discrimination, but it turns out he’s too much of a coward. Thankfully, when I see an individual oppose gay marriage for incredibly poor reasons such as above, I’m happy to make no reservations in pointing out the most logical assessment.
They. Are. Bigots.
Sorry for lack of substantial blog post, we’ve all been a bit busy recently. But here’s a pretty good summation of the solution proposed by conservatives and neo-liberals to every problem they have faced in the last 30 years.
In light of the recent Cabinet re-shuffle Jeremy Hunt has been moved to the portfolio of Health Secretary. It also turns out Hunt endorsed Homeopathy in 2007. Maybe the NHS may end up like this soon:
Sorry for the long loooong hiatus we’ve had here at BULS. But hey, A-level results are in and we may as well set a tone and good impression for those students (and potential future BULS members) that will be joining the University of Birmingham in a month’s time.
So, with the US Presidential race entering it’s final stages Romney has finally played one of his last cards (so to speak), Congressman Paul Ryan. Well, daring dynamic or damp squib of a running mate? Well thankfully at least, the American public have so far opted for the latter with Ryan failing to provide any real boost to Romney’s campaign. Ryan may well give Romney a boost in the single Vice-Presidential debate given his reputation as a ‘numbers guy‘. Having Chaired the House Budget Committee in the House of Representative since January 2011 Ryan does have the potential to give Romney the detailed policy and authority he has so lacked up until now. However, Ryan, like Palin (though probably to a lesser extent) still has the potential to be the Republican nominee’s undoing….as can be seen here:
Now I accept these political stances, as disgusting as I may find them may not always quite enrage the American people, there are some ideas that Ryan believes that potentially could:
Still believe Ryan will be a game changer for Romney? Well I sincerely hope not, but you never know when it comes to the often intellectual backwardness of American politics.
FYI: for those wondering why I’m still ‘blogging’ here, why you might think, “Didn’t Max graduate last July…isn’t he no longer a student.” Well yes and no. I did graduate last July but I will be returning to the University of Birmingham (and BULS) this September to train as a Primary School Teacher, so will ‘Ramsay’s F Word’ will see one last final year out of it.
Good news peeps!:
I’ve always been one for giving credit where credit is due to opposition parties and I make no exceptions here. It seems the SNP Government in Scotland has the good sense to bring forward draft proposals to have Gay Marriage legalised in Scotland (after proposals here in England were put on hold). This is nothing less than a momentousness step in the right direction for LGBTQ rights and the UK as a whole. I’ve become in recent months splutteringly enraged at the pathetic excuses made by those who oppose Gay Marriage, “It’ll redefine marriage” (which isn’t even a reason). I’m incredibly happy the Scottish government has moved beyond such bigotry and I hope the Scottish Labour Party gives this proposal it’s full backing.
When I started University back in the September of 2009 (back in the middle of the previous recession) I always had it in my mind that, ‘Hey, at least the recession will be over once I finish my degree.’. Now ignoring the fact that I’ll be returning to the University of Birmingham (and BULS for that matter) in September to train to be a Primary Teacher. But now I’ve finished my degree I realise that this was a foolish assumption to make as the UK now suffers it’s 3rd consecutive quarter of negative growth at 0.7%. Now of course, we’re going to hear all the usual excuses, oh the Jubilee Celebrations, oh the weather, oh the Eurozone (which is nonsense on the latter given the UK and Italy are the only two major G20 economies back in a double dip recession). This was a recession made in Whitehall and in Downing Street.
It’s about time Cameron, Clegg and Osborne own up to their own mistakes and take responsibility.
Neo-liberalism has had its day.
There are points throughout history where established cultures near a breaking point. Today is one of those days.
£13 trillion ($21tn) is the rough size of the US’s and Japan’s economies combined. That same £13 trillion (and this actually a conservative estimation) has been hoarded and hidden from tax by a mere (estimated) 90,000 individuals.
I don’t think any one individual can truly comprehend what this £13 trillion could have been effectively used for. To find a cure for cancer, to vaccinate millions of vulnerable people in third world countries, to fund an almost infinite supply of scientific research or to provide free education for millions of children worldwide.
