Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Full Fact and Facebook Rated One of My Tweets as False. Here Is Why this Is BS.

Full Fact recently fact-checked one of my tweets which many people had screen-shotted and shared to Facebook. Facebook later marked those screen shots as false news, linking to the Full Fact article and stating the original post had "no basis in fact". 

Someone had, unbeknown to me, shared the post to our Facebook Group, and in response, Facebook reduced the group's distribution, forcing us to delete the post. This was a clear example of the overreach of big tech, because Facebook and Full Fact completely missed the point of my tweet. I'm not sure whether this was clumsiness or a deliberate attempt at censorship, but I note that Serco quote-tweeted their "fact check" so make of that what you will, and either way, it was bullshit. 

Let me explain:

First of all, Fact Check claimed the central point of the tweet was that Serco received £37 billion for NHS Test and Trace. 

This was not the central point of the tweet as anyone with half a brain could see.

The point of the tweet was to compare the £37 billion Test and Trace budget to the £36 billion being raised for the NHS and social care, which was £1 billion less. In other words, I was suggesting the Test and Trace budget probably could've been better allocated to the NHS and social care. I think most people would agree this was a fair point.

Full Fact acknowledged the test and trace budget was indeed £37 billion.

They also acknowledged the sum being raised by the National Insurance increase and dividend tax was indeed £36 billion.

This means they agreed the central point of the tweet was correct(!), but they labelled the tweet as incorrect, based on points I was not actually arguing.

First of all, Full Fact said not all of the money was spent, that only £13.5 billion had been spent to date and only £623 million was spent by Serco. Fair enough, Serco was not the sole recipient of this money and I could have worded this clearly, but again, that was not the central point of the tweet and I highly doubt anyone read it that way.

I was being facetious when I described the money as being "magically disappeared by Serco". This was a tongue in cheek side-point, raising a question mark about where the Test and Trace budget is actually going, when other countries' Test and Trace budgets are much lower. This is a perfectly valid concern that is absolutely in the public interest and should not be subjected to censorship by big tech. The question of why our Test and Trace budget is so high has been raised in Parliament by MPs like Dawn Butler.

Full Fact made a fair point that money was allocated to other companies, but I feel writing "Serco and other companies" would have cluttered the tweet. Plus, I doubt anyone was thinking that only Serco received Test and Trace contracts, or even cared which other companies were involved.

The tweet was not directly aimed at Serco, that was a side swipe because they were the most recognisable name from all the parties involved. Plus, they are a company which has received government money for many projects over the years that some people believe were failures. But I digress....

The tweet was aimed at how the government has allocated resources!

The fact check should have read as followed:

What was claimed:

That the government allocated £37 billion to Test and Trace, which was £1 billion more than the £36 billion being raised for the NHS and social care.

Our Verdict:

The central claim of the tweet is correct. The government set aside a budget of £37 billion to run the NHS Test and Trace program for two years. The 1.4% increase to National Insurance and the dividend tax is intended to raise £36 billion. 

However, not all of the Test and Trace budget was allocated to Serco, and to date, only £13.5 billion has been spent, £623 million of which was spent by Serco. Therefore, the money has not been "magically disappeared by Serco".

This would have been a fair and accurate way of fact checking the tweet, and wording it that way would mean Facebook couldn't have stated the tweet had "no basis in fact". It clearly did have a basis in fact, and while there was admittedly an inaccuracy in how I singled out Serco, this was not the central point of the tweet and I was clearly being facetious. The tweet was 90% accurate and yet Facebook suggested it was 100% false, even though Full Fact acknowledged my key claims were correct, even after distorting the original point I was making.

This is not how fact checking should be done.

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The government is introducing voter ID via the Elections Bill to suppress the youth vote and the working class vote. They are also stripping the Electoral Commission of most of its powers and handing those powers directly to ministers. This means our electoral system is losing much of its independent oversight.

You might ask yourself why a party with such a huge majority would do this, but recent by-elections suggest the Tory vote is surprisingly soft in places. Their vote share in some seats has fallen significantly, including by 13.5% in the most recent by-election. Sure, the Tories have a consistent poll lead, but this seems to be as much about the under-performance of the Labour Party as anything else. 

People are getting fed up with the charlatan Boris Johnson and his endless lies. If Labour, or even another party such as the surging Greens, can inspire the young, the Tories could be losing many seats at the next election.

The Tories are painfully aware that demographics are changing, not least because their mismanagement of the pandemic means their voters are dying out at a higher rate than before. Sorry to be so grim, but this is an undeniable and relevant fact. 

