Friday, 5 August 2022

Rishi Sunak really let the cat out of the bag when he was filmed boasting to a bunch of wealthy Tory voters about how he defunded northern working class towns and diverted those funds to places like Tunbridge Wells, which is one of the most affluent towns in the country. He took from people who desperately needed that money, people who are queuing up at foodbanks and will soon be using warm banks, and he gave that money to people who will never need for anything. 

If this doesn't make you sick to your stomach, it's because you've never known struggle. If it does make you sick to your stomach and you've previously voted Tory, it's time to have a word with yourself.

When us lefties tell you the art of Toryism is taking from the poor and giving to the rich, like a reverse Robin Hood, this is exactly the shit we're talking about. The Tories' levelling up plan was quite literally a levelling down plan. Every slogan the Tories come up with is empty fluff or Orwellian double-speak. Every bit of poverty we've experienced over the last 12 years was by design. 

If you doubt any of what I'm saying, please take a look and see for yourself:

If you voted Tory, either you're one of the people who agrees with Sunak's behaviour, in which case you're disgusting, or you're one of the people who were duped, in which case this should be a learning moment. This right here is what happens when gullible types swoon at a posh accent and elect the "clever" person to rule over them because they've subconsciously made the leap that private education = talent and leadership.

The biggest problem with this logic - and there are several problems - is that one of the key leadership skills required of any prime minister who is serious about addressing the structural unfairness in our society is empathy. And people like Rishi Sunak do not have empathy, not in that way.

Don't get me wrong, I'm sure if Rishi Sunak was standing face to face with you, he would be capable of being pleasant. If he saw you hurt, he would definitely come to your aid. That level of empathy is easy; almost every human being on the planet has that level of empathy, but truly good people can empathise even with those they are disconnected from, even when that empathy could cost them - and people like Rishi Sunak lack that kind of empathy. That is why they are Tories.

Rishi Sunak has the David Cameron thing going on - smart casual, sleeves rolled up as though he's ready to dig in and work just as hard as you. Smiley face as though he's on your side, but he's your superficially nice boss who pretends to be your mate, then sits in his office and laughs as you work your arse off to buy him a new Ferrari.

And in Rishi's case, he does not need any more fucking Ferraris. 

He is a perfect example of how capitalism has no end point at which the rich decide they have enough and it's time to redistribute the wealth more fairly. Even when they have wealth beyond their wildest dreams, all capitalists can think about is more wealth and more power. It ceases being about money and simply becomes a massive ego trip. 

Rishi Sunak wants to be prime minister because he thinks Rishi Sunak deserves to be prime minister. He's not doing this to make the game fairer for you, he's doing it to ensure the game stays rigged against you, knowing his rich friends will idolise him for it.

If you're genuinely working class and you want Rishi Sunak to become prime minister, just know this is what you would be voting for. He has no connection to your struggle at all. He does not know what it is like to grow up on a council estate. He is a million miles removed from the working class towns he has happily defunded. 

Here is a man who owns 12 houses deciding areas with a 75% child poverty rate need less money.

Rishi Sunak does not know what it was like to queue for a free school meal token and get so little to eat, you felt hungry for the rest of the day. He does not understand the lack of opportunity that comes from living an impoverished life, or perhaps he does, and just does not care, but he certainly does not understand from a first-hand perspective.

According to Wikipedia: "Sunak attended Stroud School, a preparatory school in Romsey, Hampshire, and Winchester College, a boys' independent boarding school."

I searched Google and I'm pretty sure this is the school.

Not exactly your typical high school, is it? 

My high school was raided by the police because my mates were selling drugs. All kinds of crazy shit happened there: a lad was attacked with a hammer, but a teacher saved him from serious harm; another kid was stabbed in the leg by his mate "for a laugh". 

I'm going out on a limb here and suggesting none of this went on at that pretty boarding school in Stroud. Shit, it might as well be located on a different planet to the place I grew up. No wonder Sunak has so little empathy for us, he has no experience of us. He said it himself, he does not have any working class friends. He has never encountered any working class people to befriend, even if he wanted to, which he doesn't. He hears about all the bad things I've highlighted and just sees us as people to be punished, rather than given a fairer chance.

We probably repulse him. He's probably seen a few episodes of Shameless and Benefits Street and learnt everything he needs to know about us. People like him can judge, but what they can never do is empathise.

Sunak does not know what it's like to have our type of childhood, to play in a street with motorbikes racing up and down as you kick a barely-inflated football among broken beer bottles in an area where spray paint and marker pen are scrawled on the walls and some of those scrawls bear your name because what else are you going to do with your time, other than get up to no good? He does not know what it's like to hang around in a place where the scenery is a car on wheels, a tyre that somehow found itself around a lamppost, a pair of trainers hanging on a tree (I think they grow them). Our world truly is alien to him.

Sunak has only known privilege from day one. He was born to Indian-origin parents Yashvir and Usha Sunak who migrated to East Africa and then the UK in the 1960s. You would think this would make him more sympathetic to immigrants and refugees, but he actually wants to expand upon the Rwanda policy. "Send them back to Africa, even if they never came from Africa."

Sunak worked as an analyst for Goldman Sachs between 2001 and 2004 - just what we need, another banker. In 2010, he and some college friends launched a Hedge Fund called Theleme Partners with the the tiny sum of $700 million. He was also appointed director of Catamaran Ventures - an investment firm owned by Indian businessman Narayana Murthy, who just happens to be his father-in-law.

Sunak lives a life of posh dinners in places people like me would not be allowed to enter and fancy holidays to places people like me could only dream of visiting. He has no experience of the real world. He lives in this magical fantasy realm that only a fraction of one percent of people will ever experience.

When we say people like Rishi Sunak wouldn't last two minutes where we're from, it's perfectly true. He does not know what it's like to get the crap kicked out of you because you walked down the wrong street one rainy night and stumbled across a few unfamiliar faces when you were alone. He does not know what it's like to feel that burst of adrenaline when you're walking through an unfamiliar area, knowing you must be on your guard. He does not know what it's like to feel that same burst of adrenaline when you open a bill and have no idea how you're going to pay. Or when you're spoken to like shit by your boss and know if you say a damn thing, you're back to the dole queue again. He does not know what it's like to sit in a job interview, knowing you're being judged because of the way you talk or the estate you're from, knowing you have little chance of getting the job. He does not know what it's like to be long-term unemployed because 99% of the job applications you've sent off will never get a reply. He does not know what it's like to desperately cling to the job you find, even though you fucking hate it because there is nothing else around here and how the hell is someone like you going to retrain?

