Respect to John Woodcock MP

john-woodcock-jpgThis week the Labour MP for Barrow and Furness, John Woodcock took a very brave decision to announce that he is suffering from clinical depression. Following this bold step, he has rightly received praise from all sides for his willingness to sick his head above the parapet and say ‘Me too’.

Is it not a major step forward when a public figure (one with a very stressful job) feels able to talk about mental health conditions in a positive and progressive way. Obviously this is only one example, however the reaction from those suffering from depression or other related conditions should be (and I’m sure will be) one of universal positivity and thanks.

The courage that John Woodcock has shown in confronting his illness head on, and in the public eye should hopefully provide inspiration to all of those who suffer in silence and don’t feel able to discuss their problems or seek medical help. On his constituency website John gives a full and frank account of his problems; however more importantly he makes it quite clear about not only his determination to get better, but also about his continued ability to perform to the best of his ability in the work place, (see the below link to read this).

People like John can help to break down the barriers that surround perceptions of mental illness and for his actions this week he deserves every single bit of thanks and praise coming to him.

John Woodcock website

There was also an appearance on BBC Newsnight (4/12/13) that you can view here:

John Woodcock MP / Newsnight 4/12/13

Kind words from Fraser Nelson in The Spectator:

Fraser Nelson – In Praise of John Woodcock MP

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Local Tory MP in ‘not to be trusted’ shock…..

For todays post, I am pleased to share an article by Tom King, an activist and organiser from Wyre Forest CLP, and part of their ‘Young Labour’ group.

Tom is passionate about investment in education and schools, and I hope you’ll agree that this comes across. Tom also shows, as always, why we cant trust the Tories.

Throughout the election campaign the Tory candidate, Mark Garnier, insisted that his number one priority was rebuilding Wyre Forest’s schools and dismissed other candidates who alleged a Tory Government would the cut of Labour’s school rebuilding programme.

As our MP, Garnier watched on as Michael Gove announced that over 700 schools would lose their BSF rebuild, five in his own constituency. He didn’t even ask a question to the Secretary of State for Education on the numerous occasions Gove was called to clarify and apologise for his gaffe-filled statements. Garnier seemed distinctly inactive on the issue that was his number one priority.

When Gove made his ‘efficiency saving’ and took the axe to Building Schools for the Future, he had no comprehension of what it would mean for communities up and down the country. Communities like Wyre Forest. The reorganisation of schools in the area had left many, with hundreds more students than they were built for. At Stourport High, our 1950s building, built for just 900 students, must now accommodate over 1,300. As a result, the school has spent £1 million on nine portable classrooms and a further four portable classrooms are rented at the cost of £50,000, the equivalent of two teachers. This is not only a drain on the school’s resources but also provides an impractical and inconvenient learning environment. The fact that these temporary solutions must now become permanent arrangements shows the arbitrary way in which this cut was made. No consideration was taken of the unique demands placed on Wyre Forest schools. Furthermore, Wyre Forest schools have been twice hit. During the reorganisation, funding for building improvements was put on hold whilst decisions on the future of our schools were made. Meanwhile, money was poured into improving Haybridge, in the already affluent Hagley, creating a modern, high-tech school environment to be envied. The canceling of BSF leaves some children to be educated in the same run-down buildings, whilst others have had millions invested in fantastic new buildings. It creates a two-tier education system.

Gove condemned the BSF programme for not producing results quickly enough, however, he seems completely ignorant to the process and significance of BSF. The ambition of BSF was bolder than anything seen since the Victorian school building programme; the rebuild of every secondary school in the country. It was recognised that such a major investment could not be wasted on schools for today, with no thought for tomorrow. The programme involved not just bureaucrats but teachers, students and the whole local community. They took on the challenge of designing a school not just fit for current needs but one that would last for generations to come. This was not a project to be undertaken in a few months but one that took dedicated, hard-working teams, several years to complete. The process was far from inefficient; it was effective in delivering the schools for our future, however, time-consuming that process maybe.

