Saturday, 28 December 2013

the abyss

Oh boy, the day before Christmas Eve and,  what a start to Christmas, the weather and, the power of the elements of nature, should be a reminder that man has no control over nature, or at least just yet that is.

The ancient Greeks believed that there were four elements that everything was made up of: earth, water, air, and fire. This theory was suggested around 450 BC, and it was later supported and added to by Aristotle. (Aristotle also suggested that there was a fifth element, aether, because it seemed strange that the stars would be made out of earthly elements. He would indeed be surprised to learn that they are in fact made up of many elements found on earth, and are so hot they could be said to be on fire all the time!).

Three people have died and millions have been stranded as the UK battles against torrential rain and gale force winds, and (pardon my pun) just to bring home the turkey. However my thoughts are with these who have lost loved ones, and what a tragedy just before the holiday starts.

Millions of people struggling to get home in time for Christmas after the violent storm and winds of up to 87 mph resulted in road closures and delays on railway lines, ports and airports across the whole country.

And with damage to power lines, 6000 homes were reported to be without electricity.

There was 57 flood warnings and 218 flood alerts put in place across the country, with Met Office forecasters issuing a severe weather warning due to 90mph winds and flooding caused by the torrential rain.

All of this is a reminder to me just how fortunate and lucky I am and, compared to many others; and what value I place in my council flat, the shelter, the warmth, the security and safety that it provides me with, is something that I should never take for granted.

I have of course, in my past been homeless, so my council flat has real importance and worth to me, something that I’m not prepared to let go of in any kind of a hurry. So I know from my own experience what it is like to be homeless at this time of the year, and must say as well as all year around, its not fun or any lighthearted pleasure, trust me. And it’s made that much harder if you are single and alone. I can only describe it as nothing more that your worst nightmare and, when you wake up you are still without a home.

The whole experience changes you, if you are fortunate to get off the streets and get out of the other side, you may find as I did that you are not the same person who fell into the Abyss, that deep and seemingly bottomless chasm. Today, and as I have said in many a post in regard to homelessness on this blog, many are now unable to grasp that rope that will lead them out of the darkness, because its been cut. The one thing that we can say about this coalition government and its austerity politics, is that it has been like rubbing salt into the wounds of those without a home, and made much worse now when you consider that many will never be able to escape a life on the streets because of the deep cuts and a shortage of social housing and, if anything government policy is driving many more onto our streets, a human mess of real misery which will take many years to clear up, providing we have a government committed to tackling the problem and restoring some sort of housing justice, if there can be any such thing in capitalism of which, I very much have my own doubts about.

In the meantime I just want to mention the homeless organisation which is known as ‘Crisis’ who have opened and organised Christmas centers with an army of volunteers (8,000) around the country to feed and in some cases provide for rough sleepers with beds, warmth and shelter over the festive period.

Of all the homeless organisations this is the one I salute the most, because they do much more for the homeless person than anyone else, it’s not just about feeding the homeless at Christmas, although that's very important at what can be a very lonely time of the year for many, but they operate all year round providing much needed support and help, they are indeed on the front line holding up many an individual whose misfortune it is to be homeless.

More than 4,000 vulnerable people have visited Crisis centres over Christmas, the charity opened centres in London, Newcastle and Edinburgh, for the festive period.
It says that young people are most at risk, with the number of under-25s sleeping rough in London, for example, more than doubled in three years.

New research  from Crisis suggests eight per cent of under-25s have experienced homelessness in England, since 2008.

The statistics are clear – homelessness is continuing to rise. Failures in the housing system are playing a critical underlying role. House building remains at low levels, leaving a growing shortfall against new household formation. With already substantial levels of overcrowding, concealed and sharing households, many are left unable to find a room even to rent, never mind own a home of their own. The private rented sector is being relied on to meet housing demand yet is failing in too many instances – ending of an assured shorthold tenancy is now the leading cause of statutory homelessness in London.

Rising homelessness is a story not just of economic pressure but of political choices with the cuts to Local Housing Allowance, extension of the Shared Accommodation Rate, the removal of the spare room subsidy (sometimes referred to as the “bedroom tax”), and overall benefit cap of particular concern and having real impacts across the country. In addition, services for those who are homeless are being cut, the safety net previously provided by social housing and the homelessness legislation reduced, with benefit sanctions risking severe hardship, including the threat of destitution.

