Tag Archives: politics

The Replacement of Rights with Gifts (And How to Put It in Reverse)

The Trussell Trust opened their first food bank in the UK in Salisbury in 2000, by 2004 there were two. Today, after nearly a decade of austerity, there are thousands [1], and their use, as difficult, demoralising, humiliating as it is for some, has become normal. The role of the state to protect the food security of its people has been abrogated in favour of the kindness of strangers, the rise of food banks applauded in some circles as growth in the power of community organising and on the right as demonstration of the success of a small state, Blair’s third sector, Cameron’s big society. [2]

Worse: in-work poverty. The number of people qualifying for the support of food banks who actually have jobs but are paid so poorly, often by super-rich multi-national corporations, that they’re forced to rely on charity for food, toiletries, sanitary products. You might as well pay for your basket of shopping at the checkout then put it all straight back on the shelves. This is life at the coalface of capitalism, this year’s ragged-trousered philanthropists work in call centres and supermarkets.

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We Shall Overcome, now in it’s fifth year, offers a raised fist and a helping hand, and the helping hand, directed by local organisers, artists and promoters has often been held out to food banks, a direct interface with some of those hardest hit by austerity.

As for the raised fist: now’s the time. We stand on the threshold of major change if Labour are successful in next month’s general election. Joe Solo and Grace Petrie are hitting the road supporting CLPs, the Protest Family still slip from venue to picket line to fundraiser. While others pontificate about polls and parliamentary arithmetic, WSO activists are focussing their energy on the real possibility of a better world. Sociologist Janet Poppendieck warned that the institutionalisation of food banks can be difficult to resist and overturn. [3] We have a chance to prove her wrong, to consign Food Bank Britain to the dustbin of history.

WSO What's Cookin' 2019

Whether our next WSO gig, on 14th December, turns out to be a celebration or a show of solidarity in the face of future uncertainty is yet to be seen. What’s clear is the helping hand will still be required, so please, fill the venue, fill the bucket, fill your soul with music and common purpose, it promises to be something of an occasion whatever happens.

Steve

 

1.https://web.archive.org/web/20130112223915/http://www.trusselltrust.org/resources/documents/Our%20work/Lambie-%282011%29-The-Trussell-Trust-Foodbank-Network—Exploring-the-Growth-of-Foodbanks-Across-the-UK.pdf

2. In 2017, Jacob Rees-Mogg told LBC that he found the rise in food bank use as “rather uplifting”

3.https://web.archive.org/web/20130112230035/http://www.warwick.ac.uk/fac/cross_fac/gpp/foodsecurity/publicevents/householdfoodsecurity/food_security_summary.pdf

The Side of the Fox

Fox Logo

Genuinely written one Boxing Day out of anger and frustration waiting for the hit reports to come in.

As the election approaches, a reminder: there may be no manifesto pledge to repeal the Hunting Act but Boris Johnson is pro-hunt. He repeatedly voted against the ban and even went so far as to suggest hunting urban foxes on horseback. “This will cause massive unpopularity but I don’t care” he quipped. Oh, what a laugh.

Of course Farage is too, it speaks of the imaginary England that he wants to return to, and he supports the violent and bloodthirsty Old Surrey, Burstow and West Kent hunt.[1] His decision not to stand in the election is both cowardly and cute, as it frees him up to travel the country campaigning with Brexit Party candidates with no pressure to succeed in his own constituency.

I’m acutely aware that Protest For Dummies, the album that features The Side of the Fox, is approaching it’s third birthday, and that the time, space, finance and recording logistics for the fourth Protest Family studio album are still matters for the future, so, taking them into my own hands, I will attempt to record the band myself over the next few weeks, having learned some valuable lessons in the process of creating solo efforts Snowflake and Fake News From Nowhere.

Fox, due a refresh with drums, is on the list, with another five songs currently in guide track form. Next step is Andi on the kit and then we’ll see.

Wish us luck, and (watch this space).

Steve

Boys and Dogs

[1] https://www.huntsabs.org.uk/index.php/faqs/92-news/press-releases/552-nigel-farage-attends-boxing-day-meet-of-violent-huntsman-again

Cleaning up Outsourcing with the UVW

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The good news is that when your job is transferred from one company to another, you’re protected by a piece of legislation called the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006, or TUPE for short.