Rishi Sunak has only known shelter and privilege his entire life: while my classmates were put on a conveyor belt to the prison yard, Rishi Sunak was put on a conveyor belt to success. He didn't have to do anything, other than avoid falling over the sides, but he will tell you he worked very hard for everything that was handed to him.

He attended Winchester College, then Lincolnshire college, then Stanford University in California where he met the daughter of a billionaire. This path led to him becoming one half of the 222nd richest couple in the UK. 

Rishi Sunak worked very hard for all of this. Just imagine how hard someone like me had to work, after dropping out of college because I was made homeless as a teenager and found myself in an unemployment blackspot with no money, no opportunities and no help. I would be very interested to see what type of hard work Rishi Sunak would've done in my circumstances to become one half of the 222nd richest couple in the UK. 

The answer is nothing

Barring an incredible stroke of luck, nothing Rishi Sunak could have done would have put himself into the position he is in now. His boasts of hard work and delusions of meritocracy are exasperating.

The truth is that if I, or indeed many other kids where I'm from, were put on Rishi Sunak's conveyor belt to success, we could have avoided falling off. Whereas if Sunak was put on the conveyor belt I was on, he could've easily ended up long-term unemployed, addicted to drugs, locked in prison or worse. 

Perhaps in an alternative universe, there is an insufferable, wealthy version of me running to be prime minister, lecturing poor Rishi about "hard work" as he's dosed up on anti-depressants and working sixty hours a week to feed his four kids, only for his dickhead landlord to take a huge chunk of his earnings. 

Perhaps in that universe Rishi Sunak is a socialist who is ready to fight the revolution! Perhaps there are some things most people would have to experience first-hand to truly understand, and Rishi Sunak, despite convincing himself he is a person of towering intellect, is not one of those rare people who can empathise with those who were born into a different world - and this is exactly why he should not be prime minister.

We, the working class, need to stop seeing people with a posh voice and a private education as better than us. We deserve a prime minister who is one of us, rather than one of them.

If you appreciate the writing of Ricky Hale, even the most modest of donations can massively help me to continue my work and support my family, but please only contribute if you can reasonably afford to do so. You can support me on my new Patreon by clicking here or donate by clicking the PayPal button below. Thank you.

Monday, 1 August 2022

There has been much talk recently of some unions, such as Unite, disaffiliating from the Labour Party. This would obviously be a huge deal, given Labour was founded by unions and is funded by them. Yet the Labour leadership clearly feels it should not represent unions and seems happy for them to go. This might actually be their ultimate goal.

As you probably know, Sam Tarry was recently sacked from the Labour front bench for attending a picket line, which was certainly a provocative move from the Labour leader. He was essentially saying to the RMT that we do not share your goals and we do not respect you. 

Now the RMT is not currently affiliated to Labour, but other unions felt the message was not just directed at RMT, but at all unions planning strikes.

Unite leader Sharon Graham had this to say:

"If I was speaking to Keir right now I would say to him: which side are you on? Because the reality is, if I closed my eyes, sometimes I wouldn't know whether it was the Labour party or the Tories who were speaking.

"This is one of the biggest crises that workers are facing - we are trying to defend them with every fibre of our being and the party who is supposed to be echoing that in parliament is doing the exact opposite.

"I'm very disappointed - aghast, quite frankly - and I think it’s something Labour is going to have to think seriously about."

Starmer's stance on unions is making many of his own MPs nervous and some are now openly defying him. If he thought Tarry's sacking would send out a strong message and force his critics to fall in line, it appears he has miscalculated. Even Starmer's ideological counterparts are not going to support a position that could cost them their seats at the next general election.

Just days after Tarry's sacking, Shadow Home Secretary Lisa Nandy defied the Labour leader by attending a picket line herself. Starmer's problem here is that Nandy is not seen as someone on the Labour left and if he were to sack her, not only would he risk losing the support of his allies, but he would probably face a leadership challenge - one which he would probably lose.

Given this dilemma, Starmer is waiting until he returns home from his holiday in a fortnight before deciding how to respond to Nandy. I suspect he is just hoping everyone quietly forgets about this one and it all goes away.

The Labour Party is in disarray at a time it needs to be united to take on the woeful Tories. The traditional left and the current leadership stand at either side of an ideological chasm and Starmer is making no attempt to bridge that gap. His message to the left is: "Shut up while I purge you from my party!"

Currently in Starmer's sights are MP of the Year Ian Byrne and rising star Zarah Sultana. These two represent everything the Labour Party is supposed to be about and yet Starmer's Labour does not have room for them. I can only imagine what Starmer would think of Clement Attlee or Keir Hardie if they were around today.

Many socialists who've left the Labour Party feel like they've been banging their heads against a brick wall for two years, asking why socialists are still in the party, given they have zero influence and are shown no respect. It is surely a matter of time until all socialists are either purged from the party or terrified into silence. Even if there is a leadership challenge, it will almost certainly come from the Labour right and Starmer's most likely replacements have not exactly shown they would like to unify the party. The purge would almost certainly continue, but you might end up with a Labour Party that appears marginally more sympathetic to unions, even if privately it has contempt for them. This would not be a step forward for the left.

Even if the Labour left do mount some spirited fightback, they're unlikely to be able to launch a leadership challenge under current rules, meaning all that can happen is a messy public row which would inevitably be won by the side with the numbers and the power - that would be the Labour right.

Now the Labour left clearly have a numbers advantage if you include the Labour membership, but the membership has been side-lined by the Parliamentary Labour Party, about 3/4 of who are on the right of the party. On top of this, the Labour right currently have the support of the biggest and third biggest unions - Unison and GMB - thanks to their current neoliberal leadership. You can think of these as the scab unions.