The working class have shorter life expectancy, meaning the older the age bracket, the more likely a person is to vote Tory. Wealthy Tories have typically lived many years longer than the poor, but the pandemic is levelling things out.

On top of this, the youth are showing no signs of embracing Tory rule, and while social media has no doubt played a role in their radicalisation, the biggest factor is the Tories have simply cut the youth out. They are not representing them. They're demanding they work their zero hours contracts and cram themselves into HMOs and wait quietly for capitalism to scorch the Earth, and they're terrified that many young people are rising up. The climate protests are a perfect example of the youth finding their political voice and the Tories desperately need a counter-balance. 

We are only allowed democracy until it becomes inconvenient to the establishment.

The Tories have no desire to represent the youth because that would mean sacrificing some of their capital, relinquishing a degree of their power, making the system a little less rigged, and they quite like their rigged system actually. The system works marvelously for wealthy Tories.

The government plans to accept the elderly Travel Pass as valid voter ID, but not a younger person's Rail Card. Both are photo IDs with very similar application requirements, but one demographic is more likely to be Tory than the other. This is how voter suppression works. It has been going on for years in America. In Texas, for example, you can use your gun license for voter ID, but not your student ID, because gun owners are more likely to be conservative, whereas students tend to be left-leaning.

While the government is pledging free ID cards to those who do not have photo ID, even they acknowledge these will take time to roll out and the process will be expensive. They know the people who don't have acceptable photo ID tend to be poor, working class and left-wing. These are demographics who already feel disenfranchised and only those strongly motivated to vote will go through a lengthy application process. This is what this is ultimately about. People who have photo ID face no barrier to voting, but those who don't have photo ID (and are likely to be left-wing) will now face a barrier. The plan is to reduce the likelihood of these people voting, of ensuring they remain disenfranchised and don't demand representation from our politicians. We need to get these people angry enough to make a stand because the Tories are counting on our hopelessness and apathy.

Voter ID will cost up to £180 million a decade to tackle the non-existent problem of voter fraud. At a typical general election, you're looking at less than ten examples of voter impersonation, but voter ID trials have resulted in thousands of people being denied their vote. Scale this up to the entire nation and you'll be looking at hundreds of thousands of people being turned away. Regardless of your political affiliation, if you care about democracy, this should concern you.

Two million people currently do not have acceptable photo ID, including 5% of disabled people. Northerners are seven times less likely to have photo ID than southerners. Yep, it's the north/south divide again. The figures also show members of ethnic minorities are about 30% less likely to have photo ID, meaning this policy is racist as well as ageist.

It's undeniable that younger people are significantly less likely to vote Tory than older generations. Before any ageing socialists pounce on me and suggest I'm accusing them of being Tories(!), just look at the below figures, courtesy of YouGov. 

The young are socialists, overwhelmingly, and older generations are predominantly conservatives - a young Tory is as rare as an old socialist. We're not attacking the elderly when we point this out, we're fighting for you. 

The Tories are hammering older people, removing the triple lock on the lowest state pension in Europe, and sorry to be grim again, but they're sacrificing your peers to the pandemic. The Tories see the elderly working class as useless eaters and they want rid of you. They see you as nothing more than a pensions bill that needs to be cut. 

When they're suppressing the youth vote, they're not just attacking the young, they're indirectly attacking the old. They're taking steps to ensure you don't get to escape the misery of Tory rule either. They're stealing your democracy too.

Monday, 13 September 2021

As many of us are painfully aware, the Tories are hitting the working class with the double-whammy of a £20 a week Universal Credit cut and a 1.25% National Insurance increase. The poor are being asked to pay for the Tories' mismanagement of the pandemic, just as they were asked to pay for austerity. It's fairer that way, they say.

Of course, they could easily ask the super-rich, who've seen their wealth skyrocket in the last two years, to pay, but they'd rather plunge millions of ordinary people further into poverty. Those millions will include 200,000 innocent kids, according to Action for Children.

What a lie "We're all in it together" turned out to be...

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Therese Coffey said somewhat perversely, she is "proud" of the government's actions and if people are unhappy about losing £20 a week, they should "work an extra two hours". There was no mention of how a person on a zero hours contract is supposed to get an extra 2 hours work and no understanding that the Universal Credit taper means a minimum wage worker actually has to work about 8 or 9 extra hours to make up the shortfall. Even if you can get those 8 or 9 hours, it means a 6-day working week. It means you are living for your employer and never seeing friends or family. It also means you're too exhausted to find a better job, even if a better job was available in your area - and in areas like mine, that's unlikely. 
Suddenly, Jeremy Corbyn's proposed 4-day working week seems very appealing...
A debate was recently sparked online when a famous YouTuber asked who they should speak to about these Tory attacks on the poor, and the response from the working class was pretty much unanimous - please, not a think-tank academic! Please speak to someone who is actually living it! I am one such person and I find it frustrating that no one ever speaks to us about our struggle, but rather they speak about us. It's almost like we're an alien species on a different planet that some feel a degree of compassion for, they just don't want us getting too close.

