A year ago yesterday, I embarked on a huge and ongoing project — to photograph the whole of London by bike. A year and a day later, I have taken around 13,000 photos, and have published nearly 1,700 on Flickr. As it happens, my time has been so consumed of late with my ongoing campaign to close Guantánamo — where the prison-wide hunger strike, now in its fourth month, has finally awoken the world to the ongoing horrors of the prison — that I have not had time recently to publish photos from this project, although I have continued to take photos on an almost daily basis. I am currently organising the photos by area — largely, in fact, by postcode — as I work out how best to show them and to market them, but to mark the anniversary I will soon be posting a selection of photos from the first year of the project – and if anyone has any good ideas abut how to take tis project forward, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me.
In the meantime, I realised that today — May 12 — is the first anniversary of an event organised by the worldwide Occupy movement (inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York), and that I had photographed the event that took place in London, and so, to coincide with that anniversary, I’ve put together a selection off photos from the various political campaigns and protests I’ve been involved in over the last year. Read the rest of this entry »
Ever since the Tories came to power in May 2010, aided by the Liberal Democrats, who, sadly, demonstrated that everything they professed to believe in could be discarded if it meant being in government, the very fabric of civil society in the UK has been faced with extinction. This is a country that has developed a welfare safety net to protect the most vulnerable members of society and those who have fallen on hard times, and one that has guaranteed healthcare for its entire population, through the NHS, paid for through general taxation, but the Tories are determined to destroy it, and far too many people have been fooled by their poisonous persecution of the poor and disabled, and their ideologically motivated “age of austerity,” which continues to ruin any chance of economic recovery, while plunging millions of people further into serious poverty.
On Monday, April 1, multiple welfare cuts hit hundreds of thousands of the poorest and most vulnerable members of society, and although two newspapers led with the news on their front pages — the Guardian (“The day Britain changed”) and the Daily Mirror (“D-Day for Savage Con-Dem Cuts”) — there is no sign that the British people, in general, have woken up to the full ramifications of what is being done in their name.
From the beginning of the Tories’ attack on the state, the government and large parts of the media have successfully lied about the unemployed and the disabled being scroungers and shirkers, creating a climate of mean-spiritedness and hatred amongst my fellow citizens that I have found to be both shocking and disgraceful, because the blunt truth, which anyone could find out if they could be bothered, is that there are around 2,500,000 people unemployed but only 500,000 job vacancies. Read the rest of this entry »
Since the Tories came to power two years and seven months ago, with the assistance of the Liberal Democrats, they have reshaped the political landscape in the UK in the most horrific manner, launching a savage age of austerity aimed at the young, the working poor, the unemployed, the ill, the old and the disabled, in defiance of the Christian values they supposedly hold.
In response, a group of concerned citizens have launched an e-petition urging the government to change course, which already has over 9,000 signatures since its launch just three weeks ago, and needs 100,000 signatures by December 12, 2013 to be eligible for a Parliamentary debate. The “War on Welfare” petition, which has a website here, and is being promoted as the #wowpetition, calls for “a Cumulative Impact Assessment of Welfare Reform, and a New Deal for sick and disabled people based on their needs, abilities and ambitions.”
Driven by a Thatcherite and neo-conservative obsession with destroying the state (with a few exceptions, including their own salaries and expenses), the Tories have been taking advantage of the economic crisis created by bankers and politicians (themselves included) in the global crash of 2008 not to rein in the bankers, but to endorse the enthusiasm for austerity amongst so-called economists — those who have not learned that austerity measures in a recession lead only to economic collapse. Read the rest of this entry »
What is wrong with the people of Britain? For two and a half years now, the Tory-led coalition government has been waging war on the most vulnerable members of society — the disabled — and hardly anyone seems to care. In order to cut the welfare bill, the government is paying a fortune to Atos Healthcare, a French-based multinational company, to conduct reviews of disabled people in order to find them fit for work, whether they are or not.
This process, which necessitates cruelty and indifference on the part of the assessors, is hugely stressful for the people subjected to the reviews, and has contributed to hundreds of deaths since it was first introduced (also see here and here for links to some harrowing stories).