The better unions are mostly the smaller ones with the exception being the second biggest union - Unite. If Unite and the smaller unions disaffiliated and started a new party, getting left wing groups like the Peace and Justice Project and figureheads like Jeremy Corbyn involved, such a party could certainly make waves.

Perhaps it would be better for democracy if a new socialist party and a new neoliberal party put their ideas to the country and let the general public decide who they would prefer. I suspect the socialist party could eventually have the larger membership and healthier finances, even without the Labour brand. The neoliberal Labour Party would likely struggle financially, unless it shifted even further right to woo corporate donors or merged with the Liberal Democrats.

The next general election would surely be a disaster for both parties, barring some sort of electoral pact which would defeat the object of splitting, unless both sides could agree to electoral reform. 

Without proportional representation, there could be no long term alliance - this would be a fight to the death, a fight to see which ideology gets to represent the main opposition in the UK. This battle has been won by the left once before and could be won again.

While some may argue this would achieve nothing but guarantee another five years of Tory rule, the left would argue we were facing that anyway. Only the left were also facing extinction - a new party would be our best chance - likely our only chance at survival. When the neoliberals are offering you absolutely nothing but extinction, you have nothing to lose.

Asking the Starmerites and Corbynites to unite at this point is asking two sworn enemies to be friends when one side won't stop trying to destroy the other. It's nonsense. There is little to no common ground between these two sides.

The Starmerites are market-driven neoliberal imperialists who think the current economic system more or less works, with only minor tweaking required. On many key issues, Starmerites are much closer to the Tories than the Labour left, and they neither want radical change to our political system, nor believe it could be achieved.

The Corbynites are socialists who recognise the UK needs fundamental change throughout our society. They feel our economy has become too marketised and profit is now put before human well-being - the energy crisis being a prime example. They want to permanently alter existing power structures: democratising workplaces and the media, fully nationalising key public services, and overcoming the major problems we face, such as poverty and the climate crisis. On these major issues, they want little or no compromise with conservatism.

Starmerites believe Corbynite goals are unachievable. Corbynites believe Starmerites are protecting the establishment they seek to dismantle. Both sides can no longer hide their contempt for one another.

A political party is founded so people of similar political goals can work together to achieve a particular vision. The problem is we now have two competing Labour visions for Britain that massively differ from one another. When both factions think the other is crazy, it's reasonable to ask why they remain in the same party. And it's not unreasonable to point out Starmerite goals are near-indistinguishable from Liberal Democrat goals. They are quite literally neoliberals.

Labour was founded to be a socialist party that reclaims the means of production for the workforce. It was never meant to be an imperialist party that protects the wealthy and maintains the status quo, justifying their inaction with modest increases in public service investment. Socialism is about so much more than the Sure Start centres New Labour loves to boast about. I'm not knocking Sure Start centres - they were a great idea - but they offered nothing to someone like me who was a homeless teen under Tony Blair.

I remember walking into a council office and being advised by a staff member there was a seven year waiting list for council houses and I was not a priority case. I was given a list of landlords and promised all of these would accept DSS tenants, so I called all of them and guess what every single one said? No DSS.

That is the glorious free market that neoliberals so strongly believe in. It does not cater for human needs. It is driven by profit and casts people like me aside. Blair was not investing in council housing, nor was he intervening in the market to ensure rents or mortgages were affordable. He was enabling a free for all for the haves at the expense of the have-nots, and then telling us how marvellous his Sure Start centres were. 

What I heard is that toddlers matter, which is great to know, but people like me, who had a terrible start in life, we were just rubbish to be discarded.

In Blair's Britain, I felt surplus to requirements, like I could never be part of society, and I thought this was maybe the way things had to be. But then I heard about places like Scandinavia with their left wing governments and high social mobility and living standards and realised I had been sold a lie. I had been so enthused about the possibility of change when Blair came to power in 1997 and then I was so catastrophically let down by him.

Given the above, I think I can be forgiven for having no interest whatsoever in another neoliberal government. They are slightly gentler Tories who love to boast of their competence as they build an economy on the fresh air of the financial sector, and they love to boast of their altruism when they give us Sure Start centres. Meanwhile, social democracies get on with tackling the crime and poverty and unfairness that neoliberals disregard to preserve the integrity of the free market - which is free only for the wealthy and pretty damn restrictive for the rest of us.

The free market is what the Starmerites prefer and that's fine. It's a perfectly valid political position which often works quite nicely for the middle class and above, but what about the working class? We are the people Labour was founded to represent, and yet we see Starmerites sneering at us and calling us a rabble. Don't we deserve political representation too?

The neoliberals have two major political parties in Labour and the Liberal Democrats now. Three, if you count the Tories who are marginally to the right of them. But what about this gaping chasm on the left filled by people who won't vote for Starmer's Labour under any circumstances? Where is our socialist alternative? Why don't we have a nationwide party unapologetically fighting for socialism? After all, that was Keir Hardie's vision for Labour - a vision which was stolen by a neoliberal fifth column.

People will say Labour can't split because neither new party could win a general election, but I would offer several counter arguments:

  • The current Labour Party would struggle to win a majority, thanks to the SNP-dominated Scotland, the Tory south and a gerrymandered political system, and the divisions within the party are not helping. A party in a state of perpetual civil warfare is going nowhere.
  •  A Starmerite victory would not be a victory for the working class because it would offer nothing substantial for the working class, nor would it offer structural change such as electoral reform.
  •  A new socialist party would receive many votes from people who are refusing to vote Labour, and left wing voters focus on policy rather than brand. If a new party offers socialist policies, socialists will surely come.
  • It's unhealthy for democracy to disregard the left half of society, especially given socialist policies like nationalisation of key services are supported by 2/3 of voters. The future of the British left should be decided at the ballot box.
  • A split could force the two parties into a pact with the sole aim of introducing electoral reform. If we could introduce proportional representation, "vote splitting" would cease to be an issue.
  • In a strange way, we would probably get along better and be more willing to work constructively with one another, if we were not continuously fighting for control of Labour. We currently have an unhealthy situation which makes none of us look good.

Given the above, I say let the Labour Party split. 

