Tuesday, 26 November 2013

fuel poverty action

Figures published today by the Office for National Statistics reveal a shocking rise in “excess winter mortality” of 29%, amounting to some 31,100 extra deaths in England and Wales alone. The overwhelming majority of those deaths, that is more than 82%, were people aged 75 and over.

The figures for 2012-13  showed that people aged over 75 comprised 25,600 of the total, and was higher in females (18,000) than males (13,100).

Today in London and elsewhere, in cities and towns around the country Protest groups including UK Uncut and Fuel Poverty Action demonstrated against energy providers Npower and British Gas and others over the rise in energy prices.  I took part in the London protest that ended up outside the head office of Npower located in the City of London.

We marched on Npower offices with a coffin filled with bills and held a "speak-out", where those hardest hit by "fuel poverty" spoke of their experiences and struggle to keep warm, put food on the table and pay the rising bills.

The gathering was not as big as anticipated, but nevertheless it was vocal and very spirited; when I say not big, I mean about 500, then again the weather (cold), the travelling costs and during the week may have rendered many unable to attend.

It’s hard to believe, but still I remember when Gas and Electricity supply was once owned and held by central government and supposedly for the nation. We had two meters in my parents house, one to pay the gas and the other for the electric, you had to put a shilling in the slot and then turn a metal flange all the way round until it dropped, they were of course coin operated and most people had them; the meter reader would come around empty the meters, count out the money and then hand you some back and we kids at the time thought this was great, and it was for many a mother who was feeding, helping to bring up a young family. One other thing about the meter men is they looked like a bus conductor with a big leather bag for the cash - maybe he had a bin on wheels as well?  

The nationalisation of the Big Six and increased use of renewable energy would tackle the problem of fuel poverty as a first step but not the final, that could only be, when all the worlds resources belong to humankind to use collectively and not for profiteering by the few.

Thousands of families are having to face the cold

Thousands of families are having to face the cold in their homes in London’s deprived East End because they’ve fallen into fuel poverty because of rising energy prices this winter.        

A House of Commons analysis estimates around 3,500 households in Tower Hamlets alone have fallen below the fuel poverty line.

The figures were collated before the recent 10 per cent energy price rises announced by some gas and electricity companies.

Labour’s Health spokesman on Tower Hamlets Council, Bill Turner, said: “Families are again facing a choice between eating or heating this winter.

“It’s an absolute disgrace that they are being left to freeze because the government is refusing to take action against the big energy companies.”

A household is said to be in “fuel poverty” if they have above average costs and would be left with an income below the official poverty line after paying gas and electric bills.

Labour councillors are calling for a freeze in energy prices—rather than a freeze in the homes of families on the poverty line.

Taken: from The Docklands and East London Advertiser

Saturday, 23 November 2013

the bounce of life

Whoever we are, wherever we are from; the one thing that I do know, is that we all value and have regard for, is that something special to be found in a friendship and in relationships of many different kinds, we need them, they are important, they are the spring and the very bounce of life, some are good, some are sadly bad, inadequate and unacceptable, such as with the boss at work or even negligent and very unacceptable as it is with this current government that rules over us.  

They (relationships) are the connection, the relation in which two or more concepts meet, the association of a group of people organized for a joint purpose like a trade union, the link where one thing affects the other, the correlation of a mutual relationship between two or more, or they are the correspondence of a close similarity, the parallel of lines and surfaces that lie in a position side by side, the alliance and form for mutual benefit, the bond of agreement, the interrelation of structure and function, the interconnection of being connected and indeed they are much more.

I was thinking about this yesterday for a time ; you see for the last six months, I have had a friend gladly stay with me in my council flat - Dave is homeless, and scandalously, just like many others, but more than this he is a very good friend, and when sober a lovely person to be with and have around; he has a very sharp mind and a great sense of humor and a quality of being amusing and comic, but for some years, even more than he cares to remember, Dave has got into one addiction or another, be it alcohol, class A drug taking, and here again I must point out, like many others who have lost their way perhaps; but who am I to judge others or anyone else for that matter? Attitudes, wants, beliefs and behaviour are, of course, not products of biology, but of societies.