This is what has happened under the culture of neo-liberalism. The right has found it fitting to shift the blame onto “benefit scroungers”. What is apparent instead that this has been a mere smokescreen for a far wider problem. We have also been encouraged to not question and even idolise these “wealth creators”.
As Labour members we must accept that our party had helped facilitate such actions, we’re not innocent in all this.
I can only hope that one day soon, the established culture will finally break.
I have touched on the problems of the rail industry on this blog before and the whole area surrounding Privatisation vs. Nationalisation. Well I think to someone in the Labour party may have been listening. We have a policy! And it’s crackin’ good un’ at that. An effective re-nationalise the Rail industry.
To remind you why this is such a cracking idea, here’s some reasons why:
In a nutshell, Privatisation has indeed failed for the rail industry. There’s no real ‘choice’. If I want to get a train from Birmingham New Street to Manchester Picadilly I can only go via CrossCountry and if I want to get a train from Birmingham New Street to London Euston I can only go via Virgin trains.
As a semi-regular train user, this is a brilliant step in the right direction for Labour and the rail industry. Hell extend it to Buses as well!
I’m going to say this now and nip it in the bud, I’m no fan of the Blairite think-tank Progress. But ultimately, this post is not on the ideological flaws and merits of Progress and any personal problems I have with the think-tank. This post is about the continuation of plurality within the Labour party.
In the last week, the Trade Union, GMB, called for the expulsion of Progress as an affiliate organisation to the Labour party. Now whatever you may think of Progress this is indeed a nasty authoritarian streak by the GMB leadership. The Labour party has always prided itself on being a broad church and it’s only through open and fair debate within the party that we can come to a united progressive/social democratic/socialist agreement and movement. Yes, I’ll admit in the last twenty years or so this open debate and communication between different segments of the party has often subdued or ignored. But as a party pluralist and a man of consensus this is the ideal way forward.
If GMB is really not a fan of Progress, how about an open and honest dialogue to attempt to come to a common agreement or even to persuade members of any ideological flaws they may have.
We are stronger united as a Labour party and yet we are still entirely capable of having our own internal disagreements and discussion. Childishly excluding segments of the party will only take steps to further alienate ‘factions’ and even lessen our electability.
Last night I thought I’d be incredibly sad and watch as much as I could of the final Guild Council of the academic year being streamed from GuildTV. I missed most of the first half of the meeting (most of the motions and preamble) due to work. What I did catch was primarily the Guild Officers leaving speeches and I’ll say this now. After listening to the speeches I respect all the Guild Officers so much more (but no change on actual agree and disagreement with them). Probably the most thought provoking and even moving speech was the outgoing Guild President’s, Mark Harrop. I do believe he will have a fair fewer ‘haters’ after last night. Though there was one area of the speech that I did find a problem with, the not so ever present “silent majority”.
I’d like to nip this in the bud now. To say this is a personal attack on Mark (as some short-sighted individuals claimed my tweet from last night regarding this claimed to be) would be hugely misleading and would be over-flattering of our outgoing Guild President. There’s a very small select group of individuals I feel comfortable attacking personally and Mark certainly doesn’t feature as one. As someone who genuinely cares in determining what is true I find it entirely comfortable criticising absolutely any idea. I find it entirely reasonable to point out to individuals when they believe the wrong ideas (given the right circumstances) they are then able to recognise their mistakes, because we are all stupid on issues at some point in our lives. I’m incredibly stupid when it comes to understanding cricket, art, pop culture references and popular music. As I’ve already said, I have a great deal more respect for the outgoing President and all the other outgoing Sabbs after last night. Mentioning Mark in my tweet and this post is not a personal attack as some individuals may claim, it is an attempt to make him and many others realise the flaws in the idea of the “silent majority”.
Moving on, the “silent majority” idea invokes my own personal love/hate fallacy of argumentum ad populum. In a nutshell, the level of popular support has absolutely no bearing on what is right or wrong, true or false. If we’d always bend to the will of the “silent majority” homosexuality would not have been decriminalised in the UK in the 1960s and desegregation in Southern US Schools in the 1950s would have also never have happened. Or at least without it, introduced both far too sooner.
