Wednesday, 26 September 2012
Is it right that a millionaire gets his travel paid for by the state but yet a hard working family has to fund all their travel themselves?
Is it right that a sugar daddy gets winter fuel payments to pay towards his holiday home on the Costa Del Sol?
Is it right that retired bankers with gold plated pensions get reduced council tax yet a family of teachers and nurses have to pay their full tax?
The answer to all three of these questions is NO it is not right and I am happy to hear that the coalition have voiced support for the abolition of these benefits for rich pensioners, retired bankers and rich retired sugar daddies! (Ok I have picked on a niche area but true none the less)
What are Benefits?
Benefits are not a saving scheme nor a pension fund to top up your earnings when you retire, benefits are there as a safety net to protect and support the most vulnerable and those in need in society for as long as they need support or to help them get to a point where they can support themselves again.
Yet to often you hear "pensioners deserve this" "Ive paid into this all my life" and "Ive earn't my pension benefits" This is SIMPLY NOT TRUE.
Benefits are an insurance scheme you pay your premiums (tax) and if you are unfortunate enough to need to claim it then you will find support there to help you through your crisis. Like Insurance however if you have paid buildings insurance for 20 years and not made a claim you cants demand your insurance company gives you a new house and pensioner should not be demanding the government and us the tax payer fund their life styles any more than to support those at most in need.
Where to draw the line?
We have drawn the line when it comes to tax credits where we say above this level a family no longer needs the state to provide extra benefits to support them as they are able to support them selves. This line should become a universal benefits threshold anyone earning above this level be it a pensioner or otherwise should receive NO STATE BENEFITS, NO FREE BUS PASS, NO WINTER FUEL PAYMENTS. We have introduced a welfare cap on total benefits payouts and its time to extend that approach to benefits as a whole. Benefits and welfare have got out of hand and represent the main funding destination for our taxes paid to the treasury.
Where else to spend our money?
When we are in the middle of a recession, when we are debating how much to spend on international aid, when we are freezing and reducing other state benefits and when pressure on funds to the NHS are higher than they have been ever before IT IS WRONG that we continue to fund sugar daddies, pensioners world cruises and holiday homes for a minority of well off individuals simply because of their age. As a conservative I want peoples money to go to where it can make the most difference, where it can support a family to get onto their feet, where it can support a child to get through university, where it can fund the creation of more jobs through encouraging private sector stimulus these are just some of the things money currently being wasted could be spent on.
In Liverpool Labour handed out leaflets targeting the richest ward in the city Woolton and "millionaires row" attacking the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives for wanting to take away their bus passes and defending their rights to claim winter fuel payments. Nationally Labour have opposed plans to limit the rights of rich pensioners to claim state benefits and financial rewards they have currently.
Labour opposed the benefits cap and the right of working families to earn more than those claiming state benefits and living in luxurious post codes like Park Lane and Mayfair areas of the UK many hard working families can only dream of living in.
But yet its Labour again standing up for the retired ex bankers, standing up for the sugar daddies with their holiday homes in the Costa Del Sol and standing up for the millionaires in liverpool instead of the hard working families across the UK who are supporting themselves without any support from the state and to the expense of further support that could be provided to single parent families and those from more deprived areas if these millionaires had their benefits stopped.
I believe pensioners deserve our respect they deserve to be valued and supported when they need support. If you are in need the state should be there to help you back onto your feet or support you long term if you need it. If you need a bus pass to get around because you don't have the financial resources to get out we should be ensuring every pensioner that is in need knows they have access to a bus pass and don't need to feel isolated. I believe that NO pensioner should die or suffer because they simply cant afford to stay warm in winter and our system of support needs to be simple and adequate to meet pensioners needs and not simply a hand out with no regard for the support that is needed.
Campaigning to ensure those with excessive wealth do not receive state hand outs does not mean you don't support those pensioners in need in fact in means that you recognise how important that support is and make sure we have the resources to provide that support and to make sure we are not wasting money that could be better spent on providing more support and a better system as a whole.
