Tuesday, 23 November 2021

The Tories' heavily-criticised Health and Care Bill would undo reforms introduced by David Cameron in 2012 and somehow make things even worse. The bill is officially supposed to end the ridiculous idea of market competition in our NHS, which sounds like a good thing, but in reality, the market is going to be allowed into our NHS through the back door.

Let me explain:

The government wants to introduce 42 Integrated Care Partnerships which would invite charities and private health companies to work with local councils. They would take the place of over 100 Clinical Commissioning Groups which currently allocate NHS resources, and would decide which treatments local hospitals do or don't offer, based on what they feel is more cost effective, i.e., more profitable for share holders. It would also allow them to ration healthcare and charge for "secondary services".

This is obviously not prioritising patients' needs and would introduce a post code lottery where the treatment you receive is dependent on where you live. It would also enable private companies to prioritise patients who are willing and able to pay over those who can't - essentially creating a two-tier NHS. During a pandemic. It's almost like the government has learned the exact opposite lessons to what it was supposed to learn.

To make matters worse, the bill includes the removal of the tendering process so the Tories can just give out NHS contracts to their mates without any scrutiny. Now I don't want private contracts to exist at all, but if you are going to have them, you should, at the very least, have a proper vetting process. No reasonable person could disagree with this point, but, of course, the Tories are not reasonable people. 

"Integrated" appears to be the new word for cronyism...

Of course, many concerns could easily be alleviated through simple amendments to the bill, but the Tories actually blocked an amendment to prevent private healthcare representatives from sitting on NHS boards, because, of course, they did!

As many have pointed out, this is nothing more than a power grab by Sajid Javid, because the bill would give the health secretary direct control over many aspects of our health service. It would also give the health secretary the power to water down the requirement for staff to be properly trained and qualified, potentially putting public safety at risk. The bill offers nothing to ease the mammoth staffing crisis, other than corner cutting.

The Health and Care Bill boils down to backdoor NHS privatisation and a situation where poorer patients will inevitably be marginalised. It's just another step towards the dismantling of our nation's most prized institution. If this bill passes in the House of Lords, it's entirely plausible we won't even have an NHS in ten years' time.

And we haven't even mentioned social care yet. 

Government proposals mean those with assets between £20,000 and £100,000 will have to pay for their social care. This means working class home owners will be forced to sell their homes and therefore unable to leave their one asset to their children who have been frozen out of the housing market. I can't help thinking Jeremy Corbyn's National Care Service, which involved not stealing houses, might have been a better idea.

When you really think about it, it's truly absurd that social care isn't provided universally under the NHS, and the same goes for dentistry and eye care. Who actually decided these things don't count as healthcare?

Sunday, 21 November 2021

So I read on the BBC News website today that former Tory MP Charlie Elphicke has told a court, he's in dire economic straits and has made a claim for Universal Credit. This prompted me to post a tweet, mocking him, and many people found this story rather hilarious, but there were one or two moralistic respondents telling me I should not revel in someone else's misfortune.

I would like to call bullshit on this take and here's why:

Charlie Elphicke was suspended from the Tory Party in 2017 after being accused of sexual assault by two members of his staff. He was disgracefully reinstated to the party in 2018 to save Theresa May's skin when she was facing a vote of no confidence. In 2019, Elphicke was convicted in court of three charges of sexual assault against the two women and he was sentenced to two years in prison. He was also ordered to pay £35,000 in court costs.

Charlie Elphicke chased a woman around his kitchen, yelling: "I'm a naughty Tory boy," after sexually assaulting her.

Upon release from prison, after serving half his sentence, Elphicke spent all of his money on six months rent on a luxury London flat. He then pleaded poverty in court and explained he'd applied for Universal Credit, knowing he was benefiting from the money he was ordered to pay to the court. Pretty sure it's fair to call that theft.

It's worth pointing out Elphicke voted five times against increasing Universal Credit so he is definitely reaping what he sowed. And as a person who is currently claiming Universal Credit, I absolutely get to gloat now.

Obviously, there are clear differences between Mr Elphicke's financial situation and my own. I never sexually assaulted anyone, I never voted to create our unfair welfare system, and both myself and my wife are actually earning money. It's just that wages are so crap around here, we need Universal Credit to top up our meagre earnings, just like almost everyone does where we live.

People told me I shouldn't gloat about someone else's misfortune, but while they're busy empathising with a sex offender, people in my town are calling that "misfortune" everyday life. 

Mr Elphicke is simply joining us in this life of misfortune, and given that we are unquestionably experts at scraping by, I would like to share some budgeting advice with him.

First of all, Charlie, have you tried pulling yourself up by your bootstraps? I can confirm doing that normally brings an end to poverty in one fell swoop. But if you're still struggling to get by, please try not spreading avocado on your toast. I tried this technique and I was able to buy myself like three mansions and a speedboat! Finally, and this point is quite brilliant, drink fewer fancy coffees at Starbucks. Do this and you'll be flying around in your own private jet in no time.

Sounds so incredibly stupid and patronising to hear this nonsense when you're living in poverty, doesn't it? Now imagine you didn't have the cosy flat in Fulham which you're renting by essentially ripping off the courts. Imagine you're in a homeless hostel, as I once was, on the waiting list for a council flat, surrounded by drug addicts and criminals and your everyday regular lost souls, with all your welfare money going towards rent on the hostel, so you don't have a penny to your name. Now imagine being told to pull yourself up by your bootstraps. Imagine just how ridiculous that advice would sound in that situation. Because that is the real Britain for the working class. That is the life you chose to impose on so many regular people, most of who did absolutely nothing wrong, while you lot pretended we were living lives of luxury at your expense. We were not fucking sex offenders and you chose poverty for us and you told us we need to budget better. Well, now you are getting a taste of karma.

Anyways, here are a few genuine poverty tips that I picked up through firsthand experience:

  • Dilute your milk so it lasts longer.
  • Pick specks of mould off your bread because you absolutely cannot afford to waste it.
  • Reuse teabags because you will need the caffeine to help you deal with the hunger.
  • Buy expiring food from the discount section.
  • Stock up on cheap tins of beans and spaghetti.
  • Don't even think of turning the heating on. Layer up instead.
  • Don't forget, if worse comes to worst, a bag of porridge oats can feed you for a week. I've been there.
  • Enjoy the free Sky subscription, gold chains, cigarettes and alcohol that you've just discovered you don't actually get when you're unemployed.