You may ask how this is relevant to the wider Labour party, NOLS and BULS. Sadly far too much. Too often do I hear 60% believe x, 80% support y. So what?! This has no absolutely no bearing on the truth! This personal distaste for argumentum ad populum has been particularly tested over the Diamond Jubilee and to be honest, I’m becoming incredibly tired of hearing it. More often than not, the “silent majority” fallacy is too often produced to legitimise truly false or morally wrong policies and ideas. As someone who cares about the truth and its ultimate pursuit, I hope we would all speak out against such basic yet widespread fallacies.
FYI: I anyone wishes to submit a counter-response to this post please feel free to email it into firstname.lastname@example.org thank you.
I seemed to have developed a particular reputation of disdain for two prominent branches of British society in my final year of University, religion and the institution of the Monarchy. Religion bashing is something I spare for my own personal blog as after all BULS is an entirely secular society. So today my focus will be on the institution of the Monarchy and the case against it.
Unlike some fellow Republicans, I’m not too fussed about the costs it brings. My own personal gripe of the Monarchy is how it undermines our own basic sense of ethics and morality. We can all say as an ideal that we strive to not treat anyone differently or give special privileges or persecute others merely because of their background or the family any individual just happened to be born into. In a nutshell we try not to value an individual’s self-worth on the family they just happened to be born into. This is the very basis of meritocracy and equality (well at least equality of opportunity). Yet, when it comes to the Monarchy we seem to conveniently forget this ideal.
Now personally, I like to have a consistent a world view as possible. If a base ethics works in one area I’m sure as hell it’ll probably apply and work in nearly any other area. And this is what we get from many Royalists, a suspension of such basic ideals and ethics all in the name of making them feel special. This is also an argument I often hear/see “But the majority of people are in favour of the Monarchy.”. So what? Popular support/belief has absolutely no bearing on what is right or wrong, or true or false.
I’d also like to address the famous fallacy from tradition. Last year at my work (Lifeguarding) at around the time of the Royal Wedding where one of the cleaners (a lovely old dear) asked what I’d be doing on the day of the Royal Wedding. I honestly replied, “Oh, I’ll be avoiding the celebrations as much as possible as I don’t think we should have a Monarchy.”. I was met with a disgruntled reply with mutterings of ‘It’s good for tradition.”. I didn’t have the heart to say this at the time as she was an old dear but what I really wanted to say in response was, “So was the bubonic plague for 300 years, and so was persecuting gays and women for hundreds of years and not giving them the vote!”. Like popular support, tradition has no bearing on whether something is right or wrong, or true or false. Tradition is not a reason to keep or get rid of anything.
I realise I’m in a minority here and I realise that my dream of a Republic is far flung dream probably beyond my lifetime. But all changes for the better have to start from some where.
Thank you Labourlist for pointing this out from the night of the local elections:
This is a tweet from Conservative Central Head Quarters (CCHQ) twitter account from the middle of the results night.
Labour had a net-gain of 824 councillors by the next day.
Ed Miliband in Birmingham yesterday with Birmingham Council Labour Group leader, Sir Albert Bore
That’s right, throughout Friday Labour saw it’s best performance in a local election since 1995 (all in proportion to how many Council elections were up for grabs as last year we gained more but far more were up for grabs). And similarly the Tories saw their worst local election result since 1996 and the Lib Dems now have dropped down below 3,000 councillors for the first time in the party’s existence.
This was a result that exceeded everyone’s expectations on all fronts. With most Tories attempting to spin the result to say we needed around 450 councillor gains to be seen as a success, we only smashed that with 823! When everyone expected Scottish Labour to lose Glasgow City Council we not only fought off a SNP challenge but took control of the council at the expense of the Lib Dems and Tories. When everyone said Labour would only win a slight majority in our very own Birmingham City Council, we smashed all expectations by gaining 20 councillors and winning a 34 seat majority. When it was expected Welsh Labour would fail in taking Cardiff City Council, we defied all predictions by gaining 33 councillors and winning a majority of 17! And we’re very proud of very nearly almost gaining control of the Greater London Assembly, falling short by 1 Assembly member.
