“Under the ideology of austerity women are facing what is termed by the Fawcett society

Under the ideology of austerity women are facing what is termed by the Fawcett society as ‘Triple Jeopardy’. That is: cuts to vital frontline services, job cuts in the public sector where two-thirds of jobs are held by women and benefit cuts. Under the current government maternity and paternity pay, which of course is largely taken by women, will be frozen from 2015 for five years which means a huge cut in real terms.1 The gender pay gap, already 19.6% among all workers or £5000 a year on average, increased this year for the first time in five years. Additionally 62% of legal aid recipients are women and forthcoming cuts mean that 361,200 women will lose access to legal aid. Violence against Women services which include centres for the victims of sexual and domestic abuse were cut 31% between 2010 and 2012.4 The effect of these cuts are particularly pronounced where race intersects with gender. A report by academics at the University of Warwick estimates that unemployment amongst Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic women has risen in Coventry by 74.4% compared to 30.5% among white women between 2009 and 2013. To anybody who believes these “savings” to be a necessity I would point out that George Osbourne still manages to find enough money in the budget to grant a £3 billion annual tax break to the oil and gas industry.

Austerity is a Feminist Issue (belle-jar)

2013 is supposed to have been an amazing year for feminism. The increasing coverage of feminist concerns in mainstream media and the activism of campaigns like Everyday Sexism, No More Page 3 and the furore around getting Jane Austen onto £10 notes has been a welcome reminder both of how much support the feminist movement enjoys and of how much more work there is to do. Yet so many of the campaigns and controversies debated this year relating to feminism have been obsessed with image, representation and appearance. Transfixed by its own reflection, the media and many feminists within it seem to believe that Page 3 and Miley Cyrus’ twerking represent the most pressing obstacles to equality for women.

Although the objectification of women in visual culture is worth fighting against, what these images show is merely a mirror of women’s unequal position within our society. Women do not occupy many positions of power, women are under-represented in parliament, and women are paid less than men for the same jobs. Undervalued economically, side-lined politically and belittled socially it is little wonder that many men can’t see what harm there is in having a semi-naked near-teen in a national newspaper. Society’s not giving the message women are good for much else.

Part of the complacency that seems to characterise feminist apathy towards campaigning on political and economic issues seems to be grounded in one of the most pernicious myths of neoliberalism, namely that society is always progressing and improving. This fallacious belief that the gender pay gap will close itself, that women will gradually be more and more represented in positions of power and that, as we become more tolerant and open, domestic and sexual violence will fade away is incredibly dangerous. Austerity, and here I mean the ideology of permanent austerity that David Cameron pontificated about from his gold throne poses the greatest threat to feminism of our generation. With £41 billion of cuts to public services and welfare planned in spite of growing GDP, it is clear now more than ever that austerity and the permanent reduction of the state is a political belief and not the necessity Cameron originally claimed. [Rest.]

Tories at half-time: cruel and inept, with worse to come

Wipe our Debt

Wipe our Debt (Photo credit: Images_of_Money)

On Wednesday is a milestone, the halfway mark for this government, an inauspicious day for the chancellor’s autumn statement. The passengers in the back are asking: are we nearly there yet? No, we are still travelling in the opposite direction, away from debt reduction, growth, jobs and hope. Will the drivers turn and set us on the right road? No, straight on and still applying the brakes.

If Keynes’s paradox of thrift was once hard to explain, this government has offered the textbook case so all can understand. Cutting into a slump has killed demand, paralysed investment and choked off growth, with 200,000 more long-term unemployed this year and millions underemployed at further cost to the state. The national debt has risen by £150bn with nothing to show for it, money wasted on failure. Imagine the uproar if a Labour chancellor had planned to borrow another £150bn to invest in jobs, infrastructure, training, childcare and house-building. David Cameron’s constant assertions that reckless Labour borrowing would imperil national finances sounds vacuous now.

