Thursday, 11 October 2012

Tony Blair Would Be a Tory Today!

Blairism is about delivering results for communities through pragmatic center politics not worrying what side of the political divide a policy comes from but focusing on the outcomes and results that can be achieved. In 2012 I believe that the party that best represents this approach is the modern Conservative Party.

Tony Blair joined the Labour Party at a point in history where his particular political views and ethical values could not sit along side that of a social conservative and historically old fashioned Conservative Party, that was in much need for reform. Attitudes on sexuality, gender, race and other areas of social policy were completely at odds with his own. As social reformer and leader he needed a political vehicle he felt he could mold and shape to help deliver a fairer Britian, whilst at the same time continuing the economical progress that had been made under Thatcher in terms of the transformation of our economy.

Tony Blair created "New Labour" to lead on social reforms, continue the economical transformation and to pull politics away from its polorised past to one where polices were implemented on the basis of "right and wrong not left and right".

During the Blair years we saw the continuation of Thatchers policy of taking people from the Mines and heavy industry and focusing on the development of a strong service and financial sector recognising the changing nature of our globalised economy and focusing on our economic strengths. We saw the introduction of private investment into our public services showing the benefits of marketisation and competition whilst still guaranteeing the level of coverage and provision, We saw the creation of academies the evolution of grammar schools that before inspire pupils to succeed and deliver world class facilities to enable them to do so and we saw New Labour holding the center ground for over a decade keeping the conservatives out of power by taking the best of conservative policy and implementing it themselves.

However Blair was held back by the left of his party, stopping adequate reforms to welfare and the introduction of universal credit, limiting the role out of academies, fighting the introduction of private investment into any public services and continuing a luddite attitude that it would be better that people were dying in the mines than making money in canary wharf.....

Since Gordon Brown took over as Labour leader, Labour have shown that far from the Blair years resulting in a transformation within the Labour Party from a party of hard left socialism to a party of realism and social action, Blair was merely a detour on route to where the tireless core of the party wish them to go back to a socialist tribal and left wing agenda (albeit an agenda that will drive them into the ground).

The election of Ed Miliband instead of his blairite brother and the booing of Tony Blair at Labour Party Conference in 2011 sealed  the nail in the coffin for many Blairites in Labour and thats why so many have decided to leave and join the new reformed and progressive conservative party myself included.

Today Tony Blair wouldn't have the problems he faced in the past of the Conservative Party's "social attitudes" not matching with his values and perspective on social policy, because we have a very different conservative party to the one he faced in the 1980s.

Modern conservatives are socially liberal and economically conservative we believe in protecting peoples rights to be themselves and supporting aspiration and business success to help grow the economy. These are both values that Tony Blair championed and supports.

Policies in 2012 that can be seen as the conservatives demonstrating this are clear:

  • Expanding his visionary School Academies program  
  • developing his idea of "real" choice in the NHS and making private investment
  • Making NHS Trusts to be more independent and accountable to local communities through the expansion of NHS Foundation Trusts and Clinical Commissioner Groups
  • Introducing universal credit and welfare reforms all mooted by Tony Blair
  • Increasing the minimum wage
  • Increasing apprenticeships 
  • Increasing financial support for poorest at University Increasing access
  • Leading on Equal Marriage
  • Introduced first transgender action plan
However since the Booing of Tony Blair at conference in 2011 we have seen Labour deliver policy announcements which oppose Blairism on every level:

  • Seperate themselves from "New Labour"
  • Promise to reverse choice and private investment in the NHS Policies Blair introduced
  • Opposed academies being rolled out nationwide (Academies which Tony Blair launched)
  • Provided no viable alternative to increase financial support for those from poorest backgrounds at university
  • Attacked big business and promised high taxes and ethical attack on capitalism
Tony Blair is a member of the Labour Party because he is its most successful leader of all time and has lead his whole career from the parties benches and trying to deliver fundamental reforms to a party clinging on to its socialist past. This is Tony Blair's biggest failure because while he achieved many good things while in office he did not systematically change the party he lead and when he left he took the vison drive and realism that New Labour brought to the table and we were all left with the stale Labour Party we see today.

