20 articles Articles posted in Politics

Help to Make The Changes You Want to See

I’ve been hovering over my keys for weeks now, wanting to write a post about my absolute disbelief at the political things happening in the world right now. I want to share my incredulity about the things, the HORRIBLE things, which are happening all over the planet, I want to shout and swear and renounce my membership of the human race, but everytime I try to get it all out in any sort of coherent fashion it doesn’t happen and I sit here feeling angry and sad. So, instead of sharing my thoughts, I figured I’d just share a bunch of things that you can do if you, like me, don’t want to sit back and watch while the world goes to hell in a handcart.

Contact Your Representatives

Whether you’re based in the USA or here in the UK, our MPs and counsillors are supposed to represent their consituents, which means you need to TELL them what you want. Opposed to Trump visiting the UK? Tell your MP. Call, write, email, do anything you can to let them know you’re not happy. MAKE A NUISANCE OF YOURSELF. (You can find some useful contact information on http://www.allhelplinenumbers.com/)

Sign Petitions

It may seem futile, adding your name to a virtual list of people, but petitions can truly make a difference. The petition which was started to register an objection about Trump visiting the UK has now received enough signatures to be debated in the House of Commons. If you have an opinion, let it be heard.

Social Media

I’m well aware that a lot of my friends are probably sick of the sight of political posts on Facebook, but with Trump himself using social media more than any other President, it’s obvious what the power of social media can do. Tweet your objections, use the hashtags, join the noise against fascism. It will be seen, even if by some lowly bureaucrat.

Join a March

I know that getting out on the streets with a placard might seem like a daunting thing, but people power can make a HUGE impact and some of the marches that have already happened have had millions of people join in. There’s no way that millions of people can be ignored, so if you really want to get your point across, take to the streets.

Don’t Back Down

There’s a really annoying attitude from a lot of people that, once something has happened (such as Trump being elected…) there’s no point objecting because there’s nothing we can do about it. There is ALWAYS something that can be done and sitting back and watching atrocities happen “because you didn’t want to make a fuss” makes you complicit.

Jeremy Corbyn – A New Hope

Yeah, okay, so the title of this post seems rather Star Wars related and I won’t deny that this meme had more than a little bit to do with it:

Obi Wan Corbyn

Aside from mildly amusing internet memes though, there does seem to be an air of jubilance and hope surrounding Jeremy Corbyn’s appointment as the leader of the Labour Party. In fact, whilst sitting here on Saturday morning with my daughters, waiting for the announcement to come in, I must admit that I shed a tear when the results were finally revealed. I had to explain to Sausage that my tears were tears of joy (BB was mostly okay…she gave me a hug and then carried on bombing around shouting “CHIPS” at the top of her voice). For the first time in years, I feel hopeful.

I have to admit, I was an Ed Milliband supporter when he was leader. I felt that he was the closest thing to socialism that we’d seen in years and felt that his values matched mine…almost. However, when I first started reading about Corbyn, back when he was struggling to get enough nominations to even run for leader of the Labour party, I felt like my eyes were opened. Ed may have had his heart in the right place, but his version of socialism was down-right wishy-washy compared to Our Jez.

Many of my friends, people I respect greatly, after the general election commented that there was no point voting either way because there was so little difference between what the big parties were offering. Now, that is no longer the case and it feels like we genuinely have a CHOICE. We can choose austerity, big business, decimation of public services.

OR.

Or we can choose ‘Corbynomics’. (God, I hate that phrase. I hate how the Tory rags are STILL using it to denigrate Corbyn despite the fact that the vast majority of those in the know agree that it’s sound economic policy and that, actually, AUSTERITY DOESN’T WORK.)

We can choose to have an NHS which doesn’t want to charge us at the point of delivery.

We can choose the possibility of an education for our children which won’t leave them in crippling debt.

We can choose the chance to live in housing which won’t be astronomically expensive.

We can choose to say “NO” to exorbitant energy prices.

We can choose to live in a country where mental health is taken seriously.

We can choose to say “NO” to prioritising nuclear weapons above education, health and housing.

We can choose to tell the likes of Amazon and other wealthy global companies that they MUST pay their taxes.

We can choose a leader who will put a halt to what can only be described as “economic cleansing” by making rents and house prices in London so high.

We can choose to tell our kids that The Arts aren’t only the privilege of the wealthy.

