Assisted Dying

I’m writing to you as your constituent to ask you to support the Assisted Dying Bill when it is debated on Friday 11 September. I believe the recent case of Bob Cole, as covered in a plethora of media outlets, shows that the current law is broken.

Dying people like Bob are forced to make incredibly difficult and unnecessary choices at present simply to have control over their own inevitable deaths. One Britain travels to Dignitas for assistance to die every two weeks. For every person who travels to Dignitas, 10 more dying people take their own lives here at home. This situation cannot be ignored.

It is my sincere belief that humans should be given the right to choose how they want to end their life. It is an issue I have felt strongly about for a number of years. The case of Tony Nicklinson,  a man who suffered from locked in syndrome and could only move his eyes, was one that affected me deeply. To see this man try, and fail, on numerous occasions to be allowed to die on his own terms was heartbreaking and I found the news that rather than be allowed a dignified death he had to resort to starving himself to death in order to end his pain and suffering.

A couple of years ago my best friend on the world took his own life. He has been battling with bi-polar disorder, addiction, and a number of other issues for a long time and he had had enough. He got night terror,  where he awoke screaming and was on edge the whole time. He said to me a number of times that he didn’t understand why we treat our animals much better than humans, and that he knew if a dog suffered the level of pain and suffering he did it would have ben put out of its misery a long time ago. In the end he hanged himself, a horrible painful end that could have been avoided if we had a much better law.

A new law with upfront safeguards, limited to terminally ill, mentally competent adults, would both protect vulnerable people and give dying people choice and control over their death here, not abroad. As my elected representative, I urge you to support this change, a change supported by an overwhelming majority of the public – 82% of Britons support this Bill.

A surge to the left?

The campaigns ahead of the labour leadership elections have been extremely interesting to watch. Liz Kendal must have thought she was in with a good chance when she was backed by progress, but her tory – lite policies have done little to win over votes within the party and she is miles behind the others in terms of CLP nominations.

Jeremy Corbyn probably set out to ensure the left of the party had a voice in the election,  and I would imagine that to start with he didn’t think he had much of a chance. He has, however, captured the imagination of the party and the nation. Way out in the lead in terms of CLP votes and inspiring masses of long term labour voters, supporters and former members to join, or rejoin, the party they feel has been taken away from their position and too far to the right. The press have been on an all out attack, labelling him hard left, comparing him to Michael Foot, when actually he is just the voice of true Labour. Someone who believes there is another way to austerity.

He has certainly had an impact on the debate,  and I can’t help wonder if Andy Burnham’s pledge to renationalise the railways and re-regulate the buses has come in response to the clear left wing feeling the nation is holding. Perhaps Burnham feels he needs to move to the left to be in with a chance, or perhaps the mood of the nation has allowed him to reveal policies he has wanted to hold for a while but has been worried the nation would not want them.

As he moves to the left Yvette Cooper seems to be staying in that centre ground, and seems to be after Liz Kendal’s supporters second preferences. By ruling out working with Corbyn if either of them win she has certainly not done much for party unity.

The debate goes on, and we are finding out more about each potential leaders policies by the day, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Labour Leadership

I’ve just watched the Sunday Politics Labour Leadership debate, it’s good to see a platform for these hustings that everyone can access. I thought the debate was conducted in good spirit from most of the candidates although I wish it had been someone other than Andrew Neil in the Chair.

Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn kept up his consistent anti – austerity message, favouring a growing economy over a shrinking state as the best means to decrease the defecit. He is clearly a contender who holds true Labour values of equality,  fairness and democracy and as leader would certainly take the party back to its roots. I thought he looked confident, knew his stuff and was unphased by Neil’s constant badgering. I particularly liked his answer to the question “would you have any of your leadership opponents in the shadow cabinet?” Which was to suggest all ministerial roles be decided democratically. He spoke of a need to add in more bands on housing to raise fair taxes. He spoke of a need to build more council houses and therefore bring down the housing benefit bill and he spoke of a need to tackle tax avoidance and evasion which costs the economy billions.