If Tony Blair was a young politico coming into politics today looking for a party to shape, mold, steer and lead based on his values and aspirations of success, fairness, support for business and a liberal social approach there is only one party that would be the obvious choice and that is the conservatives. No longer would there be any barriers that would stop him from viewing the party as a viable political vehicle for his goals, no longer would Labour seem closer to him and the center ground which he strives for in fact the anti business, anti choice and anti forward thinking from Ed milibands "next" Labour would leave any good blairite (Tony Blair included) feeling rather cold and rather BLUE.

There has been a seismic shift of the political landscape over the last few years and one thing is now very clear Conservatives now hold the center ground in UK politics and Blue Blairism is here and here to stay.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Tales of Love and Hate - Adoption, Abuse and Disablity

Tales of love and hate

Relatively little is known about the experience of disabled children who have been fostered and adopted. But in an investigation for Disability Now Annie Makoff discovers a mixed bag of experiences from the abusive and Dickensian to stories of love and liberation

The British Association of Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) estimate that as of March 2011, 65,520 children were under the care of the local authorities, and of these, 56 per cent were boys and 41 per cent were girls.

Yet when it comes to disabled children, we have no such statistics. At best, the Fostering Network estimate that around one quarter of looked-after children have a disability or multiple disabilities.

Twenty-six-year-old Tara Hewitt who has a hearing impairment was one of these children.

Deaf in one ear, profoundly dyslexic and diagnosed six years ago with gender dysphoria when she was a young adult transitioning, Tara never knew her birth parents: she was adopted at birth.

Her adoptive parents constantly told her there was “nothing wrong” with her hearing, even though she saw a speech therapist for a short time and to adapt, Tara learnt to lip read.

 But Tara could not adapt to the feeling of being the wrong sex. From an early age she knew she was “different” and never felt comfortable conforming to the male stereotype.

Her internal struggles with her gender identity and her disability were against a background of what Tara describes as a “messed up family”.

“I had an abusive childhood,” she says. “My adoptive parents divorced when I was nine so I went to live with my adoptive dad and his new wife. All I had in my bedroom was a bed and a wardrobe. I wasn’t allowed a duvet. I had to eat my meals in the kitchen but other than that I wasn’t allowed in the house unless I stripped down to my underwear. My clothes were all chosen for me, too. I wasn’t allowed friends round and I had to spend most of my time in the garage.”

Despite the various professionals involved in Tara’s care, including her child psychologist and her educational welfare officer, no one picked up on what was going on at home.

“I was too young to see a child psychologist on my own for some reason,” Tara recalls, “so my adoptive dad used to sit in with me. I couldn’t tell my psychologist what was really going on and what was going on specifically with my dad, because he was always there.”

Even when neighbours complained after Tara and her younger sister were often left to fend for themselves in the garage whilst their parents went out for the day, nothing was done.

“Because we were a middle-class family in a semi-detached house in Cumbria, social services just stopped investigating the complaints,” Tara says.

Unlike most children brought up in an abusive environment and all but ignored by social services, Tara responded instead by throwing herself into her studies. She worked her way up academically even though every year her father’s new job took them to a different area of the country and she attended five different secondary schools.

For Tara, doing well at school was her only way of escape. She did so well that teachers had to give her extra work to do because she’d worked her way through all the textbooks. After getting GCSEs she taught herself four A-levels from home and gained good enough grades to study law at university.

Throughout it all, it was Tara’s adoptive grandparents who were there for her, even though they turned a blind eye to the abuse. They took her on holiday and spoilt her more than the other grandchildren.