We can choose a leader who won’t take us blindly into wars-for-profit which will benefit no-one but his mates.

Above all else, we can choose to make a move towards a kinder society.

So that’s why I shed a tear. Because the thought of a future like that for my kids, my family and my friends is something worthy of tears of joy. The Tories are running scared, that much is obvious from the horrible smear tactics that they’ve employed in the past few days. The right-wing press seems to have lost its damn mind, printing stories and headlines which look like they’ve been copied and pasted straight from The Onion. It seems obvious to me that they’re pooing their pants.

There may be 5 years until the next election, but those are 5 years in which we can feel hopeful about a brighter future.

Since the General Election, I’ve been feeling pretty disillusioned by what I perceived as a societal move towards cruelty. However, this has buoyed me immeasurably. I’m going to leave you with a quote which says it far more succinctly than I can:

 

“It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

― Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl

NO MORE TOREEN! An Alternative Malt Loaf Recipe by Mummy Pat

malt loafMy friend Sarah is awesome. I’ve known her since I was 11, when we were united through a shared love of Friends and Oasis and although we rarely see each other, she’s one of the people I’d really miss if I ever did the unthinkable and quit Facebook. Amazingly, she seems to be one of only a small bunch of girls from our school who is a dyed-in-the-wool Leftie, although not really that amazingly since we went to a particularly snotty all-girls grammar school, populated mostly by girls from upper-middle-class-pull-the-ladder-up-behind-you types. Also, not all that amazingly because Sarah was raised by her Mum, Pat, who is about as awesome and righteous as it gets and so she was bound to turn out pretty bloody brilliant.

Since the news broke that the Tories would be dictating to us all again for the next 5 years, it’s become apparent that there are several brands who are big donors to the Conservative party and now loads of people have decided to boycott those brands, one of which being Soreen, as revealed in an article in The Mirror a couple of months ago.

Anyway, being the super amazing lady that she is, Mummy Pat has decided that she won’t be buying oppressive patriarchal malt loaf anymore and has allowed me to share her recipe for homemade malt loaf which, as a bonus, won’t try to strip you of your human rights. Here’s the recipe:

5.0 from 1 reviews
Mummy Pat's Amazing Tory-Free Malt Loaf
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Baking
Serves: Depends how thick you cut it!
Ingredients
  • 1 MUG ALL BRAN
  • 1 MUG SULTANAS
  • 1 MUG SUGAR
  • 1 MUG MILK
  • 1 EGG
  • 1 TEASPOON MIXED SPICE
Instructions
  1. Add all of the ingredients to a LARGE bowl as the mixture swells
  2. Leave overnight, covered with a plate or tea towel
  3. When ready to cook, place mixture in a lined loaf tin
  4. Cook in the centre of an oven, preheated to gas mark 3/140 Fan Oven/160 Conventional Oven for around 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean when poked into the middle
  5. Leave to cool and enjoy with lashings and lashings of butter

Eat and enjoy, safe in the knowledge that you won’t be contributing to the Tory coffers! Thanks Pat!

In The Wake of the General Election. #GE2015

It’s been a funny old weekend. I woke up on Friday morning before 5, feeling like I’d had concrete poured into my stomach and couldn’t get back to sleep again because my brain was racing. HOW could this have happened? How could the country have voted the Conservatives in again for another 5 years? Over the course of the morning, my fear turned to anger. I couldn’t see how a vote for Blue was anything other than self-serving and utterly lacking compassion and social conscience and so I made a declaration. I took to Facebook and wrote this:

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Yeah. I know. Pretty divisive.

My reasoning behind such a statement was that I genuinely cannot see how I have a single thing in common with someone who would willingly vote the Conservatives back into government. I can’t get my head around real, actual people thinking that the Tories can do anything but serious harm to this country. Anyone who can look at how ill and disabled people have been forced back into work, how the NHS is desperately over stretched, how the rich have been given tax cuts while the poorest of us are being fined for having too many bedrooms in our homes, are not people I’m happy to call my friends.

In the following hours, I had a lot of backlash. I had people calling me names, suggesting that I was ‘pathetic’ and ‘small-minded’, I had people outright challenging me to stand by my statement and then having tantrums when I did. I had another blogger (who, I must say, I really barely know) start a whole new thread on her own Facebook page, inviting people to agree with her on how despicable I was for removing her as a friend because of our conflicting views.