If you appreciate the work of Ricky Hale, even the most modest of donations can help massively, but please only contribute if you can reasonably afford to do so. You can support me on Patreon by clicking here or donate by clicking the PayPal button below. Thank you.

Friday, 29 July 2022

I have worked in a call centre for BT twice - the first time was way back in 2006 and the second time was in 2019. Neither experience was fantastic, but the second time I worked for BT was dreadful.

I had just completed my SIA badge and was looking for a security job when I was offered a job working for BT. This was not doing security work, it was actually advising people on broadband and telephone issues in a call centre. It was not what I was looking for, but when you need a job, you take whatever you can get.

My first day on the job started dreadfully. There was no bus available so I had to cycle seven miles and the satnav on my phone stopped working halfway there so I got lost and was twenty minutes late. I nearly didn't find my way at all and actually that might have been for the best.

I received a call when I was just around the corner and they told me they'd wait for me, so I chained my bike up, hurried into the building all sweaty and was taken to a room, nervous and flustered, where I joined my training group. 

Already I had a negative feeling, but I remember the girl next to me giving me a warm smile and making me feel quite welcome. That was one of the better things about working there - I was put in with a friendly team of people who made the initial training period a lot of fun. They were mostly talkative, approachable types who you could easily get along with, and for a few weeks, going into work was great. We all just had a laugh and got to know one another.

We were initially made to feel like welcome members of the Be There family (Be There is what BT stands for now - the British telecom name was ditched years ago). We were offered a nice discount on TV and broadband and a few other perks, and I remember saying to one of my colleagues, a young lad who wasn't sure if he'd stay long or return to hair dressing, that I think this will be a good place to work. He agreed with me.

The one negative about the place was the canteen - it was disgusting. This is because it was understaffed, normally with only one person on duty, meaning you had to wait ages for service and the tables were literally never cleaned - they were always covered in spilt food so we just avoided touching them.

I caught a nasty cold within a couple of weeks of working there, but I kept going into work because I didn't want to get in trouble. Literally days after I recovered, I caught a nasty stomach bug. 

I started to feel unwell at work one day when dozens of staff were squeezed into a conference room to watch a presentation. I was sitting on the floor at the back because they didn't bother giving us chairs and I was doubling over in discomfort. One of the managers who I'd never met before, marched aggressively over to me and ordered me to come to the front and sit up straight in front of the screen because I wasn't paying attention.

I was feeling so faint and just not with it that I complied, forcing myself to sit straight for 45 minutes, thinking I was at risk of either passing out or throwing up. It must have been obvious to anyone with half a brain that I was unwell, but I was shown no concern whatsoever. This was very typical of attitudes in this place.

After the presentation I had to go home and stayed off sick for a couple of days. When I returned, I spoke with one of my trainers who was perfectly nice and I highlighted my concerns about the canteen. I gathered from his response he'd heard this a million times before, but knew nothing would be done. I felt like it was pointless mentioning this again.

By this point I was realising what a shitty place this call centre was to work, but it didn't fully dawn on me until we left the training room and were sent onto the floor to take live calls. This was nothing short of a farce.

Firstly, we were given two web browsers and tons of links to the various systems we needed - about ten or eleven of them. You had to be in the correct browser for the correct system, otherwise it didn't work, and I found it impossible to remember which was which. 

Just trying to get to grips with these systems would've been bad enough, but the two browser thing made it a confusing nightmare. Everything was so complicated I never knew where I was going and the systems were so bad, they could slow to a stand still. They were so slow it could literally take ten minutes to switch to another screen and when the systems were behaving like this, we weren't allowed to advise the customers to call back when the systems were working better. We were expected to just get on with it. 

So I would be trying to navigate complex systems and process flows with no idea where I was looking and during bad periods, it would take like two hours to get through these calls. We had floor walkers who were supposed to be there to help us, only they'd refuse to help and say it was better for us to figure it out ourselves, otherwise we would never learn! It was horrible.

But it gets worse. We were not allowed to visit the toilet while we were scheduled to be on the phones. If we so much as stood up at our desk, we were aggressively challenged by a manager. If we insisted we were desperate for the toilet, we were allowed to log out the phone and go, but this would be docked from our wages. This is because we only got paid for the time we were logged in. It all made for a negative atmosphere.

We were working nine hour shifts, five days a week, and we were not getting a second to breathe between calls. The days would drag and my head would be battered by the end of the shift. Let's not forget I was cycling fourteen miles a day so I was dealing with exhaustion and I was paid just above minimum wage for my troubles.

One time I received my shift schedule and it had me working ten days out of the next eleven, just after Christmas. This was a nightmare. I was leaving home so early and getting home so late, I was never seeing my children and I really was not happy with this schedule, but then I was told by a manager they had to reschedule and I was now expected to work 11 days straight, which could be illegal!

It's worth mentioning I was promised set hours when I took the job. I'd specifically told them this was the only way I could accept the job because of childcare issues, and they guaranteed me suitable hours, but they reneged on that, and this is one of the reasons why my childcare costs were too high.

I was furious about my schedule, but when I objected, I was told the company was short-staffed and to get used to this kind of thing. It didn't seem to occur to them they were short-staffed precisely because they were treating staff so horribly and they had an extremely high staff turnover. My colleague, who wasn't sure if he would stay, was the first to leave - he just never came back one day, and we later found out he'd returned to hair dressing. I hope that worked out well for him.

On the first morning of my scheduled 11 day stretch, I came into work again feeling unwell, and within minutes of arriving I felt so ill, I had to go home. I'd picked up another illness from the canteen - a horrendous flu bug.

So I was off sick for a few days when my wife said to me she'd been doing the sums and it made no sense for me to continue working there. Our child support bills were so high, that I was effectively working for nothing and she said it made more sense for me to quit. This is because she was working from home and earning slightly more than me. 

So that's what I did, I quit. I sent an email highlighting all of my concerns to HR and to be fair, they were perfectly nice and said they would get these things looked into. They were particularly concerned I'd been told to work 11 days straight and I was told it had not been scheduled into their system (probably because someone was trying to cover their back). 

In a weird way I was sad to leave the call centre, probably because we had a nice little team, and I suppose this is why most people put up with such crap at work. Their colleagues make the nonsense bearable. But when you're expected to work for essentially no financial reward and you're treated like dirt for your trouble, of course you're going to leave.