Callous cuts have defined this coalition government so far. Politicians, detached from reality, make decisions they cannot imagine the consequences of. They don’t consider the dashed hopes of students excited about the prospects of an investment in their future. They don’t have to walk through rain to get from building to building for lessons. They aren’t part of the generations condemned to an education sat in cold portable classrooms. Scrapping Building Schools for the Future is not cutting waste, its wasting young people’s lives.

If rebuilding Wyre Forest’s schools was Mark Garnier’s number one priority, he has a funny way of showing it.

Links: Wyre Forest Labour 

            Mark Garnier MP

Twitter: @wyreforestlabour

“Right to Work” Conference 2011

On the back of last Sunday’s successful Right to Work protest in Birmingham, it is vital that those of us who support the public service,and are determined to fight the vicious coalition cuts keep the momentum going, and the pressure on.

The public spending review is due at the end of October, and whilst we do not yet know just how far the cuts will go; we can be sure that they will hit the hardest in society the hardest. The public sector plays a vital role in the running of our country and we must do all that we possibly can to resist and fight back against the forthcoming storm.

We must fight for every job, fight for our futures and fight for the right to work. The coalition cuts will be too severe and too fast for our fragile economy to cope with. Putting thousands of public sector workers onto benefits is not the way to lead our country into recovery.

Join the Right to Work campaign today, either nationally, through your union or through a local group. As I will be, consider attending the Right to Work conference taking place in Sheffield on Saturday, 11th February 2011. Booking details and prices can be found on the Right to Work website.

Get involved. Stop the Cuts. Defend public services.

No sympathy amongst the rank and file Tories

Following on from yesterdays Right to Work protest in Birmingham, I thought it would be interesting to listen to some of the fallout / opinions from those attending the Conservative conference.

The 7000 committed individuals who braved the adverse weather conditions in Birmingham yesterday made their point loud and clear. They are not to blame for the countries financial problems; yet those on a low wage or on benefits will be the first to suffer once the coalition cuts really start to bite.

As part of BBC Radio 5Live’s coverage of the conference last night; politics commentator, John Pienaar spoke to several people taking part in the protest. He was joined, amongst others by the Daily Mail’s resident idiot Amanda Platell.

Now, you can always normally rely upon Amanda to make a stupid, ill-thought-out comment at the drop of a hat; however last night she really hit the jackpot in the fuckwit stakes. After hearing comments by one of the comments from one union member, Platell made the sort of comment that made me feel sick. The union member asked the question, “What have we done to deserve this?”, in response to a comment about the awaited cuts. Platell’s response on hearing the interview verged on the offensive; “They, (union members), have voted for Labour for the past thirteen years; that’s why they deserve it”. I’m paraphrasing here, but the quotation is as near as damn it accurate.

So, hard-working, low paid union members and public servants ‘deserve’ the threat of job losses, just because of their supposed political views? I don’t need to reiterate the fact that Platell is the Tories resident rent-a-gob; or that such a moron could only write for the Daily Fail. however, this was insensitive in the extreme.

Whilst this comment annoyed me; one a little later from a Tory party member saddened, but didn’t surprise me. Asked what she thought of the protest taking place outside, she replied:

They should get off their backsides and go and do some work

Cameron may like to present the illusion that the Tories have changed, especially since the coalition with the Lib Dems; however the opposite is sadly true. Amongst the rank and file Tories, it appears to be the same old story. Little regard for the ordinary working man and woman, and no clue as to life in the real world outside the Tory bubble.

For a supposedly intelligent individual to assume that all the protesters were ‘unemployed scroungers’ is pathetic in the extreme. It had obviously never crossed her mind that those people braving the rain were amongst the very people who provide the public services that she uses everyday. Hard working people, who right now live in fear of losing their jobs, and understandably have a bleak and uncertain view of what the future holds for them and their families.

Right To Work – Birmingham 3/10/10

What a great turn out for the ‘Right to Work’ protest in Birmingham today.