[More here: commentisfree]


Why does Jeremy Hunt want to turn the clock back on the abortion debate?

So the title of this piece doesn’t speak well to its content but there are a number of good points being made nonetheless. Hunt’s proposal about a 20-week limit for abortion – a debate started by Maria Miller last week – is another direct and concerted attack on women’s rights.

Asked if she would vote now, as she has before, to reduce the 24-week abortion time limit by a month, Miller told the Telegraph that she “absolutely” would, “to reflect the way medical science has moved on”. No doubt she will, in time, inform a press that is apt to take such claims on trust, where exactly babies are surviving at 20 weeks, the point when women are screened for foetal abnormalities, or at 21 weeks, or beyond the occasional, miraculous exception, at 22 weeks. It is a myth. At 23 weeks, the very edge of survival, nine out of 100 babies survive, typically with disabilities. But misrepresenting viability figures is less important to Miller’s position than her conviction that, no matter why a woman might think she needed a late abortion, she would be mistaken. “You have got to look at these matters in a very commonsense way.” She is driven, she says, “by that very practical impact that late-term abortion has on women”.

Miller was immediately congratulated by Nadine Dorries, Westminster’s loudest anti-choice agitator, who is now threatening another 20-week vote, having told the Guardian her personal favourite would be 13 weeks. Presumably there is some scholarly disagreement with 12-week Daddy Hunt over the precise status of foetal rights in the intervening days. “Maria Miller understands the importance of recognising some women are traumatised by abortion process, that’s real feminism,” Dorries tweeted.

[Read more: commentisfree]

Report: Minimum wage would be £18.89 if it matched top pay hikes

The adult rate of National Minimum Wage (NMW) will today rise by 1.8% to £6.19 per hour. According to calculations by think tank One Society, if NMW had kept pace with rises in top pay, it would already be £18.89 per hour. According to BIS, the median total remuneration of FTSE100 CEOs rose annually by 13.6% on average between 1999 and 2010. The new rate means those working full time at NMW will be paid £5000 less than the level which UK citizens think is necessary for an acceptable standard of living for a single person. This comes on top of a doubling in the proportion of part-time workers classified as “involuntary part-time” from just over 8% to 16% between 2000 and 2011.

[Read more: liberalconspiracy]

Maria Miller’s stance on legal abortion limit is simplistic and dishonest

Maria Miller is the minister for women and equalities. I thought I’d mention that because, from her interview with the Telegraph published on Tuesday, you might think she was the minister for something else entirely. Minister for specious claims and lack of evidence, maybe. Minister for faux-concern and anti-choice.

One of the things that attracted attention when Miller took up her new appointment was her record on abortion: in 2008, she voted to reduce the legal limit on abortion from 24 weeks to 20. Asked by Cathy Newman if she’d do the same again, Miller replied: “Absolutely.” So the minister charged with representing women’s rights in parliament has committed herself to restricting women’s control over their own fertility. Let’s have a sour little cheer for a woman’s right to choose to do whatever she likes once in power, regardless of what might be best for the rest of the gender she supposedly has the portfolio for.

This focus on late-term abortion is a misleading way to steer public sentiment against abortion, and when Miller uses it, she’s following a path that’s been well established by deceitful media practices. But Miller isn’t some doctrinaire opponent of abortion. No, Miller is a self-described “very modern feminist” who claims to be “driven by that very practical impact that late-term abortion has on women … What we are trying to do here is not to put obstacles in people’s way but to reflect the way medical science has moved on.”

[Read more: commentisfree]

Atos scandal: Benefits bosses admit over half of people ruled fit to work ended up destitute

MORE than HALF of people stripped of disability benefits after being ruled “fit for work” by Atos were left unemployed and without income, according to a Government study.

The Department for Work and Pensions, who hired the French IT firm to help them slash the benefits bill, have admitted finding out in a survey that 55 per cent of people who lost benefits in the crackdown had failed to find work.