The burden is being felt disproportionately by younger people and by the most vulnerable. Worryingly for the first time in this report those who have experienced domestic violence are flagged as an area of concern.

With new analysis identifying that nearly one in ten adults have experienced homelessness at some point in their lives this is a situation that demands focus and attention. The researchers are clear that we are still only beginning to identify the impacts of changes to the social security system on individuals and households and ultimately in the numbers facing or experiencing homelessness.

I have been able to visit the Christmas centre in South London and whilst I am still talking to people at this time I will be publishing a post very shortly so please stay tuned in to this blog for a full account to come.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Crooks and Criminals

It's at this time, and during this wait and break for Christmas and the new year, that I have the time to think about the last year about to end and, whilst that light starts to to lose it’s dim, and we start to stare into the year that lies ahead for all.  For me it is a reminder that 2014, well it will be my fortieth year as an active socialist, and now for some years and, thankfully and happily non-aligned to any political party or sect.

This last year about to end, has been for many of us, a real test one way or the other. The hardness of austerity, even the brutality of coalition cuts have left many scarred or even much worse; there are many no longer with us.

The laughter of Tories on the governments own backbenches towards those thousands that use a food bank, tells me that that this party is not only nasty but a butcher to our class, and its ministers have blood on their hands, look no further than to the Works and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith.

It’s Iain Duncan Smith that I have in mind when I consider what the late Ronnie Briggs had to say about criminals and crooks :

“There's a difference between criminals and crooks. Crooks steal. Criminals blow some guy's brains out. I'm a crook.”

It is obvious that Iain Duncan Smith is a Criminal then!”

With Each Passing Year

With each passing year, I become firmly bedded in to the idea that there is no such thing as democracy, that it is nothing but a lie and at best an illusion that a great many fall for still. Russell Brand was invited to guest edit the New Statesman at the end of October, and he took the opportunity to write a long feature article on a subject which he deemed important enough to devote his whole piece to. He did not choose to write about his work as a comedian or actor, not that I’m a fan of any of his work, that’s probably because I have chosen not to install a box of mass distraction in my home a television set. He did not write about his sexual reputation as a ladies’ man, or about which toothpaste he uses. He wrote with passion about how the world is organised and how all main stream politics serves the same global economic elite. He made a great number of insightful, thought-provoking observations.  

It has taken some time to digest much of what Brand had to say, but as a whole I do find agreement with him:

“‘I have never voted. Like most people I am utterly disenchanted by politics. Like most people I regard politicians as frauds and liars and the current political system as nothing more than a bureaucratic means for furthering the augmentation and advantages of economic elites.”

I found that this quote underneath from brand to be both true and powerful, and about time someone said it - well he did:

“those who ‘fought in two world wars’ to protect the right to vote ‘were conned”.

But it was something else that resonated the most with me, that Brand mentioned in his very public outburst that turned a few heads at the top. He acknowledged the Occupy Movement, and the global movement against capitalism that is still emerging around the world.

As someone very much involved in the London Occupy Movement, that support from Brand is important as it is significant and welcoming. I can tell you that Occupy made its mistakes, it was never going to be perfect, and it did not pretend to be. But it did bring together a new challenge and from down on the street aiming at the rotten system of capitalism.

I have always felt that Occupy is part of that new movement, the old has long lost its gloss and many like me have been looking for more effective ways in which to win mass support amongst working people. Occupy did start to do that, I was amazed at just how much the British working people gave not only support but the money to sustain that camp at St. Pauls.

The truth is that if experience is to be teacher then the old ways, no longer work as once they did, the trade unions are not a challenge to capitalism, as if they ever were, possibly in the beginning but not now. Workers don’t have the same power (if that’s the right description) as once they did and not so long ago. To withdraw Labour from the workplace throws up many new problems these days, like who will pay the rent or the lone off on the house, just who puts food on the table when every other day there is a story in news of how many are being forced to turn to the food bank.

I think that Iain Duncan Smith really likes a food bank, just like that old saying; ‘treat them mean, keep them keen!”

I must admit and like a great many others, of that I am sure, that it is very disappointing that this coalition government of the rich is still in office, that The People’s Assembly Against Austerity a political initiative launched in 2013 and backed by major trade unions such as Unite, UNISON, NUT, NUJ, PCS, the Green Party, Labour MPs, Coalition of Resistance and numerous campaigning groups turned out to be so useless and ineffective, but not a complete surprise.

