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Why I am tearing up my Party Card

I don’t often stray into politics, leaving that to my far better qualified fellow traveller but the news of Labour jumping on the welfare is too easy bandwagon is so soul destroying that I feel compelled to write. I joined the Labour party the day after the last election, concerned that the debate about issues like immigration, disability and support for the most vulnerable was dominated by the harshest and most punitive voices.

It was probably bigotgate that made up my mind. I agreed 100% with Gordon Brown, the woman was a horrible bigot repeating the prejudices fed to her as if it was OK, normal, praiseworthy even, to look on those determined to be other with disdain and distaste. Everyone I knew agreed with me, and Gordon, but in the reporting of the incident our point of view was not even assumed to exist. The narrative was that it is fine to mistrust foreigners and want fewer of them in the UK, to blame whatever the issue of the moment was on East European bogeymen. So I decided that the only way to get my voice, and the voices of people like me, heard was to join the official conversation.

The proposal to cut JSA for 18 to 21 year olds and replace it with a means tested benefit linked to training is apparently linked to an opinion poll that says 78% of people think the welfare system is unfair, allowing people to live lives of unimagined luxury with their flat screen TVs and iphones on £57 pounds a week. (That’s  just over £8 a day, enough for a second home and regular meals out at top London restaurants apparently) With shows like Benefits Street and On benefits and Proud it is no surprise that so many people think living on £8 a day is mollycoddling those who get benefits. Just as the conversation about immigration never included those of us who do call bigots, bigots, so the conversation on welfare is dominated by those who have never had to choose between heat and light, who have never had to sit in the dark because nappies are so expensive. Nor does it include those who have never experienced this, but have empathy for those worse off than them.

This isn’t about me though, this is about people leaving school and being told that despite all the evidence to the contrary they are still children and treated accordingly. The fact the LabourParty propose to link the new benefit rate to parental income is another sign of how out of touch they are with the most vulnerable and marginalized. Not everyone lives a wonderful Islington life of 2.2 children and supportive parents, not everyone wants, or even can live with their parents. I met a girl recently who had been taken into care at 8 when it was discovered she was the main carer for her younger siblings, and shoplifting food to feed them. Would Ed like to explain to her, now 19 why her JSA is going to be linked to the income of the woman who was too busy shooting up to feed her? An extreme example you might claim, but the welfare system wasn’t, and shouldn’t be designed for those playing happy families, those least in need. It should be designed for those most likely to need it, most likely to fall through the holes in the safety net.

So a means tested benefit, adjusted according to the income of your parents, stretching childhood up to 21. (Cameron wants this to be 25, removing housing benefits too). The Labour Party claim this merely equalizes those in further education with higher education.  The issues with this are so huge that I am not sure where to even start. The strange obsession in the UK with pieces of paper to show you have jumped through some academic hoop has been growing for far too long. I am old enough to remember when BTEC first started, a revolutionary idea that not everyone wants to be Captain Ryder. In its original form BTEC was meant to be an alternative route from the age of 14, specialising in vocational skills. It was a recognition that there is more than one way to be, that not everyone is suited to the university route. It was progressively ignored and underfunded as successive governments decided the solution was instead to push university as the only outcome that matters.

So yes there is a problem with some people leaving school and not having the skills to get a job, not because they cannot read or write, but because the education system is designed for people like me, because academic success is the only thing measured in the list of desired outcomes. When we abolished the technical schools and secondary moderns did anyone realise that the children who had gone to them would still be considered second class and failures, the only difference being that now they would be in the same school as their more bookish peers?

So schools are failing non academic children, and cutting the benefits of adults is the proposed solution. What training will be offered though? The experience of some of my friends does’nt fill me with hope. There is currently a huge industry around providing training for the long term unemployed. Most is as useful as Pauline and her pens. Sitting in a room, day after day, being given busy work that everyone knows is simply a time filler is how these schemes work. There are only so many times you can tweak a CV or do an online job search before it becomes apparent the only job creation going on is for the person supposedly leading the training.*

Labour used to be the party of the working class. Now it says that it opposes low skilled jobs, the jobs many of the the working classes do. Apparently we all need to aspire to be lawyers, and it looks down on those who don’t want one of those pieced of paper that  mean you are a worthy citizen who will be treated with respect.

In the guardian article it says;

The removal of JSA for those with skills below level 3 would affect seven out of 10 of the 18-to-21-year-olds currently claiming JSA, and initially save £65m.

I cannot be a member of a party that accepts the dominant narrative of looking down on the poor, of looking down on certain jobs, of sanctioning the most vulnerable. This is why today I am leaving the labour party, the conversation it is having is one that does not include me.