All I know, there are times in all our lives when we need to have a friend, and Dave has been just that to me over the years in one way or another. To be really honest, I did for a while (shamelessly) turn my back on Dave, when the drug and drink took a hold of him, and the company he kept of undesirables and deviants of a kind started to use Dave to the point that his council flat became open house to drug misuse and abuse, they had no regard or in the end respect for Dave the person, and to cut this part of the story short he ended up having a breakdown; one night Dave took himself off to the nearest high-rise tower block with the intention of throwing himself off from the top of the building’s rooftop, luckily a caretaker spotted Dave on CCTV, and with his quick thinking and action alerted the police, they in turn took Dave to Newham General Hospital where he was sectioned under the Mental Act.

I visited Dave in Hospital a few times just before he agreed to go on and participate on a detox program as a resident inpatient in Bournemouth, he was there for about six months, then one day missing Canning Town so much he came back only to discover that his council flat had been boarded-up, fitted with steel doors as it had been reposed by the council because thousands of pounds of damage had been done to the property, so bad was it, that the council claimed it to be uninhabitable and refused to do anything unless Dave accepted full liability, and that’s how Dave came to stay with me.

I should also say, that the damage done to the flat, was done by those who Dave had mistakenly took to be his friends, but were in fact anything but and addicts themselves.

Life can for most of us at given times be very cruel, brutal, savage and inhuman, especially if you are on the receiving end and from supposedly so called friends, this is a lesson that my friend Dave has learnt the hard way, and I am very pleased to say that he no longer suffers fools gladly ("For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise).", as once he did.

Sometimes when I see what is occurring in my community, amongst my class; I begin to think that we are in many respects being driven backwards, back to the cave, back to a time of a lesser civilisation amongst the poor. Not only are we the product of capitalism reflection, a great many amongst our class tend to poorly imitate what they experience in their own lives, at work they feel the whip lasses of the boss, they see the accumulation of such wealth by a few and dream of a lifestyle to match, they use others as they themselves have been used and exploited with little or no regard. We are taught to succeed, to compete and be as ruthless as the system under which we are forced to live and comply with.  

I like what Oscar Wilde has said on such matters: “The evolution of man is slow. The injustice of men is great.”

The provision and accommodation of Dave in my home is indeed a great pleasure, to be able to help someone, and keep them safe, is indeed worthwhile, because without Dave the world would be a poorer place for sure. In writing this post I am able to get some things off my chest, able to clear and share thoughts idea and opinion - as part, my own contribution to building that better world free from the bully and free from the capitalist exploiter who use something or someone selfishly - their days are numbered.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

the capitalist network that runs the world

Science has confirmed my own and I dare say, a great many others worse fears; that a relatively small group of companies, mainly banks, with disproportionate power (to the offences they had committed) over the global economy, actually runs the world, or rather I should say control and influence our world, that they think it’s theirs to have, hold, own and do just what they like in the pursuit of profits and evermore none ending financial gain.
The idea that a few bankers control a large chunk of the global economy might not seem like news to real Socialists, or the Occupy movement and protesters that have sprung up elsewhere in most recent years. But research, root and branch, by a trio of complex systems theorists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich in 2007, was the first to go far beyond ideology to empirically identify such a network of power. It combines the mathematics long used to model natural systems with comprehensive corporate data to map ownership among the world's transnational corporations (TNCs).
From a database listing 37 million companies and investors worldwide, they pulled out all 43,060 TNCs and the share ownerships linking them. Then they constructed a model of which companies controlled others through shareholding networks, coupled with each company's operating revenues, to map the structure of economic power. It revealed a core of 1318 companies with interlocking ownerships. Each of the 1318 had ties to two or more other companies, and on average they were connected to 20. What's more, although they represented 20 per cent of global operating revenues, the 1318 appeared to collectively own through their shares the majority of the world's large blue chip and manufacturing firms - the "real" economy - representing a further 60 per cent of global revenues.
When the team of scientists went further and untangled the web of ownership, it found much of it tracked back to a "super-entity" of 147 even more tightly knit companies - all of their ownership was held by other members of the super-entity - that controlled 40 per cent of the total wealth in the network. "In effect, less than 1 per cent of the companies were able to control 40 per cent of the entire network. Most were financial institutions. The top 20 included Barclays Bank, JPMorgan, Chase & Co, and of course The Goldman Sachs Group.
As the world learned in 2008, such networks are unstable. 2008 was also a leap year, but more than anything else, that year will be remembered for stock markets around the world plunging amid growing fears of a U.S. recession, fueled by the 2007 subprime mortgage crisis, and of course here at home in the UK, the queues of people lining up in the streets trying to withdraw their money from Northern Rock the 5th largest mortgage bank in the land before the Brown government introduced emergency legislation temporarily to nationalize Northern Rock; and as they say the rest is history still very fresh in a great many peoples minds today, who then became the suffering victims of this capitalist crisis, and has led us to austerity at home and abroad. It will always define Gordon Brown as the no return to  boom and bust man, what a legacy for him to take to his grave.