The bad news is that lots of stuff: employer pension contributions, childcare voucher schemes, flexible working arrangements, the location of your office; isn’t protected by TUPE.

The good news is that your contractual terms and conditions: pay, holiday entitlement, period of continuous employment; are all protected by TUPE.

The bad news is that any of your protection under TUPE can be overridden if there’s an economic, technical or organisational (ETO) justification, and boy, are the big outsourcing companies good at finding one of those.

If you’re being outsourced then there’s never been a better time to join a trade union.

Back in 2015 we told you about Mrs Windsor’s Geraniums when our mate Phil, a GMB rep at the time, took the Royal Parks gardeners out on strike after they were outsourced to OCS, who promptly found an ETO justification to strip everyone of two weeks pay a year as well as taking liberties with a number of other terms and conditions.

Now, new kids on the block, the United Voices of the World are bringing Royal Parks workers back out. The parks’ cleaners are demanding a living wage, sick pay and a proper holiday entitlement. It should be a matter of national shame that people indirectly employed by the monarch earn a pitiful £8.21 per hour.

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Every picket line should have one

Me and Funky Lol caught up with the UVW on their picket line at the University of Greenwich this week.[1] There the café workers have already shamed hospitality outsourcing firm Baxter Storey into paying them a living wage, now they’re demanding sick pay and an end to under-staffing after one chef collapsed and had to be admitted to hospital after an 80-hour week.

But they’re not going to stop there. UVW members, who are mainly migrant workers, women and first time union members and strikers are taking action right across the capital. They include the cleaners at St Mary’s Hospital (Sodhexo), the cleaners, security guards and receptionists at the Ministry of Justice (OCS), the security guards at the University of East London [2], the security guards at St George’s University (Noonan) and the cleaners at 200 Grays Inn Road, home of ITN, ITV and Channel 4.

The UVW know what they’re doing, they’re making the invisible visible, giving a voice to the voiceless, standing up for the very people without whom the city would just grind to a halt.

A change is coming; we know a song about that.

Steve

[1] We might’ve sung them a few songs

[2] A strange twist. The security guards at the University of East London have been taken back in house, but TUPE-ed back to their original employer on their worsened, outsourced contracts.

Homemade, Witty Placard Parade

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So you’re Boris Johnson. You’ve bided your time as Tory leader (and by default Prime Minister) in waiting, struck when Theresa May was at her weakest (and let’s face it that wasn’t hard) and now you’ve made it, you are Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

Problem: You have a working majority of one vote, propped up by bribing the right wing, socially conservative Democratic Unionist Party.

Solution: Take the UK out of the European Union, preferably with a deal but without if necessary, on 31st October, then call a general election, riding high on the headlines that you were the leader that succeeded where David Cameron and Theresa May failed, mopping up votes from the newly defunct Brexit Party, which was basically a home for Tory eurosceptics who didn’t believe that the Tories could achieve leaving the EU anyway, and return with a bigger majority from which you can claim a mandate to further your neo-liberal agenda.

Problem: Parliament (in which you have a working majority of one) is set against a no-deal Brexit and prepared to legislate against one. They also voted down Theresa May’s deal and every subsequent amendment as not good enough and, when given the option to create their own deal, failed to come up with an alternative. Worse, the EU have been kind but clear that there is no other deal on the table. Worse still the DUP, on whom you rely for a parliamentary majority, will not tolerate any deal that treats Northern Ireland differently from the rest of the UK and, despite talk of it, there is no alternative to a hard border between the UK and the EU in Ireland once tariff-free trade ends.

If Parliament legislates against leaving the EU without a deal and there is no other deal to be done the best that you can hope for is a further extension of Article 50, the worst a successful vote of no confidence moved by Jeremy Corbyn. In any event plans to call a snap election on the back of Brexit delivered on time would be in tatters.

Solution: Prevent Parliament from sitting, using what you’ve previously described as an arcane and undemocratic procedure, so that they can’t legislate to stop you leaving the EU by any means necessary on 31st October, tell some bold lies[1] in friendly media outlets and tough it out.

Problem: Shutting down democracy has brought thousands of demonstrators onto the streets, on the day prorogation was announced, at the weekend and more protests are set to follow.