Thousands took to the streets in the pouring rain to protest against the forthcoming coalition cuts, due to be announced at the end of October.

Cuts that will hit the worst off in society the hardest. Not the well off, but ordinary workers, those in the public sector, the low paid, students, pensioners and those claiming benefits.

A strong message of unity and solidarity must be sent to the government. Cutting hard and fast at this point in time is not the way forward.

Short term thinking and savings for long term pain.

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Ed Miliband Q&A – Birmingham 4/9/10

Just a few words about Ed’s Q&A session that took place in Small Heath, Birmingham last night along with  Jack Dromey and Shabana Mahmood. I think I can speak for the majority of the large crowd who attended when I say just how inspirational Ed’s speech was. It has been clear to me for quite a while now that out of all the Labour Party leadership candidates, Ed is best placed to take the party forwards; not only to make us the effective opposition that the country needs, but also into government at the next general election.

Only by moving away from the spectre of  ‘New Labour’ can we hope to reconnect with the four million voters who have turned away from Labour since the heady days of 1997. Let’s not forget; only a million of those votes went to the Tories. It is therefore essential that as a party we re-engage with the hearts and minds of those, who, for various reasons have walked away from the party, and in some cases, from politics altogether.

I am convinced that not only can Ed Miliband lead a united party against the savage, hard times that the coalition are about to inflict upon this country, but that he can also reach out to the disenfranchised. Those members of the public who show a general disgust for politicians and politics, but also those previous Labour supporters and voters who feel that the party has left them behind. There are those who consider that a vote for Ed is, in the words of one David Miliband supporter on Twitter, ‘pandering to the left’, or even worse, a ‘left wing sop’. These people are not only wrong, they also serve as a timely reminder as to what was so bad about New Labour; we must learn from these errors and move on.

If you are a Labour Party member, I would urge you to make Ed your first preference on your ballot paper. Our parties future, and the secure future of this country depend upon it.

Just a thought…….

It’s been a disheartening few months. I’m due to go into hospital this week for the second time in a month. Obviously I’d rather not have to.

Thirty seven years of almost perfect health and look what happens – the Tories / Coalition get into power and I’m never away from the place!

Coincidence?

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Clegg’s final journey to the dark side

Nick Clegg has been having a good old whine about the ‘bile’ within the Labour Party. The nerve of the man never fails to amaze me. It should be obvious to anyone now that his final conversion to the dark side of Toryism is now fully complete.

Such a shame that he now finds himself in the position of having to make pathetic jibes at the opposition. To be fair though, these must be worrying times for Cameron Jnr. Not only does he face the prospect of Lib Dem members leaving the party in their droves; he must also be shitting himself silly at the reports that Charles Kennedy is considering a defection to Labour – something that Charlie himself is yet to deny.

With the prospect of the forthcoming coalition butchery, he could be the first of many who are forced to take a good, hard look at themselves. Hopefully some will rediscover their principles, therefore helping to cut short what is bound to be a nightmare time for all but the most fortunate in society.

I could almost feel sorry for Clegg as I imagine what the next few months will hopefully be like. I don’t though. I have nothing short of contempt for a man who has not only betrayed those Lib Dem members and voters who hoped for so much more; but also the country,which will now pay such a heavy price for what is to come.

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Closed shop mentality will only damage Labour

I’ve watched with interest this weekend  the uproar surrounding the news that Alan Milburn was to accept a role as the new ‘social mobility tsar’  for the coalition government. The reaction from a number of Labour members and supporters, particularly on Twitter has been disappointing, but not altogether surprising. Whilst I myself do not hold any especially warm feelings for Milburn, this continued tribal attitude to politics, and to the Labour Party itself does us no favours at all. In fact; it makes us look childish and silly.

People have a short memory. After all, it was only a short time ago that Gordon Brown was trying to assemble his own ‘Government of all the talents.’  Like it or not, Cameron is only attempting to do exactly the very same thing; and we are now in a situation where the public mood calls for greater cooperation between the main political parties.