All in all, I’ve now got 20 less friends through Facebook than I had this time on Thursday. I know because before I posted the status above I took a note of my numbers, just for the sake of science. Many of them are people I’ve known since school, girls who’ve known me since I was 11 years old, and some are other bloggers. People were really quick to tell me that I was wrong and a few tried to defend their reasons for voting Tory, saying that they thought the Tories represented what was best for them and their families. Hardly anyone tried to engage me in a reasonable debate, rather choosing to call me a bigot and an idiot.

I’ve got to say, I don’t think I’ve ever been more disillusioned than I am now. For me, the Conservatives represent everything that is wrong with this country. I simply cannot get my head and my heart to reconcile the fact that so many people are willing to see the death of the NHS, the repeal of the Human Rights Act and so many other key tenets of what makes this country great. All I can see is that the people who have voted Tory have happily taken from the state, in the form of healthcare, emergency services, education and cushy Government funded jobs, and then pulled the ladder up behind them. What’s that old phrase? Oh yeah…”I’m alright, Jack”.

One person, someone I’d previously liked and respected, told me she’d voted Tory because if Labour had got in, the proposed Mansion Tax would have prevented her and her Husband from buying the lavish new property they’d had their eye on, while another said that, because her Husband was a Letting Agent, the Labour proposal to cap letting agent fees (fees which have got so high as to be utterly prohibitive in recent years, forcing families into unregulated slum housing) would mean they could no longer afford their lifestyle. If that’s not a massive “FUCK YOU” to the rest of our country, I don’t know what is.

Being willing to watch families stand in queues at food banks because they can’t afford to eat and old ladies dying of hypothermia because they can’t afford to heat their homes, for the sake of your own prosperity, shows a complete lack of humanity.

I’ve done a lot of soul-searching over the past few days to try to work out how seemingly decent people can so happily drop the axe on everyone else for their own gain. My poor Husband (a paid-up member of The Green Party) has been a sounding board for most of it, and although his politics are in line with my own, he’s able to be a little less ‘black and white’ about things than I am. He’s of the opinion that good people can still vote Tory and that there’s been too much misinformation by the press, manipulating the moderate middle to believe that the Tories have their best interests at heart. Hard working people who don’t have time to research policies, people who come home and read the Murdoch-poisoned rags and believe what they’re seeing.

I can’t say that I’m entirely buoyed by the thought that, of the people who voted Tory, half of them did so out of selfishness and greed and the other half did so because of their utter lack of research. I’ve only been on this planet for 30 short years, but I think it’s safe to say that this has been the most information-rich General Election to ever have been run. There have been websites inviting people to test their opinions against policies to see where their actual values should lead their affiliations and yet people are still voting blindly. I’ve heard untold people say that they voted for the Tories because their parents did, or because their Husbands did. Sister Suffragette, I think not…Mrs. Banks

I’m not suggesting that every single person who voted Tory did so out of either stupidity or selfishness, but not one person yet has managed to give me a reason for their vote which I’ve been able to get my head around, or reconcile with them also being a good person.

The one good thing that’s come of this is that I’ve sorted my own political affiliations in my head. In the run up, I was wavering between Labour and Green, but ultimately went for Labour as I had strong faith in Milliband and his genuine socialist views. In the wake of him leaving the party, I’ve come to the conclusion that New Labour isn’t quite the socialist party across the board that I had hoped it was, and as of this week will be a paid up member of the Green Party. There’s a meeting in a coffee shop locally next week which Husband and I are hoping to attend as I’m done with being an keyboard warrior, I want to get out and actually act. I’m also now part of a few online groups of women who are banding together as a sisterhood against Conservative rule. I genuinely think we’ve got the power to make a huge change.

I was also hugely relieved to see the protests in London, despite ALL of the major news sources refusing to give it coverage. In the run-up to the election, I actually said to Husband “there’ll be riots if the Tories get in”, and then had to face the sinking realisation that if they DID get in it would be because the majority of people wanted them in power and therefore probably wouldn’t be unhappy about it. So to see that there were plenty of others as unhappy as me has given me hope, albeit small in the face of another 5 years of right-wing oppression.

To the 20 friends I’ve lost in the wake of this election: I’m sorry that things had to be this way. I’m sure you did what you thought was right for YOU. Unfortunately, I’m more interested in what’s right for everybody and I just cannot carry on pretending that it’s okay to screw everyone else over for your own gain.