Mr Elphicke, you are surely well aware our welfare system is not fit for purpose, that it takes too long to make a claim, that the requirements are absurd, that the process is stressful and humiliating, that the system is needlessly punitive, that it leaves people without enough food and energy, that it essentially makes life near-impossible. And yet your former party chose to take £20 a week from Universal Credit claimants in the run up to Christmas, when we are facing huge food and energy inflation. The inhumanity...

The 130,000 excess deaths caused by our broken welfare system were described by UN rapporteur Phillip Alston as "economic murder". In another word, democide. And for most claimants, Universal Credit does not result in death, of course, but it certainly does result in permanent stress. 

Most of us do not deserve this stress, Mr Elphicke, but you most certainly do. Oh, and if you're still looking for a job, you could always try picking fruit at a nearby farm.

Tuesday, 16 November 2021

Sir Keir Starmer has disgraced himself once again by addressing Labour Friends of Israel to condemn the BDS movement and show solidarity with far-right Israeli ambassador Tzipi Hotoveli who was in attendance.

During his speech, Starmer condemned "antizionist antisemitism", conflating two very different things. Antisemitism is essentially hatred of Jews, whereas antizionism is opposition to the colonisation of Palestinian land. It is simply not reasonable to suggest they are remotely the same and very much erases Palestinian suffering. You could argue Starmer's position is racist against Palestinians. You could equally argue the conflation of Zionism and Jewishness is antisemitic, because it erases any Jew who doesn't identify as Zionist - and many Jews don't.

Starmer insisted "every Jew would count" under his leadership, but he failed to mention he has purged a shocking number of left-wing Jews from the party, apparently for being the "wrong kind of Jew". He is not tackling antisemitism at all. He is actually siding with the Israeli far-right and ignoring or even condemning Jewish voices who disagree with him.

The BDS movement is not something I've ever actively participated in, but it's supported by Jewish former-ANC MP Andrew Feinstein who served in Nelson Mandela's government and lost 39 members of his family in the holocaust. Andrew is someone who knows a thing or two about apartheid and the effectiveness of boycott, divestment and sanctions. I would therefore suggest he would be a better voice to listen to than the current Labour leader.

Starmer said this of the BDS movement:

"Its principles are wrong, targeted alone at the world's sole Jewish state. We will fully oppose and condemn illegal settlements, annexation and the eviction of Palestinians from the occupied Palestinian territories."

Starmer acknowledges an illegal occupation is taking place, but falls short of calling out apartheid, mass murder, and other crimes against humanity, such as the imprisonment of young children. He insists it's wrong to boycott the state which is guilty of the terrible things he partly acknowledges, giving it a free pass on the basis it's the "world's sole Jewish state".

I'm not sure where to begin with the absurdity of this. Just imagine if he'd said BDS against South African apartheid was wrong, because his position is morally equivalent. I would pay to see him debate Andrew Feinstein on this one. He would be left floundering.

Starmer's eagerness to support the fascist ambassador Tzipi Hotovely comes in stark contrast to how he responded to two of Labour's Muslim MPs - Apsana Begum and Zarah Sultana - being subjected to horrendous racist abuse. In short, Starmer didn't respond. He completely failed to show any solidarity at all to these women.

Now, regardless of your political affiliation, it is just a human response to stand in solidarity with anyone who has been the victim of vile racist abuse, and this is something Jeremy Corbyn did repeatedly during his time as Labour leader. He regularly showed solidarity with people who were not in his political faction.

But what makes Starmer look particularly bad is how he immediately leapt to the defence of Israeli ambassador Tzipi Hotovely when she was booed outside the London School of Economics. Hotovely is a person who denies the Nakba took place in 1947/48 when over 700,000 Palestinians were ethnically cleansed. She believes Israel has a right to take all Palestinian land. She is also a person who believes that interracial marriage is wrong, and as the father of mixed-race children, this really doesn't sit well with me at all.

Sir Keir Starmer had no problem telling us that booing a fascist would not be tolerated, and yet he fell into silence when his own MPs were the victims of Islamophobia. It seems rather worrying that he would prioritise imagined racism against an actual racist, over very real racism against his own MPs, almost as though he has a racism hierarchy.

On 25th August 2020, then 17 year old Kyle Rittenhouse visited a protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, which was taking place in response to the police shooting of Jacob Blake. He was carrying a Smith and Wesson M&P15 which he used to kill two people and seriously injure one more. Much of the incident was caught on camera and shows Rittenhouse being pursued by members of the public, prior to the shootings. 

Rittenhouse surrendered to police and was charged with unlawful possession of a firearm, two counts of homicide, and two counts of reckless endangerment. The first charge has already been dismissed by the judge.

During the initial confrontation, one individual fired a shot into the air, prompting Rittenhouse to turn around, pointing his gun at another member of the public. This was Joseph Rotenbaum who threw a bag containing clothing at Rittenhouse and attempted to tackle him, but was fatally shot four times. Multiple members of the public then gave chase and Rittenhouse was struck in the head, falling to the ground. At this point, Anthony Huber struck Rittenhouse in the shoulder with his skateboard and was shot dead. A local resident approached Rittenhouse with a handgun, but he was shot in the arm.

Supporters of Kyle Rittenhouse say it was clear that he acted in self-defence, that he only shot these people because he was under attack, and that he actually attended the protests to protect property and administer first aid.

Of course, it is not the job of a minor to travel out of town to protect public property armed with a semi-automatic rifle. Whatever views you may have on US cops, it is officially their job to protect private property in this way. Also, it is an incredibly provocative thing to arrive armed at a location in which protesters are clearly emotionally distressed. It is the type of behaviour which provokes suspicion and fear and could absolutely trigger the fight or flight response in people. 

Rittenhouse was effectively saying: "I am carrying this gun and I am prepared to shoot any of you dead because I hate you and everything you stand for." That was the message he was sending so there was always a high probability of his actions ending in tragedy.

The fact is if Rittenhouse did not turn up with a gun, his victims would still be alive today. Shooting people dead does not seem a proportionate response when your mere presence was so provocative and intimidating. However, the mitigating circumstances suggest murder might not have been the best charge.

Having reviewed the camera footage, I absolutely do not feel it was right for Rittenhouse to shoot these people dead, but at the same time, I can see how he was genuinely afraid in the moment. It's just that the situation was manufactured by his presence so he must carry a high degree of blame.

The crowd had to make a snap decision about what they thought was the best move to protect themselves and others, and some felt the best move was to stop an armed individual from potentially killing people. Did they make the right call? Absolutely not. But they were placed in a terrifying situation by an individual who should not have been there.

