Voting Labour; even if your local candidate is a bit of a buckethead

My local labour candidate is a nincompoop. As 30 seconds perusing Gordon Munro’s election pamphlet would demonstrate. Not only does he include a rather unnecessary amount of information about his history of swimming and water polo at our local pool, he’s also included a huge photo of himself with George Clooney. Quite why no one questioned the relevance of that photo is anyone’s guess. It is not the worst election pamphlet I’ve seen this time. That honour goes to a UKIP candidate who is strangely obsessed with the types of metal used in a Robin Hood statue.

I’ve been involved in local community organisations in Leith for over a decade. It’s safe to say Munro’s questionable tendencies predate his photo op with Clooney. Munro is fairly well-known for supporting projects that increase his prestige and power – such as his insistence that the Duncan Place Resource Centre closure due to the building being condemned following years of council mismanagement isn’t really a big deal. And, that the programs offered by the DPRC could be transferred easily to the Leith Community Centre, despite it being a third of the size and involving only halls rather than community education classrooms and other specialist facilities. 3 guesses which community centre board Gordon Munro has been involved with over the years.

For years, I’ve been saying that I only voted for Munro because my former Labour MSP, Malcolm Chisholm, could be trusted to squash Munro’s more eyebrow raising decisions. Chisholm retired at the last Scottish Parliament election and was replaced by a male SNP MSP who looks about 12 and has zero understanding of male violence (or even what his own parties policies were on this prior to the election). Since a write-in campaign to have Chisholm elected Prime Minister against his will isn’t an appropriate response to destroying the Tory party, I will be voting for Gordon Munro. I fully intend to be as big a pain in his arse when he’s an MP as he was as a local councillor, even though I appear to be permanently off his Christmas card list now.

I’m voting labour because I’m a single mother with 2 children, an obscene amount of university debt, and a disability that has severely curtailed my ability to work, even part time. Gordon Munro might not be my favourite politician, but neither are my other local councillors Chaz Booth (Green) and Adam McVey (SNP). I do trust Munro on a number of issues that are important to me and I’m perfectly content to spend the next 5 years campaigning to ensure that Munro changes his stance on other policies (provision of community centres, massive investment in the crumbling fabric of school buildings, 3 block radius ban on parking near schools for non-residents, the banning of all men from driving cars in my neighbourhood).

I’m voting Labour because:

I’m also a fan of Labour’s leaked policy expanding abortion rights to women living in Northern Ireland. I’d like them to go even further to remove the “2 doctor mental health’ rule for women accessing abortion in England and Wales (Scotland will be reviewing the rule during his parliament).

I’m going to campaign for Labour to do the following over the next few years:

  • Ban Trident
  • Stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia
  • Recognise that the child poverty is due to fathers refusing to pay maintenance, which is a form of child abuse
  • Ring fenced massive investment in schools
  • Ring fenced massive investments in the NHS
  • Ring fenced massive investment in community care
  • Fundamental changes to family courts and child access that recognise that viewing domestic violence against a mother is also child abuse. Children have the right to live free from exposure to violence and that includes violence perpetrated by their fathers
  • Higher corporation taxes
  • More post-secondary training programs for young people
  • End to housing refugees in detention centres (and increasing financial support for asylum seekers)
  • End to charitable status for private schools.
  • Expansion of right to vote to all 16 year olds.

 

I’m voting Labour because we cannot afford another 5 years of Tory rule. Too many people have already died because of Tory policy. My local Labour candidate might make me roll my eyes on a daily basis, but he isn’t creating policies that force people into poverty or supporting polices that actively kill people. Perfection is a goal, not a reality in politics. And, right now, we need a labour government more than ever, regardless of whether or not you actively like your local candidate or if you loathe Jeremy Corbyn.

We need a labour government now more than ever.

The New York Times thinks the People of Scotland are Stupid

After the response to my previous post on the Scottish Referendum, I swore I wasn’t going to speak publicly about it again. Being called a neo-Nazi for voting no somewhat pissed me off. Then, I found this piece of unmitigated, offensive drivel in my tabs and remembered that I was pissed off with the New York Times

They start with this:

Scotland has been England’s junior partner in the United Kingdom since 1707. But three centuries is no time at all in the view of many Scots, who regularly re-enact 14th century sword battles they had with the English and have insisted on self-determination, on and off, ever since. That prospect is now nearer than ever. Scottish voters will decide on Thursday whether to become independent once again.