“I know they loved me completely,” she says. “But my grandad who passed away last year, told me once that if all the grandchildren were in danger and he could only save one, he’d save one of the other grandchildren because they were blood related and I wasn’t. It hurt but I understood.”

Tina Drake had an equally difficult experience. But unlike Tara whose disabilities and mental health difficulties seemed to start from birth, Tina believes that her condition – clinical depression and suspected borderline personality disorder – was triggered as a result of the trauma she experienced.

“I was in and out of foster care between nine and 16,” Tina recalls. “My family had alcoholism issues and the social services thought it was best for me to be taken into temporary accommodation. It was never meant to be permanent, they thought if they gave my mum chances to stop drinking she’d listen and I could go back home, but it never worked out like that.”

Tina describes the first two homes she was placed in as “homely, kind places”. Yet at 11 years old she was sent from London to live with a foster carer in Margate, Kent where she was to stay for two and a half years.

“My foster carer was emotionally and psychologically abusive to us,” Tina says. “I was never physically abused, though I witnessed her throttling one girl and burning her hand with hair straighteners. She made our lives a living hell. We were always hungry because she fed us on as little as she could get away with and dressed us in the cheapest of clothes, so I was always bullied at school. She stole money from social services that was meant for us and spent it on herself and told the social services that we were problem children so they’d pay her more.”

Even though Tina ran away four times, social workers failed to pick up on what was happening.

“She had been fostering for so long that I guess the social workers trusted her over us. She was an accomplished liar and she used to sell cannabis and alcohol to anyone who came to the house. She used to offer it to my mum when she visited because she knew she was an alcoholic.”

Graduating recently with a law degree and now awaiting an official diagnosis and treatment for borderline personality disorder, Tina is able to be philosophical about her past.

“Looking back, I’m quite angry that social workers didn’t take more notice of us,” she says. “It was obvious we were being neglected and treated badly. Obviously, any experience in care is going to leave a young person with emotional and psychological issues. It certainly did with me.”

Yet as Jono Lancaster discovered, being placed under the care of a local authority doesn’t necessarily mean a difficult childhood. Born with a congenital facial disfigurement due to Treacher Collins syndrome, Jono was taken into care from birth because his parents couldn’t cope with his disability.

Although he didn’t find out “the brutal truth” until he was a young adult, Jono always knew he was adopted.

“My adoptive mum was only meant to foster me initially,” Jono explains. “She was a single parent on low income so in those days she wasn’t able to adopt me officially. She took me home when I was two weeks old and I never left. Mum was in her 40s then and most people that age just think about relaxing, but she didn’t. She took me on, despite not knowing the extent of my disabilities. Then there was a change in the law and when I was five she adopted me officially. We still celebrate it to this day.”

Jono describes his childhood as a warm, happy place where there were always other foster children about who were well cared for. Yet as he grew older, Jono wanted to find out the truth about his adoption. He wanted to let his birth parents know that he was doing well and he was happy. Yet the truth was more painful than he ever imagined.

“I’d convinced myself that they gave me up for the right reasons – that they wanted me to have a better life,” he explains. “But when I found my adoption papers it said that they were horrified at the sight of me so they discharged themselves from hospital.

“It went on to say that there had been several attempts to send my birth parents pictures of me but they weren’t interested. It was heartbreaking. I was absolutely devastated. I always had low self-esteem issues growing up because of my face and this was the ultimate rejection. If my own parents couldn’t love me, how could I expect a girl to?”

Despite what he had read, Jono was determined to initiate contact with his birth parents in the hope that they had changed. But the only reply he received was a formal letter stating: “We do not wish to be contacted again, all further contact will be ignored.”

Despite this, Jono’s confidence has increased immeasurably. He has been the subject of television documentaries, he’s been a model and he now lives with his girlfriend in a long-term relationship.

“I’m proud to be adopted,” Jono says. “People always stare and laugh at me and at school they’d put two and two together and say I was adopted because I was ugly, but now I love being different. I love standing out. And when I think about my birth parents, I really wish them well. It wasn’t always like that, I used to feel so angry towards them, but now I’m genuinely pleased they created me.”