Liz Kendal

At the other end of the spectrum we had Liz Kendal, she’s a self proclaimed “Blairite” and is certainly trying to paint herself as a modern day Tony Blair. I think there is a difference though. Blair built a growing economy, he appealed to the middle class then handed the money to a true socialist in the exchequer who spent it on improving education, health, infrastructure and creating a greater Britain for all. Kendal sounds more like Cameron, with her repeated insistence that the party needs to adopt the policies of the Tories and to appeal to their voters, as well as questioning her opponents on how they would fund not cutting services that haven’t yet been cut,  I was left thinking “but they’re being paid for at the moment”.

Andy Burnham

Burnham spoke extremely well on a number of issues, he certainly seems to be in near constant agreement with Corbyn and looks like he wants to reconnect with traditional Labour values. He’s prepared to accept he has made mistakes and genuinely seems to want a better future for all. He, with Corbyn and Cooper, spoke vehemently against the cutting of child benefit and tax credits for third (and later) children but then stated he was “in favour of the principle of the benefits cap”. This seemed not to fit with some of his other views and I was left wondering if on some issues he was playing lip service to policies he thought were necessary to win the leadership of the party, then the country.

Yvette Cooper

Yvette spoke of the need to celebrate all that Labour achieved while in government. She holds true centre left values and wants to improve the country for all concerned. She expressed deep worries over the recent budget and how it will hit hard working families the hardest. She spoke of her pride in the diversity of the nation and linked this to her own heritage.

There was consensus between Burnham, Cooper and Corbyn on a number of issues, although the latter was the only one consistent in an anti – austerity message. It was good to see the debate and I hope to see more in the contest, to enable all Labour members and supporters to make the most informed choice.

“Liberal” Leader?

This week the Liberal Democrats have elected Tim Farron as leader of their party. I wrote before that if they were to be successful in rebuilding they needed to distance themselves from the coalition and given Farron’s opposition to it and rebellious voting record he would probably be the man for the Job,  I still believe this and the rebuilding must begin.

The press,  however, have picked up something else from his voting record. He has failed to support certain equality issues and has deep rooted “Christian” values that apparently see homosexuals as sinners. These values seem at odds with the ideology of his party, the only party with the word “Liberal” in its name. Farron must do some soul searching. There are many LGBT activists within the party and if he allows his religion to hold sway over him in this he may lose their support.

When questioned by channel 4 on the topic he went into full politician “avoiding the answer” mode, talking of how he believes we are all sinners, but this still annoyed many of us who believe that there is nothing wrong with homosexuality. I’ve long thought that as the religions claim to be based on love, )forgiveness and accepting others they need to move passed their outdated views on homosexuals and into the modern world, can Farron do this?  or can will he plunge the Liberal Democrats back into a world of bigotry that they have led the way in moving out of?

I  hope it is his Liberal values that win the internal conflict, but we will have to wait and see.

What I’d like the Labour Leadership candidates to say on Education

Here’s a post I wrote for Labour Teachers outlining what I’d like the Labour Leadership candidates to be saying on Education.

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This post was first published 16th June 2015 on Labour Teachers here

I have just read this post from Duncan Hall (@doktordunc) on Labour Teachers (@labourteachers) outlining what he’d like the Labour Leadership candidates to say on education and I thought I would draft my own wish list on the topic.

Qualified Teacher Status

I’ve written about this before, and it’s still something that I feel is extremely important. Teachers should either be qualified or working towards a qualification. Teacher education gives a good grounding in pedagogy, ensures a minimum level of subject knowledge and ensures fair payment for the teacher.

Bring back our schools

For too long we’ve seen the dismantling of local authorities and the removal of schooling from state control. Some of the “freedoms” offered are worrying, no need for the national curriculum etc. I am also worried by big…

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British Values

I’m getting a bit sick of hearing the phrase “British Values”, it’s such a none phrase but it’s seemingly everywhere at the moment. First the government were prescribing that they must be taught in schools, then we were told immigrants must sign up to them and yesterday I saw someone on the news saying that the Muslim faith needs to abide by them. But what even are they? According to ofsted they are:

Democracy
The rule of law
Individual Liberty and Mutual Respect
Tolerance of different faiths and beliefs

Democracy

I’m told that one of the core British Values is democracy. Which is a bit of a joke,  if we’re being honest. We don’t even live in one! We have some element of democracy to our constitutional monarchy but the system isn’t truly democratic.