I don’t know what next year coming holds for any of us, the one thing that I can predict with a degree of certainty, is the attacks on our class, the erosion of living standards will continue. That there will be local and european elections the outcome of which will make no difference to the vast majority, they are a complete waste of time and it could be that abstention from the process could be more of a political act than participation?

I have found this last year, to be very demanding personally, trying to survive has been hard stressful work, but my forty years tell me never to give up, that dam of discontent cannot be held back for ever, it will burst back onto to the streets at sometime, and that’s where you will find me, with the 99%

Have a peaceful christmas comrades all.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

not cult like worship

The thing that I celebrate every day and without failure, and gain greatest strength from in this political world that I inhabit and move within, it is enjoying my own independence - which is more important now than ever it was!”

I also celebrate not being a member of any particular organised political party, none on the left in this country are fit for purpose is my own opinion sadly put, and my understanding is that they are lurching from one internal crisis to the next, and to be honest then, I’m not really bothered, it’s all a diversion from our real struggle with the ruling class of this country and within that class war currently ongoing.

Why should anyone in their right mind get involved in these left groups and, their leadership structure, cult like worship of say, Trotsky Leon the revolutionary and theorist, or indeed others is in reality beyond me!”

In my many years of coming into contact on and off with these many different left groups, has left me with one very disturbing and lasting impression of them, they all have a reputation of violence and in some cases, sexual indiscrations by it's own members and like in the case of Geary Healy some years back, this very much still lingers in my mind and a meeting in my youth where a comrade was being expelled at the local (Workers Revolutionary Party) branch meeting in Hull.

It can be a very lonely life for many a genuine Socialists these day’s; but what does a genuine Socialist look like these days anyway then?”

I sure as hell don’t know, that’s the truth, as I do think that these groups are only just now beginning to fall apart and at the seams, it was very disturbing to read the accounts of bullying within the Socialist Party on another blog that I respect very much. This should not be happening, and it should not be tolerated by socialists and democrats alike.

The Socialist Party should always remember that when they were being ‘Militant’ and operating in the Labour Party and, remembering the control they had won and held within Labour Party Young Socialists (LPYS).  Many ordinary party members (non-aligned) had much time for them the LPYS, and defended them and ‘Militant’ in the subsequent witch-hunt of the Kinnock years.

I don’t think much more can should (I was thinking of joining?) or can be said about the Socialist Party, other than to say that they are and have always been control freaks, and that's a very bad condition that has nothing to do with socialism.

So to me not being a member of a party is everything I need along with being a member of the working class and an active member of the wider and more extensive Labour movement.

That’s all you need unless you are a sheep that domesticated ruminant animal?

Friday, 20 December 2013

the scandal that has become part of the festival of christmas

Here is an article which I wrote in December 2009 for Socialist Standard publication of the Socialist Party of Great Britain, its about the scandal which for some obscene reason becomes each and every year part of the festival of Christmas; and as we sit-down and get stuck-in to our festive lunch TV news will no doubt bring us the tidings of how the homeless are coping with their lives on this special day, along with how the troops were mentioned in the Queens annual address to the nation. In a short but quick introduction, I would just like to say, that a society which fails to make available to its citizens the opportunity of a home of a quality commensurate with the wealth of that society, has no right whatsoever to expect those people whom it fails to fulfil their obligations and responsibilities as citizens!"

The plight and condition (suffering) of homeless people has become an issue very dear to my heart over many years, and like many others I have tried to lift the profile of what is nothing more than a capitalist scandal, and no more so than today with record numbers in Britain, including children who do not have a safe place that they can call home. It is now a fact that under David Cameron and the Coalition of the rich, the situation has been made deliberately much worse and set to explode as we move into the new year. The one thing that experience and indeed history has taught me, is that under capitalism there will always be the homeless, and the answer to the problem is not blowing in the wind, but staring us in the face, we must change society and with unlike the Labour Party, our eyes wide open, that change is about building towards the only solution, we need a revolution!”              

Paying fuel bills can be hard at the best of times but you are twice as likely to fall into fuel poverty if you’ve recently been treated for cancer, according to new research from Macmillan Cancer Support. Following diagnosis, three-quarters of cancer patients in active treatment need to use their heating more, yet those under 60 do not qualify for any help to pay for it. Fuel poverty – having to spend more than 10 percent of your income on heating – is a relatively new phenomenon that is beginning to grip Britain faster than the spread of swine flu and serves as the cold reminder that we still live in a society that if you don’t have the ability to pay you go without.

