Should we move on?

Today I was asked: “Now the election is over, don’t you think it’s time to let politics go and move on?”

This is an idea that worries me. We live in a democracy. The country has elected a government to represent the views of the people. That doesn’t mean that we say “there you go old chap, do what you will with the place we will vote again in 2020.” Politics is an ongoing thing. We have the democratic right to lobby our mps on issues in parliament, we have the democratic right to peacefully protest and we still currently have the right of free speech (although with the snoopers charter this is looking more threatened) and I certainly intended to use those rights. There’s also far too much voter apathy, and perhaps conversations can help with that.

Elections are not just every five years, there is local elections, I’ve a feeling another referendum on electoral reform is brewing,  there is likely to be a referendum on EU membership by 2017, there is the upcoming police and crime commissioner elections. Then there’s two of the main parties running leadership elections. These are issues that can directly affect all our futures.

On top of that, I realise that in an ideal world everyone would read all the manifestos and choose the one they agree with. In practice the media whip up a storm over a few issues and a lot of people decided based on a single, or a few issues. Further still, even those people who have read the entire manifesto may have chosen the best fit to their view, but may still vehemently disagree with some of the policies in there, or policies that are not in there and come after. This is why the democratic process exists, why you have a named MP who you can write to an explain your views and urge them to express them in parliamentary debates and urge them to vote for or against certain pieces of legislature. The petition is another part of the democratic process, it shows parliament the state of public opinion and when enough signatures are gathered it puts an onus on parliament to at least commit to discussing the issue raised.

These are the democratic processes that we have to hold our government to account. Not everyone realises this, and not everyone realised they can make a difference. This is why conversation on the topics can be imperative.

So no, I don’t think it’s time to let political updates go and move on. I think it’s time to mobilise, and lobby hard, to ensure the government is working for, and accountable to, its people.

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Attack on the unions

I imagine I’m not the only one who noticed the anti trade union section of the Conservative manifesto.

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The idea that people are being “protected” from strike action is a joke. The right to strike is the only thing that can guarantee workers rights. No one wants to strike, ever. By striking you lose your pay for the duration of the strike and you lose pension contributions. Strikers are often worse off for striking and it’s generally people in situations where they cannot afford to lose that pay who feel the need to strike. A need most often put on them back attacks on their conditions or on their wage.

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We will also repeal nonsensical restrictions banning employers from hiring agency staff to provide essential cover.

This is the bit that irks me the most. Strikes only have an effect if the work stops. Strikers withdraw labour to show their bosses that they are, in fact, essential to the business and should be recompensed as such. By allowing these services to continue with agency staff the tories are completely negating the a ton and removing the only tool workers have to ensure they are treated fairly.

The Conservative party have long been in favour of putting the big businesses, the rich, their donors, ahead of the people who work hard on floor. The fat cats in the ivory towers watch the money roll in while the people doing the hard work to make that money take home a pittance. They boldly spoke if trickle down economics, the idea that as the rich got richer they would start to pay more, but the reality is that the majority of the time as the big businesses get richer they find ways to pay their workforce less. Unions and strikes gave them some protection. Thatcher went to war with the unions, removed many of their rights and left them with a fraction of the power they had to stand up for their membership. New Labour failed to revoke these laws, but did at least leave them with some power. Tory plans will remove the little power the unions have left and leave workers no way to defend themselves.

The reasons for this become all too clear when you look at this graph:

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The share of the income of the top 1% holds an inverse relationship to the number of union members. It suits the tories, and their pals in big business that fund them, to kill off the unions once and for all.

Destruction of our emergency services

You’ve all seen those adverts for our armed forces, you know the ones, they reiterate how important ALL the jobs involved can be. From the frontline all the way back to the catering and administration staff we are reminded that each and every one is important to the armed service.

So why is it that this ConDem coalition felt they could sell us lies about our emergency services? They have spouted a rhetoric that claims to have “protected frontline services”, but they have cut the support. I have a friend who works as a civilian in the West Yorkshire Police, he used to work shift patterns to allow him to take statements at times that were convenient to witnesses. He has seen a large number of his civilian colleagues made redundant and they’ve had their shiftwork removed. The reality of this is that when witnesses work 9-5 it is frontline officers who have to make the journey to collect statements etc and this is taking police away from the frontline. They’ve also had their travel expenses cut, meaning if a witness cannot come to the station it again falls to front line officers to do the task.

Cameron spoke on channel 4 in the run up to the election about how the police service had suffered budget cuts but “crime has fallen”, my contact suggests that the reality is that as officers have to do all the paperwork etc themselves a large number of minor crimes are now no longer recorded. This effects the overall crime figures and gives Cameron his misleading headline.

It’s not just the police that have been attacked, recently ITV aired a documentary about the emergency department at the Manchester Royal Infirmary, the consultant in charge spoke about his frustration at being able to spend “less than 20% of [his] time with patients”, this was due to the government cuts to the administration staff and other non-frontline services. Paramedics are being replaced with “Emergency Care Assistants” who have little more than first aid training. They are the first to arrive on the scene and their job is basically to assess whether the 999 call was warranted and if it is to call a paramedic. This means that people in dire need of emergency care are being kept waiting longer.

The last 5 years have been dire for our emergency services, on top of cuts to Police and Emergency Health we’ve seen the fire brigade attacked to such an extent that they have felt the need to strike. Let that sink in.

And this all happened under a coalition, the Lib Dems able to rein in the worst and most extreme cuts the tories hoped for. The Lib Dems no longer have that power, so the future looks very,  very bleak.