I will continue to support pensioners in need and that's why I will continue to support the policies of the conservative and lib dem government that wish to simplify and focus support to those that are in need and not the pockets of retired ex bankers.
Thursday, 20 September 2012
Star Trek political voyage...
Growing up I was a bit of a geek, I loved maths, I was top of my class in every subject and I was Star Trek mad!
I had everything from the blue prints of the enterprise to the complete star trek fact files magazine collection!
I grew up in mainly rural parts of the UK Cumbria, Wiltshire, Somerset and Devon, all not known for their "particular diverse" communities and where prejudice existed in abundance. But through watching Start Trek I saw a world where difference was valued not feared, where people from all parts of the universe came together to work towards a common good and to stand up for their communities. This helped me to view the world differently to the racist homophobic home life I was growing up in and to see how the world "could be".
I know that Star Trek is often held up as the example of socialism and left wing politics in action and that how can a Tory feel their politics is so connected to such a representation?
Well the answer is because to me it was more than a show about economics it was about community and social values. economics doesn't have to be the defining factor in how we view the world yes I believe in a capitalist market approach that promotes growth and encourages development but my social values don't stem from how I view we should manage economies but from a sense of community, love and diversity. Those were the values I saw in Star Trek. People willing to fight to stand up for their community and family, a shared love across the stars for all people even of different species and very diverse communities living in harmony working together and benefiting from each others differences to achieve advancements and developments that help us all.
When we surround ourselves with people who are exactly like us in our workplaces, friendship groups and communities we are surrounding ourselves with the same weaknesses and failures that we have ourselves, we are limiting our opportunities for success and not utilising everyone to achieve our potential.
When we focus on hate, difficulty, and retribution we are preventing ourselves being our whole selves directing energy to unproductive behaviors and waste the potential we would have to achieve if we could just work together.
When we refuse to stand up and support our communities we are refusing to let people support our own weaknesses and vulnerabilities and limiting ourselves to simply the some of the actions we can achieve on our own and we all need doctors, we all need the police and we all need neighbours who care about their communities too.
I believe that we are all individuals, we are all diverse and that communities are what make us strong. Its time we valued that individuality, valued diversity and valued the communities that we all live in only then may we all truly "LIVE LONG AND PROSPER"....
Tuesday, 18 September 2012
Like most conservatives I believe that the family plays an important part in society and peoples lives. In an ideal world we would wish everyone came from a stable happy family home where they were properly supported and able to develop as a child and as adults have a supportive family around us our entire lives.
We know unfortunately that this is not the case for many people my self included. Many grow up in broken homes, single parent families, or environments that don't allow us to be as supported as we would hope.
As a society we should be supporting strong family relationships and encouraging commitment what ever the sexuality or gender of the people in question. Its not being gay, lesbian or bisexual that leads to many children growing up under supported or growing old without a family around them its where they have not had strong family relationships built on commitment and love.
One of the strongest ways this government can show support for the family and as conservatives cement it as one of the values we stand for is to be strong and continue to lead the agenda introducing equal or gay marriage to the UK within this parliament. Supporting equal marriage wont solve the issue of broken families and abusive relationships for all and doesn't mean that people who choose not to get married or bring children up as single parents aren't doing a good job or shouldn't be supported. Supporting equal marriage will show how ever as one of a number of measures that the government and the modern conservative party believe in family values and the importance of love and strong relationships in peoples lives to create a prosperous and happy society to live in.
Supporting equal marriage sends out the marriage that loud and clear gay or straight bisexual or lesbian that the conservative party is there for you that we believe in ensuring your able to share your love and commitment and it is valued by the society you live in. It will help to restore the culture that relationships are important and that commitment should be valued not seen as something you just do when your old and "past it".
By leading on equal marriage we re leading on family values and we are leading on supporting love and commitment and I cant think of anything more conservative than that.