If you’re interested, there’s a list below of posts and articles that I’ve found really interesting and informative over the past few days. Please also link me to anything you’ve found useful in the comments below:

Chrisopher Everard: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10200525108166139&set=a.1179223136677.19518.1711111543&type=1

Dissapointed Idealist: https://disidealist.wordpress.com/2015/05/09/that-wasnt-an-election-result-it-was-a-5-year-prison-sentence/

Douglas Hine: http://dougald.nu/the-only-way-is-down-18-notes-on-the-uk-election/

Green Party Women: http://greenpartywomen.org.uk/news/2015/04/10/green-party-candidates-campaign-to-lift-ban-on-job-share-mps-begins/

The Independant: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/every-major-british-political-party–except-the-conservatives–currently-led-by-a-woman-10238390.html

The Ramblings of a Formerly Rock and Roll Mum:  http://www.rocknrollmum.com/2015/05/general-election-outcome-my-dads-thoughts.html

Bright Green: http://bright-green.org/2015/05/09/ge2015-left-you-feeling-1-dejected-and-disappointed-2-exhausted-3-relieved-read-on/

Another Angry Voice: http://anotherangryvoice.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/asset-stripping-bankrupt-britain.html and http://anotherangryvoice.blogspot.co.uk/2015/04/austerity-is-con.html

Dear So and So…The Political Edition

General-Election-2015My friend Mich over at Mummy From the Heart has recently taken over the Dear So and So linky, where people write open letters on their blogs and link them up with everyone else who’s joined in. Obviously, this is a big week in terms of British politics and although I’ve been refraining from blogging about it too much up until now, I’ve got a few things I’d like to say…

Dear Voting Public, 

It’s been 5 years since we all had the opportunity to have a say in who’d be running the country and I think the majority of us, if we’re being honest, can all agree that we made a mistake. Against my better judgement, I voted Lib Dem last time, sick of the Blair “New Labour” agenda. There was no way I’d be voting Conservative, but I thought I’d try the other lot for a change. I’ll hold my hands up and say that I, in part, was responsible for the terrible cock-up that has been the last 5 years.

The NHS is in a worse state than ever. More publicly run companies have been privatized. The poorest and most underprivileged amongst us have been hit the hardest, which is absolutely typical of a Tory government and they’re absolutely unapologetic about it, planning even deeper cuts if they get in for a further term.

We have a chance to do something about it. I don’t care if you vote for Labour, Green…The Monster Raving Loony Party if needs be, but I don’t think I can cope with another 5 years of right-wing rule. Do me a favour; do the right thing.

Thanks,

Jayne

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Dear Non-Voters,

GET YOUR ARSES TO A POLLING STATION. There is absolutely NO excuse for you to not vote and your apathy is what left us with the wishy-washy coalition last time. People have LITERALLY died for your right to vote and for you ignore your obligation just because you “can’t be bothered” is disgusting. Not knowing who to vote for is also not an excuse – if you can read, you can have a look at the manifestos. Decide which one speaks to you the most and VOTE FOR THAT PERSON.

Yours,

Annoyed of Southend

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Dear Ed Milliband, 

Please don’t let me down. I have great faith in you, I respect your policies and feel that you’d be the best thing for our country at the moment. I know your hands will be tied and that not everything you’ve pledged to do will be possible within five years. I know there’s red tape to get through. I know there’s a room full of ancient, out of touch Lords who have to have their say before things get done. 

You have a huge opportunity to change the way this country is run and to undo all of the damage that’s been done by The Coalition. You have the opportunity to reduce the burden on the millions of families who are overstretched and underpaid. You have the opportunity to restore some dignity and peace of mind to the disabled people of Britain who’ve been forced back into work despite obvious unsuitability. You have the opportunity to make Britain great again by restoring the socialist values which have underpinned much of our society and stop us from rolling headlong into the consumer, capitalist driven heartlessness which has reared its ugly head. 

I have faith in you. Don’t let me down. 

Yours Faithfully, 

Hopeful of Southend.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Dear UKIP voters,

I have to admit, you’ve unsettled me. I’m genuinely scared of the momentum that UKIP has gained in recent years and feel hugely disheartened by the thought of raising my daughters in a country which is being governed by a party who bases its policies on fear and hatred. If you’ve a modicum of intelligence and the ability to Google, you can quite easily see that the vast majority of the statistics they use for their scare tactics are highly manipulated and inaccurate.