It seems unquestionable to me that Rittenhouse is guilty of serious crimes. If someone in the UK arrived at a protest in which they held the protesters in contempt and were armed with a machine gun, leading to an incident where they shot people dead, that person would be looking at serious jail time. But this is America we are talking about, the land where people openly carry guns and take kids to shooting ranges. The land where white people can pull a get out of jail free card from their pockets.

What is troubling in this case is how the judge seemed all too keen to dismiss evidence against Rittenhouse, such as him attending a Proud Boys event in which attendees reportedly spoke of killing people. The judge seemed genuinely protective of the defendant and not at all impartial. 

For example, he would not allow lawyers to refer to the victims as "victims" but did allow lawyers to refer to them as "arsonists" and "looters". This could surely be perceived as an attempt to influence the jury and has prompted an outcry on social media.

The jury is now deliberating and I suspect Rittenhouse will get off on the homicide charges, but it would be hard to justify acquitting him of two reckless endangerment charges, which each carry sentences of up to 17 years. However, I am fully expecting the judge to give Rittenhouse the most lenient sentence he possibly can and that could trigger a ton of further unrest.

Thursday, 11 November 2021

Sir Keir Starmer has sunk to a new low by expressing solidarity with Israeli ambassador Tzipi Hotovely who was loudly booed, following a speech she made at the London School of Economics.

Starmer said the following on Twitter:

And Starmer's shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds went even further:

There are a few problems here:

Firstly, the video footage shows no evidence of threats of violence. We see Hotovely leave the building and make it to her car without any threat of violence taking place. If a threat of violence took place separately to this protest, it would be wrong to equate these protesters with such a threat, but I've seen no evidence such a threat was made.

Secondly, Hotovely is the ambassador for an apartheid state (as defined by Human Rights Watch and other human rights organisations) and as such is a perfectly legitimate target for peaceful protest. We are not talking about people standing outside her home here. We are talking about Hotovely leaving an event in which she made a 90 minute political speech. It's worth noting Boris Johnson was booed in a similar manner at COP 26 and absolutely nobody called this racist. You can't just lazily throw around the word antisemitism whenever someone calls out the crimes of Israel. Doing so undermines the fight against antisemitism and is highly irresponsible.

Thirdly, Hotovely holds some truly abhorrent views. She believes Palestine has never existed, that Israel should therefore annex all Palestinian land, and denies the Nakba (the ethnic cleansing of over 700,000 Palestinians in 1947/48) ever took place. She also believes miscegenation (interracial marriage) is wrong. I am in an interracial marriage. My four kids are mixed-race. Imagine telling me I couldn't boo a person who believes my family is illegitimate, or even worse that booing would make me racist and deserving of a criminal record.

The Labour leader has not only sided with a member of the far-right with unquestionably fascist views, he has essentially stated peaceful protest will not be tolerated. In his desperation to defend the free speech of a fascist (which was not under threat), he has threatened the free speech of those who oppose fascism. And honestly, I'm not even sure he realises this himself, because I don't think he thought any of this through, but rather offered a knee-jerk reaction to show he is tough on antisemitism.

This is what happens when you tie yourself up in knots for short-term political gain. Starmer sided with some of the most dishonest people in politics to oust Jeremy Corbyn and become Labour leader, and now he has found himself in a position where he is dependent on their support. He effectively has no choice but to side with the far-right, because he has burnt his bridges with the left, and his allies are keeping his leadership afloat.

Just imagine for a moment that someone booed the ambassador for North Korea. Imagine how laughably absurd it would be to suggest that booing them would be a racist thing to do, and that anyone who booed should be arrested. This episode suggests that if Starmer ever did become prime minister, he would lead us in a very authoritarian direction.

Picture the scene:

"I got sentenced to three years."

"What you in for?"

"Booing a fascist at a peaceful protest."

It's not just ridiculous, it's terrifying.

We live in an upside-down world in which the protesters of the most extreme example of racial segregation of our time - an actual apartheid - are the ones who are called racist. And if you disagree with my use of the word "apartheid" in this context, here is what Nelson Mandela had to say on the matter:

"We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians."

Israel/Palestine is the great human rights issue of our time, and if you support the actions of the Israeli state, you are no different from those who supported South African apartheid and called for Nelson Mandela to be hanged. By taking the position he has, by effectively wanting to prevent the peaceful protest of apartheid, Sir Keir Starmer is the moral equivalent of such people, just with a respectable facade. 

The Israeli state has killed at least 60 Palestinian children so far this year and many more adults. Year after year, it keeps annexing Palestinian land, destroying Palestinian infrastructure and trapping the Palestinians in the world's largest (but ever-shrinking) open-air prison. Anyone who leaps to the defence of the perpetrators is on the wrong side of history.

Wednesday, 10 November 2021

So, over the past two weeks we have had COP26 in Glasgow where a bunch of incredibly wise and intelligent people have been discussing how
we all need to do X, Y and Z to overcome the most challenging problem of our time – the climate crisis. Among these wise and intelligent people is Ursula Von de Loyen who flew 31 miles by private jet, because clearly, she has never heard of taxis. And then there is Jeff Bezos – the man who recently took a joy ride in space and released God knows how many tons of CO2 into the atmosphere in the process. Some people have suggested that we shower less in order to reduce our carbon footprint. A smarter person might suggest the most effective way of tackling the climate crisis would be to lock these rich people up. Especially, when you consider 50% of the world's flying emissions come from 1% of the population.

The climate crisis is unquestionably the biggest threat that currently faces our species, and this lot are telling us, we need to throw a bucket of water on the fire as the world burns. But don't worry, the market will take care of the rest... And, of course, there are still climate change deniers out there, arguing we don't really need to do anything at all, which is interesting, considering the breathtaking denial of reality this requires! Would they, for example, deny CO2 has risen from 278 parts per million to 417 parts per million since the industrial revolution? Would they deny CO2 is a greenhouse gas? Because if they do not deny either of those points, which they can't, then they agree climate change is real, and they probably need to seek psychiatric help for their cognitive dissonance.

I think it's good to hear Prince Charles is very keen on defeating the climate crisis. If only he and his family members were as keen to avoid getting on a plane as Prince Andrew is, but the less said about that, the better... 

I'm hearing that Camilla was appalled to hear Joe Biden breaking wind at COP26. Yes, really. But this little outburst pales in comparison to the 397 million tons of CO2 the US has pumped into the atmosphere – which is almost twice as much as China, which has a population nearly five times bigger. It's important to consider, American wealth was not just built on slavery and imperialism, it was also built on climate destruction. America, and other western countries, built their wealth with a process of industrialisation which they are now denying to other countries. Remember this, the next time they criticise the current world leader in green technologies – which is China.