We have an elected first house, so that’s a good start, but then we have an upper house filled with unelected landed gentry, appointed supporters of this and previous governments and bishops. A true democracy would have a wholly elected second house.

Then there’s the head of state,  again an unelected position that gives the hereditary power to veto any government decision.

If democracy is a true British value, can we have one please?

The rule of law

This is a ridiculous statement. We have laws in this country, but so does almost every other country. We certainly didn’t invent the rule of law and I’d wager that the majority of those in the country who don’t respect the rule of law are brits. This is a noble value,  but not one we can claim a monopoly on.

Individual liberty and mutual respect

So the Conservative government believe that we should teach this as a value and encourage newcomers to our country to buy into it, yet are currently implementing the snoopers charter, the biggest threat to individual liberty ever seen? Am I the only one who smells hypocrisy there?

As for mutual respect,  senior tories have labelled teachers “dealers in despair” and “enemies of promise”. They’ve attacked the workforce and worker’s rights and shown no respect for people in poverty.

I’d agree these are great values to hold, I just  wish the government that preaches them would hold them.

Tolerance of different faith and beliefs

I’ll just let that one sink in. The British government want incoming faiths to change their practices to uphold British Values, and one of those values is to tolerate different faiths and beliefs.

The phrasing of it is ridiculous. Tolerate means to put up with something, surely we should be celebrating the fact that the UK is diverse and multicultural?

I was abhorred recently by the viral video that showed three 13 year olds beating up a 12 year old, but I was more abhorred by the way people used it to try and stir up racial hatred. I’ve worked in schools where the student population was 99% white, and schools that show a roughly even split between white and Asian students. I’ve known this type of attack to happen more than once, and the majority of the time it is white on white. Often over a girl, more often because someone grew up on the wrong, but neighbouring, housing estate.

The sad truth is that many British people won’t tolerate other British people who hold the same faith or belief because they are from somewhere different. The EDL protests against mosques and synagogues show that too many British people don’t hold this so called British Value, the prime ministers recent comments about a return to our “Christian heritage” and the law that bans a Catholic from holding the office of prime minister suggest that as a society we’re far from secure in this British value.

All four of these suggested British Values are fantastic to aspire to, and I’d love to live in a society that upholds them. Unfortunately I don’t,  but I do live in Britain,  so I’m left questioning,  “are they even British Values?”

An End to GCSEs?

Today Tristram Hunt has tabled a motion to put Education above Political Point-Scoring and to work together towards a better future for all. Here’s a post I wrote giving my views on his ideas from before the election, a lot of which he has brought up as ideas he’d like to discuss.

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This article was originally published on Labour Teachers here.

This week Tristram Hunt postulated in the Guardian that a Labour government may look to phase out GCSEs all together. if you didn’t catch the article, have a look here.

It’s an interesting article, and I have to say I like some of the things he’s saying. Firstly, he’s ruling out radical quick reform. This is something that has been playing on my mind, after 4 years of Gove’s fast paced reformation I feel we need time to let it embed. We haven’t assessed the new GCSEs or A Levels yet and won’t for a few years, and I feel it is right to let this take place given the work that is already underway. I happen to think the new maths curricula are in fact better than the old ones so am looking forward to teaching the new…

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Whatever’s Left?

Back in February I went to see Billy Bragg (@billybragg) play at an event organised by The People’s Assembly (@pplsassembly) against the Coalition governments austerity policies. The event on the whole was amazing,  Billy was awesome as ever, The Farm (@TheFarm_Peter) did a guest spot, a fantastic local Manchester band (the name escapes me, if you know it please let me know and I’ll ammend) opened the show and I discovered an artist who has fast become one of my favourites.

Her name is Grace Petrie (@gracepetrie) and she plays a politically fulled folk punk style (check out her website here). Her set in the night blew us away and the next day I ordered a CD of hers entitled “Mark my words” which has rarely left the CD player of my car since. The whole family love it, to the extent that while most 2 year olds walk around singing “Twinkle Twinkle” or “Let it go” mine sings “The revolution will not be televised” and “Emily Davison Blues“! Mark my words is a phenomenal album, and I’d suggest everyone give it a listen and purchase a copy.