One of the greatest freedoms of the modern world is the freedom to worship free from prejudice or persecution. For generations in even the UK saying the wrong prayer at mass or worshiping with the wrong type of priest could see you imprisoned or at worst burnt at the stake. Like many conservatives I belief religion plays an important part in many peoples lives, it helps construct morals and values for people to work together in peace, it can encourage charity and sense of community that we all benefit from and it gives hope and promise to so many helping us lead fulfilled happy lives. Whether we belief in an organised religion or our own set of values that are distinct from a divine being or master plan we can all find common ground that brings us together under a join sense of importance and which has lead to many successful interfaith projects around the world, ending wars, helping the most vulnerable and rebuilding communities. Interfaith work often leads to a stronger sense of self what our own beliefs are by recognising how we see the world differently to others whilst still valuing the things we share in common.
Only through religious freedom and ability to have our own values free from oppression are we able to work together and create the positive communities we live in today. Yet one of the fundamental aspects of many religions "marriage" is not free to be practiced by the church, Islam or any other religion. The right to marry in the UK and in many countries is controlled by the state. The state decides who is allowed to marry when they can marry and where they can marry and who is allowed to carry out marriages. Its this control that leads to the current issue of "equal marriage". For me it isn't the states job to enforce mine or its values on the catholic church or any other religion within the practice of their religious beliefs (within the limits of a civilised and just society) I no more wish to dictate how catholic chooses to carry out marriages than i do wish to dictate the prayers a catholic says before they go to bed, the reason for this is.... im not a catholic. However when it comes to equal marriage it is in fact the state that is interfering with the practice of religious beliefs already. Some churches and liberal Jewish groups do want to carry out same sex marriages right now and have made public statements to that effect, however under the current law dictated by the state they are not free to practice their religious beliefs and are not able to carry them out.
As a supporter of religious freedom I must by default be a supporter of equal marriage to defend the catholic churches right not to carry out same sex marriages you must also defend the right of other churches if they so wish to be able to carry them out and question "who is the state to tell them they are not allowed to practice their religion to do so?".
We have heard on the radio and through the media a sustained campaign by organisations linked to major christian organisations opposing equal marriage and even to the extent they will be protesting at this years conservative party conference. In effect what these groups of people are calling for is the continued interference of the government in UK citizens right to practice their own religious beliefs something which i suggest is neither conservative nor fits with modern British values that have existed for hundreds of yrs since the reformation when it comes to religious practice in the UK.
The organisations campaigning to oppose equal marriage are relying on hysteria and ignorance to win their campaign clouding peoples minds with myths around state enforced marriages and even claiming state interference with religious practice the exact thing they are actually campaigning for themselves (ironically). We have even seen the use of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights as a way of relying on peoples ignorance to push to agenda against equal marriage, using the current negative attitudes toward ECHR rulings to attach onto their campaign claiming the ECHR would force British churches to marry same sex couples the minute the government changes the law. Something which at best is a ignorant understanding of the law considering other European countries like Denmark already have equal marriage and have had no such problems and the case law in fact states clearly that this will not be the case and at worst a plain lie used as simply propaganda to try and create hysteria against the equal marriage agenda lead by the government.
By being a supporter of equal marriage in the UK you are a supporter of religious freedom whether you agree with someones choices or not is irrelevant if you belief you should be able to practice your religious beliefs free from prejudice and oppression you must also support the right of others to do the same. This is why you should support equal marriage.
When anyone asks me to describe my politics I would use one word to sum it up "progressive". I believe in supporting politics that works not blindly following political ideology and dogma because that's what the party doctrine says. Tony Blair changed politics in the UK he pushed Labour towards the centre ending the control of the hard left militants wanting to pull the UK back into 4 day weeks, power cuts and bankruptcy and pushed the conservative party to reform to embrace its liberal heritage and centre ground showing the dinosaurs of the past that they simply weren't in touch with "modern Britains" any more.