This election wasn’t without its disappointments though. BULS’s very own Honourary life Member, Dennis Minnis, was unsuccessful in taking Edgbaston. And biggest of all, huge disappointment at Ken’s defeat. We are all glad Ken did defy most (but not all, sadly) odds by not letting Boris have a shoe-in election by pushing the margin on the second round to a close 3%. Many Tories see Boris as the next leader and Prime Minister in waiting. “Wiff-waff” may well have edged it in London, don’t expect the country to do the same.
Of course, the results did see successes close to our hearts in BULS. Obviously there was turning Birmingham City Council red, but BULS saw former student of the University of Birmingham, Karen McCarthy, join former BULS Secretary, Brigid Jones, as a Councillor for Selly Oak. Quinton ward, where Grandee Nash played a large hand in, was also successful in electing Caroline Bradley.
All in all, while this was a brilliant result for Labour nationally we have to remember this has happened to opposition parties in the past. Hague, Howard and Kinnock all saw similar successes at mid-term local elections in their time in opposition. This was a much needed boost, not a prelude for the general election. Though it is safe to say, that the media, politicians and the wider public can no longer claim Miliband has no chance at 2015. There’s still a hell of a lot of work to be done, but we now know that we still do have a shot at 2015.
I remember posting this video to this blog just over 2 years ago. We all warned of the dangers drastically chanfed, but as we’re now officially back in recession, we hate to say we told you so.
If you’ve taken a nosy around the BBC Website recently you’ll have noticed a video on the imposition of VAT on constructions and repairs for religious institutions and buildings.
Now for those of you who know me personally as an ‘angry atheist’ may start worrying “Oh no, what’s he going to come out with now, destruction of all religious buildings?”. Fear not, while many of you do see that side of me I’m also an ardent secularists. I recognise the right of religious organisations to play a legitimate part in society but I also am opposed to having the state play any part in religious affairs. So this is why we need to tax religious organisations like any other organisation that has an income.
Some of you may have reeled back from such a suggestion, but hear/read me out. To become a legally recognised religion with a tax-exempt status an organisation has jump through a large variety of hoops set by the state. That’s right, the state sets the criteria and by extension determines which organisations are worthy of having tax-exempt statuses. I’m not proposing we take religious rights away from organisations and individuals, rather to take away the privileges granted by the state a select group of institutions based on no sound secular reason.
If you want to ensure true neutrality from the state in regards to religion (aside from a much needed separation of church and state, but that’s a whole other post) no tax-exempt status should be granted to any religious institution and yes even atheist/humanist/secularist groups that may have won a tax-exempt status. Churches are free to continue with any charity work they so wish and I think we can all agree that area will remain tax-exempt but separate from the organisation.
On a more personal note, with the billions upon billions of pounds that go into religious organisations world-wide only to spent on other churches, missionaries and aid to foreign countries which is too often conditioned upon meeting certain religious criteria. This money could be far better spent on real secular matters like schools, hospitals and roads.
Today saw BULS’s 2012 Annual General Meeting (AGM) with most of the positions up for grabs. And the results are as follows for the new committee-elect:
Chair – Catie Garner
Vice-Chair – Ed Gilbert
Secretary – Areeq Chowdhury
Treasurer – Ellis Stacey
Website Editor – Alex Swanson
Communications Officer – Sam Faulding
This represents the beginning of the end for what I’d like to call, the ‘General Election generation’ of BULS. The last contingent of the BULS society who still remembers the day the final Leader’s debate came to campus, the day we met the Cabinet (shame he didn’t shake my hand) and the day we watched Giesla Stuart win Edgbaston in Joe’s Bar on results night.
I wish the new committee-elect all the best and hope they will be a progressive force for good and a committee based on consensus and mutual trust and respect.
By Max Ramsay, outgoing Vice-Chair
In light of Chris Huhne’s resignation yesterday as Energy and Climate Change Secretary BULS would like to submit this tribute all in good humour:
Great news y’all (may as well get in the spirit of this post) America has seen its fifth consecutive month of falling unemployment; down by 8.5% to 8.3% with 243,000 jobs being created. Coupled with growth figures from last week showing a rise of 2.8% in GDP in the final quarter of 2011 (1% higher growth on the previous quarter) it’s becoming increasingly apparent that America’s strategy of economic stimulus is comparatively buoyant when next to Europe’s strategy of austerity. Yes, unemployment levels are higher than here in the UK (for now at least), but that’s primarily because of the USA’s private sector economy focus (when compared to our economy at least) and some of the weakest employment protection laws in the world.