(I was interviewed by a journalist for this article by Disabled Charity Disability Now and this is a copy from their own website and publication)

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Some Tories are Gay Get Over IT

I’m a 26-year-old diversity consultant and a proud Tory women, I also happen to be trans and bisexual.
Last week, I was not shocked to see a Labour activist write an article entitled “Gay Tory an Oxymoron” for The reason I was not shocked was because the author is the type of ignorant Labour member who I came across frequently when I was a member of the Labour Party myself.
During my time as Labour Party national student LGBT officer and vice chair of the shadow climate change minister Luciana Berger’s parliamentary constituency in Liverpool, I experienced a lot of that “holier than thou” attitude from members of the Labour Party when it came to issues of equality and the Conservative Party. I remember hearing time and again “the Tories don’t do equality” and “they are homophobic and transphobic” etc. However, as my life has moved on and I’ve crossed the political floor, becoming a Tory myself my experiences have not lived up to this message.
I suffered endless comments during my time in Labour about being transgender, how people would never vote for a trans women and Labour radical feminists telling me I wasn’t really a women. Everything was about pigeonholing you in a box and defining you by what “group” you came from. I left Labour because my politics as a Blairite are now more at home in David Cameron’s modern Conservatives than they are in Ed Miliband’s old Labour; however long before I moved I had become disillusioned at been defined and view by the letters “LGBT” and not by my experience and skills as a campaigner and politician.
Yet since joining the Conservatives I have not received any transphobic comments or been judged on the basis of my sexuality or gender at all. In fact quite the opposite I have been fully supported to get involved in the party, meet ministers such as Theresa May and others and have even become a local campaign coordinator for local government campaigns.
Now I’m not too ignorant to realise that not everyone I meet may fully understand or agree with my sexuality and social life – however I don’t bring up who I’m sleeping with as a regular topic of conversation for people I have just met. What I have found so positive about being a member of the Conservative Party is that no matter who you are you’re judge on what skills you bring to the party and by your actions not your medical history or your love life.
Labour often condemn the Tories for their voting history and historic views that existed in the past; however we are living in 2012 and have a modern progressive liberal Conservative Party – a very different one to the picture that is so often shaped by left-wing activists and Labour members. All parties have in the past not shared the most positive attitudes when it has come to LGBT rights; it took endless campaigning and dragging of feet to get Labour to deliver on the legislation that they introduced while in office – did it mean that prior to that being gay and in Labour was an “Oxymoron” too?
Conservatives have also been criticised by those on the left for the appointment of Theresa May and now Maria Miller as minister for women and equalities. Arm chair politicos have been quick to throw up headline grabbing voting histories in an attempt to label the Tories as homophobic by selecting these two senior ministers for the job.
One has to snigger at this slight hypocrisy of Labour members condemning the LGBT friendly backgrounds of ministers for equality when we don’t have to go back far to see Labour’s appointment of Ruth Kelly to the role, a member of the devout catholic group Opus Dei who have a strong anti-gay doctrine.
My view is simply this, I want the most competent and high profile minister as possible leading the equalities agenda and I will judge them by the job they do not by the different jobs they have done in the past. On that basis we have seen both the Conservative equalities' ministers leading on the introduction of equal marriage within a first term of a Conservative lead government, something Labour failed to achieve despite several historic landslide majorities and 13 years in office.
I’m not writing this article to try and tell people that the Conservatives are the only party for you if you happen to be LGBT or ignore the fantastic progress that Labour made whilst in office delivering basic rights and protection for many diverse people within society including those who define as LGBT. I am here to tell you that everyone is an individual and your sexuality and gender doesn’t define who you are, what you can achieve or what political party you should join. Some Tories are gay, bisexual or indeed transgender and its time some people got over it!