 If I may, I would like to finish this post by sharing this thought with those who read it:
Capitalism is only unbeatable as long as everybody thinks it is. As soon as everybody thinks it is finished, then it will be finished. We therefore need to keep in touch, with what others are thinking. And we need to be able to explain, tirelessly if need be, where the only viable future for the human race lies - in the post-capitalist society of common endeavor and common concern through common ownership of the world not by the few, but by the many. It is impossible to be neutral in this desperate struggle.

winters arrival will indeed be very unwelcome for many of us

There is no mistaking it then, and winters arrival, will indeed be very unwelcome, for many of us; if the tree has a good crop of berries then that’s all well and good for the birds, and I wonder has these hard times of austerity meant that people don’t feed our feathered friends as much, particularly when one considers how expensive and hard it is to feed ourselves and the family, so much has been spoken or written about the thousands reliant on the food bank during the last few months, and with Christmas just around the corner I cannot help myself thinking about how many are going to cope, for them this is not the most wonderful time of the year.

Looking out of the window this morning I could clearly see frost lying on top of my neighbours cars, and as I turned up the central heating a wee bit I was reminded that my own heating costs go up next week, the very thought of which fills me with fear, being one of the working poor, but somehow I will find a way to manage things, as I always do.

The cost of living in the UK varies depending on where you live. Generally, London where I live is the most expensive place in the UK.  As of March 2012, London was ranked 25th most expensive city in the world in which to live. Many homes in the UK are heated by gas boilers (gas central heating) or by electric radiators.  Due to the often unfavourable weather in Great Britain, heating or gas charges can be the largest utility bill after rent and council tax. Keeping warm, keeping a roof over one's head has now become a real fight for survival and I have been blogging much about the homeless of late, something that I have every intention of continuing, hopeful that the message that I bring to my blog will help others to understand that this is a national scandal and with over 21,000 on my own councils (Newham) waiting list and hostels jam-packed, hundreds sleeping on our streets every night I have every intention to make this a major issue when I stand in Canning Town North as an Independent Socialist Candidate’ next May during the local elections.

So as winters grip takes a hold I say keep warm, keep safe, but above all else...keep the faith and never give up!”

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Paralympics champion Sophie Christiansen facing disability benefit cuts

Reported in The Mirror, cerebral palsy sufferer Sophie, who took three equestrian golds at London 2012, says conditions like hers vary widely.

Paralympic golden girl Sophie Christiansen fears she will be a victim of the Coalition’s cruel welfare cuts.

Cerebral palsy sufferer Sophie, who took three equestrian golds at London 2012, worries she will lose benefits in the change from Disability Living Allowance to Personal Independence Payment.
Disabled people face losing cash if they can walk just 20 metres, down from 50.

Sophie, awarded an OBE this summer, said: “I’m one of the most disabled Paralympians but people don’t get that I need care.

"I need a wheelchair one day but can go to work next day without one.”
Speaking to Disability News Service Sophie, 26, said people must understand that conditions like cerebral palsy vary widely.

Tests like walking a set distance are “not just a yes or no question”, she said.
“I could write a whole essay on whether I could walk 50 metres. It all depends on terrain, what I’m doing afterwards, what I’ve been doing that day, whether I have got someone with me. It’s not that simple.”

Sophie said she feared the Paralympics had given people a misleading idea of what it means to be disabled and that the athletes unintentionally made people with difficulties victims of their success.