I'm involved in politics because I want to make a difference I want to push the boundaries and make the communities we live in better places for all. I don't want legislation for the sake of legislation and I dont want promises that do nothing but keep people as under represented minorities in need of a hand out because no one has given them a hand up.
I believe the modern conservative party is about exactly that stripping away the barriers people face in everyday life to give everyone an equal chance in life. Being a modern conservative is about being a mentor a guide and a friend looking to support and encourage people to be the best they can be who ever they are and where ever they come from. I believe that being a modern conservative is about truly pushing the boundaries showing that the party has let go of its past and is looking to its future, one which empowers not legislates, supports not dictates and listens not imposes.
Change however takes time parties are made up of people and change is the one thing many people find hard to accept. MPs often spend decades in the chamber and achieving fundamental shifts in party views take strong arguments, strong evidence and a lot of patience. I know that as a whole the conservative party is committed to reform, committed to moving forward and committed to standing up for progressive values but its through a parties actions it is judged and on equal marriage we have one such occasion to show we are as good as our word.
Only one mainstream political party went into the 2010 general election promising equal marriage it was the conservatives. Labour had 13 years in government with over whelming majorities but failed to deliver on this agenda. The time has come to show that we can deliver on our promises and that where Labour failed we will succeed.
By implementing equal marriage we s a party can show how far we have come and what we stand for as we go forward. Some MPs don't support it which is sad but as I have said already a symptom of change and the make up of parliament rather than the will and progress of the party as a whole. We need to keep the message loud and clear that the conservative party is fully behind the equal marriage agenda we support the diverse communities we have in the UK and that its delivering meaningful rights and changes will be the focus of the governments equality and diversity agenda rather than processes and red tape a legacy we saw under Labour.
Whether your Conservative, Labour or Lib Dem equal marriage is an agenda that only those opposed to progress and progressive politics will oppose and as progressives ourselves we need to stand up be counted and say loud and clear progress is hear to stay!
Thursday, 13 September 2012
This is a topic that is all too often avoided or when it is discussed it is done through dramatic over exaggerations by articles in newspapers like the Daily Mail. The truth is this is a topic dealing with some of the most vulnerable members of society who need our support and care not political disdain and avoidance.
In the UK based on official estimates there are around 10 000 Transsexual people with referrals increasing between 20%-50% a yr. The Tavistock centre which is a specialist NHS service for gender variant children receives over 150 admissions a yr and referrals are rising at a rate well above 50% a yr.
Gender Dysphoria is a recognised medical Condition that has been treated and supported for decades with an established academic library of research and expert consultants working in the field around the world. Self harm is common amongst all transsexual people with suicide rates ranging between 40-50%. The emotional distress can begin very early on with feelings of isolation, not understanding why your different, feeling alone and frustrated with the environment your gender places you in. Around Puberty these feelings become increasingly intense and is often the trigger for many self harm or suicide attempts as a child's body begins to develop more gendered features and they feel more and more disconnected to the body they are in. Its at this point they can often feel further isolated by being unable to get support off friends or family due to fear and stigma that's still associated around gender and may feel lost with inability to explore themselves to understand their own gender role. Its also at this age that their peer groups will often become more gender polarised and feel peer pressure to fit into the environment their gender places them in. This can lead to social isolation or internal repression with a child trying to fit into a persona or stereotype they are not to hide who they really are. All of this has a traumatic effect on both the child's normal social development and their personal well being.
These are the reasons we need to properly support trans children not because of some PC brigade campaign or some political motive to rid society of gender or other barmy idea that gets rolled out, but to support and protect the children who are going through this traumatic experience which can continue for decades into their adult life and may ultimately lead to their death through suicide or self injury.
If your little boy came up to you and told you mummy I'm not a boy I'm a girl what would you say?