The true extent of such hardship and poverty in Britain and its impact is conveniently bypassed and generally ignored by mainstream politicians who have more to peevishly whinge about when it comes to their own expenses. As we come to almost the end of this the first decade of the 21st century it’s as if the hands on the clock of time have been turned backwards. If it wasn’t for the constant sight of all manner of technology’s advancement from transport to the smallest iPods, cyberspace and the internet you would not be wrong to conclude that some things change but much, very much just stays the same, as I’m constantly reminded when I visit and spend time with my many friends who live their lives out and on the streets of London, the capital city in this the fifth richest nation in the world.


The people that I speak of are the visible homeless that no one seems to see. Their numbers are hard to place a finger on, they live in hostels, squats and a growing number sleep rough on our streets. Keeping warm in winter is a battle waged every year by the rough sleeper in his or her skip, but truth is every season brings its problems when you’re forced to share the outdoor life with the birds, urban foxes and city rats.

A great many of my friends on the street live and rely solely upon street handouts and day centres for food, laundry and bathing facilities. Many refuse to claim entitled benefits, preferring not to be a part of a welfare system that incessantly strong-arms the unemployed into taking low paid employment with the use of sanctions and penalties. This is in complete contrast to what Richard Bacon, a Tory MP on the committee which acts as a watchdog over public spending, said:

"The Department for Work and Pensions does not know how many people are out of work by choice, rather than by chance. Properly targeted help must be put in place for those who want to work. Only then will the Government be able to flush out the shirkers who are sticking up two fingers at hard-working families and treating the benefit system like a cash machine."(Daily Mail)

How can anyone not be moved by the spectacle and lines of men and women who gather every night in London’s Lincoln Inn Fields for a meal provided by the Hari Krishnas or a Jamaican Christian Church. On some occasions I’ve counted up to three hundred people who arrive hours in advance with all their worldly possessions rammed into rucksacks and carrier bags, sleeping bags and their wind-up radio. This is no easy life. The streets are fraught with danger for many homeless people; over the last few years people living on the streets have become more vulnerable to violence and attack; this threat can be from other street users and from those who are intoxicated through alcohol and/or drugs.

Rough sleepers are 13 times more likely to experience crime and 47 times likely to be the victim of theft. Crime, and the perception of crime, can play a major role in the decisions of rough sleepers in not only where they sleep but also where they take part in daytime activities. Many rough sleepers avoid danger and stay clear of violence by using the London night bus service to get some rest, as one friend told me: “You take the longest route say to Heathrow Airport and back that kills 4 hours and before you know it it’s morning.” Female rough sleepers are particularly vulnerable to physical attack and abuse, and to protect themselves they tend to be amongst the most hidden.

Rough sleepers are met with a mixture of emotions from the general public ranging from pity and support to anger and distrust. But one thing almost goes unasked and that’s why are people, fellow human beings living, existing on our rich streets; streets that are not paved with gold.

London has seen a big increase in the number of migrant workers left homeless and destitute in the city, without access to benefits or housing help. The effects of the economic downturn, as well as a legal block preventing migrants from certain countries claiming benefits, has meant increased numbers of rough sleepers in the city from eastern European countries.

Every year an official head count of rough sleepers within Westminster is carried out and recorded for official purposes. In recent years allegations of tactics designed to reduce the figure have been made. The Simon Community, an organisation that works and lives with the homeless on the streets, undertook its own street headcount at the end of October, and found 247 people sleeping rough in the City of Westminster, almost 100 more than official figures now state. The Simon Community along with some rough sleepers have claimed that diversionary tactics were put in place days before the street count took place. A number of known rough sleepers were offered travel warrants by Police and community officers, in an attempt to transfer them out of the area. In a BBC report on the issue of travel warrants being handed out, the Metropolitan Police denied the allegation that they were shifting people out of the area, saying that they regularly issue travel warrants for homeless people, particularly during the winter months. Allegations have also been made that local authorities exerted harsh measures against homeless people, according to the Simon Community. They received information about a group of homeless people being physically moved out of the Victoria Street area by Police. Similarly, there are accusations of doorways used to bed down in were hosed by cleaners to make them unusable.

There are claims that charities were also instructed to make beds available in their hostels ahead of the count, and emergency accommodation was opened up on the week the count took place.