She said: “The Paralympics were a glamourous outcome of years of hard work and people haven’t seen what it is like to be disabled behind the scenes.”

Paralympians are “a really small proportion of the community”, she added.
“The general public now automatically think they understand disability. But not every disabled person is a Paralympian.

“I’d like to see more role models created outside sport, in the fields of business and academia, arts and music.”

Disability campaigners seized on her words as more evidence the Government should think again about replacing DLA, which covers extra costs like transport.

Richard Hawkes, chief executive of charity Scope, said: “According to Government figures 600,000 disabled people will lose out.

“The Government’s assessment for PIP is deeply flawed. Support won’t be targeted to those who really need it.”

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “The UK is acknowledged as a world leader in supporting independent living for disabled people.

Source: The Mirror

Renters Occupy Luxury Flat Development in Newham

Housing or the lack of it is going to become a huge issue, not only in London but around the country, of that I am very sure. It became as a complete surprise to me yesterday, to learn that a group of private tenants pulled off what seems to have been a very successful demonstration/occupation.

The group of private tenants occupied a show flat at a development in Stratford to highlight soaring rent rates and the government’s failure to tackle the issue.   

The group, called Let Down, claim rent across London have been rising at seven per cent per year. Newham Council, which has 21,000 people on its housing list, recently announced a shared equity scheme which will provide 1,200 affordable homes.

Let Down says rents in Stratford Halo start from £1,700 for a two bedroom flat, the minimum size needed for a family with children. Based on figures published by Shelter, these rents would only be affordable to families with an income of £76,000 or more. Stratford Halo is Genesis’ flagship development, overlooking the Olympic Park Renters’ protest group Let Down says rent levels at Stratford Halo are too high. The 43 storey tower is in one of London’s deprived areas but what's going on here?”. What was the Olympics for if not gentrification today highlighted as prices for housing are around the Olympic Park up and still rising.

So I say well done to all those who took part in yesterday protest of which we need more of and whatever else it takes to address the housing crisis.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

More Housing only for billionaires

Tower Hertsmere, the tallest residential building in Europe, will be built in the financial district of Canary Wharf, once the working class district known as the Isle of Dogs in the east of this capital, and its beginning is scheduled for 2018, the British press has widely reported. The skyscraper will be a 75-story building, 242 meters tall, with 714 luxury apartments, and will surpass other residential buildings on the continent, such as the Sky Tower in Poland.

It will be taller than the One Canada Square building of 235m.

Savills the estate agents told the Financial Times that it signalled a shift away from west London areas such as Mayfair and Knightsbridge, traditionally favoured by the super-rich, towards the eastern Docklands, where there was room to build larger luxury developments.

Despite the architectural value of the building, estate agents say that the construction of luxurious residences that are affordable only for a small minority, is occurring as the housing crisis and high rents in the capital continue.

According to researcher Susan Emmett, such projects are built in search of foreign capital investment to help us get out of the economic recession, because most of the buyers are billionaires in other countries and non-UK residents.

According to statistics, 50,000 people in Britain had no home in 2012 and four million were on council waiting lists  for houses with reasonable and affordable prices.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

The Big Issue no longer coming up from the streets?"

My last post, and in regard to the Big Issue, that’s the Big Issue in Scotland and it’s new plan to distribute the magazine throughout Scotland by way of the social enterprise KibbleWorks; received a surprisingly but I must say, a friendly response from the Big Issue in Scotland on Twitter, and indeed a raw nerve must have been touched and not just by me I reckon.

Big Issue vendors are to be given the chance of employment training (however we all know what the job situation is like) after a deal was struck between the magazine and a Paisley-based social enterprise.

The partnership will see KibbleWorks – the job creation and training wing of Kibble Education and Care Centre – distribute the Big Issue magazine in Scotland.

As well as delivering 455,000 copies of the magazine a year to drop-off points in towns and cities up and down the country, KibbleWorks will service the Big Issue’s outreach programme, which supports the sellers.

KibbleWorks will also work with the Big Issue to create new opportunities for vendors and widen the magazine’s reach across Scotland.

