"You may say that I am a dreamer/But I am not the only one" John Lennon: "Imagine"

"So come brothers and sisters/For the struggle carries on" Billy Bragg: "The Internationale"

Elizannie has a reading room at 'Clarice's Book Page' http://www.villiersroad.blogspot.com/

Friday, 17 April 2015

Warning re the current political situation

                       The Great Chartist Meeting on Kennington Common, London in 1848*

Warning: Some of you may have noticed that there is a General Election in just under three weeks time. I happen to think this is quite an important occasion especially with regards to the National Health Service, Education, Welfare Services and much, much more. 

So here's the thing, politics of the left wing variety have been a large part of my life for as long as I can remember. Some of you may have already noticed that every now and then - not that often really! - I comment on something which I find interesting. This is likely to increase in the coming days! 

I am not apologising but quite understand if any of you don't join with me in that interest. BUT please remember that the privilege of voting is something which many of our ancestors fought for us to have. Many were attacked, arrested, injured, deported and died - especially women - to get us that privilege [see footnotes re Chartism and Suffragists] Please don't waste it. 

BTW, I do love a good discussion [argument] so feel free to comment. But as David Dimbleby pointed out to Nigel Farage in last night's BBC debate [16th April], insulting one's audience is never a good idea!

*Chartism was a working-class movement for political reform in Britain which existed from 1838 to 1858. It took its name from the People's Charter of 1838 and was a national protest movement.......Support for the movement was at its highest in 1839, 1842 and 1848 when petitions signed by millions of working people were presented to the House of Commons.........

The People's Charter called for six reforms to make the political system more democratic:
  1. A vote for every man twenty-one years of age, of sound mind, and not undergoing punishment for a crime.
  2. The Secret Ballot – To protect the elector in the exercise of his vote.
  3. No Property Qualification for Members of Parliament – thus enabling the constituencies to return the man of their choice, be he rich or poor.
  4. Payment of Members, thus enabling an honest trades-man, working man, or other person, to serve a constituency; when taken from his business to attend to the interests of the country.
  5. Equal Constituencies, securing the same amount of representation for the same number of electors, instead of allowing small constituencies to swamp the votes of large ones.
  6. Annual Parliament Elections, thus presenting the most effectual check to bribery and intimidation, since as the constituency might be bought once in seven years (even with the ballot), no purse could buy a constituency (under a system of universal suffrage) in each ensuing twelvemonth; and since members, when elected for a year only, would not be able to defy and betray their constituents as now.
                                        [Taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chartism ]
As the charter only 'covered' men, the Suffragette movement was formed to demand 'Votes for Women': 

Suffragettes were members of women's organization (right to vote) movements in the late 19th and early 20th century, particularly militants in Great Britain such as members of the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU).[1][2] Suffragist is a more general term for members of suffrage movements, if radical or conservative, male or female.
The term "suffragette" is particularly associated with activists in the British WSPU, led by Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst, who were influenced by Russian methods of protest such as hunger strikes. [ Taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suffragette ]

Elizannie electioneering with the brilliant Labour candidate for Castle Point, Joe
 Cooke [4th from right] supported by Richard Howitt MEP [centre]

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Smoke and Mirrors:Conservative General Election Make Believe Wishes [1]

Smoke and mirrors is a metaphor for a deceptive, fraudulent or insubstantial explanation or description. The source of the name is based on magicians' illusions, where magicians make objects appear or disappear by extending or retracting mirrors amid a distracting burst of smoke. The expression may have a connotation of virtuosity or cleverness in carrying out such a deception.
More generally, "smoke and mirrors" may refer to any sort of presentation by which the audience is intended to be deceived, such as an attempt to fool a prospective client into thinking that one has capabilities necessary to deliver a product in question.

Let's see if I have got this right. David Cameron has promised the right to buy houses the Government doesn't own at a discount to people [housing association tenants] living in those houses. And who pays the discount? The Government aka the taxpaxer. What do the Housing Associations think about this? Well according to the Conservatives, they will have no cause for concern because 'they will receive the full market value of the sold property'. So that's all good then.

Erm, just a little minute, Mr C. Could you please tell me where that money for discounts is going to come from. Yes, Yes I know the taxpayer - but how? Oh yes in the Gruniad article [link above]  it does say that councils are going to be required [aka forced] to sell approx 5% of their more expensive properties when they become vacant [I am a bit unsure of this 'vacant' issue. When the tenant dies? Or moves out of their own violition? Unlikely that, say, there will be many expensive, larger properties vacated by the former means as the bedroom tax has seen off older tenants; families needing and entitled to larger properties will not be able to move to smaller properties and I have heard too many tales of the bedroom tax meaning that tenants of large properties incurring the levy trying very hard to get into smaller properties, which are unavailable as they have already been sold off!] and build cheaper properties with the proceeds. But that doesn't answer the question - where is the money for the discount on the housing association properties. Oh its all part of the fiscal plan.

