I would like to ask Ed Miliband…

An Open Letter to Ed Miliband

In a democracy the poor will have more power than the rich, because there are more of them, and the will of the majority is supreme.

Democracy is when the indigent, and not the men of property, are the rulers.
Aristotle

I have had this post in my drafts folder for a long time, I guess that perhaps I had hoped that things may change, that the Labour party would finally stand up for benefit claimants: the long-term sick, the disabled and the unemployed. Sadly this is not the case and I rather suspect that under Labour nothing will be done to rectify the shocking treatment of benefit claimants as a result of the Tory’s so-called benefit reforms. I consider that Labour will do nothing to save the welfare system from the destruction that the Tory’s have begun,  though some may say that indeed Labour  began the demise of the welfare system beginning with the replacement of incapacity benefit by Employment and Support Allowance.

Prior to the Labour party conference Ed Miliband said he would be “bringing back socialism” to Britain and he vowed to:
Strengthen the national minimum wage to make work pay

“And we are fighting for all of the low-paid people around our country. One of the proudest achievements of the last Labour government was the national minimum wage, making work pay for people.”

And to abolish the bedroom tax

“We are going to scrap the bedroom tax, that’s what I mean by a government that fights for you.

And at the conference he promised to freeze energy prices.

All very commendable and if carried out will make a big difference to many people who are struggling financially as a result of the present government’s austerity measures which falls disproportionately on poor people while millionaires get tax cuts and corporation’s avoid paying tax altogether. I have to say though that energy should be renationalised as should public transport and water and indeed every public service,  and that includes the NHS which is well on the road to privatisation. Energy prices are too high; many people cannot afford to heat their homes this will not change any time soon.

However
I would like to ask Mr Miliband:

When are labour going to fight for the disabled, the chronically sick and the unemployed, in short people on benefits through no fault of their own, who have suffered not only financially under this coalition’s welfare reforms but who have also suffered the detrimental effects of a malicious propaganda campaign, the like of which resembles the Nazi’s campaign to turn people against the disabled prior to world war two? When are labour going to redress the wrongs committed by the present government, begun by the Labour party themselves who kick started this nightmare of vicious welfare cuts?

While I agree whole heartedly concerning the abolition of the bedroom tax and an increase in the basic minimum wage. I am appalled that you have not condemned in any real way the serious attack on benefit claimants. Thousands of people have committed suicide, many live in fear and dread of insecurity and devastating poverty. Lives already marred by illness and disability and by unemployment have suffered further detriment from the Tory government’s welfare reforms and indeed from Labour who introduced some of the changes such as the unfair Work Capability Assessment WCA and a reduction in the amount paid when Employment and Support Allowance ESA replaced Incapacity Benefit. Also I clearly recall Tony Blair’s “lounging on benefits” comments which some might say launched the drip feed of the negative scrounger propaganda. Though irrelevant now there was some vague mention that Labour may sack ATOS but what will replace it? Something very similar I would imagine.

What has happend to labour, the party of the working man, the party that introduced the NHS, social security, the welfare state, what happened to the real socialist party I once voted for. Now labour is nothing but a sham, a paler shade of blue.

Why did you think the country voted for Labour in 1997, surely not to continue with the right-wing political agenda of the outgoing party. New Labour indeed, more like New conservative. The New One Nation Labour is not much better, how can we be one nation when there is such disparity of living standards when many have far more than their needs, the roughly 619,000 millionaires and 88 billionaires for example, while others have to choose between eating and heating , struggle to pay rent or mortgage from inadequate pay for working away their lives for longer and longer hours under unfair conditions for increasingly lower pay. Why have Labour not reinstated the powers that the conservatives  took away from the trade unions rending them virtually ineffectual.

Time for a real socialist party, time for an end to low wages, inequality and insecurity. Time for a more fair distribution of wealth and a decent standard of living for every man, woman and child including those who by misfortune are too ill or disabled to contribute. To care for those who cannot support themselves is the mark of any decent morally progressive society . Time for you and the Labour party to speak out against the shocking treatment of disabled and chronically sick people, this is one of the greatest of all social injustices, a violation of human rights and the universal codes of plain common decency and morality.