Only 15 per cent were in jobs, with 30 per cent on other benefits.

The DWP claimed people left high and dry were given “tailored support” to find jobs.

But the extent of the hardship suffered by the Atos victims in the study will only add to the growing public fury about the firm and their methods.

Atos have assessed patients with terminal illnesses as “fit for work”. And thousands of victims of genuine, chronic conditions have complained of being humiliated by the company’s tests.

[Read more: dailyrecord]


This pleb jibe exposes the Tories’ Flashman thinking

Until Andrew Mitchell swears that he never used the word pleb, we assume that he did. Until the chief whip has the police officers sacked for giving false witness, we assume that he did. His carefully worded non-apology dared not deny he said it – so he did.

The Sun, with its notoriously close contacts inside the Met, produces chapter and verse, written down by the officers in self-protection after Mitchell’s parting shout: “You haven’t heard the last of this!” Downing Street briefers’ claiming that this is all a Police Federation scam won’t wash. Why not? No one thinks those police officers invented that particular word. “Best learn your fucking place” and “You’re fucking plebs” is Flashman public school bully-speak of Mitchell’s generation, far too authentic to fake. If he was younger, Mitchell might have said “chav”, as Princes William and Harry do: remember their chav party, dressing up in what they imagined were lower-class clothes.

[Read more: commentisfree]


Oppose the new system in UK Higher Education Petition

We are approaching the first term under a new regime in UK Higher Education (and particularly in England), which represents a seismic shift in the nature of public provision, marked by the removal of the cap on tuition fees. 

As academic staff we wish to declare our continued opposition to a system which will increasingly exclude working class students and others from non-traditional backgrounds and promote higher education as a privilege. The irony is that while students are paying hugely inflated fees (albeit as ‘loans’), universities are making cuts in academic, professional and support jobs which will seriously affect the extent and quality of educational provision. 

The scapegoating of London Metropolitan University as part of a government publicity stunt to bolster its immigration policies, at the same time as university support services are to be contracted out, exemplifies the political nature of the attack on Higher Education. 

The entry of Pearson Education into ‘the market’ demonstrates the developing privatisation of Higher Education and, as in health and social care, the prospect of large multi-nationals becoming key providers.

[Sign here: gopetition]

The need for a new coalition to tackle penal excess

There are already some very vocal and well organised campaigns that focus on penal conditions and reforming criminal justice processes. Many of you will be involved in or aware of this kind of work. However, through our recent Reform Sector Strategies project, we learned that because of urgent concerns around penal conditions and the fast moving policy environment there has been a focus on ‘fire-fighting’ – dealing with the immediate issues of the day. But what we also found was that people are concerned about criminal justice expansion and wider issues of inequality and social injustice – but that it is often difficult to find a space for this voice and it is often missing, or silenced or sidelined in policy debate.

The coalition can sit alongside existing campaigns to improve penal conditions. It is hoped that we can work towards creating opportunities for additional and alternative voices in the debate that are focused on calling an end to penal excess and gathering knowledge and support around social justice solutions.

While the political and funding environment is tough, if we can organise effectively there should be scope to offer a necessary counter voice to institutionalised power and the vested interests that increasingly dominating debate.

I’m going to talk for just a few minutes to give you a bit of background, outlining how we got here and the motivation for circulating the call for action for today’s meeting.

[Read more: downsizingcriminaljustice]


Boris Johnson is no laughing matter

The polls now register his charisma, hence much over-excited premature speculation. He is not yet PM, not even an MP. When he was, he was fairly lacklustre. Nor does he appeal so much to those weird minorities the Tories need to win power: women, northerners, the upper-working classes. A quick trip past Luton pricks the Boris bubble. Yet his ability to embody hope, cheer and pride over the summer has been indeed phenomenal. While Osborne was booed and Ed Miliband took himself to Greece to think deep thoughts, Boris invited Murdoch as his special guest. Murdoch bumped into Jeremy Hunt near the aquatics. We were told they had a chat about swimming. Yes, and I am faster than Usain Bolt. Murdoch likes to associate himself with winners, as we know. And the media tentacles spread. Boris now employs his ex-champion, former Evening Standard editor Veronica Wadley. Still, you wouldn’t want Wadley’s husband Tom Bower doing one of his donkey-punch biographies, would you?