Some of you, like say the New York Times, might be surprised to lean that re-enactment is a huge industry in the US. In fact, you can’t turn on an American detective show without at least one episode dedicated to some dude shooting some other dude with a converted civil war rifle. This is without getting into the issue of people prancing about in civil war uniforms pretending the civil war was all about battles without mentioning the teensy-tiny side issue of slavery. People dressed up in historical costumes, prancing about and arguing about the exact second at which a cannon was fired is hardly confined to the Scots. Googling American Civil War reenactment found a German group which enjoys it – although quite how one reenacts a war on a totally different continent is beyond me (or why anyone would get up in the middle of night to stand about in badly fitted clothing waiting for someone else to shoot a gun).

All of this is the type of ridiculous drivel one expects from a media which has skipped facts for salacious coverage and desperation. But then, they said this:

One might expect the referendum to be a question of national identity, of men in skirts and whiskey and “Braveheart” nostalgia, but hard economics have dominated the debate: What currency will Scotland use? How will revenue from North Sea oil reserves be divided (or will it)? Who will shoulder the burden of public debt?

Yep, that’s the New York Times expressing shock at the ability of Scottish people to like think and have opinions and stuff. They’ve pretty much stated that they assumed Scottish people were too dim to think about important stuff like the economy. Nope, we’re just a nation of men in skirts, drunk on Whiskey who get over-excited about historically inaccurate Mel Gibson films.

This is our mainstream “respected” media: expressing shock that people who live in other countries aren’t stupid.

Voting No : As the least bad options (plus, my list of demands)

I voted no to independence because it was the least bad option (and my friend voted yes because she thought it was the least bad option).

I voted no because Holyrood already has devolved power over education, healthcare, law, social work and housing and has had the ability to make a real difference in terms of poverty and the health and wellbeing of its citizens. It has never chosen to use any of those devolved powers to make a real difference for the lives of its citizens and I don’t believe independence would change that. Far too many children in Scotland live in poverty and the long-term health outcomes for our children is awful. Our children deserve better than this – they deserve better than either Holyrood or Westminster.

Our children deserve to be educated in buildings which are water-tight, properly insulated and with access to good quality resources like libraries, gyms, art rooms, music, specialist math and language teachers and proper, clean toilets. They deserve to be appropriately supported according to their individual needs. They deserve to have playgrounds big enough to run about it and local councils should be legally prohibited from selling off playgrounds to build housing.

All people, regardless if they own their homes, rent or live in social and council accommodation deserve the right to live in water-tight, fit-for-purpose housing which exceeds the minimum standards set out by the European Union (a standard which the vast majority of Edinburgh council properties have not met until recent legal requirements). Our children deserve to grow up in houses without mould, asbestos and inadequate sanitation.

I voted no because prisoners in Scotland had to go to the EU human rights court to have basic access to a toilet – losing immediate EU membership and the right to access that court is what turned my vote despite my belief in the right of self-determination.

I voted no because Edinburgh city council didn’t bother to invest money in housing until it was legally forced to do so by the EU.

I voted no because a child in Edinburgh was killed this year after an internal school wall fell  on her.

I voted no because Edinburgh city council knew in December 2013 that Duncan Place Resource Centre required an immediate intensive survey of its safety following a brief survey of all assets belonging to dept. of children and families and that this survey wasn’t undertaken until September and only then because the council happened to be surveying a different building. Duncan Place Resource Centre has now been closed and is awaiting a survey for asbestos before any repairs (or replacement) of facilities could happen. But, it was completely acceptable for children to be in a building with a potential asbestos problem.

I voted no because the Scottish Parliament was built using labour from illegal immigrants who were paid well-below the minimum wage and lived in substandard accommodation but no wants to talk about that.

I voted no because Alex Salmond had the power to over-turn the democratic process to sell land to Donald Trump to build a golf card that the actual residents voted against (again and again).

I voted no because we need membership of the EU to ensure that all our citizens are treated as humans.

I voted no because I don’t believe Holyrood is a better proposition than Westminster. They are equally bad options – and independence requires either a sound economic base or the desire to fundamentally reshape society. Neither side could promise either.