The answer is many of us don't know what we would say we simply haven't thought about it or had it cross our minds. From the moment a child is born we ask "is it a boy or a girl?" and from that moment on their gender is set we buy them blue for boys pink for girls and their gender no longer crosses our minds. In reality if a child did say to their mum I'm not really a boy the response would be more of where did he get this silly idea from or a response of fact "oh dear of course your a boy your mummy's little boy". Now its true that most trans children wont be so matter of fact about their gender and come out with a clear statement but the point remains that very few parents would even consider that their child may be transgender. Most trans children are often very confused may become depressed have social and behavioural issues at school and be on occasions not fitting into gendered stereotypes. These are the signs that a child may need time to explore themselves and might indeed be transgender. But how many of these children are being referred onto people who can help them explore themselves their gender and get the support they need, how many teachers recognise these factors, how many parents would join up the dots, how many GPs would see it as an appropriate referral and how many primary mental health teams have the skills to be able to assess the child as needing a referral to the tavistock centre to help explore their gender? Answer is very few to all of the above and for a trans child to receive the care and support they need the answer has to be yes to all are they wont get anywhere near an appropriate care pathway.
The consequence for this is only very supportive parents who happen to be knowledgeable about trans issues and have a GP or medical team where the child is referred to have the same level of knowledge will a child get the support they need. This means if your from a more deprived background, a background where religion may not be supportive of trans people and have a medical team or GP that don't have the appropriate knowledge based around transgender children then the likelihood is the child will "drop through the net" and their mental distress will continue.
What support is there now?
when a child has transitioned all too often schools don't understand their responsibilities under the Equality Act 2010 in terms of supporting a trans child and simply don't understand the medical nature and traumatic experience the child may have gone or is going through and schools as a result can often be very defensive, don't provide appropriate support or may even refuse to allow the child to present in the gender role they feel comfortable in. This is often caused through again lack of training and information for teachers and governing bodies on transgender people and they often rely on adhoc links to people from other areas such as the NHS or social services to gain patchy information around how to support a trans child.
What do we need to do?
The current support that is available for transchildren is not enough, the gaps it leaves are both damaging for all trans children and discriminating by the lack of access for families and children that don't "hold all the cards" to start with ie information they need to navigate the system. Primary Healthcare teams need proper support and training to understand trans identities, trans children and the support they need including the current care pathways that exist within the NHS. Teachers need to be given information and guidance about what support they should be giving to trans pupils and the legal obligations schools are under to do that. They also need to know when to flag up that a child may need support and may be wanting to explore their gender more. Positive examples of trans people within school resources can help create a more supportive environment for any child who is trans or exploring their gender and is no more radical than the idea that we don't just show white British people on school resources because we live in a diverse world that children need to understand and be able to engage with successfully. Safeguarding teams need to be given the confidence, information and guidance to be able to identify when a trans child is not being appropriately supported by their parents, they need to be given the tools to properly support the childs parents who may simply need more information and guidance themselves, but where appropriate deal with a case the same way one would deal with a parent refusing to allow medical staff support a child with any other mental health issue. Finally we need support for parents often lack of support is not due to prejudice or discrimination but simply ignorance and lack of information we need to empower parents to see how they can properly support their own children and share life stories so they can see the trauma and isolation their child may be going through. When any good parent sees the distress their own child is in they will want to engage and support them as best they can, so this information is vital to helping ensure all trans children are properly supported both at home and throughout their childhood.
What we as humans all find hard to accept is change and difference. when we walk down the street if we see someone with a large facial disfigurement we may glance across, that's simply us noticing something difference its involuntary and often cant help it, however we can choice whether we stand and stare or if we keep on walking thats the voluntary action we decided based on our own prejudices and empathy.
The idea that a women standing in front of you "used to be a man" is what many people find hard to get their heads round, gender is so fundamentally fixed from birth and part of everyday society that when its seen to change it shatters how we perceive and interact with the world. However the reality is the women standing in front of you hasn't "changed her gender" she has always been a women she simply changed her presentation and other peoples perception of her gender she as a person has never changed.