The fiscal plan. Could this be just smoke and mirrors? Apparently the Conservative Party is the party of the working people. Just like the Conservative Party was the party of the National Health Service in 2010. That was smoke and mirrors then too.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Hurtling back to the Bad Old Days

                                            Blackfriars free breakfast, c. 1933, Daily Herald © 
                                            National Media Museum, Bradford / SSPL. Creative 
                                            Commons BY-NC-SA  *

I suppose many of us are already fed up with the 'yah boo-ing' of so many politicians on so many media programmes. Never mind, I can hear you say, four weeks today and we can put on the news programmes again, read the comments columns in the newspapers knowing that we are safe for another five years from electioneering.

Of course that may not be true. There may be - very probably will be - that interregnum where political deals are being made, coalitions are being forged and best political friends fall out whilst new, unlikely alliances look increasingly likely.

After what happened in the days following the last General Election, we should be ready for anything both ante and post May 7th. Increasingly shrill 'discussions' on TV programmes must make many voters despair. Shouts of 'not true' from political opponents only serve to confuse not enlighten. Last night's 'Question Time' was a prime example. The 'token journalist' was obviously not impartial and if not exactly toeing a party line seemed to be following a line laid down by editorial policy. The two lady politicians were complete contrasts one so shrill and incapable of answering a question that she made her very reasonable opponent appear even more reasonable, especially when she answered a question! The two male politicians also contrasted each other, one patronising especially when talking about the less fortunate sections of society, the other so capable and inclusive that at times I wanted to cheer. Notice I name no names or parties/newspaper because sadly this sort of make up happens each week and only the faces change.

So what are we to think and how do we decide to vote? Well I have taught history and I also have a family history of, shall we say, membership of the 'awkward squad'. I look at where we are now in society and who/which party is responsible for it. Sadly, so many of our current social conditions remind me of the 'Bad Old Days'

The zero hours contracts remind me of how my English greatgrandfathers used to wait at the docks to be picked for a day's work. Zero hour contracts have grown massively under the Coalition government and Ed Miliband has pledged to end this 'epidemic'. And don't forget Dirty Dave Cameron admitted he couldn't live on a zero hours contract.

Food banks remind me of soup kitchens. Many times in the past unfortunately the disadvantaged and dispossessed have had to resort to soup kitchens, free breakfast clubs etc when there has not been enough money coming into the family home to feed the individuals. In recent history, most scandalously, during the miners strike in the 1980s when the Conservative Government sequestered the Miner's Union funds and for some the only meal of the day was that provided by the soup kitchens or food given by the relief committees. In the depression era of the 1930s when so many were unemployed, soup kitchens etc fed many, the photograph* above is from an archive at the National Media Museum . But most of these previous incarnations were necessary in times before the Welfare state and in today's affluent society there should be no need for such 'charity'. If our society cannot support those who are sick, unemployed and disadvantaged it is a very harsh society. Especially when it rewards the very rich with income tax breaks. Ian Duncan Smith is very vocal about benefit cuts..... Do we trust his party as government again?

Demonization of immigrants reminds me of the ghettoization of Jews, Irish and Welsh and other Ethnic minorities in times gone by. So much racism is of economic basis as so many individuals have come to this country in search of work to enable them to send money home to their often starving families back in their home countries. My father came to England from Wales on one of the hunger marches in the 1930s and when looking for work and digs was often met by notices stating 'No Dogs, No Irish, No Welsh'. Nigel Farage does not seem to understand why others wish to live in our country and uses our facilities even thought his ancestors did just that albeit many, many years ago. He does not seem to recognize that when British citizens live in a EU country they are also entitled to use their facilities, despite being a MEP. When we lived in an EU country we used their health services extensively. So do we want such an ill informed man one of our MPs?

