Friday, 22 June 2012

Talking about immigration doesn’t make you a racist. Being racist makes you a racist.

I talk about immigration much of the time. I’ve just heard a Labour PPC on the news stating the key reason Labour lost the General  election in 2010 was as a result of perceptions about immigration policy.
Labour lost that election because over a long period of time they had made a number of wrong judgement calls, had leaders that saw themselves above the jurisdiction of international law and had back bencher's and cabinet members who’s egos just couldn’t help themselves from sticking the boot in at totally inopportune moments such as the day before an election.  
It’s inconceivable that a political grouping can be in power for three terms and not make mistakes but quite frankly these aren’t the apologies that Labour needs to be making.
People in this country are more concerned about whether they have enough money to pay the bills at the end of the month than anything else. They are concerns about pay, concerned about job security, concerned about youth unemployment way above their concern about immigration. It’s only those on the level of Anders Brevik who still believe that immigration is the reason for the economic crisis and recession that we find ourselves in. The arguments people actually want to hear are the arguments which lead to solutions to economic stability.  Further tinkering with immigration simply will not deliver this. In a month that saw immigration advice providers deluged by concerned clients desperately trying to get their settlement visa applications in before a July deadline when income thresholds to bring in spouses rocket from £5,000 to £27,500. This puts the right to family life for people who choose to marry non-EU migrants well out of the reach of those on average salaries.  The Con-Dem immigration zealousness has already damaged the stability of British Universities with the restriction of foreign students, is Labour seriously wanting to head in this direction.
Have discussion about immigration but look at the human stories of the impact decision have on peoples ability to enjoy basic human rights.  Look at the impact on economic recovery and check out that a policy isn’t being implemented that will further damage a shaky, fragile economy to pander to people who just don’t like a lot of “them” here.  Look at more fundamental solutions to problems. If school leavers cannot access employment, what is being done to make them more able and more skilled? Was axing Education Maintenance Allowance and increasing University fees really that bright an idea?

Friday, 18 May 2012

Making a difference

The Northampton Borough Council International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHo) on Thursday was an uplifting experience. To see over the years the growth of the event can’t help but give a sense of optimism for the future.
One of the highlights of the event was hearing Ben Cohen’s personal video message for the event. It was the first time that I had heard him speak about his motivation emerging from the murder of his father and his drive to take action to achieve something positive about the experience.
Northampton Borough Council has come quite some way over the past couple of years. In 2010 I suggested that they look at Hate Crime as a piece of work for their scrutiny committee. Part of my reasoning for doing so was to draw attention to culture of the Borough Council in dealing with hate crime.
This culture was no more clearly demonstrated by the failure of the Borough Council to deals with hate incidents reported by residents who had the misfortune to live near Gavin Kerr, one of the individuals that was convicted of killing Peter Cohen, when he lived on Kings Heath up till two years ago. People were obviously unwilling to report the incidents and so the homophobia and the racism continued.  The Council at the time refused to deal with the issue and did not bring the case for discussion at multi-agency groups designed to review such cases.  Gavin has now moved and I’m not sure what he is doing now but for the black families and young gay men that had to endure his offense verbal diatribe on a regular basis, life is better.
Northampton Borough Council has bravely included taking more action on Hate crime as an equality objective that it commits to make progress on. It is indeed brave but it will have to be so much more than making noise. It will be getting to the bottom of hard issues and really making a difference rather than working hard and making noise.  

Friday, 23 March 2012

The cuts get going . Where do we head when the decisions have been taken

At the start of the year, I said that the key priority was to protect the NHS. Now that the vote in parliament has consigned its fate, what hope for the future?

There is a need to learn from the last few months and to identify how the campaign could have worked better. Over 2012 so far there have been game changing campaigns that have really hit hard, although perhaps the anti-cuts campaign that commanded the most diverse and most emotive support, it failed to be as joined up as it could and was all the time competing with campaigns about Welfare reform and legal aid.

Here there is a well argued analysis of the weaknesses of the campaign by Dr John Lister from London Health Emergency. Critically highlights the future direction of the campaign as campaigning for a NHS Restoration Act, and a commitment to stop the squeeze and pump new funds into the NHS."

With the Legal Aid and Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders bill (LASPO) rearing its head in the commons after stimulating a number of government defeats in the Lords there are more calls for further campaign action.

In the Lords, government defeats include:

· Protection of access to legal aid for all victims of domestic violence

· Keeping legal aid clinical negligence cases where the negligence occurs around birth

· Keeping legal aid for welfare benefit appeals and reviews and for onward appeals to the higher tribunal and courts in welfare benefit cases

· Ensuring the Independence of the Director of Legal Aid Casework

· Rejection of a telephone gateway

A real issue for Northamptonshire with 2843 affected just from the legal aid proposals. However in all the cacophony of the justice for all and Sounds off for justice campaign, where’s the support for discrimination advice. I wrote a guest blog post about it here. Regrettably it still seems an issue that there are too few voices shouting for. A service that is needed for when things go wrong in situations that people really believe will not happen to them. As with other cuts, - You’ll miss it when it’s gone.

Sunday, 15 January 2012


Times are tough and you can see it’s beginning to bite with the increase in pay day lending advertisements on the TV. With Wonga offering 4214% APR and QuickQuid at a meagre 1734%, Pounds to Pocket on their 287% APR seems an absolute bargain. At only 3.8% higher than the historic favourite of those with no security and needing money, Provident at 272.2% APR it really does look the smart choice for today.

But when the pariahs of our time, the bankers have historically lent at a rate of about 6-9% APR why would anyone charge so much?

The answer is that people are getting more and more desperate.

With more and more people taking out loans to make ends meet delivering the funds that families need to pay for rent, mortgage or food money at these kind of rates are becoming a greater part of each family’s ability to stay solvent.

When even someone as mainstream as the Archbishop of Canterbury recognises the need to held those experiencing poverty and the artificial distinction between the deserving and undeserving poor, surely it is time to kick into touch those that promote these differences.

Over this week, we have seen a little chink of hope in the three times House of Lords defeat of the Welfare Reform Bill with devastating implications for people with disabilities. To be frank after the lack of this kind of response to the NHS reform bill I didn’t think that it was possible. I guess it is down to the old “organise and agitate” slogan. Disabled people and organisations did excellent work in both putting together the Spartacus Report (the easy read version is here) and organising using traditional lobbying techniques and new social media. A lot to learn, a lot to get on the agenda .