This becomes so much clearer with trans children the little girl you see in front of you didn't "used to be anything else" ok was assigned a different gender when she came out of her mummy's womb but she hasn't really had chance to grow up to change she is just being the little girl she knows she is and letting her own personality come out. She hasn't had a big transition having socialised as one gender for half her life etc she is just living, playing and interacting like all little girls and the reason for this is she is simply a little girl that happens to be trans the same way some little girls happen to have asthma or some another medical issue and that is something alot easier for the human mind to understand.
When trans children are supported to be the gender they truly are they aren't so complex they don't go through the traumatic experience of puberty of the opposite sex to who they are as a person, they don't feel as isolated and they can develop socially in the same way as every other child and go on to lead successful happy lives free from the trauma they would have experienced if they hadn't received the support during their childhood to be who they truly are.
If you want to truly understand trans children thou you need to listen to a child themselves and i challenge anyone to not support and emphasise with trans children after watching a little girl called jazz share here experiences of being a trans child (listen to her sing at the end of part 2)
Part 1:Transgender Children - Jazz (1)
Part 2:Transgender Children - Jazz (2)
For further information please look at:
GIRES - Gender Intelligence Research and Education Society:
Mermaids - Charity that support transgender children & families:
Friday, 7 September 2012
Should We Care?
In November for the first time the UK will have elected commissioners in charge of police forces across the country. The aim is to make the police more accountable to the communities they serve and better ran.
As expected most of these contests have become party political battles often between ex MPs and other well known political figures some who genuinely have a background and in interest in the role and others who quite clearly want to push their own "celebrety profile".
The big question for local political activists is should we care, do we get involved and what are the issues?
I think the answer to the first is yes we should all care about who is running our police force for me it is a fundemental intrument of justice that is key for productive and good communities to be supported. Who is in charge of the police obviously has a masisvely important role and effect on all of lives either directly or indirectly through the communities we live in. However like most people I am struggling with this concept of party political slates deciding who is incharge of one of the instruments of justice something I feel strongly should be quite distinct from the whipping and party positioning that goes on within the party political world. The police need to be independant and seen to be independant for them to have the support of all of their local community. When I am recruiting people for jobs I dont ask them what political party they are a member of and I certainly dont see it as a credential needing to be asked of any new "chief of police"
The next issue is about whether or not we get involved if as it is inevitable that campaigns are going to turn party political and it wouldnt be fair or just to simply ban political parties then the question is simply "when is it that political parties should be getting involved in Police and Crime Commisioner elections?" and "Should we be recuriting and trying to stand candidates in every election?"
My response to this is NO as a conservative if we have a strong candidate with a background in policing or other relevent experience then of course we should be supporting and backing their campaign to stand as a fellow conservative who would obviously benefit their local community it seems to me that would be a sensible and a well prioritised decision. However this is not the case across the country. Where we as a party are scrapping together school governors and anyone else we can manage to stand be it as conservatives or labour doing the same on their side the ide of whipped slates with inadequte people to do the job simply standing on the parties name seems at best wrong and at worse a complete risk to the public and our local communities policing teams.
There is also an impact on party resources in May we saw the party lose many hard working conservative councillors across the country through usual mid term government polling and over the next few yrs will be fighting hard to get these people back into seats and back supporting their local communities. Where it is obvious that we have no chance of winning PCC elections, where we have a candidate who really doesnt have the experience for the job and where we have other pressures on party resources it seems only sensibe to me that we do not stand a candidate and isntead prioritise our campaigns on outcomes we can achieve. This is what the party is doing in govenrment on issues such as international development so why dont we start applying our own political logic to our local campaign strategies?
I for one didnt attend our local PCC selection meeting for those reasons and would of prefered the party to have focused on our local campaigns after we didnt have a stand out candidate jumping out to stand.
Police Commissioners are not a totally bad policy they give local accountability, visability and more transparency but there is a danger that elections become red versus blue and not good policing versus bad policing and thats the debate i really want to have.