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26 comments on “Why I am tearing up my Party Card

  1. One of my bugbears which I will rant about if allowed is the whole Everyone must go to university thing. It’s simple snobbery. Most kids would be better off learning a trade or actually experiencing ‘real life’. I’m not denying university doesn’t have benefits other than academic, but I saw time after time when I recruited (not in sex industry obviously!) graduates who had lovely degrees but who weren’t any use to an employer. They hadn’t the right skills, but also lacked work ethic (phone in sick with a bit of a hangover), or understood the important of team work, good time keeping and so on. Many of them expected to have a job handed to them and that they should be doing something ‘better’ than the employment I was offering them simply because they had a degree.

    I wanted to do a BTEC at 16 but was persuaded by my peers, teachers and parents to do A levels because they were ‘better’. My results were mediocre but I still went off to do a degree in the same subject, time which would have been better spent actually in the field I wanted to work in. In fact my one year industry placement gave me so so much more than the other three years in the lecture hall.

    I was from a reasonably privileged background so it’s not a great example, but the point is too much time and money is spent on getting children to university and not focusing on those it might not be best for or those who don’t have the academic ability.

    What is needed is a return to employment and training opportunities for 16 year olds. Legal and H&S requirements make it difficult for employers to be bothered with them. There needs to be incentives for companies to take on apprentices and a move away from this obsession with a university education.

    I know you know all this, but I just wanted to show how much I agree with you and applaud your decision…. and that’s not even getting on to Labour’s attitude to sex workers….

    Like

    • jemima2013
      June 19, 2014

      Thank you, that reminds me a lot of wanting to do typing CSE, I wanted to be a journalist or writer for pretty much the whole of my childhood, and thought typing and shorthand would be useful. My school made it clear that I was “too clever” to do typing and would not allow me to do it. There is such a snobbery around qualifications in the Uk that must seem ridiculous and totally out of date to people from other countries.

      Like

    • Laura
      June 28, 2014

      Another snobbery that’s related to this one is the private school snobbery. Public schools are seen by some as having too little and/or no worth. Those of us who went to public schools in the US know this isn’t true at all.

      Like

      • Laura
        June 28, 2014

        In my above post was referring to the earlier comment about “everyone must go to college” snobbery.

        Like

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  3. Pingback: On hand-me-downs and benefits | Valery North - Writer

  4. I spent my entire academic life at the top of the class, through grammar school, university and post-graduate study. As a woman from a working-class background, it availed me absolutely nothing. I lacked the social background, the “connections” required to make me a credible candidate for positions of any real influence, power or earning potential. Since I became disabled, I’ve realised how truly futile all those years of striving were; our society disregards the talents of the brightest by the million, cynically depriving them of the means to use their gifts for everyone’s benefit.

    Any idea that we live in a meritocracy is risible, and at the top of the shitpile, influence is peddled for hard cash by gangsters who call themselves by many titles, including “Right Honourable”. They kiss up and kick down, and they only give advantages to people exactly like them. They don’t give a tuppenny fuck about any children who are not their own, but their own get inherited wealth and privilege, including safe seats in Parliament. There is absolutely no difference between the major political parties, apart from which particular bastard is selling us out the fastest to global capitalism, in exchange for a seat on the board, or a “faith” foundation.

    What chance do ordinary young people stand in a society like this; those from impoverished or dysfunctional backgrounds? Those with no parents, or saddled with parents who are inadequate role models? Even the best of them are denied the opportunity to stand out, often weighed down by student debts if they try to achieve some measure of social mobility, so how the hell can the just-about average get anywhere? The Labour Party ought to be those people’s champion, but instead it has chosen to victimise them further. Why? Who’s pulling the strings? It’s not Labour voters or grassroots party members providing this impetus for a race to the bottom on benefits for society’s most vulnerable, so who thinks this neoliberal austerity shit is a good idea? There’s not even the faintest whiff of social justice about it.

    Sorry this is such a long screed. Angry’s not really the word, is it? How about “incandescent”?

    Like

    • Michelle
      June 22, 2014

      I have had the exact experience of education and class background as yourself and it is refreshing to hear someone who recognizes that even those able to achieve academic success are still vulnerable to a class barrier even in the Information Age.

      Like

  5. reddeviljp
    June 19, 2014

    So. What will you do now?

    Like

    • Well, firstly, and with some regret, I will advocate for the independence of Scotland and Wales, because as left-leaning nations, neither has been served at all well by being wedded to England, and its inexplicable predilection for returning ruinous Tory governments, including the Coalition, and Tory-lite New Labour.