You cannot kowtow to public opinion concerning benefit claimants which has in any case been poisoned by Tory rhetoric. Time to stand up for what is right, time to return to some of the older Labour values, time for real equality and social justice.

There is no justice when the privileged have millions while others live in unheated homes, struggle to feed their families or pay their rent, while sick and disabled people become increasing impoverished, while people die of lack of medical care and while many slave away their precious lives working increasing longer hours for increasing less and less pay. There is no justice globally when a child in a so called developing country dies every 3.5 second for want for food or clean water.

The world has to change for the sake of every man, women and child, for every creature and indeed the earth itself. If not the legacy of future generations will be enslavement to multinational corporations, the devastation of our planet and the extinction of the other creatures with whom we share this world.

How can you a multimillionaire have the audacity to say you are bringing back socialism? It is a long time since the Labour Party have been true socialists.Time to abandon the politics of greed and inequality, these are not hall marks of the Labour party, social justice or morality. How about taking a leaf out of the book of Uruguay’s president Jose Mujic whose charitable donations – which benefit poor people and small entrepreneurs – bring his salary roughly in line with the average Uruguayan income of $775 (£485) a month. In 2010, his annual personal wealth declaration – mandatory for officials in Uruguay – was $1,800 (£1,100), the value of his 1987 Volkswagen Beetle.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20243493

It is a sad day when democracy is allowed to die, when an unelected government of millionaires, of over privileged sociopaths determines the future of the masses virtually unchallenged in any real sense save for the ineffectual slanging matches in parliament, none of which have remotely addressed the outrage of social injustice perpetrated against the disabled, sick , unemployed and low paid. Debates in parliament have changed nothing even when the government are defeated as was the case with the Badger debate, they go ahead with their perverted policies anyway, in the case of badgers to proceed with the slaughter last  summer. Time for an independent Watch Dog authority with the powers to call an election when it is apparent that the government work from self interest or other interests that are to the detriment of the many or when it is obvious that the majority no longer support the policies of the elected government and most definitely when the government is not elected as is the case with the coalition

Please don’t tell me about the democratic process and what you will do if you are elected. By than it will be too late and I can well imagine you will do little to reverse the injustice of these wicked welfare reforms. Frankly there are times when I seriously consider that Labour are quite content to let the Tories implement these unjust unfair reforms. Democracy is dead when the unelected have the power to cart blanch destroy in a matter of months the progress of decades.

Until Labour speaks out against the benefit reforms and pledges to reverse the damage done, including Labour’s own role in the matter, I will no longer vote Labour. I have in fact only voted for Labour in recent years simply because we have a good Labour MP in my locality rather than as an endorsement of the party’s abandonment of Labours former socialist values.

 

 

 

A Tribute to Tony Benn

I know it is rather late now for this, but I am not a professional writer and some things take a lot of research. Besides is it ever too late to pay a tribute to someone who has accomplished so much.

Researching the life of Tony Benn I have learnt so much about this remarkable man who will be sadly missed in these challenging times.

Tony-Benn-CC-copy-332x500

Anthony Neil Wedgwood “Tony” Benn passed away peacefully on March 14th.  He was one of the few genuine socialists of our time here in the UK. A fervent campaigner for democracy and socialism Toney Benn was the longest serving MP in the labour party, he won more elections than any other Labour MP – 16 in all. He was a Member of Parliament between 1950 and 2001 and a Cabinet minister under Harold Wilson and James Callaghan in the 1960s and 1970s. In May 2001 he retired from the House of Commons,“to devote more time to politics.”

Toney Benn was a man of honour, principle and integrity, a passionate campaigner for social justice, genuine democracy, freedom of speech, human rights, trade unionism and compassion towards animals. He was also an advocate for pacifism and a fervent campaigner for the cessation of all wars.