Gird your loins comrades, keep fighting for democracy[2] and let’s figure out what it takes to make toughing it out no longer an option for Johnson. Let’s get the Tories out.

We know so may songs about him.

Steve

[1] Our post-truth, polarised world gives new meaning to the word “lie”. Politicians, press and the people all know he’s lying, it just doesn’t seem to matter.

[2] The real stuff, not what a bunch of Old Etonians debating in a medieval building pass off as democracy.

Donald’s In Town

trump queen

It was a week for all tastes and pockets,[1]: Trump’s state visit, the second phase of Theresa May’s resignation (announce a date, stay on as caretaker, actually go), Elvis Costello accepting an OBE and blaming his mum; I couldn’t really let it pass without comment. With a nod to one of the characters in The Brexit Trilogy[2], here it is: Donald’s In Town.

It was her birthday
The kids made a card
With folded paper
And fading felt tips
No gifts
No money for gifts
No gifts
No money for gifts

It was demo day
Lots of paint and card
Hoping to go viral
For the Insta crowd
Home made
Witty placard parade
Home made
Witty placard parade

And Theresa sobbed
When she left the job
But it never really made the news
‘Cos Donald’s in town

He was too early
For her birthday
Didn’t bring a card
It’s all about him
This trip
A massive ego trip
This trip (‘s)
A massive ego trip

(It’s got)
Dinner with a duchess
Supper with a princess
Downing Street too
21-gun salute
All missed
21 guns all missed
All missed
21 guns all missed

And Theresa sobbed
When she left the job
But it never really made the news
‘Cos Donald’s in town

On her birthday
Elvis took his place
In the Empire’s order
Tramp the dirt down
In a crown
How do you tramp the dirt down?
In a crown
You can’t tramp the dirt down

(Well)
She smiled at the kids’ card
Laughed at the placard
Mocking the blowhard
Funny as milkshakes
Milkshakes
Running down Tommy’s face
Milkshakes
Running down Tommy’s face
(Save your outrage)

And Theresa sobbed
When she left the job
But it never really made the news
‘Cos Donald’s in town

Steve

[1] Hat-tip: Joe Durston
[2] Doesn’t mean I won’t write more about them

Furry Little Fuckers

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Chicken Squawk pricked my conscience but not enough to make me change. My quiet admiration for vegan friends didn’t push me over the edge. The road to “ethical” meat-eating had been taken via organic and healthy, but the route abandoned on financial grounds. In the end it was a dog, and I stopped looking the other way.

He really loves you, but he’s just a dog
His love is real, as real as analogue
But the pigs share complex emotional responses too
And the cows to do much more than just go “moo”
So before your conscience recovers
Let’s kill and eat the furry little fuckers

Her name’s Daisy and she’s a sheep
The lucky one the farmer decided to keep
Bringing joy to the kids visiting the petting zoo
Who don’t associate her with being food
So before you think about her sisters and her brothers
Let’s kill and eat the furry little fuckers

Or you could tread a little lighter through this world

Her name’s Frankie, his name is Smudge
Grateful for the culture, the home, the love
But the goats and chickens ain’t got that kind of luck
They’re food not friends, their short lives kinda suck
So before your dinner ups and does a runner
Let’s kill and eat the furry little fucker

He likes pork chops and a steak or two
Maccy D’s and KFC too
Shrink-wrapped, pre-packed, juicy, meaty, fleshy food
Doesn’t think about a time when it had hooves
So before he starts to think about his suppers
Let’s kill and eat the furry little fuckers

Or you could tread a little lighter through this world

Furry

Steve

Wanstead Tap

w tap

In front of me is a list of songs that is too long.

Some say that’s a good problem to have, that the converse is worse, but I want to tell a story of a couple embroiled in modern British life under the shadow of Brexit. I want to visit their past and future in happier and sadder songs. I want to sing a pop song about the struggle of our trans comrades. I want to laugh at debate without experts and rage at a system that burns people in their homes. I want to play punk for the animals and tell the tale of a revolution in a small Essex village that grew legs and marched on the capital. I want to mock an institution with its boot still on our necks, and genuinely laud their gardeners.

And I haven’t even started on Little Tommy and his crew.

A bill this good requires compromise, there’s only so much time and some crossing out to do. What gets left behind will get carried over, more on that later.

Steve