 

What I want to see immediately:

  • extending the right to vote to 16 & 17 year olds in all local elections
  • free fruit and milk to all primary aged children
  • extending free school meals to include children whose parents receive working tax credits
  • immediate ring-fenced investment in school assets, particularly buildings which are rated “c” or “d”
  • immediate ring-fenced investment in all community buildings
  • immediate ring-fenced investment in local parks
  • immediate investment in mental health services via the NHS and through departments of education, children and families and social services.
  • immediate investment in health and wellness clinics for women and babies
  • increased funding to dental health care
  • increased funding to the NHS – particularly in regards to mental health and life-limiting illnesses
  • investment in care homes for the elderly or people living with disabilities
  • better funding for programs in the violence against women and girls sector
  • more community, preemptive policing working with young people as opposed to criminalising them
  • a complete overhaul of the legal system as it pertains to domestic and sexual violence and abuse – including mandatory specialist training for all attorneys, judges, police, politicians, teachers and social workers.
  • a ban on the use of rape myths as a defence
  • a named support worker for all victims of violence going through the court process – especially in sexual violence and domestic abuse

And, this is just to start.

Reasons to Love the NHS: Or, My Sister’s Life

My sister lives in Canada. She very nearly died due to complications of serious medical malpractice. She was discharged from the hospital with no extended care details or even the support from a nutritionist. I have been here 2 weeks caring for her children. For the 3 weeks prior to this, my eldest daughter was here caring for her children.

My sister survived. Her recovery will be long and there is no automatic support network in place to assist those who are in recovery from severe illness.

This morning, she received a bill for 328 dollars for the ambulance to the hospital as she lacks medical insurance. I couldn’t believe it when I opened the bill. It never even occurred to me that a nation which takes pride in its health care could run a system where emergency transport isn’t covered.

The welfare state in Canada is simply a disaster. Our so-called national health service doesn’t cover the price of prescription medication. And, a woman who nearly died is sent a bill for an ambulance.

This is why we must save the NHS. We cannot allow seriously ill patients to be sent a bill to pay for ambulance transport to the hospital when they have internal bleeding and peritonitis. How many seriously ill patients would think twice about phoning if they knew they would have to pay?

 

#WomenAgainstFeminism, Feminist Critique and the Replication of Patriarchal Abuse

These are a few of the tweets currently being posted on #WomenAgainstFeminism by women who genuinely believe that feminism is a serious problem:

bc feminists today are truly intolerant, incapable of debate & will attack anyone who challenges their agenda

because I don’t need to blame everything that happens on a man.

Feminism has hurt men, women, and children to serve the few at the top who couldn’t make it on their own.

And, this is what some feminists are tweeting in response:

Still can’t believe the hashtag is real… I honestly can’t believe the world has people that stupid.

pointing out the stupid people on the tag how fun

i like how every girl in the tag that’s actually against feminism looks like janet reno. pick your battles, uglies.

It is absolutely true that many of the women who are posting grievances on the #WomenAgainstFeminism tag are white, privileged women and there are some very valid criticisms to be had of the tag but calling people ugly isn’t activism and it won’t change the opinions of those you are insulting. Pointing out the privilege of those dismissing feminism, like in this tweet:

“I am so privileged that I wont take the time to understand a movement that is for helping women who aren’t as lucky”

is absolutely essential. Calling Janet Reno ugly is not.

Critiquing the tag doesn’t require insulting the appearance & intelligence of the women posting on it. It doesn’t require replicating misogynistic language or insults. It requires an evidence-based answer – such as those pointing out the battle for women’s suffrage, rape laws, equal pay acts, maternity rights, reproductive freedoms and the ability to have your own bank account. It is feminism that one these rights for women. Feminism didn’t achieve any of these goals by being obnoxious to other women.

Feminists should understand that systemic misogyny within the capitalist-patriarchy makes it very difficult for women to see the reality of our oppression. Even naming male violence as an oppression results in women being belittled, abused and harassed online and off. Our education system is designed to teach children to pass exams – not to question authority. Our media is owned and dominated by white men who have a vested interest in preventing women from accessing knowledge.

This isn’t to say that the women who started this tag aren’t causing harm to other women. Of course they are but we don’t need to replicate patriarchal patterns of silencing against women who are blinded by their privilege or too afraid to speak out. This is the true demonstration of the power of the capitalist-patriarchy: using women to silence and control other women. We can challenge these women with kindness or with anger. but we do not need to engage in abusive language.

Instead of insulting the women who started the hasthag, let’s start a real discussion as to why women see feminism as threatening. Let’s start questioning their belief systems and pointing out the reality of the lives of women who do not have similar privileges.