What is beginning to emerge is that Europe’s (and more specifically, the UK’s) austerity programmes are not working. If you make too harsh a cuts to the public sector you’ll also damage the private sector as numerous contracts are arranged between the two sectors. That’s right, they’re intertwined, you attack one part too harshly it will have a knock on effect on the other.
It is hugely unlikely Cameron, Clegg and Osborne will take notice of Obama’s successes. But at least the American people hopefully will this November.
Andrew Lansley recently showed a prime example of how not win your case by describing the ever growing opposition to his NHS reforms as being motivated by “political” reasons.
I’m sorry but “political” reasons? The British Medical Association (BMA), Royal College of GPs, Royal College of Nurses, the Conservative dominated Commons Health Select Committee and Norman frigging Tebbit all oppose the reforms, which will open up the NHS to EU competition law, for “political” reasons? These are not organisations (with the exception of the latter obviously) that sit from the outside and attempt to vaguely analyse the inner workings of the NHS. No, these are organisations that deal with the inner workings of the NHS every single day. They know how it works. They know what will be detrimental. And they are the ones that will know that these reforms will fundamentally destroy the NHS.
Cameron said it himself, no top down reorganisations of the NHS. Now drop this bill!
Sorry for the break in blogging, we’re trying to up the ante this year
Probably the most pressing of all news items is the recent dismal growth figures. Over a year ago when Cameron and Osborne claimed we were “Out of the woods” and “Out of the danger zone”. How very wrong they were. With the final quarter of 2011 seeing a contraction of 0.2% this then means that in the last 15 months since Osborne’s Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) in October 2010, we’ve had a massive 0.3% of growth. Cameron then has the audacity to blame the recent growth figures on the Euro crisis. Well I’m sorry, the UK economy has been stagnating long before the crisis began to effect.
Cameron you said it yourself, “I take full responsibility for everything that happens in the economy.” then take responsibility and change course!
As I approach my role as Vice-Chair of Birmingham University Labour Students (BULS) by keeping religion and my position in BULS totally separate. So, this post you’ll be reading from BULS member and atheist Max Ramsay, rather than BULS Vice-Chair Max Ramsay.
Today David Cameron declared “Britain is a Christian country and we should not be afraid to say so” and “that the Bible has helped to give Britain a set of values and morals which make Britain what it is today.”.
Now, I’d like to point out that I respect everyone’s right to have whatever faith they so wish. But, to be quite honest, Cameron really hasn’t read much of the King James’ Bible if he believes this is the case.
Now the first point is something seemingly imported from the USA. Given that a poll in 2004 conducted by the BBC showed that 39% of the UK population did not believe in God. That’s right, today we’re anything but a Christian nation, we’re a secular nation.
You may say, “Oh, but we were founded upon Christian ideals and it has played a such a vital part in history in the last few centuries.”. Really?! If we did derive our morals and values from the bible we’d still find acceptable;
Now can Cameron really claim that we were founded upon these values? That we derive our morals and values from the bible? And that we’re still a Christian nation? Again, while I respect people’s right to believe this, it is quite clear that what binds us and gives us true sense of values is secular enlightened thinking.
That’s right, four by-election victories on the trot. Yes, all these were in Labour held seats, but it’s important how every single one has seen a significant swing towards Labour each time. The results were as follows:
Labour – 12,639 (54.42% up by 10.79%)
Conservative – 6,436 (27.71% down by 6.32%)
Liberal Democrats – 1,364 (5.87 down by 7.87%)
UKIP – 1,276 (5.49& up by 3.45%)
This has seen a 8.6% swing from Tory to Labour, when compared to the last general election which saw a mere 4.8% swing from Labour to Tory. Yes, the turnout was very low, but what do you expect at this time of year?
Either way, great result!
I’d like to thank Political Scrapbook for providing this in light of two new residents in Scotland. Enjoy.