Don't get me wrong, I've nothing against well-meaning academics who are mostly on our side, but what can they really tell you, other than a bunch of statistics and estimates about what might happen next? They can't relay lived experience of poverty, but people like me can.

Now before I go any further, I would like to point out we are a working family, so if you're a Tory, please spare me the "get a job" bollocks! Oh, and before you lecture us on "getting a better job", it's worth mentioning my wife actually works for the DWP. If our own government isn't paying enough for families to be self-sufficient, what chance do ordinary people stand?

My northern working class town doesn't have the highly paid jobs that are available down south, meaning almost everyone is trapped in the struggle. It's more or less endless. What you call poverty, we just call life. Imagine thinking the victims of regional inequality are guilty of personal shortcomings. It's an incredibly bad way of rationalising and shows a total ignorance of real life circumstances.

My wife is currently on reduced pay because she's on maternity leave which she will be forced to cut short to help cover the bills. Universal Credit is currently supplementing our earnings, and let me tell you, it's nowhere near enough to live off. Last week, we ran out of food in our cupboards and fridge, so for about 3 days we were depending on the food we had stored in the freezer. We weren't hungry because we did have food, but the situation was far from pleasant and completely unfair on our kids.

The smart-arse Twitter response these days is don't have kids, if you can't afford to feed them, to which I would say, what a sorry state of affairs when even government employees can't afford kids. Plus, fuck you, you eugenicist fuck!

If you think parenthood should be the sole preserve of those for who capitalism is working out, then you think 75% of the world's population shouldn't be having kids - only people like you should reproduce. And let's face it, no one wants a world populated only by the likes of you! Not even you want that. Surely, you realise all those people you're telling not to have kids are the essential front-line workers who've kept the country going during the pandemic, right? I know nurses who are on Universal Credit, for God's sake. Are you going to tell nurses they shouldn't have had kids? Or just that their kids deserve to go hungry?

The simple fact of the matter is the government's recent moves are not just hurting the people you label "jobless layabouts", they're also hurting the people you depend on to stack supermarket shelves, deliver your goods, treat your sick family and keep your country running. You could not live without the people you think deserve poverty. Indeed, your economy and therefore your wealth is built on their hard work. Please take some time to reflect on that. You could try showing empathy and ask yourself why we don't ask the wealthy to contribute before making the poor pay with more poverty. I thought the British were supposed to believe in fair play...

Unfortunately, our current system is not set up for fair play.

I've personally experienced long-term unemployment - it was great - the government gave me a 5-bedroom house, gold chains, a bunch of tattoos, a Sky subscription, and a daily supply of cigarettes and alcohol. It was brilliant, you should try it!

Okay, now that you've spat your coffee out and you're turning a curious shade of gammon, let me tell you the reality of life on state welfare.

If you're a single unemployed person claiming Universal Credit, you're looking at minimal food with little or no variety in your diet. Have you ever been starving, even though you have access to food? I certainly have. 

You see, if you've only got store brand Weetabix in your cupboard, and no milk, there's only so much watery Weetabix you can stomach before your body rejects it and you just lie there until you can no longer bear the hunger and force more watery Weetabix down you. Eating is not something you do for pleasure anymore, there is no enjoyment in food, eating is simply a bodily function that must be fulfilled to prevent death. And you can feel so depressed and helpless that that doesn't seem like such a bad way out. No wonder the suicide rate is rising...

But the real killer is not the hunger, it's the loneliness. I remember sitting in my aunty's spare bedroom, listening to the Eminem CD that was all I had on repeat play, thinking about how I couldn't afford to socialise with any of my friends who were lucky enough to be working and still living with their parents so they had a little disposable income. They would be going out for a few drinks and I had no idea when that would be me, if I was going to be able to enjoy my youth or find a girlfriend or do any of the things other people take for granted.

It felt like I was in a prison cell, not because that spare room was so awful but because there was no way out. It's incredibly depressing when you have hopes and dreams like anyone else, but not only can you not see the world, but you can't even see the nice places in your local area. 

Places like coffee shops and night clubs seemed like a different world and the loneliness I felt was one of the key reasons I began to write. I guess I had no one to show how I felt and the pen and paper provided my only outlet. The dual worlds theme was central to my Skye City novels - the idea there is a world for them and a world for us. And our world is so much bleaker than theirs.