This all sounds good one would think, and I must say that the franchise in Scotland is by far, one of the better operations in the UK when it comes to looking after the interests of its vendors, but I do have my reservations about this new move and in reflection to just how hard it is these days to move or rather sell magazine copies; the general public don’t carry money around like once they did and like all publications such as newspapers sales in Scotland have continued to fall and in June it was reported that figures released by the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) revealed that almost every national daily and Sunday title recorded declining numbers.
The only exception was the 'i' which reported an increase of almost 12% while all the major titles reported year-on-year decreases between June 2012 and last month. The falling circulations have hit tabloid, broadsheet and the mid-market. Some have reported large double digit percentage falls in average sales. The Big Issue is not exempt from this terminal decline and I believe that this is a contributing factor that has lead to the new partnership.

I would like to think that as a former Big Issue outreach worker with the London operation, that I may just know a thing or two about this business, both good and bad having pioneered a street sale operation that continues to this day, where trust is placed in individual vendors to sell stock to other venders on London streets, and I am very glad, pleased and delighted that this still continues which helps to build confidence and proves that homeless people can move mountains with nothing more than honesty, it’s the truth of existence that they have the ability to run this business.

Only today in the London Metro’ I fell across this lovely “Good Deed Feed”

“A big thank you to the homeless man next to the cash machine in Piccadilly who came after me to give me the £250 I accidently left in the ATM”.

Despite my twitter conversation with the Issue in Scotland my concerns remain, because KibbleWorks; will market the magazine among community groups, charities and voluntary organisations, who can raise funds by purchasing magazines at wholesale price to sell on to their members and supporters, therefore this seems to be a move away from a paper that is sold on the streets by the homeless and as we use to say; no longer coming up from the streets.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Big Issue moves to undermine vendor's

Concerns have been raised after a deal has been announced allowing people who are neither homeless – or at risk of finding themselves so – to sell the Big Issue for the first time.

The Scottish edition of the magazine will now also be distributed by social enterprise KibbleWorks, according to the Herald newspaper, which will in turn set up wholesale deals for churches, charities and community groups.

KibbleWorks, which is based in Paisley near Glasgow will also take over distribution of 9,000 magazines a week to drop off in cities and towns across Scotland where they can be sold on to Big Issue vendors.

John Downie, director of public affairs for the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, told the Herald: "In principle, this sounds like a good idea which could help the Big Issue reach a wider audience. "However, I’m sure charities will want assurances that they wouldn’t be encroaching on the livelihoods of individual street vendors."

The deal will also see KibbleWorks providing employment support and training to Big Issue in Scotland vendors to help them find work.

The Big Issue was launched in 1991 by Gordon Roddick and John Bird and aims to give ‘a hand up, not a hand out’ to vulnerably housed people.

My own concern in regard to this move, is that it will regrettably undermine the hard work, and it is hard work that an individual vendor puts into selling the Big Issue magazine on the streets, and lets not forget that the Big Issue is supposedly and generally assumed to be a street newspaper. One other important point to remember in the context of this posting is that the Big Issue in Scotland is a separate concern from it’s English edition, John Bird sold that as a franchise many years ago.

Monday, 11 November 2013

London: Service commemorates homeless people who died in last year

Around 120 homeless people are known to have died on the streets of London in the last 12 months. Their names were read out at 'The last shall be first' - a memorial service at St Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square on Thursday.  Following a welcome by Rev Richard Carter, there was a series of readings, music, dance and drama. Sacred Heart Sister Rosemarie Cockayne led movements to the Magnificat, sung by by the Music Group. Rev Carter, David Jackson and Mada gave a powerful performance of Luke's Gospel of the Rich Man and Lazarus.

After the first 25 names were read out, Fr Padraig Regan from the Passage, spoke about one of the people on that list - Paul Aldridge who died on Vauxhall Bridge on 11 June. His brothers had not been able to get to the hospital on time, but an Australian doctor, who turned out to be a Catholic, was present while Paul received the Anointing of the Sick. He was just 46.