      Secondly, if you want to know who the real opposition are, who actually stands for a world where we don’t all have to fervently pray that we’re “acceptable” enough to be enslaved by some global corporation, because the alternative is to starve on an increasingly poisoned planet, you could do worse than ask yourself why one party in particular suffers from a concerted mainstream media blackout. Why its activists and elected politicians are under MI5 surveillance, and why the political establishment deems that police agents are needed to infiltrate their operations, even though absolutely *anybody* can join or go to a public meeting. A party that has been steadily increasing its share of the vote since the 1980s, although you’d never know it from the newspapers or TV.

      It’s starting to look to me as if the only electorally credible socialism left is Green.

      Like

    • Same as I have always done, oppose the Tories and fight for a fairer treatment of people, tbh right now it seems my Church is more in keeping with socialist values than the labour party

      Like

  6. A6er
    June 19, 2014

    Reblogged this on Britain Isn't Eating.

    Like

    • jemima2013
      June 19, 2014

      thank you

      Like

  7. elrondmiddleeng
    June 19, 2014

    I believe many Conservative thinking people will also think the same. In my very small southern village, who are all Conservative voting, (alas UKIP now), are products of work experience, many working for Leyland in Oxford, or some other aspects of the car industry. All starting at 16, and cycling to work for their apprenticeships. None I know support the way education has changed, with all Technical collages changing to Universities. The lack of work experience and the right trade training.

    A friend who owned a joinery, (he started off as a roofer), found getting someone to work as an apprentice in a woodwork trade starts off by taking someone on from the local collage. Apparently after a year education at one of these, you know all about health and safety, but nothing about how to work wood. No practical experience at all. Maths is still a required skill in some of these jobs, and most never get this at school either. It makes is difficult for a small business (less than 4) to take on an apprentice with the aim of training them from scratch.

    None of us believe the education system is of use to our non academic children now. Those who did go the academic route years ago now feel embarresed that not only did we receive grants for tuition, also living expenses, and during the holiday you could sign on unemployed.

    Too many are now forced into this education route with no tangeble benefit to them, and end up working in low wage crap jobs.

    We do though don’t like scroungers, and alas the media and benefit street program (never watched) has been a great incentive to my neighbours to vote for UKIP. Everyone believing that living on benefits is luxury and all those from Europe are coming to live here on benefits. Media and predjice to blame.

    Yes there is an impact from immigartion , there are people who do the jobs we don’t want to do. The low wage jobs, the Cafe Nero, the car washing. Yes they do manage to help the bosses to keep the wages down, and they also keep the price of paid sex down.

    Which is strange, why are all these Conservatives voting UKIP to stop immigration, when its the Conservatives who should be benefitting from the low wage economy.

    Like

    • thank you for the comment, i think most people wonder why we do not value voacational training in the UK, until it comes to their own children, and then there is such a snobbery around traditional working class jobs that they demand university education for all. its like the situation Lydia described of being considered too good for BTEC

      Like

      • elrondmiddleeng
        June 20, 2014

        Yes succinctly put. It didn’t used to be the case. There though is the rebranding issue. When I went to uni it was 10% I believe who went. Now its significantly higher.

        To me uni was a training for an academic life in science research which I dreadfully failed at, side lined by Marxist politics and drink. I am paying back what I can afford for the lost opportunities.

        Like

  8. Hugh Wallace
    June 20, 2014

    Reblogged this on Are We Really Better Together?.

    Like

  9. Donald Grant
    June 21, 2014

    Can I take issue with part of the statement above. It is not welfare, that is hand out-. It is social security that is contributions based, to which we all contribute and hope that wee may never need to depend upon it for life’s essentialls. Commendable statement otherwise.

    Like

  10. francescamontemaggi
    June 21, 2014

    I left the Lib Dems for similar reasons. Political parties and the media have legitimised xenophobia and hatred for the poor (showing great ignorance about immigration and poverty). I feel the UK needs a progressive vision that understands Europe, instead of dreaming of national sovereignty that never existed, and thus works to create a fairer Europe. National debates stifle progressive thinking.
    http://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/francesca-es-montemaggi/grazie-italia-%E2%80%93-ray-of-hope-in-distrustful-europe

    Like

    • jemima2013
      June 21, 2014

      thank you for that link, its a far more hopeful outlook thats for sure

      Like

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  12. John owen
    June 23, 2014

    If you’re Welsh, you’ve got Plaid Cymry, which despite itself is a Social Democratic Party, the way the Labour Party used to be,before it was taken over by public school educated,Oxbridge graduates who have real experience outside student Politics and workingin the London Metropolitan Political bubble, which they confuse with the real world.

    Like

    • jemima2013
      June 24, 2014

      i wish i was…sadly English which only leaves me with UKIP

      Like

  13. Pingback: Why I am tearing up my Party Card | Trade union...

  14. Pingback: Slander, Smears and Small Minds | Sometimes, it's just a cigar

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