I know that many of you felt that a vote for UKIP was a protest vote against the “main three”, but please, consider a vote for Green or someone else as your protest, if you’re that way inclined. Even spoiling your ballot would be better, just make sure you get yourself to a polling station and refuse to be manipulated into thinking that “immigrants are the enemy”.

Yours in hope,

Concerned of Southend.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Do you have an open letter you’d like to write? Please link up with Dear So and So… over at Mummy From the Heart and also read the rest of the posts over there. 

The Demonisation of Benefits (or How The Conservatives Have Got You Fooled)

Demonisation-of-poor-people-500x330Unless you’ve had your head in the sand for the last 4 years, you should have noticed a spiralling trend in the demonisation of benefit claimants. No longer can you open a newspaper without seeing stories about ‘scumbags’ who refuse to work and yet live in massive houses or drive flash cars and live seemingly luxurious lifestyles, all off of the buck of the hard working British public. There are TV shows on Channel 4 and the BBC, all focussed on ‘Benefits Britain’, showing us just how much claimants are swindling the rest of us and doing a bang up job of turning everyone against people who claim from the State.

Almost daily, I see rants on social media, decrying the state of this country, putting the blame on the shoulders of benefit claimants. Normal, working-class people, turning against people who are down on their luck for no other reason than that they think people on benefits are getting an easy ride. Then, today, I heard this (please listen to the whole clip…)

THIS is the voice of Benefits Britain. An ordinary man, down on his luck because of a shitty economy which was created by corrupt bankers and perpetuated by inept politicians. This man, like the majority of others on benefits, is a product of a poorly managed country, not a lazy grifter who’s trying to do as little as possible for maximum return. This is an able-bodied, 35 year old man who’s bin diving for his dinner, who will spend Christmas alone, cold and hungry with only a radio to keep him company. A man who is TOO PROUD to accept what he perceives as charity. And I defy anyone to listen to that and not feel completely and utterly heartbroken. I know I do.

This isn’t about “why doesn’t he get a job?”. When will people realise; THERE ARE NO JOBS?! Big businesses have been allowed to create ‘zero hour’ contracts which make it look like employment levels have gone down, when in fact all that means is that people are no longer allowed to claim benefits, not earning a wage and living in poverty, whilst supposedly employed in the 10th richest country in the world.

And the WORST part is, the Government have got us all fooled. The TV stations are running shows which turn everyone against benefit claimants, which makes it seem SO justifiable when the people in charge start cutting the already meagre handouts that people are given. The poorest are the hardest hit, with Bedroom Tax taking away from families in need, disabled people forced back into work because otherwise their DLA will be taken away. But no, let’s all feel sorry for Myleene fucking Klass who’s worrying about her London mansion being taxed too heavily.

It’s all so easy to believe the lies; it’s on every newspaper, almost every TV channel. But what you need to remember is this: the papers and TV stations are RUN by people who’s interests are protected by a Tory government. They have friends in high places and it directly benefits them to feed us lies and hyperbole and make us believe that benefit claimants and immigrants are the problem. Being British used to mean banding together in a crisis – it got us through two world wars, yet we’re turning on each other in droves and it’s EXACTLY what the Tories want.

Stop believing the lies. This country is NOT in the state it is in because of impoverished people who are down on their luck, and it’s not simply a case of just ‘doing something about it’. This country is on a downward spiral and we’re blaming all of the wrong people. Let’s look to the bankers who caused the global crash. Let’s look to the MASSIVE companies who aren’t paying their taxes, who are sending all of their operations abroad, who don’t pay a living wage.

Let’s look to the politicians who are dismantling our public services for the DIRECT benefit of themselves and their friends, who are fraudulently claiming expenses, who have several houses in the most expensive areas of our country. Lets look to the landlords who are charging astronomical rents for properties which would be considered slums in other parts of the world. Lets look to the energy companies who are charging rates so high that people WILL die this Christmas because they simply couldn’t afford to stay warm.

GET SOME PERSPECTIVE. STOP BELIEVING THE LIES.

If you’d like to donate to a food bank or homeless charity this Christmas, please visit Shelter or The Trussell Trust. Your local Council should also be able to advise you where you can donate food, clothes, blankets, money or your time.