Read more about the life of Tony Benn:
http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-e115-Tony-Benn-1925-2014#.Uyhvv6h_ua8

In a statement his children Stephen, Hilary, Melissa and Joshua said:

“We will miss above all his love which has sustained us throughout our lives. But we are comforted by the memory of his long, full and inspiring life and so proud of his devotion to helping others as he sought to change the world for the better.”

Video from the people’s Assembly which Tony Benn helped to launch:

The People’s Assembly Against Austerity was launched – by Tony Benn,  Len McCluskey and other trade union leaders – with a call to all those millions of people in Britain who face an impoverished and uncertain year as their wages, jobs, conditions and welfare provision come under renewed attack by the government.

RIP Tony Benn

http://www.thepeoplesassembly.org.uk/rip_tony_benn

As a tribute I would like to include a selection of notable quotations from Tony Benn.

On Pacifism

“All war represents a failure of diplomacy.”

“If you can plan for war, why can’t you plan for peace?”

“it would be a total corruption of the whole meaning and spirit of the UN Charter, which was carefully written to make it possible the peaceful settlement of international disputes, to try to present it as offering a blank cheque for war whenever the United States wants one”

“I was born about a quarter of a mile from where we are sitting now and I was here in London during the Blitz. And every night I went down into the shelter. 500 people killed, my brother was killed, my friends were killed. And when the Charter of the UN was read to me, I was a pilot coming home in a troop ship: ‘We the peoples of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind.’ That was the pledge my generation gave to the younger generation and you tore it up. And it’s a war crime that’s been committed in Iraq, because there is no moral difference between a stealth bomber and a suicide bomber. Both kill innocent people for political reasons.”
Question Time, 22 March 2007

On equal marriage and the Church of England.

“When you think of the number of men in the world who hate each other, why, when two men love each other, does the church split?”

On the media and government control

“The one thing that is absolutely essential is that there shouldn’t be any governmental control [of the media] directly or indirectly.”

On vegetarianism and compassion towards animals

I never liked meat and my son Hilary, 30 years ago, said: “If the world ate the grain instead of feeding it to animals and killing them, there would be enough food for everybody.” That moment my wife and I became vegetarian and I never touched meat since.

‘The case for animal testing is now being directly challenged by scientists and doctors and their judgement must be taken seriously’.

“I am teetotal and vegetarian, so I do live on tea. I don’t like Earl Grey tea, but it may be a class prejudice against earls.”

“The support [for the bill to ban fox hunting] comes from people young and old–it is not confined to the young, although it is very strong among them–who believe that cruelty to entertain is wrong, and I share that view… As a vegetarian and someone who has always supported animal rights, I feel that we have a duty in a representative assembly to reflect properly the feeling that exists.”

“Madam, if you are so concerned about catching BSE, you should do what I do and turn vegetarian.”

“Having been made aware of the need for it, I have never lost sight of my vegetarianism. Unquestioning brutality like slaughter and capital punishment does corrupt you and is a blot on the civilizing of society. Such positions reflect on the values of a society. I am particularly revolted by religious slaughter but the slaughter of all animals is barbaric.  Why breed animals simply to kill and eat them.  How is it different to killing people?”

Read an interview with Tony Benn:

The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr Benn

Tony Wardle talks to Tony Benn – politician, vegetarian, saviour and ‘scarey bogeyman’
http://www.viva.org.uk/what-we-do/celebrity-supporters/tony-benn/extraordinary-adventures-mr-benn

This is a very informative interview, not only about Tony Benn’s vegetarianism, but it reveals a lot about the personality and the world-view of this remarkable politician.

On Parliament

 “Through talk, we tamed kings, restrained tyrants, averted revolution.”  

On power

 “No medieval monarch in the whole of British history ever had such power as every modern British Prime Minister has in his or her hands. Nor does any American President have power approaching this.” 

On Marxism

 “It is wholly wrong to blame Marx for what was done in his name, as it is to blame Jesus for what was done in his.”