A social life for me involved walking two miles to the Metro station, skipping the Metro and hoping I didn't get caught, then walking another two miles to my mate's mother's house. Just getting there was a stressful, exhausting ordeal. The thing is when you're broke, you do a lot of walking. You get very used to the elements - the wind, rain, hail, snow, and ice are not things you can simply hide away from. If you need to walk somewhere, it doesn't matter how unappealing that trip outside is, you're walking with trainers that are falling off your feet and a summer coat because you can't afford a winter one. The biting cold of a winter's breeze becomes all too familiar.

Far from being a safety net, Universal Credit robs young people of their future - it means a life of malnutrition, dizziness, tiredness and unbearable anxiety. Science shows us that poverty actually alters your body chemistry in a way that makes everything, even simple tasks much more difficult. Comfortable people who've had everything easy would do well to remember that, next time they insist their privilege is the product of their own hard work. Try being successful when you have enormous obstacles in your way, including lack of money, contacts, qualifications, and opportunities, and then you can lecture me about hard work.

The challenge of life in a working class town is a large chunk of your time is spent with absolutely no money - and often with negative money - when your bank account's overdrawn and you're getting charges. How do you even dig yourself out of such a hole? Do you have any idea what it's like when you're waiting for your first benefits payment and you don't have a penny to buy food? Have you ever gone days without eating? I did when I was a teenager. Why do you think a person like me deserves hunger? I did nothing wrong.

Have you ever walked around town when you're so faint you can barely stand, visiting every shop and factory to see if they have work and finding nothing? You probably think, ah, but there are always places with worker shortages, you're just lying and making excuses. The thing is, it's a bit of a problem if none of those companies are based in your area and you don't have the relevant qualifications or experience anyway.

I had to drop out of college when I was unemployed because our system doesn't let you take the steps you need to improve your situation. That's not the point of the system. If you're like me, your role in the system is to scare people who are slightly more privileged than you. They must believe that if they don't do exactly as they're told, they might end up just like you. But at the same time, they must believe your struggle is the result of your personal failings. It's called cognitive dissonance and the middle-class have turned that into an Olympic sport.

Working class lads are not supposed to be the "go-getters" who dig themselves out of a tough situation and turn their lives around. If the government wanted us to have a better situation, they wouldn't let so many live in poverty in the first place.

Sure, one or two individuals will find a way to escape the poverty trap, and the establishment will celebrate them, of course, but then they will weaponise their success against other poor people. They will hold them up as clear evidence of our laziness and incompetence. If they can do it, why can't you? They know this argument is bullshit though because they intentionally created the circumstances that trap people like us.

Have you ever been offered a job interview, only you had no money for bus fare, let alone the shirt and tie you need? Have you ever sat in the dark when your emergency credit ran out and you had no electricity? Have you ever found yourself caught up in a cycle of late payment charges and unauthorised overdraft fees? As you can imagine, it's no way to live. Now, imagine telling a person already living this way to be £20 a week worse off. What do you think it's going to do to them?

I've been that single, unemployed person. I've also been the comfortable middle-class person until the Tory economy fucked that up. What this means is that I understand both worlds. You don't, Mr Daily Mail reader, so please, bloody well listen to me!

It's fair to say life on Universal Credit is not quite as brutal to families as it is to single people, but it's really not much better. We've been lucky in the last couple of years in that the school was running a food bank for a while with the help of local companies like Greggs, but that's stopped now.

Getting free food-bank food brings a weird mixture of emotions. On the one hand, it's a huge relief, and you know it's not enough to address the injustice you and your neighbours face, but on the other hand, it feels uncomfortable being fed this way. It's no one's first choice. The idea the working poor are always on the take, looking for freebies is laughable. We don't even want Universal Credit, let alone food-bank food. But we have a problem when wages are not enough to cover the basics while billionaires are going to Mars.

You Tories need to stop fleecing us. We're sick of your crap! And not in a "we don't like your politics" kind of way, either. This is not even about politics, it's about you lot making life close to impossible for us. 

It's about being unable to buy food because you just bought your kids PE kits. (That's why we were skint last week). It's about staring at the hole in your kitchen ceiling from when your 9 year old flooded the bathroom and you've no idea when you can get it repaired. It's about having a broken down car that you've declared off-road because you doubt you'll ever get it fixed and might as well scrap it. It's about not paying the broadband bill because your direct debit bounced and you're getting charged by Barclays and BT. It's that feeling every time you're paying at the till and nervous your card will be rejected, even when the money should be in your account. It's going the last week of each month with not a penny to your name and hoping no emergency happens. It's panicking when your washing machine breaks down and you're waiting nearly a month until you can afford a bashed up second-hand one from Gum Tree. 