Why I Don’t Care if Ellen Page is Gay

image

I became aware of Ellen Page back in about 2006, when Husband told me about this film he’d watched where a young woman entrapped and brutalised a paedophile, mostly for shits and giggles, which had an awesome actress playing the lead role. If you’re aware of Hard Candy, you’ll know that a young Ellen Page gave a performance which was as convincing as it was memorable and if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it.

Skip forward a couple of years; Husband and a very pregnant me sat and watched Juno, a film which handled the issue of teen pregnancy with a grace that had never been seen before. Here, we were faced with a young woman who, while on the surface may have been a bit off-beat, was conscious and uncompromising in her decision about what to do with the life of the child that she knew, ultimately, she wasn’t ready for. Juno was a kid who fucked up, had an accident, did what so many others do, but the way she dealt with it (and the space and respect that her parents showed her in dealing with it) reflected what a kid can really do, under such enormous pressure. I cannot imagine anyone else playing that role.

Over the years, I’ve enjoyed watching Ellen in various films, such as Inception, X-Men, The East and Whip It (a particular favourite which has made me desperately want to learn to skate so I can try roller derby!) and I can honestly say I don’t think she’s made a bad choice or put in a bad performance.

Aside from her impressive career, she seems to be a pretty impressive person, too. Away from the spotlight, the (self-confessed) “tiny Canadian” has involved herself with various humanitarian issues, such as campaigning to end the military dictatorship in Myanmar, Burma and also appealing for The New York City Food Bank.

Of course, there’s long been speculation as to her sexuality. Her ‘conspicuous’ lack of male escort at various award ceremonies never fails to set tongues wagging and her graceful but slightly awkward avoidance about whether she ever had a crush on Leonardo DiCaprio in various press junkets leading up to the release of Inception caused even more hyperbole (although, quite why anyone thinks that’s an appropriate question of a professional actor, I don’t know. Would it ever have been asked of a man?!).

Ellen’s self-outing was delivered at the Human Rights Campaigns Time to THRIVE conference, where she decided to use her personal life, and effectively sacrifice her well-protected privacy, to campaign for the safety and well-being of other gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people across the globe. She’s unleashed her truth in the most conscientious way possible, in a way that doesn’t benefit her, but will hopefully help millions of other people across the globe. She says she’s “tired of lying by omission” and hopes that her coming out will help others to have the strength to be open about their sexuality, too.

So, while the title of this post may come across as slightly glib, I really do mean it. I adore this young woman and everything she stands for. As a mother to (almost) two girls, I feel that I can breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that there are women like her out there, setting an example of strength and selflessness and showing that above all else, being yourself is the best thing you can possibly be.

Who Ellen Page chooses to fall in love with is of absolutely ZERO consequence to anyone but herself and her chosen partner and what I hope is that we can start to end the process of defining people by their sexuality. It simply does not matter whether a person is gay or straight or any of the other shades of the Rainbow. What matters is how they choose to live their life and the way they treat others around them. Of course, I believe people should be proud of who they are, and their sexuality, to an extent, factors into the person as a whole, but there’s so much more to everyone than that one small factor.

Anyway, its 4.16am, I’m sitting in a darkened maternity ward and probably rambling somewhat now, but I wanted to get my thoughts on the page and say that I wish Ellen a lifetime of happiness and love.

That’s all. 

Sometimes, Breast Is NOT Always Best

Bottle FeedingI promised myself I wasn’t going to chime in on this debate, it’s one of those subjects on which people will never agree and I completely respect the right of any woman to make the decision she wants to make in regards her own body and that of her baby. However, this latest piece of news about breastfeeding is leaving me feeling really upset. In case you haven’t heard, the Government has put forward a proposal to offer mothers who choose to breastfeed their babies a £200 shop voucher as a reward.

According to the BBC: “The pilot scheme is being targeted at deprived areas of South Yorkshire and Derbyshire and funded through a collaboration between government and the medical research sector. A third area is expected soon with the plan to trial it on 130 women who have babies from now until March. If it proves successful, a nationwide pilot could be rolled out next year.”

While I don’t debate that helping women who want to breastfeed is a positive thing, this scheme couldn’t be any less helpful to women who are not in a position to be able to breastfeed. Further to this, there needs to be a more general acknowledgement that being ‘physically unable’ to breastfeed isn’t the only valid reason for women to choose not to do it. What about those women for whom there’s a psychological issue? Is it fair to further add to the stigma for them?