Given my experiences with BT, I fully support the BT workers who have gone on strike and needless to say I feel they are 100% justified in doing so.

If you appreciate the work of Ricky Hale, even the most modest of donations can help massively, but please only contribute if you can reasonably afford to do so. You can support me on Patreon by clicking here or donate by clicking the PayPal button below. Thank you.

Dear Sir Keir, 

We have just witnessed you do something which should be unthinkable for a Labour Party leader, we have witnessed you sack a member of your front bench for joining a picket line. As you are aware, the party you were elected to represent was founded by the unions (and your namesake Keir Hardie) to be the voice of unions in parliament. To represent the working class.

In his 1906 election address, Keir Hardie famously said:

"A working man in Parliament should go to the House of Commons in his workaday clothes. He should address the Speaker on labour questions and give utterance to the same sentiments in the same language and in the same manner that he is accustomed to utter his sentiments to the local Radical Club. Above all, he should remember that all the Conservatives and the greater portion of Liberals are joined together in the interest of Capital versus Labour."

In other words, Labour MPs, and indeed the Labour leader should be proud to represent the unions, proud to represent the working class and always stand unapologetically in solidarity with them. A Labour MP is not supposed to be a middle class liberal who thinks the unions are a problem to be solved. Your party was literally founded to defeat politicians like that, not be run by them. 

If you do not understand this, you should not be Labour leader and indeed you would not be Labour leader, if you had been honest about your intentions in the leadership contest.

When you made ten pledges to the Labour membership, you understood perfectly well who and what a Labour leader is supposed to represent. Only your aides were briefing the press that you would not honour those pledges when you became leader and of course you did not. You U-turned on every single one of your pledges. I'm not talking about slight tweaking, a little change of direction here and there - I'm talking about you being the complete opposite of what you pretended to be.

Liberal pundits love to talk about integrity, to whine about "post-truth" politics and yet here you are, showing yourself to be a liar with no integrity whatsoever. You have infiltrated the Labour Party because your natural home in the Liberal Democrats would not have been as good for your career prospects.

And you talk like your nonsense is necessary to transform Labour's electoral chances, yet here you are, one point behind the dire Liz Truss in the popularity stakes. You are about to throw away a historic chance to wipe the Tories out at the next general election, and even if you did somehow squeak a majority, what would be the point? You've made it abundantly clear you're not going to represent people like me, so why should I vote for you?

The tragedy here is huge gains can be made for Labour, if it somehow finds its sense of direction and purpose. Even a genuine centrist, rather than a centre-right fraud like yourself, someone like say Andy Burnham, would likely clean up at the next election. Someone truly on the left like Mick Lynch, if he were an MP, surely would as well. But someone on the centre-right, positioning himself a hair's breadth to the left of the Tories is definitely not offering a way forwards. People who want Tories will vote Tory and people who want an alternative will seek an actual alternative.

This must be a frustrating time for you, given that even the members of the soft left who made you leader are turning against you. Even your own shadow ministers are considering resignation to save their own careers. I am sure you are feeling the pressure, but you keep falling back on the blame Corbyn strategy, so it would be remiss of me to not mention how Corbyn transformed Labour's fortunes after the Miliband disaster and didn't make excuses or blame the last leader, because let's be honest, that would be lame.

Now I know you've gone to pains to "win back trust", to make gains in the Tory south and rebuild the so-called red wall. Your focus groups seem to have convinced you the way forward is to drape yourself in the Union Jack, repeatedly tell the nation you're not Jeremy Corbyn, be reluctant to criticise the calamitous Tory government and refuse to take a position on any major issue.

In short, keep telling everyone how much of a patriot you are and give the Tories enough rope to hang themselves so you win a general election by default. Only, you must be aware this strategy is not working and endlessly blaming Jeremy Corbyn and sneering at unions will not make you Prime Minister. If anything, it undermines your credibility and shows you lack confidence in your ability to turn things around.

I'm a member of the working class, the exact type of person you should be proud to represent. I was born and raised on a rough council estate in a single parent household and fed by free school meals and income support. My adult life has been a mix of unemployment and mostly low paid jobs. And I live in what was one of the safest Labour seats in the country. I say was because I don't know what it is now, and the people around here have no idea what your party stands for anymore.

We need a party that stands with unions because the unions are standing up for our economic interests during a cost of living crisis. They're the ones fighting against the real-terms pay cuts the Tories (and even you) are telling us to accept. We were already finding life hard, now we're finding it impossible and we're supposed to be able to look to you for a way out.

If you genuinely think you're offering us representation, I'm afraid you've got us massively wrong and draping yourself in the Union Jack really isn't going to cut it. If you somehow survive in your job until 2024, I genuinely believe you might achieve the unthinkable: turning our safe red seat blue. And I promise you this is not because we are all Tories. You couldn't find a person in my town who'd publicly admit to voting Tory because they would be driven into the sea!

So instead of telling the working class what we want, please start listening, because we so desperately need the representation you're refusing to provide.

Take my kids' primary school, for example, which set up a foodbank. It received donations from local businesses like Greggs and topped them up with its own surplus stock and gave out food to anyone who wanted it. There was no means testing because there would be no point. Almost everyone around here is "skint" - that's working class terminology to describe peasantry. (Please don't include it in your next speech to show how in touch you are, though!)

On top of this, the school sometimes gives out clothing - hand-me-downs from other parents - including school uniforms and shoes which have been outgrown. This is necessary because so many parents are struggling to feed and clothe their kids in the fifth richest nation on Earth. I know first-hand the panic of trying to buy uniforms in time for the next school year.

The system is not working and people like you, who think it requires only minor tweaking, might as well be living on a different planet.

I was sitting in the local park with my kids the other day. The park is shit, by the way. Half the swings, and other features, were removed for no obvious reason, leaving us with half a park in a boggy field about a mile and a half from where we live. There are no parks on our estate, meaning I have the joy of dragging three small kids that distance, just so they can play out. As you can imagine, it's exhausting.