The simple truth of the matter is western nations owe poorer nations a great deal because not only have they taken more than their fair share of the world's resources, they've also hugely damaged the climate and left them with nothing to show for it. You could easily make an argument for compensating these countries. At the very least, we need to be world leaders in tackling the problem we created. We need to take by far the biggest hit economically. After all, we'd only be sacrificing wealth we would never have accrued, if we'd been building our economies in a responsible and sustainable manner.

The climate crisis must be the absolute number one priority for every nation. Preventing catastrophic change is even more important than defeating poverty, because if we don't do it, we might not have a habitable planet much longer. And if you are one of the older, richer people who doesn’t fancy sacrificing a bit of your wealth, then your selfishness is breathtaking and history will not remember you kindly. I will certainly be making sure my children know not to forgive those who share this attitude.

The political establishment has no answers

I just can't help thinking of the absurdity of market-based solutions when market forces created this mess in the first place. A corporation is not going to prioritise the environment over profit because you ask them really nicely to draw up a plan to reduce their carbon emissions. If that's our approach, then humanity truly is doomed. What should have been agreed is a global green new deal.

While net-zero carbon would be a step in the right direction – it would not be enough – because we need  to end our dependency on carbon. And the target date of 2050 for achieving net-zero carbon is simply too far in the future. The numbers don't add up.

But, of course, the politicians don't care. This was never about finding meaningful solutions, it was always about grandstanding, blaming China, and placing the burden on you, rather than the 20 mega-polluting companies which are behind 1/3 of the world's carbon emissions. Driving an electric car is not going to put a dent in that. (And I'm not saying we shouldn't do better on a personal level, I'm simply that it won't be enough.)

The reality is world leaders had a choice between socialism and extinction and they chose extinction because they thought it would be better for the economy.

Climate inaction is a crime against humanity. The biggest crime against humanity in our history. Not only should meaningful targets be legally binding, but politicians and business leaders who fail to implement them should be imprisoned.

If a weapon was creating a level of death and destruction comparable to the climate crisis, we'd have no problem understanding the seriousness of the crime. But because this is happening through climate mismanagement, it's almost like we accept this as being part of the natural order, but there is nothing natural about this.

One thing people don't seem to appreciate is this will create an awful lot of refugees. We are not only talking about coastal cities ending up under water. We are talking about one fifth of the planet becoming too hot to be habitable. We are talking about droughts and famines and economic collapse and quite possibly warfare.

Just think about how mad we get now when refugees arrive from the latest country we bombed. Now imagine how much worse things could get and how all of this is entirely preventable. If you really don't like refugees coming to your country, then bloody well stop creating them!

It might already be too late, but we have one last chance to act.

Even if we hit our CO2 target, 70% of the world's coral reefs will die. If we fail, 100% will die. What right do we have to destroy ecosystems like this? 15,000 scientists have declared a climate emergency, and you don’t respond to an emergency 30 years from now. You do it immediately. You drop everything else.

Boris Johnson said we were 5-1 down at half-time and then he proceeded to score a couple of own goals for good measure. For example, he will tell corporations to draw up plans to reduce their carbon footprint, but he won't do anything to make them follow through on their plans, let alone ensure they will work.

The very least we need is a robust opposition holding the government to account, but what chance do we stand when even the opposition party in the UK is distancing itself from its own Green New Deal?

The frustrating thing is, a global green new deal wouldn't just be fantastic for the environment, but also for job creation. Far from impoverishing us, it could actually stimulate economic activity and lift a lot of people out of poverty. But even if it didn't. Even if it created more poverty, it would still be worth doing because it is the only way.

The asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs is coming and half-measures are not going to stop it.

The simple fact of the matter is, we need to tear up our current economic model to defeat this, but we are governed by extremists who think the accumulation of capital comes before the preservation of human life. And the people are rising up.

We've had over 100 climate demonstrations in the UK and many more around the world. Glasgow saw the largest protest since Stop the War in 2003. Young people are desperate and older generations are not listening. They are dumping future pain onto us to alleviate their own pain today. And it was a pain they chose to cause.

And even worse, they are cracking down on anyone who challenges them.

Aaron Bastani was talking on Twitter about how police kettled a large number of protesters for hours on end for no reason and threatened him with arrest when he questioned why.

The establishment does not want to be questioned. It wants us to blindly accept whatever fate it decides for us. And it wants us to treat them like heroes for failing. The number of leaders patting themselves on the back at COP 26 was vomit-inducing. If all of them were doing as brilliantly as they think they are, we would not be in this mess.

The planet has already warmed by 1.2C and our current trajectory will take us up 2C by the end of the century. We could well pass a tipping point that would take us 1000s of years to reverse, and the sad truth is, humanity might not be around by the time the planet has self-healed.

The billionaires seem to know this, which is why Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk are currently building spaceships to get them to Mars, instead of just fixing this planet. I guess cleaning up the environment doesn't sound as sexy as being a space cowboy.  It's the world's most expensive dick-sizing contest and they are both losing. The entire world is losing.

Thursday, 21 October 2021

So all the talk in politics at the moment involves removing online anonymity from social media platforms. Apparently, this is the best way to prevent online abuse and protect the safety of elected politicians. But I'm not the only one to smell a rat...

MPs and journalists have been quite openly talking about keeping expenses claims and voting records hidden from the public, and even disrupting online left-wing movements. 

Dan Hodges really let the cat out of the bag with this one.

We all know this is not really about ending online abuse, and it's certainly not about the murder of David Amess whose tragic death has been grotesquely used to manipulate public opinion on what is an entirely separate matter. It's about politicians avoiding accountability and controlling the narrative.

Social media platforms were never supposed to be for politicians to impose their propaganda on us. They have the entire mainstream media for that. Well, now they want social media too.

The rise of the online left in the US and UK has scared the crap out of the establishment. It made figures like Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders possible and showed younger generations a better future was possible. The same politicians who complained that younger people never got involved in politics were suddenly livid to find younger people were very political actually; it's just they didn't want to vote for corrupt individuals who were leaving them behind.

Remember when Noam Chomsky said: "If voting could actually change anything, it would be illegal"? 

Well, what he meant is we live in a managed democracy in which the establishment fiddles around with things to ensure it gets the desired outcome and the latest thing it's fiddling around with is social media to stop you raising your voice and collectively organising.

And the rigging of social media is already well under way... 

Establishment poster boy and Tory-enabler Nick Clegg is now Facebook's Vice President of Global Affairs and he is openly talking about ensuring we see less politics in our news feed. Pretty sure he means less left-wing politics from the alternative media.