What looks like the prospective dismantling of the NHS reminds me of the stories of pre-1948 medical care in the UK. How one of my aunts died on the day the National Health came into being and the family story that they all wondered if she would have lived if it had come into being a year before. How it cost his mother 2/6d [13p] to have a bead removed from my father-in-law's nose in the 1920s when that amount of money would have provided the family's tea. How it was cheaper to have all their teeth removed rather than have a few fillings attended to. How individuals went blind due to cataracts or undiagnosed or untreated glaucoma. How women who needed hysterectomies bled and bled each month, suffered from anemia and often died too young as their immune systems weakened. I remember David Cameron's boast pre 2010 General Election 'We are the Party of the NHS'. What - the destruction of it? Do I want his government in power to destroy what is left?

The hiking of the pension age reminds me of way my English grandfather worked until he was nearly 70, in poor health [see above] and died, worn out and an old man aged 72. How my Welsh grandfather never even reached pension age and died aged 64 of 'the coal dust' [pneumoconiosis] on his lungs. No compensation then either. Leaving my Grandmother to be supported by her children. Do I want a government who will keep us all working beyond our capability whilst giving tax breaks to the very rich via tax havens and non-dom status?

So listen to the politicians, read the elections addresses. But listen also to the subtexts, read between the lines, look back to what their parties said last time and what they actually did. Go to meetings if you can, ask questions whether face to face or by letter or email. 

Do vote - many died, especially women, to get that privilege - don't waste it! 

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Kitchen Sink electioneering

So it seems that the main thrust of electioneering for 2015 is turning into a kitchen sink drama. First of all the Milibands have their pictures taken in what turns out to be their second, smaller, more basic kitchen:

                                                                                    and this gives plenty of other politicians something to attack including Sara Vine, Michael Gove's wife, has a 'go' at the Milibands and unable to resist a further taunt mentions the old age and poor status of her own kitchen in her Daily Mail column. As in any school playground fight, friends gather to take sides [Quoting Harry Hill: Fiiiiiiiiiggggghhhhhhtttttt]  and the Gruniad has the whole story of what happened next when the chef Jay Rayner [beloved of the One Show] decided to point out that the Goves had had two homes refurbished at taxpayers expense:

and the resulting twitter row is quite entertaining. Especially as poverty campaigner and austerity cook Jack Monroe got involved too. [I have a soft spot for her as she hails from my neck of the woods]

Then Dave the Cameron makes a salad:

So I am wondering about getting Kitchen Sink Blogs trending on twitter and devoting a blog to cooking and kitchens. But then I would have to admit that actually - despite all previous claims to the contrary - I can cook quite well. And actually like a nice tidy kitchen and the odd gadget or two. But the thing is this, I can too often find something else to do. And if I tell people I can cook [so just keep this between you and I for now] they might expect a meal when they come here. And then I would have to shake off my airy-fairy, hippy-dippy attitude and stop serving digestive biscuits and a bottle of elderflower water. This would mean time in the kitchen before serving and time clearing up after a meal. Time when others are talking about interesting things like politics, or organising demonstrations or just talking etc. Or I could be reading a book or something...... anything!

And then I would have to shop and put stuff away. And worry about running out of things. And get organised about menus [had to look up how to spell that]

So can you see where I am going with this? Who really cares about politicians kitchens?  I need to know about their party policies and work-in-progress and record if they are serving politicians and their beliefs. I want to know that they find the state of the country and its citizens more important than their opponents. I want to receive election addresses which will tell me all about how all our fellow citizens will have enough to eat and somewhere to live - I don't want pictures of prospective parliamentary candidates shaking hands with other politicians or stroking dogs or kissing babies.

I want to think that after May 7th we will not have the need for food banks because everyone - working or not - will be able to afford to buy food. Think benefits will not be taken away from anyone even if there is a doubt over entitlement, it will be realised that it is far better to overpay than to leave someone to starve.

I don't want sick people to have to worry that the necessary, expensive drugs will not be availble for the poorer people in our communities, or that the best treatment will only be available for those able to afford private healthcare. I want all our schools to be places of excellence with well paid teachers, all the equipment and accomadation they need and no worries about future funding.

The social services should be praised rather than constantly blamed and again be provided with sufficient funds. Public sector workers should be valued and not pilloried. Nurses who haven't seen a pay rise for years should be valued and rewarded with money and not just empty words.

Where would these funds coming from. Easy. If we can find monies for wars and defence we can find monies for peace. No point in defending a sick and ailing society after all...... and that's just the start. Rather than read about the kitchen sinks dramas, can we read about the real dramas that constitute living in this decade and what the politicians want to do about it instead of scoring cookery points off each other?

Takeaway anyone?

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Jeremy Clarkson? A role model for the nation .......