[Read more: commentisfree]


State of modern Britain: children turning to shoplifting to feed family

This is what we’ve become, folks.

According to police, hungry children are turning to shoplifting in order to feed their families.

In an interview with CBBC Newsround, Inspector Andy Briers of Islington Police said “They’re not stealing sweets and chocolate and chewing gum, they’re actually going out and stealing bread and food for themselves and their families.

The police are attempting to tackle the issue by providing the children with vouchers entitling them to three days worth of food.

The remarks have come in the wake of a report by Save The Children that found that 3.5 million UK children were living in poverty and that 1 in 8 did not receive a hot meal a day outside of school.

Save The Children launched a campaign last week aiming to raise £500,000 to tackle the issue.

The campaign has caused some embarrassment for the government, whom insist that they are committed to tackling child poverty, at a time that food banks are opening on an almost weekly basis.

[Read more: liberalconspiracy]


Cameron’s reshuffle creates even more of a white, male-dominated monoculture

There’s only one political subject in the news today: Cameron’s cabinet and ministerial reshuffles. You might think there were political plates shifting, that the shape of British politics was changing – but of course it isn’t – it’s just drifting ever further rightwards. (Yes, apparently this is still a coalition, though it’s the most right-wing Lib Dems like returnee David Laws who have any impact – reinforcing Tory ideology.) And it’s a move even further towards a white, male-dominated wealthy mono-culture.

[Read more: newstatesman]


Member Research In Focus: Cameron’s (and politics’) ‘woman problem’

Cameron’s (and politics’) ‘woman problem’ is not something to be ‘managed’ but to be solved Rosie CampbellSarah Childs and Elizabeth Evans argue that political parties should get serious about solving the problem of under-representation of women in political positions of power. Rather then simply ‘shuffling the pack’, the government should actively aim for gender parity in cabinet.

[Read more: psawomenpolitics]


Stop and review the cuts to benefits and services which are falling disproportionately on disabled people, their carers and families (petition)

Responsible department: Department for Work and Pensions

The government were embarking on wholesale reform of the benefit system when the economic crisis struck. These welfare reforms had not been piloted and the plan was to monitor and assess the impact of the new untried approach as it was introduced in a buoyant economy. Unfortunately since then the economy has gone in to crisis and the government has simultaneously embarked on a massive programme of cuts. This has created a perfect storm and left disabled people/those with ill health, and their carers reeling, confused and afraid.

We ask the government to stop this massive programme of piecemeal change until they can review the impact of all these changes, taken together, on disabled people and their carers. We ask the government to stand by its duty of care to disabled people and their carers. At the moment the covenant seems to be broken and they do not feel safe.

Illness or disability could affect any one of us at any time, while many more of us are potential carers.

[Sign the petition here: epetitions]

Measuring impact of cuts on services to prevent violence against women and girls

By Jude Towers and Sylvia Walby
UNESCO Chair in Gender Research Group
Lancaster University

Key Findings

• Substantial reductions in national budgets are leading to cuts in local services to prevent and protect against gender-based violence against women and girls.  These cuts in service provision are expected to lead to increases in this violence.

• The effect on local services is both dramatic and uneven across localities.

• Thirty-one percent of the funding to the domestic violence and sexual abuse sector from local authorities was cut between 2010/11 to 2011/12, a reduction from £7.8 million to £5.4 million.  (Data obtained using Freedom of Information Act requests by the False Economy project, and analysed by the research team).