As a party we have bigger fish to fry. We are going through a vital leadership campaign, one which will decide the electability of  Labour in the coming years up to and beyond the next general election. We must put all of  our energies into getting our own house back in order; a great deal of damage has been done to the party in recent years, and we have lost a lot of Labours traditional support  throughout the country. Now is the time to complete the leadership process, and then to unite as a party behind the eventual winner. Not only must we concentrate on ensuring  that we  provide an effective opposition to the inevitable damage that the coalition will cause; but  we must also regain the trust and support of the Labour heartland.

Milburn and his like belong in our past; and we should consign him there along with our petty partisan attitudes…….

Welfare not to Work

Since the country returned to the dark side with the election of the ‘Condem’ administration. we’ve heard a lot about plans to shake up the benefits system in this country. Having worked previously at a local Jobcentre Plus, I have some experience in this field, and plenty of frustrations at how our system fails to provide help and support where most required.

In many ways, Labour failed to deliver on benefit reform; of course they did introduce some very good measures, such as the minimum wage, working tax credits and ‘Backing Young Britain’. This didn’t go anywhere near far enough though; the new government needs to be radical in its thinking, whilst remaining fair to those claiming.

Of course, my main fear is that Cameron intends to target benefit claimants in a bid to save money; and as was reported today this is exactly what is being planned. Including the pathetic idea of using credit reference agencies to snoop on claimants. Better time and money would be spent chasing those who dodge paying tax in this country, costing up to £40 billion.

So, time for some observations. As mentioned, all too often we fail to provide targeted  advice and assistance to claimants. Targeted support needs to be offered from day one; this should include CV completion, skills checks, better off in work calculations, training, help with application forms and interview preparation. These are basic, but essential tasks that are all too often left too late, or not provided until the claimant has been receiving job seekers allowance for over twelve months. At this stage they are referred to a third-party employment services provider, (such as the one I now work for), where these services suddenly become available.

This is such a stupid way of doing things. Why should an individual have to wait a year before receiving the direct type of help that they in some cases obviously require? I quite often see clients, who after being unemployed for what could be considered a long period of time, who don’t have a CV, have little or no idea how to apply for jobs online and have very limited job search skills. This is where the system really needs to be shaken up. We should be providing these services much earlier, in some cases by twelve months it’s too late, and as a result you end up with a long-term claimant. This really is a tragic state of affairs, particularly when I see so many young people out of work.

However, this is not the fault of jobcentre plus staff, the majority of whom work very hard under quite often difficult circumstances. The system is simply not set up in a fashion to allow JCP staff the flexibility and scope to offer targeted help.

This is where the third-party providers come in. The best solution would be to offer claimants the opportunity to be referred to these providers from day one of their claim. This would be on a voluntary basis, and would provide them with access to training and assistance early on in their claim. There can be no doubt at all that this would increase their chances of finding employment at a far earlier stage. At the moment, under ‘Flexible New Deal’, claimants are referred to providers at twelve months – this should be decreased to six months, and as happens now, this would be compulsory. Only by introducing a programme of assistance at an earlier stage will we begin to tackle the unemployment problem that we have in this country.

Of course, there are those individuals who play the system. People who are claiming benefit, yet not actively seeking work, (a fixed condition of claiming JSA). This is another area where the government need to be brave and radical. There should be much tougher penalties for those either shown to be not looking for work, or for those who refuse employment. I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve seen over the last few years who’ve turned down employment, sometimes for the most pathetic reasons. This should not be an option; all too often I see several different generations from the same families claiming benefit. It seems all too often that the ‘work ethic’ that was instilled into me as a child has all but disappeared from many of today’s families. Of course, the responsibility for this must remain with the parents; but in no way should we write these people off – Cameron will look to target these families in a bid to save money; what we should be doing is looking to change attitudes and behaviour. All part of the so-called ‘Big Society’….