Talk to anyone who runs a left-wing Facebook page and they will tell you how they are suddenly being hammered algorithmically. We all used to get huge traction, but not anymore. Now the right-wing pages get the huge traction and we are left near-invisible. And in their bid to tackle "fake news", Facebook is using any and every excuse to censor the left while allowing the mainstream media to push misinformation with impunity. 

If you accidentally share a Facebook post which is only 90% accurate you will get a notification to say the distribution of your page has been reduced, but mainstream media outlets can push totally false narratives like the alleged dictatorship of Evo Morales, while simultaneously celebrating western puppet Jeanine Anez as a human rights icon when she reportedly sent death squads to execute left-wing activists. Thankfully, Anez is no longer in power because the Bolivian people overwhelmingly rejected her in recent elections and put Morales' MAS party back into power, albeit with a new leader.

Can you not see how dangerous this all is? 

The establishment decides to mischaracterise a foreign government as a pretext to regime change, and not only will the mainstream media play along, but even social media giants will, and if you on the left give the slightest inaccuracy when you're countering outright bullshit, you are the one who gets censored. It's all about making sure rich and powerful people have a voice and ordinary people are silenced. It's horribly undemocratic.

Can you imagine the risk to someone's safety, if you remove their anonymity when they're criticising a monster like Jeanine Anez? It doesn't bear thinking about.

And not all examples of potential risks are so far from home.

What about, for example, a gay person who has not yet come out? Perhaps they have very strong reasons not to, perhaps coming out might even put their safety at risk. Imagine removing online anonymity from such a person. Would that not be an incredibly abusive and dangerous thing to do? There are many other examples we could come up with, such as the often highlighted risk to victims of domestic violence. 

The thing is being anonymous online can actually reduce the risk of bullying and violence. Perhaps you were horribly bullied at school and you set up a Twitter account under an alias because the last thing you wanted is the bullies following you over from Facebook. Perhaps you are trans and you have not yet transitioned and just want to explore the real you in an online space before you are ready to tell the world. Or perhaps you are exposing unsafe practices in your work place and are terrified of being fired. Perhaps you're an activist who was previously campaigning under your real name and you were assaulted in the street so you decided to keep your activism anonymous to protect yourself and your family. I could name a whole bunch of activists who've been stalked and assaulted.

There are a ton of very legitimate reasons for people to remain anonymous online and it would be a huge invasion of privacy to suddenly out all these people. Far from protecting against abuse, ending online anonymity would actually be an incredibly abusive thing to do and could well lead to violence against the people you are exposing. This would be completely unacceptable and incredibly hypocritical. It would essentially be state-sanctioned doxxing.

How many people have had false complaints sent to their employer about alleged online misbehaviour, as reportedly happened to Jess Barnard who was falsely accused of wanting a second holocaust?

There is no evidence to suggest ending online anonymity reduces online abuse. None whatsoever. And as someone who has large social media platforms and receives an incredible amount of abuse every day, I can categorically say lack of anonymity does not stop social media users being abusive at all.

But the thing is, we don't need to punish the many decent anonymous social media users. I know this is a crazy thought, but we can actually focus on punishing abusive accounts, regardless of whether they are anonymous. The anonymity, after all, is not the problem. The abusive behaviour is.

Let's not also forget that among the politicians who are calling for these changes is Jess Phillips who said she would knife Jeremy Corbyn in the front and Margaret Hodge who called him an antisemite and racist. As Michael Rosen pointed out, talk like this would get you expelled from the House of Commons for abuse. Yet, I'm sure both Hodge and Phillips would argue their abuse was justified in these particular circumstances. And that's the problem: in politics, the idea of abuse is entirely subjective.

What if I, for example, appeared in Jess Phillips' mentions and spoke of knifing her in the front? 

To be clear, I would never say such words because I would find them totally unacceptable and would never wish harm on Jess. But I'm sure Jess would consider those words abusive if they were aimed at her, and yet she was happy to aim them at Jeremy Corbyn on national television. It really does look like it's one rule for them and another for us.

Jess rather laughably wrote a book about speaking truth to power and yet here she is wanting to deprive you of the right to speak truth to power, using the exact same approach she herself uses. In a democracy, the right to dissent, to harshly criticise politicians is absolutely essential, and it's particularly essential that we maintain a level of transparency that allows us to see MP's voting records and expenses claims. We elected you and we're paying for those!

Let's not forget, we can do much better at punishing abusive accounts and we can give social media users much better privacy options.

I believe genuinely abusive social media accounts should receive punishment, but I also think those punishments should be fair and consistent. I am not, for example, in favour of permanent suspensions, apart from in the most extreme of circumstances. 

Social media is an essential component of modern life. You wouldn't be banned from walking on pavements for life because you misbehaved in the middle of the street one time. But you might get sent to prison for a few months, if the crime warranted it.

I would want social media giants to have a clearly-explained range of punishments for different offences so people can reasonably know what to expect if they misbehave, and are then given appropriate opportunity to correct their behaviour when their ban is lifted.

I would also want social media giants to give us a much better list of privacy options. 

For example, on Twitter I would like to see:

  • the ability to switch off quote-tweets or limit who can quote-tweet you
  • the ability to switch off comments and quote-tweets on specific tweets, even after you've sent the tweet
  • an optional verification process that is open to everyone, so any user can get a blue tick
  • the ability to limit who can interact with you to either just your own followers, followees or verified accounts on a tweet-by-tweet basis
  • the ability to automatically hide old tweets to prevent doxxing
All of these suggestions would help protect people against online abuse and give Twitter users far more flexibility with how they engage with the platform. It would also mean we don't have to hand over our passports to companies whose business models involve collecting and selling our data. Could you imagine where that might lead?

Imagine the government and employers keeping databases with people's political views and blacklisting certain individuals. Anyone familiar with the trade union movement knows that kind of thing has already happened many times and it has stopped people getting jobs.

Imagine MPs thinking they have a right to keep tabs on you, but you can't see what they're spending your taxes on, and can't even know how they voted in parliament! It's almost like the MP's expenses scandal from a decade ago never happened and these people aren't very keen on transparency actually.

Tuesday, 19 October 2021

The Socialist Chat Room Went Live with an Amazing Panel and Many Technical Mishaps!

The Socialist Chat Room went live with its first episode on our YouTube channel which you can consider a test-run with mixed success.

I announced my plans to do this show about three weeks ago, and then, as luck would have it, I was struck down with a severe bout of long-Covid which would not shift and threw my plans into disarray. Eventually, I  bit the bullet and went for it anyway because otherwise, the show would never have happened. Thankfully, I managed to arrange a great line-up, meaning my biggest concern became whether everyone would turn up on the day!