The main reason I wasn’t going to comment on this issue was because of my own relationship with breastfeeding. As soon as I fell pregnant with Sausage, I knew that I would be unable to do it. The thought of breastfeeding is literally repellent to me; the thought of a child latched on to my nipple makes me feel physically nauseous (for reasons which are real and genuine, but I’m not going to go into here) and while some women may consider it selfish of me to not try and overcome these issues and feed my child, for me it was easier to reduce that pressure and give my child adequate nutrition by other means, enabling me to concentrate on being the best mother that I could be.

Am I jealous of earth-mother types who have no problem breastfeeding? Well, yes, I suppose I am, but only because they’re viewed as better mothers than me. As it turns out, because Sausage was in the NICU and I didn’t get to hold her until she was a week old, I never produced any milk at all, not even a slight leakage, so when people ask about feeding, this is the part I tell them, so worried I am about the stigma of bottle feeding by choice. But, consider this:

I’ve never smacked my child.

She’s never stayed with anyone other than Husband and I overnight and we rarely go out as a couple and leave her with anyone else.

She’s developmentally advanced for her age.

She’s kind, polite, well spoken and deeply considerate of others.

Do I deserve vouchers for this? Is none of this on-par in terms of importance with how I chose to nourish her as a baby? Does the person that we’ve raised not have more of an impact on society than whether she was fed from a bottle?

Whilst talking about this on Twitter yesterday, the Tots100 Twitter team asked:

totstweet

In short, my answer to this is no, you can’t please everyone all the time, but I’m not sure if this scheme does represent the many OR the few in either case. I receive a whole load of press releases each day and this morning alone, I’ve received emails with the following titles:

“Newly-Qualified Student Midwives Cannot Find Jobs”

“Pay Freeze Forces Nurses To Take On Extra Shifts”

“Maternal Mental Health Alliance Launches Innovative Guidance About Specialist Mental Health Midwives”

I’ve blogged before about the fact that I’m a huge fan of the NHS, but surely these three short sentences illustrate perfectly that there are SO many more valuable areas in which money could be spent? I understand that it’s NHS policy to encourage breast above bottle, but surely improving care and empowering women by helping them to have happy births is a far more sensible distribution of resources? As a mother who dealt with more than her share of pregnancy and post-natal issues, I can wholeheartedly say that a very close second, in terms of importance, to the health of the child is the mental health and happiness of the mother and pressurising women with financial incentives is just cruel.

In typical Tory fashion, the areas which have been chosen to pilot this scheme are ‘deprived’, which means that the Government is basically making new mothers jump through hoops for a small financial gain. Does that not seem rather distasteful to you? What of those women who have genuine issues with breastfeeding, but feel unable to turn down the financial incentive because of their circumstances? One of the biggest factors in causing post-natal depression is the feeling of loss of control at some point during the pregnancy or birthing process, so by forcing women to make decisions which make them uncomfortable, because they simply cannot say no to the cash, makes me genuinely concerned about the potential for a huge rise in cases on PND in the UK.

And more to the point, what right do these people have to try and regulate our breasts? There are FAR bigger issues to deal with than this and encroaching on women’s freedom like this is disgusting. But I’m not at all surprised – it’s Conservative mandate to systematically dismantle and divide, starting with the poor.

I guess we should have all seen this coming, really.

Has the Coalition Government Betrayed the Elderly?

Brought to you by Stannah Stairlifts

The care of our elderly citizens has been a popular news topic for some time now and the most recent reports are beginning to throw accusations at those responsible for allocating state-funded care to those most in need. Going under fire for betraying the elderly on earlier promises, the coalition government has come under great scrutiny lately – but are they really guilty?

Broken promises

According to a report on The Daily Telegraph, thousands of pensioners will be forced to sell their homes despite being promised that this wouldn’t happen. The scandal first gathered pace when it was announced that the government’s flagship scheme to stop old people having to sell their property while they’re paying for care at a residential home or in their own property would be means-tested.

The Government claims that this will improve prospects for the elderly so that they’re not facing unlimited care costs or being forced to part with their homes but other authorities have different opinions. They have claimed that thousands of pensioners could be put at risk but not qualifying for the scheme under the new means-test.