It's a near-impossible life that people like you keep imposing on us because you've decided that anyone who offers us a small amount of mercy is the extremist and that any alternative which involves the rich paying their fair share is "communism" and "couldn't possibly work". But ultimately it's about lack of empathy, because if you're one of those comfortable Tories, you're scoffing at what I've written as though it's  fabricated, while doing everything you can to ensure you don't end up like us, because deep down, you know it's all true.

So please spare me the political bullshit, stop patronising the poor, and open your eyes because poor people are not some extreme fringe of the population. Where I'm from, they're a clear majority, and the way the Tories are going, they could soon be a majority where you live too. Once the government is done fleecing us and they still can't balance the books, who do you think they are coming for next? 

Clue: It's not their wealthy Etonian mates.

Friday, 10 September 2021

A by-election has just been held in Cleadon and East Boldon (South Tyneside) and the result makes for grim reading for the Labour Party, not just because they were beaten by the Tories, but because it was yet another example of the Greens making huge gains and pushing Labour into 3rd place in what was supposed to be a two-horse race. 

The Tories lost 13.5 points in this by-election. This was Labour's big chance. It was the widest of open goals and Keith didn't just blaze the football over the bar, he kicked it out of the stadium, then fell over and broke his own leg!

For all the talk of winning back the northern heartlands by flag shagging and hammering the left, the Labour Party is going nowhere fast. I'm sure Starmerites will try to brush this off as a protest vote and insist most of those Green voters will return to Labour in 2024, but I'm not so sure. 

It's not unthinkable the Greens could eventually become the main opposition party.

The socialists and the younger voters who backed the Greens are furious. They feel alienated and betrayed in a way that goes beyond the usual political frustrations, and instead of trying to win them back, Starmer has done everything he can to push them further away. And he is not winning any of the socially conservative boomers he is desperate to appease. Currently, he is nothing to anyone.

The more people see of Starmer, the less they like him, and this is precisely why I think things will only get worse, come 2024. Remember when Jeremy Corbyn had that huge surge in 2017 when he was attracting adoring crowds on the campaign trail? Expect the opposite from Starmer. Expect wooden performances in small conference rooms and car crash TV debates in which he refuses to adopt a position on anything. Expect Labour to drop to around 25% of the popular vote.

Just look at the below graph and consider how Starmer has been given an easy ride from the press and the rival faction in his own party. Imagine what will happen when the pressure is cranked up a notch.

People don't like the man and his party is offering nothing policy-wise to make them look past that. A recent Labour meeting about the upcoming conference started with praise for Neil Kinnock's 1985 speech. Yes, the people who tell us to "get over Jeremy Corbyn" because he lost two general elections want to emulate Neil Kinnock... who lost two general elections. Talk about out of touch.

The centrist approach of telling the left to "grow up" at every opportunity is backfiring spectacularly and they seem incapable of grasping the climate crisis is now the number one issue for so many. As much as we are struggling financially, we are grown up enough to recognise the very future of the planet comes before our personal needs. If only the self-proclaimed grownups in the room could do the same, but alas, it seems they're not forensic enough for that.

It's not just Starmer's alienation of the young and the left that's the problem though, it's his wooden personality and cringeworthy inability to take a position on anything. His only recent positions have been to slaughter Geronimo the Alpaca (who it turns out probably didn't have TB after all), and to break Labour's manifesto pledge (and Starmer's leadership pledge) to form a National Care Service. At a time when the country is facing a social care crisis, Starmer's only response has been to say the Tories "can no longer call themselves the party of low taxes". 

The British public recognise the urgent need to fix our social care crisis, and all Starmer had to do was come up with a viable alternative plan, but he couldn't because that would involve a wealth tax and it would mean his financial donors walking away from him.

Given the dire state of Labour's finances under Starmer, he simply can't afford to lose those financial backers so he is caught between a rock and a hard place.

He can't approve of an unpopular National Insurance increase and absurdly he is not allowed to put forward any alternative solution. By attacking the Tories from the right, he's managed to let the most right-wing government in our history outflank him from the left, again. This is truly a spectacular achievement and another example of how big money utterly corrupts our political system.

Just watch the below interview with Sky and marvel at Starmer's inability to answer a straight question.