“Well I came across Marx rather late in life actually, and when I read him, two things: first of all I realised that he’d come to the conclusion about capitalism which I’d come to much later, and I was a bit angry he’d thought of it first; and secondly, I see Marx who was an old Jew, as the last of the Old Testament Prophets, this old bearded man working in the British Library, studying capitalism, that’s what ‘Das Kapital’ was about, it was an explanation of British capitalism. And I thought to myself, ‘Well anyone could write a book like that, but what infuses, what comes out of his writing, is the passionate hostility to the injustice of capitalism. He was a Prophet, and so I put him in that category as an Old Testament Prophet.”

Interestingly Tony Benn died on exactly the same date as Karl Marx – 101 years later.

On Socialism and Democracy

“Although socialism is widely held by the establishment to be outdated, the things that are most popular in British society today are little pockets of socialism, where areas of life have been excluded from the crude operation of market forces and are protected for the benefit of the community”

“Democracy is not just voting every 5 years and watching Big Brother in between and wondering why nothing happens. Democracy is what we do and say where we live and work”

General quotations

“In 1993 I spoke in Hyde park to a couple of million people…afterwards someone from the BBC said ‘you’re a voice in the wilderness’ and I said ‘well there are two million people in my wilderness, how many are there in yours?’

“It’s the same each time with progress. First they ignore you, then they say you’re mad, then dangerous, then there’s a pause and then you can’t find anyone who disagrees with you.”

“I do not share the general view that market forces are the basis of personal liberty”.

“My Great-grandfather was a Congregational Minister and my Mother was a Bible scholar, and I was brought up on the Bible, that the story of the Bible was conflict between the kings who had power, and the prophets who preached righteousness. And I was taught to believe in the prophets, got me into a lot of trouble. And my Dad said to me when I was young, ‘Dare to be a Daniel, Dare to stand alone, Dare to have a purpose firm, Dare to let it (be) known.'”
Interview with John Cleary, 23 February 2003

“[The Labour Party]’s never been a socialist party, but it’s always had socialists in it, just as there are some Christians in the Church, it’s an exact parallel.”

“Simply having nuclear weopens destroys democracy. When a country has them, ministers – of all parties – lie. No minister has ever told the truth about any central question of nuclear policy”

“The word terrorists is a term of abuse used to describe those with whom you disagree. According to Mrs Thatcher the ANC are terrorists”

“I never had any sympathy with the Soviet system and it’s lack of democracy but I never believed the Russians were threatening to invade Western Europe”

Quotations  about Tony Benn

“Tony Benn was the articulate advocate of socialism who inspired my generation. “He gave us all hope of a fair and equal society.”
John McDonnell, chair of the Socialist Campaign Group of MPs

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said Mr Benn had fought for his ideals “almost to the last breath of his life.”

“He was a hero to me and to millions more not only because of what he advocated – social justice, democracy and peace – but because of the way he advocated it, with passion, decency and without malice against anyone.”

Comments on Twitter

Really sad to learn Tony Benn has died. A man of integrity who used his voice to stand up for the poor and powerless RIP
A Tweet from Mark Russell @markrusselluk

Read more Twitter tributes:

Tony Benn dead: Twitter tributes serve as moving eulogy to his enduring political legacy
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/tony-benn-dead-twitter-tributes-serve-as-moving-eulogy-to-his-enduring-political-legacy-9191901.html

Blogs with comments and tributes to Tony Benn

The socialism of humanity: A tribute to Tony Benn
http://www.politics.co.uk/blogs/2014/03/14/the-socialism-of-humanity-a-tribute-to-tony-benn

Tony  Benn Will be Missed
http://blog.peta.org.uk/2014/03/tony-benn-will-be-missed/

Goodbye and Thank You Tony Benn
http://diaryofabenefitscrounger.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/goodbye-and-thank-you-tony-benn.html

Tony Benn and the Five Essential Questions of Democracy
http://thesecularjurist.wordpress.com/2014/03/17/tony-benn-and-the-five-essential-questions-of-democracy/

The measure of a man: my tribute to Tony Benn
http://newint.org/blog/2014/03/14/tony-benn-tribute/

A Tribute to Tony Benn
http://www.tuc.org.uk/about-tuc/regions/union-issues/tribute-tony-benn