Reality entertainment

During the summer the BBC screened a very different type of reality television; this involved celebrities who were asked to partake in the programme ‘Famous, Rich & Homeless’. This TV documentary, described as thought-provoking, recruited five famous volunteers who were asked to experience the life of a homeless person on the streets of London for a few days (ten) during the winter of 2008. When I say famous, what I mean by that is household names drawn from the entertainment and media industry. The Marquess of Blandford, the One Show’s Hardeep Singh Kholi, journalist Rosie Boycott, former Coronation Street actor Bruce Jones and tennis commentator Annabel Croft all swapped their lavish privileged lifestyles, their fame and fortune for a time; for a world of soup runs and hostels.

They were helped and manoeuvred throughout by Big Issue founder John A Bird and Craig Last, a former youth worker for the charity Centrepoint. Having watched the show myself; I came away thinking that this type of reality entertainment achieves nothing more than accepting and approving that the daily struggle for life’s existence at the bottom of the pile is a normal part of the structure of society. But the best response to the show came from a homeless person writing in the letters page of Pavement the free monthly magazine produced for London's homeless; they said:

“I found it quite ironic that ‘Famous, Rich and Homeless’ was shown on the BBC. I spent seven months living rough on London's streets, often at All Souls' Church in Portland Place. Having crashed there for several months, rough sleeping with the full knowledge and permission of the church authorities, I was woken one night and "moved on" by a couple of Westminster police officers. When I enquired about the incident at the church reception the following morning, I was informed by a staffer that the alleged complaint had not been lodged by the church authorities but by BBC security staff at Broadcasting House, directly across the road, no doubt because they were irritated by having to constantly step over cardboard boxes whilst filming fearless, hard-hitting documentaries about the plight of London's homeless.”

About the same time as these programmes were broadcast, The Wall Street Journal (15 July) reported; that in the London Borough of Westminster, where Mayfair is located, homes can cost up to £50 million. Yet Westminster is fifth among London's 33 boroughs in the number of unoccupied properties. In 2008, 1,737 homes had been vacant for six months or more, the third highest number among all London boroughs, according to the Empty Homes Agency, a non-profit group that seeks to put empty homes back into use.

Westminster Council have placed according to its website (at the time of writing) 3.000 homeless families into temporary accommodation. Many have been exported to the poorer boroughs of East London because they claim there are not enough temporary in Westminster.

The high concentration of rundown, empty homes is striking for a posh Mayfair, with its ornately gated manses. The hub of aristocratic society before World War II, Mayfair's modern-day image is demonstrated by its prominent place on the British Monopoly board.

Mayfair's homeowners aren't down on their luck, far from it. Rather, there properties serve as investments for owners who pay the bills to keep them empty – something the neighbours and council object to when the homes fall into disrepair. Many owners decline to rent the homes due to local council tax rules, with tax on properties at a lower rate if they are empty and unfurnished, which is a loophole that helps the filthy rich. As the number of homes now priced at more than £1m has fallen by a third during the past two years the problems surrounding the abandonment of posh homes may get worse.

The whole business of empty homes came to light last winter when a group of young squatters occupied two £20 million homes on Park Lane overlooking Hyde Park. Before the squatters settled in, the homes had been empty for seven years. During that time, the Council had tried three times to contact their British Virgin Islands-based property owners: Red Line Ltd. and Perfectil Ltd. Following two years of silence, the property owners surfaced once newspaper reports outed the squatters. The result of such media reports has meant that wealthy homeowners have turned to private security firms to protect their empty London properties from squatters at a cost of up £2,600 a week while according to the Empty Homes Agency there are more than 80,000 empty properties in London (Evening Standard, 11 November). In the recession this is one business that may prove to be very lucrative as a growing number of homes are bought by foreign investors who want a secure asset but continue to live elsewhere.

In our daily press we read much about the housing problem, about lost homes repossessed by the banks and the so-called housing shortage, with thousands stranded and languishing for years on the council housing waiting list or simply held hostage to the private landlord, the cry goes out for more affordable homes or a proposed programme of public works that embraces house building as the desired solution, peddled by those who still offer the dried-out old fig leaf of failed reform. Over a hundred years ago Frederick Engels wrote in the Housing Question: “This shortage is not something peculiar to the present; it is not even one of the sufferings peculiar to the modern proletariat in contradistinction to all earlier oppressed classes. On the contrary, all oppressed classes in all periods suffered more or less uniformly from it.”