 Calling women ugly and stupid is exactly what men do to us every single day. We do not need to be doing this to other women – even if they are tweeting out messages which cause harm to other women. We don’t need to replicate the lowest common denominator.

And, if you do feel the need to be abusive, why not target some of the men posting on the tag:

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Ed Miliband’s Youth Apprenticeship program is a fucking joke

I’m at a conference called Mothers of Innovation, which, I have to admit I was rather prejudiced about since the word ‘mumpreneur’ is in the advertising. I can’t think of anything more patronising for women’s work than minimising it with the word ‘mum’. If Bill Gates isn’t a ‘dadpreneur’ then women aren’t ‘mumpreneurs’. They are talented, intelligent and brilliant women. What these women all have in common is that they are more than functionally literate and numerate.

And, this is why Ed Miliband’s policy is a bunch of toght-wing billshit. Even if we were to pretend that apprenticeship programs exist, which they don’t, this is still a stupid idea. I live in one of the most deprived areas of Scotland and every single year the local authority and Scottish government babble on about training programs, so the kids sign up and then the training is canceled. My neighbour’s son has had no less than four separate training program’s canceled within a two year period as the LA decides it can’t afford to run them. I refuse to believe that labour plans on investing millions into training program’s when this is clearly a way of trying to attract right-wing voters.

If Ed Miliband were actually serious about encouraging youth employment, he’d make sure kids could actually READ and WRITE before threatening to take away their benefits. He’d invest millions and millions of pounds into the education system to do the following:

1. Fix the buildings, many of which are falling down around the children (literally in Edinburgh’s case where a child was recently killed by a falling wall).
2. Smaller class sizes
3. Trained TAs for every classroom
4. Specialist literacy & numeracy teachers
5. Specialist maths teachers
6. Specialist language teachers
7. Proper playgrounds
8. More ed psychs based in schools
9. Childcare with real government financial support
10. Trained nursery teachers
11. Better resources in schools including for art, music and drama
12. Real inclusion in schools
13. More books
14. Young mothers units in schools
15. On site daycares
16. Better pay for teachers & other staff
17. More support staff
18. Libraries in school
19. More funding for school trips including residential trips

But, most importantly, 1 to 1 teaching for any child who needs it for a few hours or every single day if they need it.

This is what youth apprenticeships should look like: support for students who’ve left school with confidence in themselves and their abilities in reading and writing.

Anything less is just noise created to entice the right wing arseholes who don’t actually give a shit about our children.

I’m in a room full of amazing women. We have a generation of children leaving schools who aren’t functionally literate. They need these skills so that they too can become brilliant women.

This should be classed as stating the obvious …

If we didn’t live in a white supremacist, capitalist-patriarchy.

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Not that I don’t think legalising marijuana is a bad idea. My stepmother had a prescription for medical marijuana for years when she had breast cancer.  It helped with the pain and with her ability to keep food down. But, recognising that medical marijuana is a good product doesn’t mean ignoring the obvious racism in legalising white farmers to grow it and white distributors to sell it whilst thousands of men of colour languish in prison across North America for the crime of being Black or poor.

*I’m not sure who is responsible for the image above as it is doing the rounds of Facebook.

The Rise of Fascism is the Fault of those who “abstained”

The people who chose not to vote are as responsible as those who voted for far-right parties

I wrote this in conversation on twitter with friends and I stand by every word. Those who chose not to vote are as responsible for the rise in Fascist and racist parties as those who voted for them. We have known for months that the far-right and fascist parties were mobilising in an attempt to become mainstream and, yet, many didn’t bother to vote, including feminists.

Voting won’t result in the complete destruction of the capitalist-patriarchy. It never will, We all know that. That doesn’t mean we can’t prevent the worst of our so-called options from taking power. We have allowed our elective representatives to be drawn from a group of racist, homophobic, disablist and misogynists. Not voting let UKIP take the EU seat in Scotland. It lead to the rise in votes for fascist parties across Europe. In Croydon, a Tory-led council has voted to charge children who need specialist support with reading £3500 for a right to education supposedly guaranteed under the Education Act. Councils across England and Wales are controlled by parties who don’t think specialist services for women are needed. This has led to the closure of women’s aid and refuges in many counties. It has also decimated specialist services for Black and Ethnic Minority women.

We can’t change the world by voting but not voting helps no one. If you chose not to vote in the last election in some ridiculous attempt at “protest”, all you’ve done is allowed those in power retain power and give them a clear mandate to continue policies which will harm women and children.