Clearly, Starmer has no idea what his position is supposed to be, so he mumbles his way through the interview and gives non-answers. Whatever Keith is doing, it is not leadership because no one is following him. If only he hadn't repelled so many former members, his party would still be awash with money. Many socialists like myself would've been willing to support him, if only he'd honoured his promise to unite the party, agreed the rich should pay their fair share and stuck to Labour's Green Industrial Revolution pledge. We would have compromised on everything else, if Keith was willing to agree to these very reasonable requests, but he didn't and won't because he is not a socialist, nor even a social democrat, and he is in the wrong party.

Starmer leading Labour is just as absurd as Jeremy Corbyn leading the Tories, and the proof of this is in his actions, rather than his empty words. He is currently purging people for things like calling for a leadership challenge against him. Friendly reminder that if Jeremy Corbyn had adopted that approach, Starmer could have been expelled from the party twice in the last 5 years. The hypocrisy is astounding.

So here we are with an unnecessary mess, with a Labour leader who not only doesn't have ideas on how to improve the country, but would not be allowed to implement them, even if he did. A Labour leader who looks so awkward and shifty on camera because his impossible position is finally dawning on him. A Labour leader who sold his soul for power and all he has contributed to his party is an existential crisis.

Think back to 2017 and the hugely popular manifesto and the enthusiasm from lifelong socialists and millions of young people who were inspired by Corbyn. All of that positivity has been thrown away. Starmer and his allies destroyed a once in a lifetime chance to defeat the establishment and achieve meaningful change in this country. And now their only goal is to keep things exactly the same, but it's a goal they can't say aloud so they're saying nothing at all.

Thursday, 9 September 2021

The Tories needed £36 billion to "clear the NHS backlog and fund social care", and instead of asking Serco for a refund on their bodged Test and Trace program, they kindly decided to hike up your National Insurance contributions.

What this means is that younger people are protecting rich, older people's homes because they aren't paying for their social care, we are. And even worse, they could quite easily have asked billionaires to pay more tax instead, but no, they targeted the poor as usual, leaving mostly under-40s drowning in the Thatcherite Dystopia they created.

To be fair, some Tories have come out against the move, but hilariously they've gone with the exact wrong take. They've decided that capitalists being capitalists is actually socialism! That's right, they're calling this latest move socialism. They're a very confused bunch. If only they understood socialism is the exact opposite of what the Tories have done, we might get somewhere, but I'm afraid these people are a lost cause. Their brains have been completely frazzled by "Migrant Dinghy Rage" - that's a real actual syndrome that I'm the first person to diagnose.

The stats on this make for laughable reading:

Every demographic under 65 is strongly opposed to the Tories' latest move, but most of the over-65s think it's quite a marvellous idea, actually. Apologies to the despairing members of the boomer generation who are shaking their heads in disbelief at what their peers are doing. I know you're on our side, but sadly you are very much in the minority on this one.

The demographic who vote Tory in huge numbers and don't pay National Insurance and have supported an economic system which left a huge black hole in our essential services through sheer greed have decided the best way to remedy the situation is to make you pay. There is literally no sense of shared responsibility with these people. They simply want to protect the properties they paid about £3,000 for, which are now worth £600,000, and it never even occurred to them that we didn't even have to look at selling their houses.

Don't get me wrong, selling second homes to pay for social care would be perfectly fine in my view, but that didn't even need to happen. We could have targeted billionaires and corporations who've seen their wealth rise by about 60% during the pandemic, but sadly the Tory majority of the boomer population had their minds poisoned by Murdoch rags to the point they think it's fairer to hammer the poor than to ask the super-rich to contribute.

Now I was never in favour of forcing an ordinary working class person to sell their home to pay for social care, but the Tories certainly were. It's just the Tories realised hardly anyone under 50 can actually become a home owner under the current economic system, meaning the system was unsustainable in the long term. Plus, they didn't want to sell their own properties when the time comes, so they decided the people they've screwed out of home ownership should be screwed again. 

The people who are already paying for their landlords' properties through tenancy agreements they had no choice but to enter into, are now being forced to pay more in National Insurance so those same wealthy people, who are getting their properties paid for several times over, can pass those properties onto their children who can then continue the cycle of exploitation. 

It's a system in which the privileged remain endlessly privileged and the working class are squeezed to the maximum possible extent. And it's the very opposite of what we were promised. Brexit was supposed to give us a £350 million a week dividend to pay for the NHS. Later, the Tories revised that figure up to £600 million a week! Now it turns out Brexit is actually costing us £600 million a week, and suddenly, we can't even buy things like sewage treatment chemicals, let alone pay for the NHS. I still can't believe the Brexit bus lied to us!

The Tories know young people aren't going to vote for them, and they know that, right now, they don't need their votes, but they also know that further down the line, they will have a problem as older Tories die off. This is why they are introducing voter suppression tactics like mandatory voter ID. Younger voters and poorer voters are much less likely to have ID and these just happen to be the demographics that are much less likely to vote Tory. Our democracy is being stolen from us, just as much as our wealth is being stolen from us.