And then Engels gave an answer to this age old problem. He said, and I repeat, to end the housing shortage there is only one means: to abolish altogether the exploitation and oppression of the working class by the ruling class.

Thursday, 19 December 2013


The Socialist Way: CHRISTMAS DAY IN THE WORKHOUSE: CHRISTMAS DAY IN THE WORKHOUSE (A Poem by George R. Sims, 1847-1922) It is Christmas Day in the workhouse, And the cold, bare walls are...

slammed forcefully against the vertical brick wall

Nearly 93,000 more UK home-owners have become "property millionaires" over the last year thanks due to rising property prices and George Osborne (looking after the rich) the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with almost 60,000 of them in London.

London’s exclusive borough of Kensington and Chelsea has the highest number of property millionaires at 41,393.

Then interestingly at the other end of the scale in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, "forty-six per cent of council tenants are in rent arrears. So the council housing has come up with what they think is a good idea, they have distributed to all, that’s across approximately 17,000 households, a Christmas Card that advises tenants not to "overindulge" during the festive period. The text is accompanied by an image showing a pound coin fizzing in a glass.

This story only makes me think, just what a bleak Christmas this is going to be for many, there is no mistake about that; so let us hope that the new year brings something very different and liberating for the many, the vast majority who have been slammed forcefully against the vertical brick wall by the ruling class and the agents of capitalism.  

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

the housing bubble

Christmas is only a week away; it’s almost on top of us, and I can imagine many a parent, up and down the country wishing that it was delayed or even postponed in such hard times of so-called austerity. Just how do you tell a child that Santa Claus, the legendary patron saint of children has had to make a few cutbacks to the presents he brings?

I am of course reminded, that one of the upshots and consequences of the recession that you don't hear a lot about is the record number of children descending into poverty. At Christmas 2013, the UK is a land more riven and split by inequality than at any period in modern times, with a mortifying upsurge of poverty and homelessness that, coupled with invidious “reforms” of its welfare system, is tearing at our social fabric.

With no compassion in their make-up, only loyalty to their class, David Cameron and his cabinet routinely conduct government on the basis of diversionary tactics and outright fabrication. Cameron’s self-satisfied colleague, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, boasts that Britain is enjoying the fastest growth of any advanced country; he exults that the economic damage done by the previous Labor government is being reversed thanks to his unswerving commitment to fiscal austerity. Yet almost certainly the main cause for Britain’s recent growth is that the chancellor has stimulated a boom in the housing market with a government-backed “help-to-buy scheme,” which has precipitated a spurt of consumer spending. Osborne’s “recovery” is founded on little more than the resumption of the reckless lending that plunged the British economy into crisis in the first place.

In truth, the boom in the housing market is largely confined to the south east of England. On top of this, first-time buyers in London whom the government purports to wish to help are being priced out of the market by overseas investors who are amassing property holdings in the British capital on an unprecedented scale. The deepening housing crisis is bound up with the unthinkingly enthusiastic commitment of successive British governments (including Labour) to the free market. It is decades since Britain had what could be properly called a national housing policy. While London property values have been allowed to shoot up to even - dizzier heights there has been little more than a token effort to build the 300,000 new homes per annum the country needs.

I was wondering is the housing market signing a sweet tune, or will the bubble soon burst when interest rates are put up, which seems to be the aim of both government and Bank of England, this in turn explains the drive to get the unemployed of the register and tighten the rules for immigrants claiming benefits in the new year.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

from the Dole to the Bin's

Apparently, and as far as one knows, my electric meter is to be changed this very day, as it has come to the end of it’s life; so whilst waiting at home for EDF to arrive, it has given me the time to start this post. I have not been able to blog as much lately due to the fact that for almost two months I have been working as a self-employed scraper, trying to earn a crust from the collection of unwanted and discarded scrap that I find on London's streets or in peoples bins. Thanks, to Iain Duncan Smith (IDS), and his harsh regime down at my local dole office, and of course it’s not just me that has been treated (sometimes, brutally treated) like dirt by the coalition of the rich that have a grip on the levers of power.

Having been sanctioned twice, and then kicked off the dole without warning, has pushed me into self-employment. I have gone from the dole, to making a living from what people throw away and put in their own bins, anything that I can take and make money from I will do; aluminium, stainless, copper, electric motors, car batteries and so on, all helps to make me a living and at this time in my life.