You’re responsible for allowing local councils to continue closing refuges, slash social work budgets to help families and vulnerable people and erode our education system. It has allowed racists to dictate immigration at the national and EU level.

Not voting isn’t cool or revolutionary, contrary to the drivel spouted by Russell Brand, it’s simply the only way to keep the worst of the worst out of the decision making process on the continuation of the NHS, education and specialist services for women.

Just to be perfectly clear here: fascism is a movement of the middle classes. It’s electoral support, regardless of nation or time, has always required the middle class vote to gain power. The idea that fascism is somehow tied to poverty and the disenfranchisement that goes with it is a convenient myth for those who are in power. After all, the Republican party in the US and UKIP and the Tories in the UK have policies which do not differentiate them from mainstream fascist parties (look at how the Republicans fight to disenfranchise poor, African-American communities). They are the acceptable face of fascism  – and, increasingly, are being given space to espouse fascist ideologies, much like the Nazi party in the early 1930s. We are repeating patterns of scape-goating which allow fascist  parties to gain power and which give those right-wing mainstream parties permission to become more fascist.

 

The Tories hate children: Or, no/ poor access to education is state-sanctioned child abuse

Cynical Croydon charging children £3,500 for remedial lessons

I would have thought that a party which prefers children to live in poverty than hold their fathers responsible for financially supporting them can’t get any higher on the “Who hates children the most” game.  Turns out, I was so beyond wrong I might as well have been on a different planet. The Tory-led council of Croydon have come up with a brilliant plan to punish children who need extra support. They’ve privatised learning support for remedial literacy, put it in a new building and are now going to charge children a whopping £3,500 for the privilege of learning to read. A government which does not give every single child access to appropriate educational services is committing state-sanctioned child abuse.

EVERY SINGLE CHILD HAS THE RIGHT TO AN EDUCATION .

This includes any extra support they may need to help them. Requiring children to pay is horrific.

It is unbelievable that we live in a country where a child who needs extra support is expected to pay. And, let’s be honest here, this is a punishment for parents who are guilty of the heinous crimes of being poor, speaking English as a second language or having a child who is not “normal”.

No country which punishes children rather than supporting them is civilised. And, every government which believes it’s okay to force children to pay to learn is participating in state-sanctioned abuse. A child who goes through a state education who cannot read has been failed by everyone.

I know the language of abuse seems almost hyperbolic but, really, a child who lives in the UK who has to pay for support from the state education system is being set up to fail. A child who can not read is severely oppressed by the state. What is forcing a child to live in poverty because she/he has no basic literacy skills but abuse?

I hate making school lunches.

Honestly, I can’t think of a worse way to start the day. By the time my kids could spread peanut butter on bread, then were on their own. When the teenager was a vegetarian, this meant peanut butter sandwiches for six years straight. Any attempts at suggesting alternatives were met with abject horror and the suspicion that I was somehow trying to poison here. I am also the mother that considered crisps in a lunch box on par with deliberately feeding your kid salmonella. Hypocrisy be thy middle name and all that jazz.

As a single working mother (and now one who also has a disability), making packed lunches has never been on my list of priorities. I couldn’t stand them when I was a kid and I can’t stand them now. My kids won’t eat school lunches so they make their own packed lunches. This doesn’t always go to plan as seen with Small’s 22 olives in her lunch yesterday but they eat healthy food they like and then go out to play with their friends.  Surely, this is all parents want for their kids: a decent lunch with time to play regardless of who and what ends up in that lunch.

I was really disappointed in today’s article in Parentdish* which rather sneeringly dismissed one mother’s creative lunches made for her son. The article itself has now been taken down but you can see some of the snippets here.  A quick google brings up lots of images of women who make art projects out of their kids lunches:

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It is very unlikely I would do the above but, having checked with my teenager, we’re both pretty sure that mothers who do do this for their children aren’t ruining their lives or deliberately making them fussy or whatever accusation you want to toss at them. They are mothers making lunches for their kids which is what some mothers do. Other mothers don’t. It doesn’t make either category a better or worst mother. It just makes us mothers.

Judging other mothers for taking the time to cut sandwiches with cookie cutters says more about those judging than the mothers making them. We all need to cut each other some slack and recognise that doing things differently doesn’t mean we’re doing it wrong. Different isn’t bad. Creative isn’t a crime against children and  neither is refusing to spread peanut butter on bread 5 days week.