So anyways, I was sitting in the park as my kids played on the tiny slide and the two bouncy elephant things which are pretty much all the park has now, and as smoke wafted our way, my gaze turned to some of the older kids. They had built a large bonfire nearby and were probably at risk of a nasty accident. It was the kind of thing we used to do when we were kids, growing up on the same estate. To be honest, we did a lot worse than build bonfires and boredom was the main driver of our behaviour. Good kids doing foolish things.

A bunch of other kids had built their own swing from the frame which previously held real swings, and they were taking turns getting pushed by one of their mothers. They were making their own fun because there is naff all around here, and even replacing a swing is too much for the local council, apparently.

Another kid was playing music from a ghetto blaster or boom box or whatever the kids are calling them these days, and I pictured someone like you saying they couldn't possibly be living in poverty because they have an electronic gadget! 

Sounds bloody stupid, doesn't it? But that's the kind of crap we hear all the time from the privileged middle class. They pretend our struggle isn't real, even though their worst fear is ending up just like us.

We started playing frisbee and then a couple of hooligans decided to race a motorbike which they'd quite possibly nicked (that's working class for appropriated, I think) and so we had to go back home where it was safer. It's hard to take the kids to nice places when you don't even have bus fare, so it's the crappy half-built park or nothing.

You see, that's the thing about poverty, it's not just about money being a bit tight, or whether you can pay the bills and keep the bailiffs away, it's also about living in areas that have been totally left behind. Areas where there aren't many, if any, safe places for children to play. Areas that are run down, and let's be honest, more than a bit depressing. Areas where people find it near-impossible to "better themselves". (I hate that term though, because I don't need to be better, and nor do most of the rest of us. We need our local area to be better and the free market isn't going to help with that.)

People like us, stuck in our run-down council estates with no opportunities, we need answers, we need solutions, we need policies, and most importantly, we need someone who will fight back against corporate power and the diabolical Tories. And we're not seeing any of this from you.

We need to know what your plan is to bring better jobs to our region, to regenerate our towns and get our high streets going again, to ensure that wages and, yes, benefits, are actually sufficient to ensure we can live dignified and stress-free lives. But you're not telling us anything. You're not even talking to us. And what's worse is you seem embarrassed to represent people like us, so instead, you've created this northern working class caricature that you feel more comfortable representing.

And it's a really fucking offensive "socially conservative" caricature that is not representative at all. 

First of all, we are not a monolith - there is no working class hive mind. We are not all secretly hating gays and foreigners and other minorities. And we're certainly not getting a hard on when we hear the national anthem. We get all types around here, but the general trend is that we hate the Tories and we want major systemic change.

I take objection to the idea that bigotry, I mean "social conservatism" is the norm in the red wall. Don't get me wrong, there are bigots, but I would definitely say they were more common, or perhaps more vocal, when I was a kid. 

Today, there is more inclusivity. I saw a young lad the other day dressed in, shall I say, a flamboyant manner, which would have gotten him beaten up in the 90s, but today no one bats an eyelid at such sights. We have Muslims and immigrants in much higher numbers than we used to, and I myself married an immigrant. While we have certainly been on the receiving end of racism, those racists would be roundly condemned by 80% of our neighbours. I, as a straight man, am just as comfortable sitting in a gay bar as a straight bar, just as happy to talk to a trans person as a cis person. It's only the gammons who are uncomfortable with this sort of thing, and it's one hell of a projection to treat the working class like one gigantic slab of gammon. Most of us think gammons are idiots.

If it's still not clear, let me spell this out: no one is impressed by your flag shagging. You're treating us like simpletons. And to add insult to injury, you've gone and made Rachel "tougher on benefits claimants than the Tories" Reeves your Shadow Chancellor. 

Now I've claimed benefits. I was once long-term unemployed and I can assure you, my diet of baked beans and porridge oats was no "lifestyle choice" and I certainly didn't need anyone being tougher on me. I was tough enough on myself.

I remember almost getting a benefits sanction because I couldn't afford to attend a job interview ten miles away. It was the day before my benefit money was paid and I did not have a penny left.

"Well, what did you spend the money on?" the woman asked me.

"Food," I replied. I was then told in no uncertain terms that my benefits were not for food, they were for attending interviews only, and any further instances would result in a sanction. I have no idea how the JobCentre expected me to eat, but there you go.

On my estate, I doubt you will find a single person who has never claimed benefits, who doesn't have a similar story to tell. And a party with Rachel Reeves as Shadow Chancellor is screaming that it doesn't want to represent us. 

It's not just a huge chunk of the working class you've alienated either. Your shocking response to Black Lives Matter has alienated many Black voters. Your horrendous fence-sitting on Palestine has alienated many Muslims. Your apparent indifference to the climate crisis has alienated many younger voters. Your disgraceful treatment of Jeremy Corbyn has alienated many socialists. And you are winning back absolutely none of the voters your People's Vote policy lost in 2019. Indeed, you are losing the People's Vote crowd by U-turning on that policy.

You are being nothing to anyone and blaming your failures on the 2019 election, yet the 2019 disaster was on you, and I'm pretty sure you understand this, because I'm pretty sure it was intentional self-sabotage. You acknowledged that such a policy would divide the "red wall", one year prior to adopting the policy, after seeing internal polling data. This was your great plan to become leader though, wasn't it? And now it has backfired. If you really want to "win back trust", an apology would be a good start.

It would appear you've sacrificed all of Labour's core principles, and I honestly don't know at this point, if you're even interested in power, or just interested in ensuring ordinary people never have power, but either way, the end result will be the same.

We have been left behind.

We were left behind by Thatcher and we were left behind by Major, but we were also left behind by Blair and Brown. I was long-term homeless under Blair, and I can assure you, none of us around here are desperate to return to the Blair days. Centrism is dead because it never offered anything to us - at least the unions are fighting our cause.

You need to pick a side: You either side with the people the Labour Party was set up to represent (and the many decent privileged people who fight our cause) or you pick the side of the people who would maintain the status quo. 

The status quo, let's not forget, means trampling us down forever. It means crap wages for the working class, overpowered corporations running the country, and no light at the end of the tunnel. No better tomorrow. No end to the constant exhaustion and lack of time with the family and fear of destitution and anti-depressants just to maintain sanity. 