The wealth share in this country makes for grim reading. This infographic from the Resolution Foundation might be a few years old but paints an accurate picture, only things have gotten worse over the last 5 years. Just look at the wealth share of the under-40s who are being hammered by the National Insurance increase.

Tory boomers basically voted for themselves to own everything at the expense of younger people, and in the process, they took away every mechanism designed to give the underprivileged a fighting chance. They enjoyed their free higher education, then decided that today's working class students would enter working life crippled by debt. Just think about that - graduates start their first job with negative money - and so many bright and talented kids are prevented from even entering into higher education in the first place, meaning we have so much wasted potential.

Tory boomers also decided their generation should own all the houses, and they should stop council house building, meaning that younger people would be forced to become their tenants and give them half their income. And now it gets even worse. Those same people who've screwed over younger voters every way they can, simply because they outnumber them at the voting booth, have now decided that younger voters should pay for their social care in order to protect their property portfolios. 

You aren't allowed to own your own house because their children are going to inherit ten houses, or maybe twenty houses, or thirty, and then you are going to give half your wages to those children for no reason. You're basically paying for a house several times over throughout your lifetime without actually owning it. And no, you fucking can't have pets!

The Tory answer to everything is always to squeeze the poor further. They don't know what it's like to face genuine poverty, to not know if you'll have a roof over your head next month, to be so hungry you're picking mould off your bread and watering down your milk to make it last a few days longer. And their warped sense of reality means they've decided it's fairer to let CEOs have so much surplus income they're building spaceships, than  to let the young have a living wage or stable working hours or even toilet breaks.

Amazon's sales revenue was £20.5 billion last year and they only paid £492 million in tax, which is a little over 2% of their revenue. Imagine being incredibly rich and only paying 2% income tax. Would be nice, wouldn't it? But no, you're probably picking mould off your bread, and what's worse, you could well be an Amazon employee yourself and you're still picking mould off your bread, because not only are they not paying their fair share in taxes, they're ripping off their own employees and expecting the tax payer to top up their salaries.

To reiterate: Amazon is not paying enough tax and yet we're subsidising their wage bill. They should be paying us, but actually we're paying them.

And consider care workers who are being paid poverty wages and will now take home less pay to cover the costs of the people they're caring for. Tell me this is not a rigged system.

Everyone below upper-middle-class is finding things hard to one extent or another, but the young are finding it damn near impossible because not only are they almost all broke, but even under-40s who have a Master's Degree (like my wife) still have no light at the end of the tunnel, because in most places opportunity just isn't a thing that exists anymore.

We have created an economic system where the young are supporting the wealth and luxury of a large chunk of the older population while the poorer members of the older population are treated as useless eaters and essentially left to rot. Far from being a meritocracy, modern Britain is a place where most people only "get ahead" (a horrible term in itself) if a privileged older person allows them to. 

Modern Britain is a place of endless class warfare and it's a war the working class are losing quite catastrophically and the casualties are overwhelmingly young people having their dreams snuffed out by the Tories' insatiable greed.

Monday, 6 September 2021

Vaccine passports are coming and many people across the political spectrum are unhappy about this. Some entertainment venues have criticised the government's plans and the prime minister has faced a backlash from some of his own MPs. Personally - and I'm sure this will make many people mad(!) - I remain ambivalent. I have serious reservations about vaccine passports, but I cannot deny there are some decent arguments in their favour.

Here are the facts:

All nightclubs and indoor venues will require proof of vaccination by the end of September. The government says this is because Covid-rates are spiking in young adults and their strategy is the best way to avoid repeated lockdowns.

We could either lock the entire country down once every few months when a new Covid wave arrives, or we could introduce vaccine passports, or we could leave the country fully open. Let's be honest, all three options are pretty crap, and I'm certainly no Tory apologist, but the government has to choose the least crap option. I think we will all take a different view on what the least crap option is.

The science shows us large entertainment venues where young people gather are among the main Covid breeding grounds, but then again, schools and workplaces would be the other main breeding grounds and passports would not be required there. Opponents of passports could therefore rightly claim a double standard.

Then there is the civil liberties argument that people feel they are being coerced into taking a vaccine they are genuinely concerned about. I am in favour of vaccination - I'm currently single-jabbed with the Pfizer vaccine and I honestly felt great after getting vaccinated. My long-Covid symptoms were immediately reduced (but did not disappear entirely) so I would certainly say vaccination is a good idea. 