That did not turn out to be a problem and the guests were absolutely fantastic, but remember when I warned you guys about possible technical difficulties? Well, they happened. Everything that could go wrong, did

I guess this is what happens when you have a host with poor health, a barely-functioning six year old desk-top, zero technical expertise and about ten windows open on the screen simultaneously. I had much to take in and in hindsight, I should have minimised my talking time to focus on ensuring things ran smoothly. I guess I underestimated the complexity of the task at hand.

First of all, the stream would not start on YouTube for no reason. Cue a panicked conversation to resolve the issue. 

Of course, the stream decided to fix itself mid-way through this conversation, making me look like an unprepared mess. Then, for the next ten minutes, my streaming software decided to zoom in super-close so you couldn't see anyone talking. I think this is the point where most of our viewers gave up(!), but I belatedly fixed this issue, and it left me with my final technical problem: My supersensitive mic and Zoom's refusal to put me on mute when I clicked the mute button. This meant my flustered, stammering voice could be heard booming over everyone else's, and even worse, the mic picked up my every breath. 

So yeah, disaster...

But... panelist No Justice saved the day. She was also streaming the show and the only technical difficulty she encountered was a host who was terrible at time-keeping, spent far too long on the first topic and then raced through the next two topics to make up time!

I'm making this all seem like a total disaster and yet it wasn't...

I could not have picked five better panelists and they sailed through the whole experience with ease, massively getting me off the hook. I may have deleted the live stream from YouTube and Twitch, but I did get some great clips of these guys, so let's go through them now and let them have their moment.

First of all, we have Lisa Diaz. You may have seen Lisa from her viral Twitter videos calling the government out on Covid-19 safety in schools. She is the co-founder of SafeEdForAll and as you can imagine, she had much to say.

Our next panellist was Twitch and Youtube streamer No Justice who describes herself as a "Marxoid" on Twitter.

Here is Popey Variant 616 who is also a streamer and could probably do with some Twitter followers because they're quite new to the platform so please help them out! 

We were privileged to be joined by Labour councillor Freddie Bailey.

And last, but most certainly not least, we were joined by Samuel K, another guest known for his viral Twitter videos.

So our guest line-up really was impressive. 

For my first episode, I wanted authentic working class voices, but I also wanted people who are experienced on camera to help ease me into things. Going forwards, my aim is to platform any ordinary socialist who wants to participate. You can see my first stream as a practise session to get everything figured out. Here is what I've decided to do in future episodes.

1. Larger panels. This might seem counter-intuitive as larger panels mean more people to manage, but they actually mean less talking time for each individual, taking the pressure off them. They also mean more people get a chance to be involved and feel included.

2. Take a back seat. As the host, I've learned I should do less talking and focus on correctly managing the show to ensure no more technical mishaps. Next time, I will spare you my ramblings and keep my input fairly minimal.

3. Use the mute button on my mic, rather than the mute button on Zoom, to ensure my breathing is not picked up! (Zoom muted everyone else correctly, just not me!) Also, keep my super-sensitive mic further away from me so I'm not as loud, relative to everyone else.

4. Only one topic per show. Last time, we had three topics and we raced through the last topic because it was getting late. Three topics is too many for one show.

I think that pretty much summarises it. I'm not sure the show will stream live weekly. I think the best approach will be to schedule a show when there is something that needs to be discussed and then send the invites out about 24-48 hours in advance. I won't be planning shows too far ahead because I had a nightmare with long-Covid in this instance. I want to ensure I'm only planning something when I'm feeling up to it.

If you would like to be included on my list of potential panelists, please contact me on Twitter and I'll add your name to the list. Next time, I might have 12 or even 16 panelists, so there is a good chance I'll find room for you. I promise, next time things will go smoothly!

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Sunday, 10 October 2021

The sale of Newcastle United - my football club - has officially gone through, and NUFC is now under the ownership of a consortium led by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. 

Many people, myself included, have condemned this move and asked how it can possibly have been allowed to go ahead. Surely, our great sport has to be about more than just money? It certainly is to me, and so many Toon fans have been left facing a moral dilemma. 

St James Park is fully sold out for the next match - something that never once happened under the ownership of Mike Ashley, but I can't judge the fans who are supporting the club but not the owners - they are so desperate for change and for investment in their club. I want these things too, but Newcastle United means too much for me to simply accept it being used to wash over the crimes of a monster.

This club is about so much more than money or success - it's about the local people - and my people cannot look away as our new owner commits genocide against the Yemeni people. We must raise our voices and call for an end to Saudi atrocities because we are so much better than this. You see, football, by bringing people together, is first and foremost about our shared humanity...

Newcastle United has been part of my life since I was a small child.

I remember my mother's boyfriend coming into our bedroom when I was seven years old and my brother was five, and asking which football team we supported.

"Nottingham Forest," I whispered and he looked at me, confused.

"Why would you support Nottingham Forest?" he asked.

"Because that's where my Dad lives," I replied.

It was then he explained that we don't live in Nottingham, that people who were born and raised around here support Newcastle United, that it's in our blood, and from that moment, Newcastle United was my club. 

I quickly learned how the sport of football, and our local club, brought working class people together. Whether that was heading off to the match or gathering to watch in a crowded pub or talking about the result at work or school the day after, football was a focal point of our lives. Matches were something to look forward to. The team was something to rally behind. NUFC generated a level of excitement and passion among fans that was truly legendary. The club was part of us. We were the club.

I remember walking through Newcastle city centre at 7 years old in my green and yellow Newcastle United away shirt in the middle of winter. It was freezing cold, maybe -2 °C, but was I going to complain about the cold? Hell no! We are geordies and whining was not something we did - there were men walking around shirtless, for goodness sake!

We would cram into the Strawberry Pub before the match and I would be utterly dwarfed by the rowdy crowd, sipping froth from my step-father's beer. (I think it was customary to give kids a taste of beer at an early age. We were taught football and beer go together!)

To a tiny 7 year old, The Strawberry was intimidating as hell. I'd be squashed against the bar and none of the patrons seemed the slightest bit concerned about my well-being. I would tolerate their yelling and swearing while I stood muted for maybe two hours. These men were mostly the northern social conservative stereotype of 1990 that politicians believe is representative of northerners today. (It isn't.)

And it's fair to say that while these men were fun and likeable in their own gruff way, I would sometimes hear some rather unpleasant views. There was much to dislike, but plenty to love too, and one thing that shone through was this idea of working class solidarity that football helped to reinforce.