I never thought of it ever, becoming my own boss, but it beats working and being exploited by someone else. On reflection, this suits me, I am very happy to be doing my own thing, and without anyone else like IDS bothering me, I am free, like a bird (magpie) able to do whatever I like and whenever I like. However, don’t let me dress this up too romantically comrades all. It can be very hard work, with it’s very own dangers, and as I have discovered in the last month or so whilst foraging (“like gulls are equipped by nature to forage for food") for scrap in East London. Many don’t like it, some think you are making money on the side or on top of your dole (nothing wrong with that) money, or it could just be that they don’t like you goin down their bins, that of course I do understand, and I never make an unnecessary mess; but I have been threatened on one or two occasions, with violence, which I hate and there is never a need for it. I think that some people, think that I’m Eastern European trying to make money for food or booze. On the other side of the coin you will get people giving you things, and I have had much given to me by some very nice people, so a big thank you to all of them.

So have things changed for me now that I’m my own boss?

Not really, as I am one of the working poor (solidarity to all of them) that have come off one set of benefits and gone on to working tax credits, still getting housing benefits from Newham Council but have to pay them an extra £20 towards my rent weekly, then there is the utility costs, heating and eating - but the thing is I manage.  

Looking back over the last 3 years, at this government, I do so like many, in anger; but I look to the future with hope, and most importantly, I am still in the class war and doing my bit!”

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

to make their fat cats even fatter

Total pay for the directors of the UK's top businesses rose 14% over the past year driven by a huge jump in share-based long term incentive payments, a pay research company has found.

Incomes Data Services (IDS) said this took the average pay for a director of a FTSE 100 firm to £3.3m.

IDS said basic pay rises were "relatively restrained" at 4% higher, while annual bonuses fell 8.8%.

But total pay rose thanks to a 58% rise in share-based long-term incentives.

And over the past ten years, the median total earnings of a FTSE 100 chief executive has gone up by 243%, Steve Tatton, editor of IDS's directors' pay report, told the BBC.

Mr Tatton said the survey illustrated the "complex make-up of boardroom remuneration".
"With nearly two-thirds of FTSE directors benefiting from an LTIP [long-term incentive plan] award in the latest year, the higher share-based payouts clearly made up for any ground lost in lower annual bonuses," he added.

A director is typically awarded a proportion of their salary in shares, which pay out only if the director hits their performance targets.

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said the survey's findings meant that top bosses' pay was growing 20 times faster than that of the average worker.

"It's one thing replacing bonuses with long-term incentive plans, but FTSE 100 companies are simply exploiting this change to make their fat cats even fatter," she said.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

working less years not more?

Thinking over George Osborne’s Autumn Statement of last week, the one thing that stands out to me, and not comfortably I must say, is the announcement that the goalposts to retirement are to be moved.

Plans to raise the basic state pension age to 70 for people currently in their twenties were laid out by George Osborne like pouring water down a ducks back and as if being a pensioner now means an excess weight of stone, and assisted by the press (who have been preparing the public for some time), we are being told that working people, must expect to work longer, and the way things are going, for much less money and take home pay.

We are told, because people are living longer, this in turn is putting a fiscal twist and strain on public finance, it’s costing an arm and a leg to keep our pensioners, in what should be a comfortable break after a lifetime of work; but, it should be cozy, snug, warm and pleasant, and after a lifetime of repetitive slavery for most. What Osborne is really saying, and with a pointing finger at all working people, is you exist only to work, you are the firewood we burn, the fuel to profit.

The Independent newspaper published a very interesting article, suggesting that thousands of Britain’s poorest people “will be dead before they can retire” if sweeping pension reforms are not matched by urgent action on health inequalities between the rich and the poor.

I am also convinced, that if it wasn't Osborne, then it would be Balls and Labour doing the dirty on working people, and just as they did in office the last time.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, was not a fan of work. In his 1932 essay, “In Praise of Idleness”, he reckoned that if society were better managed the average person would only need to work four hours a day. Such a small working day would “entitle a man to the necessities and elementary comforts of life.”

However we look at it, this is most definitely, a step backwards, and in light of technology, the application of scientific knowledge, advances made in computer technology and recycling technologies, must surely mean, we should be working less years not more?” Technological advancement should free people from toil, but first we would have to establish a civilised society which capitalism is not.

And, as Russell argued, working less will guarantee “happiness and joy of life, instead of frayed nerves, weariness, and dyspepsia".

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