So there is an online petition to reinstate Jeremy Clarkson, who has been suspended by the BBC for allegedly assaulting a co-worker and future 'Top Gear' shows have been 'pulled'. No surprise that the instigator of the petition is that guardian of public morals [please note that my tongue was firmly in my cheek as I typed that, not an easy feat] the blogger Guido Fawkes.

Without prejudging the facts of this case, let us just reflect on the things we do know about Jeremy Clarkson. A very few of the things we do know that he has said/done:

  • He called Gordon Brown 'A one-eyed idiot'. He later apologised for this.
  • He has made several remarks that are more than bordering on the racist side. For the controversy over his 'slope' remark look here. This is possibly one of his milder comments which I feel I can display only because I am Welsh!: 'I'm not a racist. I am currently sitting in a bar with a man who lives quite near Wales.'
  • There was a furore over the programme filmed in Argentina over whether the number plate on the Top Gear car was a set up or not.

I suppose its pretty obvious that I don't like Clarkson and I don't watch the show. But why am I bovvered [to quote Lauren] enough to write a blog on him? Well because I am so flabbergasted that 
  • There is a petition to reinstate a man who has allegedly assaulted a co-worker, or indeed anyone.
  • Over 200,000 have already signed it, a little over 15 hours after news of the incident broke. 
  • The whole incident is still at the 'allegedly' stage anyway, so the time for petitions and comments really is not yet.
  • Are we to think it is permissible to assault a co-worker if - as allegedly is the case here - s/he has somehow made a mistake/not done the job properly?
  • And also because I can't help feeling that Jeremy Clarkson is now reaching super hero/iconic status - and is this the sort of role model we want for our youth?

Why is the photo at the top of this blog of baby lambs? Well to be honest, I prefer it to a photo of Jeremy Clarkson. Fair enough?

Saturday, 28 February 2015

A Prayer against David Cameron's ideals

Every child must learn how money is made and "how to turn a profit" if Britain is to produce a new generation of entrepreneurs, David Cameron has said
To read the rest of this article in the Daily Telegraph please follow this link

Please God no. 
May our children learn to love one and other, learn to help one and other and care for one and other. 
May they learn to enjoy the world as it is and when necessary learn to repair the damage man has made. 
May they learn that material possessions are not the most important acquisitions in life. 
May they learn that each faith has as much right to its beliefs as any other faith. 
May they learn that all people have equal rights to live on this wonderful planet whatever their colour, gender, sexual orientation, religious or political beliefs and wherever they are born. 
May they learn that the only way forward is through peace and for all to share the fruits of their labours. 

May we all honour our fellows in this world.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Learning the times tables

                                    School tables - get the joke?

Elizannie has to stick her oar in on this latest headline in the Gruniad: 
Primary school pupils face new maths and grammar tests under ToriesEducation secretary says under Conservative rule, children would memorise times tables and be able to read a novel by age 11
Since she went to school back in the dark ages when we sat in class chanting times tables every day, and once we could individually chant each one to our school teacher we got a gold star on the 'tables chart' - she feels entitled......

Actually, I used to feel smug about the times tables chart. There it sat, with all those gold stars against my name. That is not to say I didn't worry myself sick [literally] on times tables testing day. I worried myself sick about lots of things at school except home time. But actually chanting the times tables was relatively easy. What no-one realised all those years ago was that I had an extremely mathematical brain [and before someone says how unusual for a girl - don't] and conditions like dyscalculia* exist.

I hope that you have just followed my link and understand about dyscalculia. Because despite having a mathematical brain and being able to recite times tables before the hat drops and perform mental addition quicker than a calculator [which depends on how fast the operator can input the figures, don't forget] - I have an awful lot of trouble telling the time. Not a joke I can assure you. Not a joke at all if I arrive somewhere an hour early or late, which has been known if I have used an analogue watch or clock. But a form of dyscalculia never the less which lots of members of my family possess whether or not their mathematical skills are really good.

What I am trying to say is that some kids can reproduce times tables really easily, some never will. Some will parrot them back without having a feel for the numerics involved. And as in reading tests with dyslexic children - employing times table tests will not show the true intelligence of a child or young person. And although I love a good algebra problem - honestly - posing a geometrical puzzle once it gets outside the mathematical bit of adding up the number of angles in any given shape and moves on to plan and elevation I will fall by the wayside.

So teach children with love and understanding, respect their individuality and ditch this over reliance on charts and league tables. Of course this will probably cost a bit more money at the chalk face but the investment in the long term has got to be worth it.

*http://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/dyslexic/dyscalculia   For information on both dyslexia and dyscalculia