Today we saw Gideon (George Osborne) unveil his first ever Autumn Statement (last year it was a Comprehensive Spending Review) which used to be Brown and then Darling’s Pre-Budget Report, although it’s still the same thing more or less.
What we saw today was a Chancellor willing to blame everyone except himself for his own failures. Gideon may claim as much as he likes that the growing crisis in the Eurozone may have put a dent in its works, but that would just be disingenuous as it’s not at that stage to truly have an impact on a non-Eurozone country such as the UK.
But in a nutshell what we had is:
So essentially, we have growth being revised down for the fourth time in 18 months and borrowing expected to be £111 billion higher in 2015.
So when Gideon said “we are out of the danger zone.” around a year ago I didn’t think we’d get around to us saying “we told you so” so soon.
An interesting video from Unite upon the upcoming day of strikes set for tomorrow.
#godisgove and #torybible are to hashtags on twitter which have both appeared in recent days in the wake of Michael Gove’s decision to issue a King James edition of the bible to every state school in England. Now I’m not going to get into the whole inappropriateness of this act (If you know me well enough you’d remember I’m a massive atheist, but, I like to keep my role as BULS’s Vice-Chair totally separate from religion). But here according to LabourList are the top 10 best tweets featuring those hashtags.
@4harrisons - And Cameron said “let there be growth” but lo! There was no growth
@mattedbrooke – And God said, “why have you eaten from the forbidden tree?” And Adam said, “we inherited this fruit from the labour government”
@ChrisBryantMP – Faith, hope and charity – have now been abolished as they were unproductive
@politic_animal – And on the seventh day he would have liked to have rested, but the government had opted out of the Working Time Directive
@lethandrel – And the lame were made to walk and the blind to see – well, according to the new assessments ….
@johnprescott – Blessed are the coalition for they shall inherit from and blame the last government
@cllr_robbins – Blessed are the freeschoolmakers: for they shall be called the children of Gove
@MatofKilburnia – And Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt, which Gove did putteth in school dinners & lo Jamie Oliver was displeased
@GoodmotherMobbs – And the lepers were ‘cured’; as ATOS found them fit for work
@evilflea – And then He createth all of the beasts and the animals, excepteth the cat, which he did not make up.
Yesterday we saw a good sign in the economy that inflation had fallen from 5.2% to 5%. We welcome it but it’s still not good enough, especially when Eurozone inflation has remained at a reasonable 3%. It seems however, this is rather irrelevant with the news released today by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) where unemployment has risen to 2.62 million from July to September.
That’s right, the Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer who over a year ago claimed “we were out of the woods” now had the audacity to have one of their Ministers for Work and Pensions, Chris Grayling, claim that ”What we’ve seen over the last quarter has been the real impact of the crisis in the eurozone”. That’s right, they’re blaming their old punch bag, Europe. Don’t get me wrong, the crisis in the Eurozone is severe, but it in now way at a stage to make a real impact on unemployment figures, especially in a non-Euro state.
With the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance rising to 1.6 million by 5,300. The highest number of women out of work since February 1988 at 1.09 million rising by 43,000. Youth unemployment breaking the 1 million mark at 1.02 million with a rising by 67,000 and the unemployment rate of 8.3% being the highest since 1996 and the total number of unemployed people the highest since 1994, it’s about time Cameron and Gideon took another look at their plan.
“…So shall we honour war?
and shall we now praise troubled men?
Or shall we remember what war is
and give true meaning
to “Never again” ?”-David Roberts
“…My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.”-Wilfred Owen
Lest we forget.
Michael D Higgins and Eamon Gilmore will now go down in History as two of the Irish Labour Party’s electorally successful Politicians. It was announced today that Michael D Higgins is to be elected the 9th President of Ireland receiving almost 40% of the first preference votes. This will make him the first ever Labour Presidential Candidate to have become President without the support of from other parties.
Of course this adds to the great success Irish Labour received in the Irish General Election last May where Eamon Gilmore led Labour to its largest number of seats in the Irish Parliament ever. This meant Labour has entered its 8th time in a Coalition Government where it takes up 8 out of the 20 Cabinet posts.
On behalf of all of us in Birmingham University Labour Students (BULS) I would like to wish our sister party across the Irish Sea a huge congratulations on the results they’ve had this year. And we hope the best is yet to come.