• The organisations with smaller budgets from the local authorities had more substantial budget cuts than larger ones: among those with local authority funding of less than £20,000 the average cut was 70% as compared with 29% for those receiving over £100,000, between 2010/11 and 2011/12.  (Data obtained using Freedom of Information Act requests by the False Economy project, and analysed by the research team).

• 320 women, just under 9% of those seeking refuge, were turned away by Women’s Aid on a typical day in 2011 due to lack of space. (Data from surveys conducted annually by Women’s Aid of their affiliated organisations, analysed by the research team).

• The number of Independent Domestic Violence Advisers (IDVA) has been reduced: in 2011 among 8 major IDVA service providers supporting 13,180 clients, 2 faced funding cuts of 100%, 3 cuts of 50%, 3 of 40% and 2 of 25%. (Data from a poll carried out by Coordinated Action Against Domestic Abuse –  CAADA).

[Read more: psawomenpolitics. The full report is here.]

Galloway’s producer [minion]: ‘judging by your picture, you won’t have to worry about rape’

Here’s the type of person that George Galloway employs to do his bidding.


[Read more: liberalconspiracy]


How food insecurity keeps the workforce cowed

Very interesting indeed.

Lambeth council is turning to food banks in order to manage the crisis of soaring poverty in the borough. This is never a good sign. When soup kitchens started to appear in large numbers in the US during the 1980s, it was supposed to be a form of crisis management. Now they have become a threadbare safety net for masses of jobless and working poor Americans as the welfare system fails them. Dependence on charitable food provision has soared during the recession. Evidence suggests that they don’t begin to meet the nutritional needs of those who use them.

The trend is for what is supposed to be a temporary stopgap to become a permanent part of the welfare system. It turns welfare into an entrepreneurial wild west, dependent on often inexperienced providers, institutionalising and stabilising chronic insecurity and undernourishment for millions. Whereas in the postwar era poverty was residual or the product of the economic cycle, it has acquired a structural permanence. Nor can this be assumed to be an accidental outcome. States that cut welfare systems are knowing actors, well-placed to evaluate the predictable effects of their actions.

In the 1980s, when neoliberal policies were being rolled out, the sociologist Göran Therborn wrote of “the Brazilianisation of advanced capitalism”. He pointed out that even in the crisis-ridden 1970s and early 1980s, mass unemployment was not inevitable provided there were institutional commitments to promote full employment. The rise of joblessness was not a force of nature but a strategic choice.

Paired with a shift from welfare to the punitive management of poverty, the result would be, as in Brazil, a trichotomous division of society. At the top would be the obscenely rich, capitalists and top business managers. In the middle would be stably employed workers, middle-class professionals and so on. And at the bottom would be the poorest sectors of the working class, permanently unemployed or underemployed, insecure and subject to increasing moral regulation by the state.

The spread of precarity was thus an intended effect of the reforms, and this is the real social basis for ideological memes such as “the underclass”  or “the precariat”.

[Read more: commentisfree]


Universities can’t do everything. Reinvent the polytechnic

Um. Maybe.

Leaping students with cracking A-level exam results have been a staple of August news bulletins. And while no one wants to rain on their parade, the class of 2012 will be entering an university system facing its greatest crisis since the Robbins Report of the 1960s.

In opposition, universities minister David Willetts argued for inter-generational equity and highlighted the plight of today’s “generation crunch” forced to pay for the asset-hoarding antics of their parents. But in government, Willetts has only accelerated the trend. Few have been harder hit by the coalition’s economic failures than the young. In the last 12 months, the number of young people out of work for 12 months or more is at the highest level since July 1997. And for those seeking to educate themselves out of unemployment, Willetts has introduced one of the most expensive tuition systems in the western world. To pay for the massive cuts to university fees and research budgets, the government introduced a fee structure which peaked at £9,000 per annum built on the hope only a few universities would charge the full whack.