A few weeks later we ordered “Tell me a story” which is another superb album, and the song “Farewell to welfare” contains some of the most mature and poignant lines I’ve ever heard in any song. Which is quite amazing considering Grace must only have been in her early 20s when it was written.

This weekend an eagerly awaited package fell through the door. It contained “Whatever’s left” – Grace’s brand new album, and one she promised was her most political yet. It is a stark commentary on the life of a young person in Coalition Britain and certainly suggests a worrying future now the Tories have everything their own way.

This is possibly the strongest in “You pay peanuts you get monkeys“, which includes the refrain “you pay peanuts you get monkeys you pay nothing you get nowt.” And such lines as: “workers of the world stand up and leave them in no doubt, a living wage for workers or we’ll vote you bastards out.”

The song “Revolutionary in the Wrong Time” alludes to the decline in workers rights we’ve seen and how toothless we are to protect what little we have left – “I heard a rumour there was power in the Unions but that was yesterday.” And that was written before the tories started their new attacks.

The songs “Overheard” and “I do not have the power to cause a flood” speak out against the bigotry and inequality that is unfortunately all too rife in today’s society.

The title song “Whatever’s left” encapsulates Grace’s anger at what has gone and is perhaps summed up best with the line “It’s like a bad dream, when I see the mess that the bastards made of the NHS”.

As with the other two albums, it’s not all political songs, and “Ivy” written about her new born nice is an amazing ode to family and love.

As with the other 2 Grace Petrie albums I own, I cannot fault a single song. The album is fantastic from start to finish – and in my opinion even better than its predecessors. If you’ve never listen to Grace, I urge you to do so. She’s a phenomenal talent, with an inspirational world view who’s doing it herself, without a label of any sort, in true punk style.

Labour Leadership – Nominations Close Tomorrow

Tomorrow is the last day that Labour MPs can nominate leadership candidates. Currently three candidates  (Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendal) have received the 35 nominations needed to be included in the debate and on the ballot. Mary Creagh has withdrawn from the contest so the only candidate left who has yet to receive the 35 nominations is Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn is the candidate who is positioned furthest to the left of the party and is the only one who has taken an anti – austerity stance. He has currently got the backing of 21 MPs but needs 14 more by tomorrow.

I think it would be a real shame if Corbyn wasn’t to make it onto the ballot. There are many, vocal,  members on the left if the party calling for his inclusion and there are many disillusioned supporters or former supporters who see Corbyn as the leader that they could support. The other three cover the centre (Burnham and Cooper) and the right (Kendal) of the party so including a candidate to cover the left of the party would at least give them a voice in the leadership hustings and the wider debate.

I look forward to the debate, to see where the Labour party are heading and what they plan to do in opposition. I’m not sure who I’d like to lead them, I’m waiting for the debate ti rake place, although I’m certainly leaning towards Corbyn and definitely wouldn’t want Kendal, in fact I often wonder why she even joined the Labour party when she seems much more aligned politically to the Tories.

We all need Feminism

I have just seen one of the most vile memes I have ever come across. The title is “I need Feminism like a godammned hole in the head” and it contains a number of pictures of a woman holding slogans such as
“I need Feminism because I too stupid to think for myself” and “I need Feminism because protests make me feel important.” To top it off the person sharing it had included the caption “This chick gets it.”

I find it incredulous that anyone could think Feminism was anything other than a good thing. The very definition of Feminism is a desire for equality between the sexes. The desire to see men and women treated equally, hold equal station in life, in relationships, in work. To be paid the same and given the same benefits.

Feminism brought us out of the dark ages, people fought, and died, to give women the vote. People gave up a lot to grant women equal pay. A fight led by trade unions that is actually still going on to this day.

I’m at a loss to see how anyone can see equality as a bad thing, and as such I’m at a loss to see how anyone can see Feminism as a bad thing.

We still haven’t achieved an equal society, that saddens me and shows me that Feminism is still an extremely important, and necessary,  movement. I’m proud to call myself a feminist.