With inflation around 5%, consumer confidence falling for four months on the trot, business confidence falling to a two year low, growth flat-lining in the past 9 months and growth expectations themselves being cut, you would have thought Gideon (George) Osborne would think things could not get any worse.
Well apparently they can. It seems 100 leading economists have written into the Observer to tell Gideon to adopt a plan B. Now while letters like this have been done in the past, the difference being that this time it has an alternative outline. It’s an alternative Miliband and Balls should take head to:
I think most of us can agree that sex education has an important role to play in public schools. But to what level of importance would you say it is?
To Conservative MP, Andrea Leadsom, it seems not very. Let’s put this into context. In England and Wales sex education is not a compulsory subject for public schools (I know for one that I personally received nothing at my High School) and that parents are allowed to “opt out” their child if the school does teach it. And you wonder why we have the highest teenage pregnancy rates in Europe.
Anyway, back to Andrea Leadsom. It seems she believes that parents should have to “opt in” their children to sex education classes and that current sex education books are “inappropriate”. This is while a report published by Ofsted last year pointed out that a quarter of schools in England are not providing good enough lessons about sex, relationships and health. At the same time new research in the last couple of weeks provided information that “81% of 14 to 18-year-olds said their information came from the internet, the television and their friends.” and “one in four pupils do not have any sexual and relationship education in school.“.
Now some may say that abstinence only sex education is the only sound and “moral” way forward. But when we analyse this claim, it’s quite apparent that this argument is not grounded in research and facts. The Council of Scientific Affairs states that ”Current research findings do not support the position that the abstinence-only approach to sexuality education is effective in delaying the onset of intercourse.”.
I have already done a similar post on sex education before. But the point still stands, we need more not less sex education. If we truly want to tackle STDs, teenage pregnancies and yes, even abortions (again look to my previous post and subsequent comments regarding abortions) we need sound and effective sex education with no “opt-outs” for pushy and insecure parents.
So please Leadson, could the education system have some more.
In light of the NHS reform bill being pushed through the House of Lords, I’d like to draw attention to what many Tories may be thinking now because of it.
Going to use a bit of the Brigid Jones BULS blog formula this morning.
It turns out there’s going to be the biggest drop in middle-income families incomes since the 1970s and so pushing 600,000 more children into poverty according to the IFS. This is while Gideon (George) Osborne has announced a £840 million tax break for multinationals using tax heavens while it turns out the amount of tax money lost in the FTSE 100 by tax avoidance is estimated to be £18bn. So much for the cuts being “progressive”.
To insult to misery, it turns out public sector job losses will 50% higher than originally predicted. So much for Cameron’s pre-election claim that any Minister who came to him with front-line public sector cuts would be told to go back and have a rethink.
After Gideon’s (Osborne’s) low-key and rather dull speech at the Tory Conference today where he claimed his economic plan to be working and even, dare I say it, “flexible”. I’d like to draw attention to the only aspect of Gideon’s plan that has so far proved to be “flexible”, the growth expectations by the IMF over the last 6 months or so, curtsey of LabourList:
The fact is, the CBI, the IMF and now even some Tory backbenchers and Chairs of Treasury select committees have called for a plan for growth or at least attempts to stimulate it. Like we said a few weeks ago, a temporary cut in VAT would be a huge stimulus as pointed out by the IFS.
It seems Gideon was only really to parade the the low interest rates in his speech, but with the abysmal growth over the last year or so, it seems we may have a rise in interest rates regardless if growth doesn’t pick up.
So please Gideon, think again.
It was announced yesterday (I think) that the UK has rejected a call by the EU to implement a financial tax of a mere 0.01% on bank transactions which could raise £50 billion a year.
I’d like to draw your attention to a video posted on this blog before about the absurdity of the Coalition decision to oppose the so-called ‘robin-tax hood’.
We won’t be able to post a full blog for a few nights given most of us are preparing for the Societies fare tomorrow and Friday. So we’d like to quickly share National Labour Students new campaign for a Living Wage. Like the minimum wage, it’s such a small act that can achieve so so much. I’m sure most in BULS can and will support this brilliant new campaign.