Another reader later spoke about Colin Hooker, who died in the summer at the age of 42. He had been a permanent fixture at Adelaide Street - a free spirit who never managed to settle into permanent accommodation, but everyone remembered his kindness and concern for others. After the final group of names was read out, a friend spoke about Dawn Borrow, a homeless woman who was on kidney dialysis. From time to time she would miss her treatment at hospital and eventually died of kidney failure.

Members of the congregation then took part in a symbolic action, placing paper hands on a tree stump representing life and growth. The Choir with No Name gave a stirring performance of Labi Sifri's 'Something Inside So Strong'. Pat Logan, formerly from the charity Unleash, reflected on the scandal of street homelessness in a society which is so wealthy. He pointed out that life on the street can be incredibly lonely and lead to depression and sometimes suicide. He said there is an increasing gap between rich and poor and a desperate need for the two worlds to grow closer.

The service, organised by St Martin in the Fields, The Connection at St Martins and Housing Justice, ended with a reception, after a rousing performance of Va, Pensiero, from Verdi's Nabucco, by Streetwise Opera - the award-winning company made up of homeless people and professional artists.

Source: Independent Catholic News

Sunday, 10 November 2013

80,000 children face spending this Christmas in temporary accommodation

When I think about it and whether I like it or not (but I do). I have become involved, connected and concerned with a whole community of street people, rough sleepers, drug addicts and of course alcoholics; they are young, they are old, some have flats, stay in hostels and now as the night shelters start opening doors to the homeless this winter as the weather outlook takes us into the colder stream of things, thankfully then, these friends have somewhere to sleep in a warm safe place with an evening meal to boot here in Newham.

It is no mistake that I chose to write about my locality here in Canning Town North - When I take a stroll down the Barking Road, and often do I think and ponder the very thought, that I feel like the luckiest person in the world, and strange as it may seem to some, but this is where I want to be more than anything. I just love the place, and feel that it has become apart of me and I am apart of it.

In 1855 Albert Dickens, the Brother of the famous Victorian writer Charles Dickens, described this `Living Hell`. He wrote of Canning town “It was impossible to describe the miserable state Canning Town is in: there is neither drainage nor paving and in winter the streets were impassable, with Cholera raging in this area”.

Thankfully today such a `Living Hell is a thing of the past; however, there are still some very serious issues that whilst starting to show up on the radar, but as ever being ignored by the local authority, the plight of homeless people is such an issue, and if you like its a ‘Living Hell on its own for many.

Only today (Saturday) I visited the Memorial Church in Padstow on the Barking Road, where the church and a small band of dedicated volunteers served up 82 cooked breakfasts, a full English at that and with a choice of porridge or and a cereal, you can’t beat it. Whilst I was at the Memorial I did a few interviews with users and volunteers, so there will be more about this fantastic church very soon, only to add that the church is participating in a rovering program with other churches in Newham that are providing night shelter accommodation to the homeless this winter; more on this when I gather more information and have permission to make a visit.

Two trends are largely responsible for the rise in homelessness over the past 20-25 years: a growing shortage of affordable rental housing and a simultaneous increase in poverty, coupled to government policy that has failed working people unable to find appropriate accommodation when the banks, the lenders, the market is made king, and the truth is that both Labour and the Tories, this coalition are to blame especially the obsession it has with austerity.  

Many on the left in this country don't seem to understand the crisis that now exists, they like to come up with all manor of grandy ideas, a march for jobs, the right to work, stop the war and so on, the list is endless and they never seem to be able to grasp the nettle by it’s roots when it comes to housing and the awful plight of homeless people.

The housing charity Shelter published a report recently revealing a picture of homelessness in England. More than 80,000 children face spending this Christmas in temporary accommodation, a 10-year high. In the context of a government crowing about job creation and the economy "healing", this may appear shocking. As someone who was homeless for a decade and more, I do not find the figures in the least surprising. Nor, I should emphasise, are they entirely representative. They are simply a snapshot of the families that currently fall under a local authority's restrictive definition of homeless. They do not take into account people dependent on the charity and sofa of a friend (I have one at the moment) or relative, nor those who hide their status in shame – over 40% of rough sleepers hide their circumstances.

The other day I met a 69 year old pensioner who is homeless here in Newham. I don’t know what others think but I was horrified that this frail old man is having to seek shelter at the church this winter - comrades words fail me and yes I shed tears!