While the experience could, on the surface, seem rather nightmarish, it really wasn't. I felt in those moments I was learning to be a man, and when we left the pub and marched up the road to our magnificent stadium, I was truly in awe. This was the time before the modern St James' Park with the huge cantilever stand, but to a small boy, it was still a magnificent sight.

The beauty of St James' Park back then was you didn't need an expensive ticket to gain entry, because the club was very much about working people. You could simply turn up on the day and pay £4.50 for an adult and £3.50 for a child and you were inside. And if you've never experienced a live football match in one of the old stands which are now rightly banned for safety reasons, you will never understand what that was like. 

The intensity of the atmosphere made it seem like we were entering a seething collosseum to watch gladiators go to war. When we chanted, my neck hairs would stand on end. When the crowd roared, I could feel it inside my bones. When they got excited and charged forward, I was crushed against the concrete barrier, and honestly, I don't know how my rib-cage withstood several dozen bodies pressing against me, but it somehow did. 

The experience was daunting but exhilarating. From the old Gallowgate stand, I could barely see the tiny figures at the other end of the pitch, but the match wasn't something I witnessed so much as felt. And when I heard the cheers from the far end of the stadium, that was often my first indication a goal had been scored, and that was a feeling like no other. It's an experience that just can't be replicated when you're watching on a TV screen at home.

So, yeah, back then this football club was ours, and it mattered

I remember Kevin Keegan coming in to replace Ossie Ardiles and giving us our incredible promotion season. There was no better man-manager than Kevin Keegan - he turned us into English football's great entertainers, and winning wasn't enough for us, we had to win the right way. I remember the epic encounters with Liverpool when we were on the wrong end of 4-3 defeats in incredible games, and people would say we might win more, if we played more defensively, but we wouldn't have had it any other way. 

And we came so close to winning the league the proper way.

Kevin Keegan's outburst against Sir Alex Ferguson in 1996 will live forever in the memory of every Newcastle United fan who witnessed it. The man understood us and he understood what the club meant to the local people and this is why we adored him. The same goes for the late, great Sir Bobby Robson who became manager a few years later. These were men who lit up the city, who knew that when the football team was doing well, the geordies came alive, because working class people, who really didn't have much, needed this in their lives.

Our club was special. And while we never won trophies during these magical periods, we repeatedly came so close, and those memories, those cup finals and second place league finishes are moments every NUFC fan cherishes, in spite of our heartbreak.

It all fell apart for us when Mike Ashley took over the club in 2007. 

Many football fans across the country had expressed concern for some time about the capitalisation of our great sport, about how it was moving away from its socialist ethos, about how it became more about exploiting working people than representing them, but up until that point, NUFC fans could say their chairmen had, despite their faults, been local men who shared a genuine love for the club and invested in it. They wanted success and were in the sport mostly for the right reasons.

But now our club was in the hands of Mike Ashley, owner of Sports Direct, someone who appeared to be the worst kind of capitalist and who had no connection to the local area. It felt like our club had been hijacked. And for years, we put up with dreadful managerial appointments and our best players being sold for huge sums without that money being reinvested. (Andy Carroll, anyone?) The club was no longer a credible force and this was entirely down to the way it was run. 

Kevin Keegan had a short-lived return to the club in 2008 and was promised a huge transfer budget, only for the boardroom to openly mock him, the moment he showed interest in any quality player he was told we could afford. Those bastards humiliated a local legend and that was unforgiveable. 

Kevin Keegan was forced out, and he made it abundantly clear, the club would never go anywhere under the ownership of Mike Ashley. From that moment, us fans were simply biding our time, desperately waiting for Ashley to sell the club he'd ruined and let us rebuild, and now it has finally happened.

We have new owners who are indicating they will invest in the club and turn it into a credible force, once again. We should be ecstatic, and yet the biggest investor, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman is, by all accounts, a tyrant. We are told this is a man who carved a journalist into pieces for embarrassing him. We are told he is one of the worst human rights abusers on Earth. And now our club could be on the verge of greatness, but any success would be purchased with blood money and used simply as reputational management for a brutal dictator.

The thought is horrifying.

We have not won a major trophy since the Fair's Cup (now the UEFA cup) in 1969. We have not won a domestic trophy since the FA Cup in 1955, during the era of the great Jackie Milburn, the legendary striker known affectionately to fans as "Wor Jackie". 

By God, we so desperately want this football club to succeed, but to succeed in this way? From me, it would be a hard no.

I can honestly say the period I've most enjoyed football in recent years was when Newcastle United was relegated, not because I enjoyed the idea of relegation - that was horrible - but for a brief time, the game was not about the mindless accumulation of wealth, and during that period, the club felt like it was back in the hands of the fans. That period emphasised football is not simply about winning, it is first and foremost about community, about humanity, and in my mind, it is not worth sacrificing our values for success.

Thursday, 7 October 2021

Hundreds of thousands of families found themselves £20 a week worse off yesterday when our lovely government cut Universal Credit at the worst possible time. The people who already weren't managing were suddenly expected to manage with a hell of a lot less, because, you see, £20 might be nothing to an MP who would happily spend that on a cup of coffee, but to a poor person, well, they could feed themselves for an entire week with that money.

£20 a week really is the difference between being able to buy some fruit and vegetables or put the heating on when it gets freezing cold. Taking that money away means families facing malnutrition and going cold in winter, and before you call them lazy scroungers, please remember, a huge number of these people are already in work and many others are victims of circumstances you have no knowledge of.

Some questions for comfortable middle-class Tory voters:

How many among you have been too scared to put the heating on or take a bath because of your sky high energy bills? How many of you have wrapped yourself in a blanket mid-winter in a room so cold you can actually see your breath? I have, back when I was living alone in a small flat with extortionate rent.

You might think that sounds fine, that I managed to keep warm so what am I complaining about? But just imagine spending every evening wrapped in extra clothes and a blanket and still feeling cold. It's suffocating. It's no way to live. And yes, I was in full-time employment at the time, so your get-a-job rhetoric isn't going to wash.

Just imagine asking families with small children to go through that misery. I have a three month old baby. I genuinely have no idea if our energy bill will be affordable this winter, but I'm damn sure I will be putting the heating on. If our supplier wants to charge us rip-off prices, and expect a government bail out, they can bloody well take me, and millions of others, to court as far as I'm concerned, because no baby should go cold for the sake of neo-liberalism.

You would think this would be one fight the leader of the opposition could take to the Tories, an easy win, to simply point out how privatisation has failed our people. But alas, Starmer's performed another screeching U-turn on one of his key pledges and decided a national crisis is not the time to take decisive action to remove the cause of a major problem he promised to fix.