This would mean they would have to run down the value of their personal possessions and savings until it reached a figure lower than £23,250 at which point they would then qualify for the scheme.

Funding care

For those wondering what all the fuss is about, the crux of the issue lies with the cost of care. This has been rising for some time now, leaving older individuals struggling to cope with the bills. This led the Government to introduce a cap of £72,000 for the amount of money anyone should spend on their care over their lifetime with new rules on who can qualify for benefits and state-funded support.

The idea was that those who faced the idea of selling their homes to afford care would be able to talk to their local council and have their care bills settled via a long-term loan which was repaid from their estate so that they weren’t forced to relocate.

The means-test was introduced as a way to ensure that local councils were able to support this move financially but it is unlikely the battle will end here. With elections on the cards for parliament, social care is expected to be a big bargaining tool when different parties but their arguments forward. The coalition has already introduced a new model for elderly care payments with labour indicating that they are devising their own plans.

For those who rely on this care on a day to day basis, whether it be in the form of entering residential homes or adapting their own property with reconditioned stair lifts, this news is well worth monitoring. Checking eligibility for any additional financial aid or funding is vital if you need to pay out for regular care costs and the most important thing to remember is that the quality of service should not be sacrificed due to financial constraints.

Do Artists Need to be Poor to be Relevant?

Banksy

On our way to Liverpool on Friday, Husband and I were having a bit of a music sesh in the car, playing lots of CDs and going through some albums that we haven’t listened to in a while. We’re both massive fans of The Streets and one of the albums that got a play was Mike Skinner’s first, Original Pirate Material. I said to Husband that it would be on my all-time top ten albums list and he agreed, but we went on to discuss how Mike’s later projects didn’t have nearly as much of an impact as his first.

We decided it was because, when Mr. Skinner made his first album, he was young and ‘real’ – he didn’t have a lot of money, he was just an average lad making his way in the world and writing about his experiences. When you listen to his music is has a reality to it, a grittiness that makes it so unique. Our hypothesis about the subsequent albums is that as his success spiralled, he took a step away from the normality of his life and it made his writing less relevant to normal people and the audience with whom his previous work had resonated so deeply.

It reminded me of a conversation that I had with two of Husband’s cousins a couple of Christmasses ago. The conversation had got onto Banksy, the infamous yet anonymous street artist and political commentator who has taken the world by storm in the last few years. At the time, another ‘outing’ had happened where someone had claimed to the press that Banksy was not, in fact, a normal bloke from Bath who’d worked his way up in the street-art subculture, but was actually privately educated and from a wealthy background.

Both of Husband’s cousins were disgusted that he was potentially middle class and almost seemed to feel betrayed by his apparent class status. I asked them both at the time if artists needed to be poor to be subversive, especially given that a lot of Banksy’s art is so political, but they couldn’t quite come to a conclusion as to why it was unsuitable for someone of means to be commenting on politics in such an ‘urban’ way. And if Banksy was a rich boy, was his social commentary less authentic, because he lacked first-hand experience?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m by NO means advocating the middle and upper classes, I’m a working class girl from a background of union members and hard-grafters, but I do find it interesting that there seems to be a correlation between how people view certain artists and the class that those artists would most identify with. I looked back through the ages too, and it’s not just a recent phenomena – Picasso is one of the most divisive artists in history, but I’ve heard many an anecdote about him having to burn some of his early canvasses just to stay warm, during times of abject poverty when he couldn’t afford wood for his fire. Van Gogh died without a penny to his namem having never found fame during his life, only to be one of the most celebrated impressionists of modern times.

It’s not just artists either – Jimi Hendrix, Ringo Starr, Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley all came from poverty and I can’t help but wonder if their individual impacts on the music world would have been so great had they been born middle or upper class? If they’d have had the edge and drive that they needed to become superstars? Sure, there are plenty of actors, artists, comedians and musician (especially in The UK) who were afforded the privilege of money and good education,  but I find it interesting how much more respect people are given when they appear to have ‘come from nothing’, and how the relevance of their music is increased by it.

So, how about you? Would you be disappointed to find out that Banksy was from a rich family? Would it make you think less of his art, or is the message the same regardless of what he came from? Does a person’s origins give them more of a right to comment on society, and does poverty make that opinion more authentic?

Let me know, I’m really interested in your opinion!