In fact, most leading institutions immediately did so, with predictably damaging results. When faced with the prospect of graduating with a £40,000 debt, university applications fell by 8.8% with design courses collapsing by more than 16%, history by 7%, and non-European languages a startling 21%. Philosophy, languages and the arts are under assault by a government of quite breathtaking philistinism.

In the process, a world-class asset is being endangered. Because for all the grumbling about golf management degrees, for all the satire of Lucky Jim orPorterhouse Blues, British universities rank among the best in the world. An international Ipsos Mori poll rated the quality of the UK higher education sector as our strongest attribute.


But what university policy has failed to crack is the route towards higher vocational provision. Willetts himself put it well, when he spoke of a “widely understood route through A-levels to university which ensures around a half of young people can set off to adulthood like a jumbo jet heading straight down the runway. But for the rest the system is erratic and confusing.”

No one wants to return to the funding and quality hierarchies between the pre-1992 polytechnics and universities, but if we are serious about true equality between vocational and academic education then a new plan for some form of polytechnic-style capacity is needed. In schools, the cultural tide is turning with a renewed focus on practical and apprenticeship skills, so why not at higher level?

[Read more: commentisfree]


Why is Michael Gove so close to Christian extremists from LoveWise?

More evidence (as if we needed it) that this government is vehemently anti-choice.

A government backed Christian charity called Lovewise teaches school children that most rape victims ‘regret abortion’. According to Dina Rickman, the charity also teaches children that abortion causes holes in the womb, depression and infection. LoveWise also describes homosexuality as “damaging to mind, body and spirit” in its code of practice. According to its accounts from 2010 to 2011, it gave 300 presentations and has teams based in Bournemouth, Guildford, Hull, Kendal, Newcastle, Sheffield, South Coast, Suffolk, Sussex and Wimbledon. Details of the presentation were unearthed by Diane Abbott MP and Education for Choice. What’s really worrying is that the charity is backed by the government and part of Michael Gove’s Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) Council.

[Read more: liberalconspiracy]

London 2012: how the Olympics suckered the Left

Damning. (And from the Telegraph, too).

The London Olympics are the most right-wing major event in Britain’s modern history. Billions of pounds are taken from poor and middle-income taxpayers and service users to build temples to a corporate and sporting elite. Democratic, grassroots sport is stripped of money to fund the most rarefied sport imaginable. The police and the state are turned into the enforcement arm of Coca-Cola. How did this event suddenly become the toast of the Left?

Corporations who make people fat and sick – or, in one case, actually maimed and killed them – are allowed to launder their images; the London Paralympics, in a detail you simply could not make up, are sponsored by Atos, the firm repeatedly accused of bullying disabled people off benefits. Meanwhile, the main sponsors – the people of Britain – are largely excluded from the event they paid for.

Not just the Games itself, but many other parts of their own city, are sealed off from them. Some of them are evicted and their houses destroyed; others find overnight and without warning that their homes are to be converted into military missile sites, so terrorist planes can be made to kill ordinary Londoners instead of Olympic luminaries. Protestors against any of this are arrested and detained on theflimsiest of pretexts. Almost every promise ever made by the organisers – from the budget to the ‘greenest games ever,’ from the number of jobs that will be created to the number of new houses that will be built – turns out to be false.

The Left should be up in arms about the Olympics, as should any democrat. But as it turns out, all it takes is a few nurses dancing round beds, some coloured lights spelling out the words NHS and we all go weak at the knees and collapse into the IOC’s embrace. Worse, actually: any criticism of the opening ceremony was described by one left-wing newspaper today as “extremist!

My favourite line was from the Guardian columnist Richard Williams who wrote:“Cameron and his gang will surely not dare to continue the dismemberment of the NHS after this.” Hmm. If dismemberment is indeed their intention, are they really going to be stopped by a sound and light show? This isn’t a new dawn for Britain. It’s a night’s entertainment.

[Read more: blogs.telegraph]