Saturday, 9 November 2013

‘Your Country Needs You’

First penned by me in 2011 and thought it a good idea to repost it for this weekend.  

The campaign to win the young to war has come a long way from that poster used in the ‘First Great War’ you know ‘Your Country Needs You’ and the pointing finger of Kitchener. "Your King and Country need You." And they came and died in their thousands innocently conned and dispossess of life by deceit. They put it on hoardings, on trams, on buses, on stations and warehouse walls, and even the notice board at the church hall had "Your King and Country need You."

Have you ever wondered just why it is that when a young man or women goes off to war and then comes back wounded or even worse still, killed, that we are asked to dig-deep into our pockets with the so-called poppy-appeal run by The Royal British Legion, an appeal that no one disputes brings some relief and help to the families of the wounded and killed, but why is this the case, when they have given-up or lost so much including life; so why is the government, the establishment, the ruling classes who made the wars, who forced the drafts and conscriptions by the use of legislated laws when it suited, when it was appropriate, not making and creating the provisions that meets the needs of those who fought in what is after all their many wars?

The precursor to The Royal British Legion was The Haig Fund a charity set up in 1921 by Field Marshal Douglas Haig, 1st Earl Haig to assist ex-servicemen. Today, the Haig Fund continues to support veterans from all conflicts and other military actions involving British Armed Forces. Its members sell remembrance poppies in the weeks before Remembrance Day/Armistice Day. The words Haig Fund which I remember as a schoolboy in the 1960s are no longer inscribed in the centre of each poppy, and that maybe just as well when you consider that one of the greatest debates for almost a century now has involved the conduct of the British Commander-in-Chief during the Great War, Field Marshal Sir. Douglas Haig.

Many commentators and observers have referred to Haig as a 'butcher' who sent hundreds of thousands of men unnecessarily to their deaths. A large number of historians subscribe to this theory and savagely attack Haig as being responsible for the wholesale premeditated slaughter. I should really go into the deceptive role of The Royal British Legion; perhaps I will do that next year, so let’s move on.
As is usual at this time of the year, we are called upon to remember the dead, the fallen of wars; not only two ‘World Wars’ but of recent continuing wars in faraway places. Poppies sold, a festival of remembrance held and televised, boy-scouts, girl-guides, sea, air and army cadets, new and old soldiers march down to the local war memorial to repeat that yearly ritual, customary observance and practice.

The main event is held at the Cenotaph, the monument built to honour people whose remains are interred elsewhere or whose remains cannot be recovered and lie scattered across the fields and arable land of France; as was and still is the case for many casualties of that First Great War. The Cenotaph is in London’s Whitehall, stone’s throws from Downing Street were all decisions of war have been taken and plotted particularly in the last and current century. This year’s remembrance falls in the year that marks the 72th anniversary and outbreak of the Second World War and as usual the Queen and her Royal Family dressed-up as Fleet Admirals, Air Marshals and Field Marshals with medals and self-awarded honours, will join our political leaders in honouring by this act of remembrance the war dead, who we are told time and again, gave their lives for the freedoms that we (supposedly) enjoy today, even though they for the most part were conscripted, that’s forced to fight in the blood-red fields of war.

Wootton Bassett now Royal; with its cricket field, pubs and a centuries-old church became the focuses of international media attention, not unfortunately because of its idyllic picturesque village qualities; typical of an old English town in all respects; but one: until this year every corpse that returned from Britain's wars abroad passes through it. In what has become a public show of respect? Wootton Bassett is near Royal Air Force Lyneham, the base to which the country's war dead were returned. Commencing about four years ago, townspeople began gathering for the processions of each soldier as the body, in a flag-draped casket, was moved from Lyneham to a coroner's office in Oxford. The inaugural processions were attended by just a dozen saluting war veterans at first. Crowds then swelled to the thousands when the repetition of these sad processions became commonplace as the convoy of coffins through Wootton Bassett turned from a trickle to a stream.

Newspapers carried front page converge that included pictures of mothers, fathers, wives, children and in some cases distraught girlfriends’ of the fallen. Anyone who picks up a newspaper or owns a television set could not have failed to miss the risks that are involved and taken by the young in the modern wars that are Afghanistan and Iraq and have proven to be oh so deadly.