I have been campaigning against it for the last two years — see, for example, my articles, Today the Tories Took £100 A Week from Some of the UK’s Most Disabled People: How Can This Be Right?, RIP Karen Sherlock, Another Victim of the Tories’ Brutal, Heartless Disability Reforms, Doctors Urge Government to Scrap Callous Disability Tests, Where is the Shame and Anger as the UK Government’s Unbridled Assault on the Disabled Continues? and Call Time on This Wretched Government and Its Assault on the Disabled. Read the rest of this entry »
Please, please, please sign and promote the petition, initiated by Pat Onions and other disabled activists, calling for the British government to “stop and review the cuts to benefits and services which are falling disproportionately on disabled people, their carers and families.” The petition needs to reach 100,000 signatures by November 1 to be eligible for Parliamentary debate.
One month ago, the Paralympic Games came to an end, and there were hopes that, after two weeks in which disabled people had been the focus of the media and the British people, and had performed spectacularly well, the time might be ripe for those fortunate enough not to be physically or mentally disabled to realise that they were being lied to by their government, and that the Tories’ wretched assault on disabled people as cheats and scroungers was both cruel and deeply unfair.
In a cynical attempt to cut expenditure on welfare, the government has embarked upon a particularly horrific assault on the mentally and/or physically disabled through the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), administered by the French-based multinational company Atos Healthcare, and designed to find disabled people fit for work, even when, as in a heartbreakingly large number of cases, they are not.
In addition, hundreds of thousands of disabled people will lose between £20 and £131.50 a week when the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) that is a crucial part of their support is ”replaced with the more restrictive Personal Independence Payments as part of a £2.2billion cost-cutting plan,” as the Sunday Mirror explained last month. As the Mirror also explained, “The DLA currently goes to around 3.2 million people at a cost of £12.6 billion a year. Analysts estimate up to 500,000 disabled people will have their allowance entirely withdrawn over the next four years as eligibility criteria is tightened.” Read the rest of this entry »
A year ago, when Occupy Wall Street began, people occupying public spaces in large numbers and refusing to go home was innovative and radical, but then those spaces were reclaimed by the establishment — with violence, or through legal machinations — essentially bringing the first phase in this new era of protest and activism to an end.
Anyone thinking that the Occupy movement has gone away, however, is missing the point. Just as the movement introduced a powerful new concept — the 99 percent versus the 1 percent — into political discourse, so the complaints that motivated people to occupy public spaces in the first place have not gone away.
Essentially, we live in a broken system, broken by criminals who have not been held responsible for their actions, criminals on Wall Street and in the City of London and Canary Wharf, motivated by greed on a colossal scale, who, aided and abetted by venal and/or stupid politicians, crashed the global economy in 2008 but then got away with it.
Saved by government bailouts, the criminals continue to live lives of almost unprecedented wealth and greed, while the rest of the people — the 99 percent — are being made to pay for the crimes of these thieves through savage austerity programs that are driven by malignant ideologies and are also, it should be noted, economically suicidal. Read the rest of this entry »
Please sign the campaigning group 38 Degrees’ open letter to Jeremy Hunt, warning him not to mess with the NHS.
Sometimes it’s almost unspeakably depressing to be living in England, in a dystopian fantasy that no one voted for, with a useless coalition government of the Tories and the Lib Dems that required Frankenstein-like engineering just to come into being.
Yesterday was one of those particularly depressing days, as David Cameron shuffled his cabinet and lurched even further to the right. Of course, there is desperation in the Prime Minister’s manoeuvring, and we should be thankful for that. Cameron has not got rid of George Osborne, of course, as he is the prime architect of the Tories’ economic policy, which involves allowing the rich to hoover up whatever they can, including that which has been secreted offshore, while obliging the rest of us to have to try and prise five pound notes out of Osborne’s hands, who it turns out, has the tenacity of a corpse with advanced rigor mortis. However, when 48 percent of voters recently gave Osborne a vote of no confidence, it was obviously significant. Cameron may be the whey-faced buffoon who can come up with an opinion at any time of the day or night, but Osborne is the whey-faced buffoon in charge of economic policy — Gordon Brown to Cameron’s Tony Blair, if you will.