Sir Keir Starmer has been about as inspiring in his fight against the energy crisis as he has been in his fight against the tax avoidance revealed in the Pandora Papers. In other words, he has not bothered to lace up his gloves, not bothered to swing back against the rigged system which is pummeling us from every direction.

Instead, Starmer is leaving opposition to celebrities like Marcus Rashford, Gary Neville and Jack Monroe. We are in desperate need of representation, but only the non-politicians are willing to provide this. I despair.

If you still don't get why the Universal Credit cut is so morally wrong, let's try this:

Imagine you've just dropped the kids off at school and you're staring at the wall, about to start working from home, resisting the urge to eat the last of the food in the near-empty cupboards because you haven't had breakfast and you're saving the food for the kids and hoping you can get through the day without your boss calling to give you a hard time because you feel so damn sluggish and are about to massively under-perform.

I mean this sluggishness is obviously your fault. Your incompetence is the reason you can't get a "better job" in an area that has no better jobs, but luckily, you're seeing upper-middle class brats on TV explain the £20 a week cut is going to help you "pull yourself up by your bootstraps". I bet you're feeling inspired now.

So you're going to use energy you don't have because your employer isn't paying you enough to eat, and you're genuinely going to try to impress your manager, and they're going to tell you you're a useless dickhead regardless, because that's what they're there to do.

But remember, you're "pulling yourself up by your bootstraps" and your efforts are going to miraculously overcome the increase to national insurance and council tax and food prices and fuel prices (if you're lucky enough to have a car and need to drive anywhere). Thank God you're allowed to work from home for the time being, but your boss is already talking about forcing you to return to the office, otherwise they might cut your pay which is only a fraction above minimum wage, because you're saving money on travel expenses so you don't deserve as much income. But they're not going to pay your electricity bill, are they?

It's just any and every excuse to screw over ordinary people. And we're at breaking point.

I, like millions of others, am no stranger to hunger. You probably already know this because I talk about it quite a lot on my blog, if for no other reason than to educate people. I had a rough start to adult life and in recent months, I've had another taste of what that period was like. We are currently on Universal Credit because my wife is on maternity leave, and the other day, I had some moron on Twitter saying we shouldn't have had a child, like poor people shouldn't reproduce!

I'm not sure who this guy thinks is going to fill all the low-paid job vacancies that have appeared post-Brexit. Does he not realise that if we went ahead with his eugenics experiment that middle-class people like him would have to step forward?

The most essential roles in society get filled by people who were raised by parents whose income was topped up by benefits, and who will also have their income topped up by benefits. If you tell those people to stop reproducing, guess what? Twenty years down the line, you literally have no essential workers! 

The working poor are vilified and blamed for our own poverty, even when we're doing the very things that are essential to the functioning of society.

Being a parent and working a low-paid job are actually two of the most important things a person can do. Just think about that. The two things that will get you blamed for your own poverty are the very things society needs you to do in order to be able to function. 

Society needs your labour in order to be able to function, but it doesn't want to give you what you need in order for your family to function. It's a relationship of abuse and exploitation, and we don't talk nearly enough about how the most marginalised group in society is actually the working class, because we are the one group that it's legally and socially acceptable to discriminate against. It is perfectly socially acceptable to tell a working class person they are deserving of hunger - our own government says as much!

They are truly taking the piss.

While the £20 a week Universal Credit cut was going through, Tory politicians and journalists were actually throwing a massive party. This party gave us the grotesque spectacle of Therese Coffey singing "I've Had the Time of My Life" and the totally impartial BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg having a dance-off with Michael Gove to Ice Ice Baby. I think I'm going to be sick.

The establishment isn't just being consciously cruel, it's openly mocking us, and we are seeing almost no opposition because Labour is part of the establishment too, and if they ever do criticise the government, it's only in the most timid of ways, just enough to maintain the pretence they're not on the same side.

And while all this is going on, we're putting up with simplistic arguments that totally fail to consider the chaos families are facing, right now. My family recently caught the "super-cold" that's going around. It was horrendous. My (at the time) two month old daughter couldn't stop coughing and crying for eight whole days. We barely slept. Then as luck would have it, literally days after we'd recovered from the super-cold, my 9 year old went and caught Covid-19 and is now self-isolating. On top of that, I've got a broken molar and have to wait two months for an NHS dentist appointment!

Imagine some idiot telling you to pull yourself up by your bootstraps while you're dealing with all this crap and living in a forgotten, northern working-class town.

To give an example of the idiocy we have to tolerate, some genius suggested Universal Credit claimants could wash their neighbours' cars to make up the £20 shortfall, but those extra earnings would simply lead to a reduction in the amount of Universal Credit they got paid, leaving them no further forward. When we talk about poverty traps, this is what we mean.

If you don't want to hear any more from me, here's a quote from someone who messaged me on Twitter and wants to remain anonymous:

"I’m 62, on ESA legacy benefit and also PIP so I didn’t receive the uplift. I’ve taken over my son’s direct debit for his gas and electricity as he’s self-employed and on UC. He’s worked really hard to move away from UC and set up a small business, but obviously work has been scarce over the lockdown period. Losing the uplift means potentially plunging him into debt and definitely into the choice between heating or eating. I never visit without taking a bag of shopping but knowing that he, and my grandchildren, who are with him three days per week, won’t be cold this winter has prompted me to take over the energy bills too."

Here is a reply one of my tweets received:

Feel free to click on the tweet and read some of the other replies...

Ordinary people are stuck. We don't want to be at the mercy of the government, but we are because that's how our system works. All of us would far rather have meaningful employment opportunities and a minimum wage that was an actual living wage, so we could do basic things like eating and heating and buying school uniforms and making necessary repairs, but we are forced into a situation where the essentials are luxuries. We are being squeezed too far while MPs complain about the struggle of life on an £81k salary.

The thing I need the middle-class to understand is that if you were living as we are living, you would not think the current system is workable. You would think capitalism needs to be dismantled. And if you don't already think that, it's because you are happy to impose poverty on a huge chunk of the population to maintain your privilege.

Sadly, as the economy goes into free-fall, more middle-class people are being pulled into the struggle, and more still are on the brink of being pulled in, and if you want to prevent that, if you want to protect your own living standards, you're going to need to stand in solidarity with us, because you are about to learn the establishment was never on your side, but you were quite possibly on theirs. 

All of you have far more in common with a poor person than you will ever have with a Tory politician. It's time to stand together and say enough is enough.