If you really are on the side of the status quo, you are one of the people trampling us down and you should not be in charge of the Labour Party. You should not even be in the Labour Party.

If you appreciate the work of Ricky Hale, even the most modest of donations can help massively, but please only contribute if you can reasonably afford to do so. You can support me on Patreon by clicking here or donate by clicking the PayPal button below. Thank you.

Thursday, 28 July 2022

Let's do a thought experiment:

Let's suppose the Labour Party were to split tomorrow into a new centrist party and a new socialist party. Let's suppose the deal was neither party gets to keep the Labour name and both parties start afresh. What do you think would happen?

I think, in fact, I would bet my right arm, the new socialist party would have 500,000 members overnight with full union support and would be awash with money. The new centrist party would have half-hearted backing from the mainstream media (as their new B team), but hardly any members, no union support and few, if any, corporate donors. It would go the same way as Change UK, unless it merged with the Liberal Democrats, which it surely would.

The new socialist party would become the main opposition and going forwards, centrist careerists would join that party, rather than the new Lib Dems, because that would be better for their ambitions. They would gradually increase their numbers, building up a fifth column with the long term goal of destroying socialism from within and the media would portray them as sensible "moderate" voices as they went against everything the party stood for and everything the public actually wants.

You would no doubt see manufactured scandals aimed at bringing down the socialist leadership and a centrist would step forward as the solution to the manufactured problem. This, of course, is exactly what has happened with the Labour Party and you are seeing the inevitable backlash.

Starmer now faces several problems: firstly, he needs support of the mainstream media and the few wealthy donors who are backing him. Without their support, his leadership is over immediately. But he also needs the support of the "soft left" who he duped into backing him and he needs the financial support of the unions.

Starmer's corporate sponsors and media backers demand he takes on the unions at all costs and they've effectively got a gun to his head. He is hardly reluctant to do their bidding, but he is not allowed to give the left more than an inch of compromise. Starmer's backers expect him to offer fluff and hope his supporters are stupid enough to fall for his lies or just feel they have no better option than to vote for him.

However, Starmer's soft left supporters are becoming increasingly aware his values and goals are not the same as theirs and some are discovering they are diametrically opposed. These are people who are supportive of unions, who love Mick Lynch, Sharon Graham and Eddie Dempsey and are aware our cost of living crisis is driven by corporate greed and suppressed wages. It is painfully obvious to them, the Labour leader should be echoing the sentiments of the unions and standing with them.

When they see Shadow Transport Secretary Sam Tarry sacked for standing with the RMT, they are baffled. We are witnessing them processing that the so-called "hard left" are just left wingers who've paid attention and were in fact right about Starmer all along. We're seeing these people become radicalised before our eyes and realise Starmer is part of a neoliberal establishment which is the cause of our problems, rather than everything just being about Brexit. We are seeing the emergence of class consciousness, now that their material needs are no longer being met.

And what is happening to the Labour Party during all of this? It's lost 200,000 members. Its leader is somehow 1% less popular than Liz Truss, according to Savanta ComRes. Unions are withdrawing funding and talking about disaffiliation. Membership money is drying up and corporations are not interested in supporting them. Starmer's allies in the shadow cabinet are considering resignation to save their own careers. 

Labour is becoming the hypothetical centrist party I mentioned near the start of the article. They are becoming the Neoliberal Democrats.

If things continue the way they are going, Labour could lose another 200,000 members and the financial backing of some unions, including Unite. At that point, it could face an existential threat.

Consider this: 200,000 members times £4.67 a month membership fees times 12 months equals £11,208,000 a year. This is a rough estimate as some members could be paying a reduced fee so let's say they're down around £10 million a year.  

Last I heard, Labour had lost an additional £1.6 million a year in union fees, including £1 million from Unite who have threatened further cuts. It's probably lost around £11-12 million a year (this ties in with reports that Labour's £13.5 million reserves have been wiped out) and the way it's going that figure could plausibly become £20 million. The party that wants to run the economy can't even manage its own finances.

And it's not like it's gaining popular support. Starmer looks like he would struggle to defeat the worst Tory leader in decades, if, as seems likely, Liz Truss wins the leadership race.

Just think how different this picture could look if a straight talker like Sharon Graham or Eddie Dempsey were in charge of Labour, talking about the cost of living crisis and the need to share wealth and power among ordinary people. The Labour Party really would be 20 points ahead and if Labour can't offer a left wing leader, a new union-backed party could be too. 

It has been done once before, way back in 1900, and if needed the unions could very well do it again. Only next time, we would have to ensure that infiltrators like Sir Keir Starmer are not allowed anywhere near it. Either the Labour left gets its act together and launches a leadership challenge, along with the promise of open selection, or it might be necessary for the unions to let the Labour Party die. It is not representing them and it is not representing us.

If you appreciate the work of Council Estate Media, even the most modest of donations can help massively, but please only contribute if you can reasonably afford to do so. You can support me on Patreon by clicking here or donate by clicking the PayPal button below. Thank you.

Wednesday, 27 July 2022

Sir Keir Starmer, knight of the realm and establishment fifth columnist, has sacked Sam Tarry for being a socialist. Or more specifically for joining the RMT picket line.

The Guardian says it was told Tarry was specifically sacked for saying it was "not acceptable to offer below inflation pay rises" because it would be a real-terms pay cut for workers. If this is true, my word...

Not only does Labour not back the unions anymore, but it actively supports pay cuts and wage suppression. I would not be in the slightest bit surprised if Starmer agrees with Liz Truss's plans to ban the RMT from striking. Even if he decides to vote against her on that one, I suspect he will secretly be supportive.

Apparently, shadow ministers are saying they may resign from the front bench because they are going to be put in impossible positions in the coming months with many unions planning strikes. And these shadow ministers are not exactly lefties. This shows just how clueless (or perhaps deliberately destructive) Starmer really is.

Imagine having such bad political judgement that you see a hugely popular union with a highly charismatic leader, striking with public support and think the best move is to sack your shadow transport minister for standing with them.

Who is Starmer trying to appeal to here? Clearly, not the left who are appalled. He is not even winning over the centre with this move, and while Tory voters may agree with him, they're not going to vote Labour in a million years. In his pathetic attempt to play seven-dimensional chess, Starmer has again found himself being nothing to anyone. And that's what he is as a leader. Nothing.