48 percent of voters recognised the toxicity of Osborne, thereby providing a stunning vote of no confidence in the government, but he remained in place in the reshuffle while other buffoons got shifted around or axed. Andrew Lansley, who trailed the Chancellor with a 37 percent disapproval rating in the Guardian/ICM poll on August 28, was shifted out of health, to be replaced by Jeremy Hunt, who had a 24 percent disapproval rating as culture secretary. Michael Gove (on 36%) keeps his job as the butcher of education, Kenneth Clarke (on 28%) was replaced at justice by the incompetent employment minister Chris Grayling, and William Hague (on 21%) kept his job as foreign secretary. Read the rest of this entry »
The Paralympics Demonstration Against Atos Healthcare in London, a set on Flickr.
Yesterday, Friday August 31, was the last day of the Atos Games, a week of events organised by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and UK Uncut against the jaw-dropping hypocrisy involved in Atos Healthcare, the French IT giant, being allowed to sponsor the Paralympic Games, while the company is also in charge of running the government’s Work Capability Assessments, a review process that is designed to find disabled people fit for work.
As a result, huge numbers of disabled people, who are not fit for work by any genuinely objective measure, are being driven into poverty — a wretched and cruel policy for a government that claims to have Christian values — and the results are leading directly to suicides, or other deaths through the stress involved. Undeterred, however, the government recently renewed Atos’ contract, to the tune of £400 million, and ministers are permanently involved in ignoring the inconvenient truth that, on appeal, tens of thousands of decisions made by Atos’ representatives are being overturned. The average is 40 percent, but in Scotland campaigners discovered that, when claimants were helped by representatives of Citizens Advice Bureaux, 70 percent of decisions were overturned on appeal. Read the rest of this entry »
The Olympics: In Search of the Paralympic Torch, a set on Flickr.
With the main Olympic Games now a memory, the focus, for the next 11 days, is on the Paralympic Games, before Britain returns to the gloom of life under the crushing yoke of a myopic Tory-led government. While the Games were a great success, the emotional resonance of the Paralympic Games is much stronger, given the obstacles people have had to overcome to take part in the first place, and it is a tribute to the UK that the Paralympics began here in 1948. As Wikipedia explains:
The first organised athletic event for disabled athletes that coincided with the Olympic Games took place on the day of the opening of the 1948 Summer Olympics in London, United Kingdom. German born Dr. Ludwig Guttmann of Stoke Mandeville Hospital, who had been helped to flee Nazi Germany by the Council for Assisting Refugee Academics (CARA) in 1939, hosted a sports competition for British World War II veteran patients with spinal cord injuries. The first games were called the 1948 International Wheelchair Games, and were intended to coincide with the 1948 Olympics. Dr. Guttman’s aim was to create an elite sports competition for people with disabilities that would be equivalent to the Olympic Games. Read the rest of this entry »
What has happened to my country? I grew up in a Christian household — my father was Church of England, my mother Methodist — and both believed in Christian charity; in other words, the need for people of faith to look after those less fortunate than themselves. In the case of my Methodist heritage — as a working class religion, rather than the establishment C of E — this care for those in need was absolutely central to how the world was perceived, providing a social and political perspective as much as one based on religion.
Christians — and, of course, believers of other faiths — have their own share of hypocrites, and certainly do not have a monopoly on caring for the poor and the sick, as can be seen by the number of atheists with a well-developed social conscience, but in the Britain of today, driven by the Tory-led coalition government, concern for the poor and the ill appears to have become deeply unfashionable, leading to a callousness in society as a whole that has been encouraged by governments themselves (not just this shower of heartless Etonians), and by large parts of the media.
The defining characteristics of this cruel new world appear to be a preoccupation with selfishness and materialism, and, as part of a decline in empathy and the dissolving of the kind of political solidarity that was central to those opposing Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, for example, a narrow and horribly misplaced focus for dissent — not on the bigger political picture, and on the corporate and banking elites getting way with financial murder, but on people’s neighbours, or those regarded as different, or inferior, or feral, or workshy scroungers. Read the rest of this entry »
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