You’d think after eight years of George W. Bush as President you would have thought the Republican party would ensure its front-runners for the 2012 Presidential bid would at the very least appear to seem to know what they are talking about. But sadly, they got Michelle Bachmann instead. Now I thought the American right (specifically the Tea Party wing) had lost most of its credibility (primarily) in regards to modern science when one of its darlings, Sarah Palin, said this:
Now, yes you may well be reeling laughter/pity for the Palin. But this has turned out to be nothing when compared to the Tea Party’s newer rising darling, Michelle Bachmann. This is the woman who wishes to close down the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), regards homosexuality as a “disorder” and a “sexual difunction” and wishes to repeal all health care system legislation.
What she done now? You may ask. Well she, like Palin has delved into the realm of scientific ignorance. Bachmann claimed that the HPV vaccine, which is a well-proven preventer of cervical cancer, causes ”mental retardation” in children. Yup, you heard right, “mental retardation” in children.
Now I’m not even going to go in to the long long list of scientists and scientific institutions that lined up to show how ridiculous Bachmann’s comments are. But I will provide her with two specific facts:
Do you know how much it costs to get from Selly Oak train station while I’m down in Birmingham for University to get back home to Chorley train station (a journey of around two and a half hours either way)? £29.25. Now this is of course bought (advance fares and all that) about a month in advance and with a student railcard which grants a third off fairs.
To cut to the chase, the UK has the most expensive rail fares in Europe with an additional 8% rise expected for next year. The UK is the only country in Europe to have a privatised rail industry. We subsidise the rail industry far more now in real terms than we did when it was nationalised. And we subsidise Virgin Rail alone £1.4 billion. Now in regards to the last point, I fail to see why Richard Branson should receive a penny of British tax payers money (not trying to sound too populistic).
Now for those who say, oh, but the quality of service is far superior to our European counterparts. Really?! For a start only yesterday Network Rail was warned on punctuality by the Office of Rail Regulation. And I have spent too many over-crowded train journeys on a Friday lunch time on a train from Birmingham New Street to Manchester Picadilly or Preston to say that the capacity is sorted.
Solution? Re-nationalise. We’ve been tampering with the system for around two decades. If it doesn’t work, move on and try something different. And I can assure you, this isn’t working.
It’s not often I agree with a Tory Minister, but Phillip Hammond is right when he says trains are now a rich man’s toy.
Our opposites in BUCF have today signalled the call for an idea which has been floating around for a few years now. Scrapping the 50p tax rate for those earning over £150,000 a year. Now this is all very well, I think everyone can agree that governments ought to do their best to keep taxation as low as they can depending on the expenditure, but to say “Getting rid of the 50p tax is not a tax break for the rich, but a common sense policy to stimulate growth and encourage positivity in investment.” is something I’m going to have disagree with BUCF’s former-President.
Keeping interests rates low and cutting taxes for “entrepreneurs” may be all very well, but it counts for nothing if there’s no expenditure from the general population. This is what’s happening now, with the greatest squeeze on household finances for two years due to rising inflation, benefit cuts and of course the regressive rise in VAT (which heavily contributed to the rise in inflation), it is no wonder retail sales, construction and growth expectations are down.
Now of course, this post is completely leaving aside the fact that the 50% tax band will raise an additional £12.6 billion over five years according to Treasury figures . The real point of this post is why not cut VAT again instead? The IFS itself said that this was an effective stimulus for consumer spending (the real power of growth) when VAT was briefly cut to 15% in 2009.
And also, on a more simplistic note, to cut taxes for the rich, and yes millionaires as well, at a time when household incomes are being squeezed is nothing less than insulting for those struggling to pay the bills.
In the light of Nadine Dorries’ plans to require “independent” organisation to consult with pregnant women, I’d like to point out the true facts of abortion and sex education in the UK and across the world. These are facts that the religious “independent” organisations seem to ignore and the same for many in the so-called Conservative Christian Fellowship.
Here are some facts about abortion and sex education.
This is a table taken from the LabourList website. Just lets you appreciate the good work Gideon Osborne has done for this country so far.
GDP Growth over the last three quarters
Ireland and Greece’s figures haven’t been released yet, but either way, it’s not looking good.