It would be really funny if Sam Tarry launched a leadership challenge to Sir Keir Starmer. Don't get me wrong, I think the chances of him getting the required nominations from the right wing PLP would be slim, but he is friendly with Angela Rayner so you never know.

If Tarry could somehow find those nominations, he would have a great chance of ending Starmer's reign of terror, even after 200,000 socialists have been pushed out of the party. This is because even the soft left is supportive of the unions and they seem particularly fond of Mick Lynch. The sacking of Tarry is not a move that will have endeared Starmer to the Labour membership at all.

Even those among the soft left who supported Starmer, have argued he was a compromise candidate whose leadership was necessary to make Labour electable. Increasingly, they are now seeing this argument is bullshit. Starmer is neither compromising nor electable.

One of the most galling things about all this is how his fifth column love to tell us they are true Labour. Oh yes, when the unions founded Labour in 1900, they had a dream that one day the party would be led by a man who sacks his MPs for joining picket lines. Bloody hell, Keir Hardie must be spinning in his grave...

Yet these bastards keep telling the left to stop the "infighting" like there is any infighting going on. There is just infiltration and push back against that. You can't sensibly accuse the left of dividing the Labour Party when the Labour leader sacks people for joining picket lines. You're either pro-labour or anti-labour, there is no in-between. But thanks to Sir Keir Starmer, this country does not have a Labour Party anymore. It has an anti-labour party. Why the hell are any unions still affiliated to this abomination?

If you appreciate the work of Council Estate Media, even the most modest of donations can help massively, but please only contribute if you can reasonably afford to do so. You can support me on Patreon by clicking here or donate by clicking the PayPal button below. Thank you.

If you sat through the turgid Tory leadership debates, you probably heard Rishi Sunak say "you can't have your cake and eat it" when it comes to the economy. It was certainly a poor choice of words because where I'm from, people would very much like to have cake, or any other type of food(!) because Sunak's mismanagement of the economy has left many in a dire situation.

The implication of this "magic money tree" talk from Sunak is, as always with Conservatives, that sacrifices must be made for the good of "the economy". I think this tweet from Alan Macleod sums up conservative thinking on the economy perfectly.

I don't know a single working class person who thinks the government should give us anything and everything we want. We do, however, think the very least we should expect from our government is that everyone in the country has the basics in life. If even that's too much to ask, then surely, surely, we can insist they do everything to ensure children's needs are taken care of. After all, the children are completely blameless.

But when Sunak says you "can't have your cake and eat", sadly he could be talking to many of the children in my home town. If that's not how he meant it, you would think at the very least, he would lay out a decent plan to tackle the cost of living crisis. Instead, he and Truss have bickered over things like their outfits and patronised us, rather than discuss anything of substance.

When people like me say we're not being offered political representation, it's not because we're moaning, ungrateful lefties, it's because our political leaders are dismissive of our plight.

My rundown Tyneside council estate is the kind of place the media make fun of with shows like Benefits Street, with many parents out of work and the rest of them struggling. You'll see teenagers hanging around on street corners, often getting up to no good, because there's little for them to do. Our nearest playground is over a mile away. It's shit. We normally have to put up with kids lighting bonfires, racing around on stolen motorbikes or drinking cheap alcohol. 

I'm not knocking the teens though because I was exactly the same at their age. I'm simply pointing out the area is not exactly a child-friendly place. It is in fact the kind of place Tories choose to look down on, rather than take responsibility for.

My local area was recently named as the UK's "child poverty capital" and my region currently has a child poverty rate of 38%. Figures from the start of the pandemic showed that a quarter of children (134,933) in the northeast were living in poverty and over half (58%) were from working families. Things were bad before the pandemic, they're worse now. 

Despite the government's so-called levelling up plan, the spending gap between the north and south has actually increased, with London getting £12,147 per person, while we only get £8,125. Levelling up is a very deliberate lie.

The southeast is home to 30% of the UK population but 42% of its wealth - we have less so they can have more. And yes, I know there is poverty in London, but the difference is up here, it's everywhere you look.

Many of the families in our neighbourhood, ours included, were given food packages from the local school during the pandemic. Without those packages, there would have been widespread hunger, even though our country has a surplus of food. The Tories think it's brilliant when charities feed people because they feel it absolves them of their responsibilities. But charity food in one of the richest countries on Earth represents a huge failure of government and charity food is almost almost always going to be inadequate. Charity food is no way to feed a society, but apparently we don't deserve better and we should be grateful for whatever crumbs we're given.

An area of South Shields, just a couples of miles from me, has 3/4 of children living below the breadline. In other words, if you're one of the kids who is not below the breadline, not wealthy, just able to eat decent food regularly, then you are in the privileged minority. Only one in four children are like you.

Just think about that. Food is a luxury not just for adults, but for kids now. What possible justification could there be for this? 

Labour MP Phil Wilson recently argued against a Right to Food because it would "curtail our ambition, rather than extend it". That sounds to me like a fancy way of saying we'll let your kids go hungry because we don't want to make you lazy. We'll punish the children to make the parents more productive for capitalists, even though hungry workers would surely be less productive. They're really telling us to know our place, aren't they?

Capitalists are complaining in one breath that we need more children to sustain our ageing population and counteract falling birth rates, and then in the next breath, they're demanding we work for poverty pay on a dying planet. Do these people even give a shit about human suffering?

Our country is over twice as productive as it needs to be to sustain our population at a comfortable level. But despite the fact we are far more productive than we used to be, thanks to technological advancement, the elite have refused to share the rewards of that extra productivity with workers. They have kept it all for themselves.

When people like Rishi Sunak say we can't have our cake and eat it, it's because they're keeping the entire cake for themselves. My response to them would be that we don't want the cake actually. We want ownership of the entire bakery. We want worker co-operatives. We want democratic control of the means of production.

If you appreciate the work of Council Estate Media, even the most modest of donations can help massively, but please only contribute if you can reasonably afford to do so. You can support me on Patreon by clicking here or donate by clicking the PayPal button below. Thank you.