But do we want to live in a country where people are forced to be vaccinated? I would say no. Not least because vaccines do sometimes go wrong. A radio presenter in my local area - Lisa Shaw - tragically lost her life to a vaccine, earlier this year. The risk of death from vaccines may be extremely low, but it is not zero.

People must surely be allowed to choose whether they want to have the vaccine or not. For this reason, I would be against the idea of a permanent vaccine passport. If this situation was made permanent, then we would have a vaccine apartheid where anyone who has reservations about taking the vaccine loses their long-term freedom. This would clearly be unacceptable. People should have bodily autonomy and we should not live in a two-tier society.

On the flip-side, it could be argued that only allowing the vaccinated inside nightclubs and venues during times of high Covid rates is a necessary evil, just like lockdowns were a necessary evil. The ultimate goal is surely to save lives.

Critics of vaccine passports insist they are unfair because the vaccines do not reduce Covid transmission rates, but this is not entirely accurate. While the vaccines do not fully prevent transmission, a study by Public Health England found they appear to reduce transmission by about 40-60%. Such a reduction is not perfect by any means, but double-vaccinated people are at half the risk of contracting the virus and passing it onto others.

While some have cited legitimate vaccine safety concerns, it must be emphasised, those safety concerns are hugely outweighed by the risk of contracting Covid-19. For example, the risk of blood clots is much greater from contracting Covid-19 than from taking any vaccine, including the Astra-Zeneca vaccine. Also, it's worth noting the government is offering younger people vaccines, other than Astra-Zeneca, which have a better safety record.

Vaccines have proven effective at reducing the severity of illness, rates of hospitalisation, organ damage and long-Covid symptoms. On a personal and entirely anecdotal level, I would recommend the Pfizer vaccine for help with long Covid, but I remain unsure whether I am for or against vaccine passports. What do you think?

Sunday, 5 September 2021

Prince Charles "Cash-for-Honour" Scandal: Why Do We Still Have A Royal Family?

Prince Charles is the latest member of the royal family to be involved in a scandal after Saudi businessman Mahfouz Marei Mabarak, who donated £1.5 million to his charities, was given an honorary OBE. The prince's aide, Michael Fawcett, has temporarily stepped down from his role as chief executive of The Prince's Foundation due to the alleged "cash-for-honour" scandal. Mabarak denies he paid money for his title, but whether this was an explicit agreement or just a prince (sorry, prince's aide) rewarding one of his biggest donors, it looks seriously dodgy either way.

The Sunday Times (apologies for quoting a Murdoch rag) reported that: "Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz paid tens of thousands of pounds to fixers with links to the prince who had told him they could secure the honour."

Given the evidence The Sunday Times has acquired, surely this needs to be treated as a criminal matter, and if Charles was involved, he should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. It's all well and good saying Michael Fawcett has stepped down, but are we really expected to believe this is as deep as it goes? Are we expected to believe a royal aide could give out an OBE in this manner without the knowledge of Charles or other powerful people? It would appear that Fawcett is being used as the fall guy.

The Prince's Foundation has, of course, promised to investigate the matter, and it will, of course, find the prince completely innocent. It's good to see the establishment is allowed to mark its own homework.

Leaving aside the guilt or innocence of Fawcett and Mabarak, it's reasonable to say anyone who is paying attention, knows the UK honours system is corrupt and used to reward financial donors and anyone who does the establishment's bidding. Even if we ignore the corruption, just the very idea of giving a title to someone and implying this person is better than the rest of us is nonsense, but the prospect of rich people bribing their way to a title is unacceptable.

Our honours system is corrupt, our royal family is corrupt, and our government is corrupt. The entire system is set up so rich people can share wealth and power while shutting the rest of us out. It's about maintaining a hierarchy where the royal family can get a £300 million yacht while ordinary people eat from foodbanks. They hide behind charities to pretend they're the good guys, but poverty is a bullet wound inflicted by their privilege and charity is the sticking plaster they expect us to be grateful for. It's a way of deflecting attention away from the corruption, a way of virtue signalling while they live in palaces and hoard stolen jewels.

The honours system should be abolished, just like the royal family should be abolished. It would appear quite plausible we have a corrupt prince and a paedophile prince. On top of that, we have a queen who married a white supremacist and decided her grandson marrying a black woman was beyond the pale. She stripped that grandson of his titles, but not the friend of Jeffrey Epstein, because in Britain you can be credibly accused of raping underage victims of sex trafficking and keep your title, you can be a wealthy businessman and buy your title, but what you can't be, what you're not allowed to be, is a prince who sees a woman of a different race as someone who can be loved. That is not the way of the royal family. It is not the way of empire.

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