Every now and again, Cameron, and like his predecessors; before the exchange of insults during questions to the Prime Minster, will pay a tribute of hollow words acknowledging deceased military personnel. But with the public witnessing the return of so many young military casualties the pendulum of public opinion began to stick and stay put on questioning or opposing the military mission. The government in most recent years, sensing the public perception, gave support to an armed forces day, the idea being that parades and ceremonies’ would be held in every community around the war memorial to honour the role and function of armed forces personnel past and present - to use government language - honouring their commitment.

The British armed forces have some of the most difficult and far-flung commitments to maintain. Major commitments in Afghanistan and Iraq co-exist with others from peacekeeping in Cyprus to patrolling the Falkland Islands. To meet these commitments, an estimate is made of the required number of trained full-time personnel, known as the ‘trained requirement’. The actual number of trained personnel, known as the ‘trained strength’, is usually slightly less than requirement. The trained requirement in 2007 stood at 183,610; the trained strength stood at 177,760, of which 99,280 were in the army, 34,940 in the navy and 43,550 in the air force.

In terms of personnel, the UK regular armed forces are about the third-largest in Europe after Germany and France. Britain is the world’s largest military spender after of course the US, and our armed forces being the most stretched in the world, over £2 billion is spent each year on recruiting and training 20,000 new personnel to replace those who either leave or are killed on active duty. The armed forces, as the statistics show, draw their non-officer recruits mainly from among young people with low educational accomplishment living in poor communities. A large proportion joining for disadvantaged reasons, including the lack of civilian career choices; a survey in the Cardiff area in 2004 found that 40 per cent of army recruits were joining as a last resort and the army revelled in 2004 that while roughly 45 per cent of all young people leave school with 5 GCSE subjects graded A-C only, 17 per cent of all Army recruits in 2003–04 had English at A-C level, with the figure for Maths at about 10 per cent. On average Army> recruits have 0.9 of a GCSE at grade A-C. ... Records also show that 24 per cent of all Army applicants in 2003–04 were unemployed for a significant period before applying.

The killing locomotive that is the army always needs fuel to feed into its boiler, so tens of thousands of pounds are spent on newspapers and the media convincing youngsters to sign away (no apology) their lives. On the way back from visiting a friend, I found one of those free newspapers that are handed out every evening at tube stations in London and lying on the seat next to me on the train on which I was travelling, what caught my eye was a double-page spread advertisement placed in the London Metro by the army and, I assume, acting on instructions from the Ministry of Defence and the government. The advertisement carried the image of a beautiful young woman in combat fatigues. I have no reason to believe that this young person isn’t a serving member of the armed forces and with the looks of a model.

The advert had a personal testimony of army life given by Major Laura Blair, 31, (can you believe that name) who is a member of the Adjutant General’s Corps; they apparently specialise in HR Personnel. Laura, if she does exists, says wonderful things about army life and ends by advising anyone who may be interested in an army career to either pop into one of the Army Careers Offices dotted around London or visit the Army Show Rooms in Hounslow or Dalston to find out just what life in uniform could offer them.

Recruitment literature for army careers emphasises potential benefits: career interest and challenge, comradeship, the active lifestyle, travel and training opportunities. It omits to mention or obscures even blots out: the radical change from a civilian to a military lifestyle, ethical issues involved in killing, risks to physical and mental health, the legal obligations of enlistment, the state’s legal and moral obligations to its armed forces personnel, and the right of conscientious objection. By suggesting that soldiers are highly satisfied with army life, the literature also glosses over the ambivalent attitudes of the majority. The omissions conspire against the potential recruit’s right and responsibility to make an informed choice about whether to enlist. The literature also does little to enable parents to ask searching questions of their children and of recruiters in order to assure their children’s best interests.

One thing that remains the same about war is that workers fight it; and die in it; and that’s best summed-up by last surviving soldier to have fought in the trenches of the First World War and who died earlier this year. Henry John “Harry” Patch (17 June 1898 – 25 July 2009) – known as ‘the Last Tommy’ Harry, from what I can gather, hated war, and called it “organised murder, and nothing less.”

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