Lisa Eva Nandy
Yesterday Lisa Eva Nandy, Labour member of parliament for Wigan asked a question of the prime minister during Prime minister's questions. She asked if Cameron knew that in the past twelve months The Brick Homeless Project in Wigan has given out 6000 food parcels. The point was if the Tory recovery plan is real why are there so many in desperate need of charitable support. I was particularly interested in this question because as many of you will know I helped organise and played a benefit with Luke, Steve and Art, plus local musicians at St Thomas the martyr church, in Upholland last November. Later this month I will be entertaining folks undertaking a fundraising sleep out in Wigan for The Brick.
Today it was announced that a recent survey has established that many working people in the lowest paid twenty percent endure poor working conditions. The survey indicates that the health and fitness of this group is no better than the poorest unemployed. Major independent organisations continue to highlight the gap between rich and poor and that the poor are still paying the highest price as a result of ConDem policy cuts around the deficit and recovery from it. There are still huge cuts still to be made and if Cameron wins the next election we can be reasonably sure that public service cuts will become increasingly punitive.
Everywhere I go I hear the same story from professionals working with people. They tell me that it is increasingly difficult to provide the service that was available comparatively recently and the possibilities are diminishing steadily as the cuts to public services continue to bite. There is a steady drift of people leaving their work and we are losing a highly skilled workforce because they feel they are no longer able to provide effective service. Some middle managers hang on for the redundancy package or pension , trying to get blood out of a stone and building the paper mountain ever higher. As someone said to me recently, " Many people hanging in there are doing so out of greed or fear".
Meanwhile the best social workers, paramedics and others are leaving the work in droves. Stress levels produce burn out and depression. I personally know three or four quality people who are aware that if they continue to try to hold the fort there will be a high personal cost. They don't want to abandon their clients or give up a profession they have been dedicated to but, they feel they are no longer able to do the job we expect them to do. This is a very serious situation. In the wake of this migration of skilled workers comes the newbies. Many of them are young and enthusiastic but many couldn't write a letter without support. They have degrees which seem to have overlooked some of the important bits. Then there are the lovely young ones who will work their socks off and will stay the course because they care. Bless them and let us hope they are not discarded or burned out by an unseeing, unthinking government that still favours the demands of the wealthy over the needs of a growing number of disenfranchised people at the bottom of the pyramid. On the other hand a very bright trainee social worker from Eastern Europe recently asked a lecturer, " Do you think it is even worthwhile trying to be a social worker in the UK today"? After the lecturer replied the bright young one said that she would finish her degree and stay here to work but wait until the UK was once more engaged with those in the most need and then she would apply to be a social worker in the field. How sad is that?
I can't tell you how many experienced and good people workers have recently told me they would consider almost any employment with a pay cut if things get any worse. The work is hard but becomes traumatic if it cannot be achieved. Seeing people suffer because of a lack of resources is so stressful it becomes impossible to carry on. There will be a huge cost if this trend continues.
As the election looms friends have been asking me who I will vote for. It is a good question. I have never been so disillusioned with politics. Many years ago the established church in the UK began to lose its flock and they still struggle to connect with us. More recently the political leaders began to lose their audience almost entirely hence the rise of UKIP and other odious pretenders. We don't trust those who rule and we don't think they understand the world most of us inhabit. It isn't just the Eton gang that disappoints. Anti Christ candidate, in the new order hierarchy, Tony Blair said he thought Miliband could not win an election because Labour had moved too far to the left. What????
Blair was a massive disappointment to me and I see little change in his successors. In a recent documentary about Gaddafi we saw Blair cosying up to the self appointed Golden King of Africa because it suited us? Did it? We are still in bed with some of the worst despots on the planet and selling them arms for vast sums of cash. The hypocrisy of western governments who espouse the merits of democracy and justice cannot fail to assist in the radicalisation of young Muslims and Blair played his part in that along with Mr Denial, the weasel Jack Straw and others. Some years ago I was at a reception for Phillip Lawrence award winners at the Bafta Theatre. The group of young people I was with had won the award through crime prevention initiatives while working on the first youth radio station in the UK Fundamental F.M. Jack Straw was there and he remarked to me that I looked like an ageing rock star. I replied that he looked like a fading socialist. He laughed uneasily and moved away from me. Later I remember his clear and repeated denials that the UK had ever been involved with so called "rendering" and torture.
We often hear the cry " all politicians are the same" and they are very similar right now and we can be fairly sure that until we get a new perspective on fairness and justice from our leaders nothing will change. Who to vote for? For me the jury is still out. I think how ever poor they might be in the bigger picture, we have to vote for those who we believe who will genuinely try to care for all and marginalise no one through the devastating effects of austerity politics. Sadly it might be, yet again, about choosing the lesser of three or four evils. Having said that I fantasise about a no vote election where there are so few voters that a new political order is established based on what we the voters want in order to avoid constitutional crisis. Ah! It won't happen but it would be exciting wouldn't it?
Meanwhile I had reason to be encouraged and thoroughly cheered by a letter from one of the guys I met on my recent visit to Elmley Prison. It is the kind of thing that informs and shapes what I try to do. There is always something to be done towards a better way and I hope I might be invited back to H.M.P. Elmley to continue this venture. I have inserted a section of the letter below.
"I am writing to thank you for spending time to come out and talk to us. The feedback was great and you have helped inspire some of us to start writing, in fact a week on and the lyrics and tune are nearly done".