This has been quite the week

…for watching male elite media privilege. Really. Owen Jones and Toby Young, take a bow.

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Email to the Spectator re: Toby YOung’s piece

This is the blog post I wrote about Toby Young. It contains the conversation he initiated verbatim. I haven't amended it. http://lisaansell.posterous.com/conversation-with-toby-young 

I am not writing with threats, and I cant get access to a solicitor so I can't afford to ask Mr.Young to take his blog post down, even though it is all untrue. I didn't want to contact Mr.Young myself, for fear of being accused of stalking. I can't do anything to ask you to take the article down, but I would like you to consider that a) I didn't contact him b) the only thing I am guilty of is that Toby Young found himself talking to someone whose interest was education and not having a media spat. He made himself look silly, that is not my fault. 

MY blog gets about 150 readers a day, I am not a threat to Toby Young. I am a part time employed single mother, if he doesn't  want to argue his case, might it be worth someone advising him not to seek himself out on twitter and start conversations. But a public mauling through your publication makes him look silly,  and seems quite disproportionate to me. It makes the Spectator look like a tool that its writers can use to bully people, which is a shame because some of your output this year has been astonishingly good.

 Apart from a few freelance pieces in the guardian(I dont write for them any more- it was an occasional thing) I am not part of your media world and I don't want to be. I don't really appreciate finding your website(which I read occasionally) used for this purpose, but as I dont have access to a solicitor am powerless to do anything about it.  Its little more than bullying. I am sorry Toby made himself look silly, but that really isn't my fault.

The relationship status thing has to go

Am not having it. I can prove the gender pay gap. I can prove what motherhood does to your career prospects from national newspapers to your local school. The shape of British families is changing, get over it. Politicians have sod all business basing policy on the relationship status of women, when that means ignoring a whole heap of reality. I don’t want the welfare state subsidising gender inequality, but am damn sure you are not ripping the subsidy you are aware masked something quite significant. Then imposing batshit sexual morality and ‘family values’ on those women to make that inequality their fault. Knowing the effect it has. 

Because that makes women’s relationship status the focal point of political discussion, from everything from the riots to economy failing in the first place. .And that is stupid. Really stupid. And I don’t understand how in 2012 that is still the case. The majority of women hit by the cuts, did little more than staff your public services, be the kind of women for whom work is a necessity(ie full time not fit round kids work) and have their families in this economy. It is unacceptable that mainstream political debate demands that they defend their innocence, delivery of your services, or their relationship status, or that those things are considered to be on the table. Refusal to recognise that inequality and then to use the language of benefit fraud and scroungers is just not on in these circumstances. It is bang out of order. I want to know how this kind of nonsense became so deep rooted.  

That that is a radical thing to say, needs to be addressed. Because that isn’t radical, that is no more than I was raised to believe that women had achieved and don’t see when we started having to pretend otherwise. Similar nonsense appears to be at the heart of why our governments have fucked everything up so monumentally on the old economy, running public services and having wars and shit front.

Who gave corrupt and failing politicians the right to social engineering with your relationship status, because your uterus was once used? We had equality legislation in 1975, and this year has not shown politicians, media, or the one percent who they work for, to be the best moral judges.

Social engineering, while they liberate our public services, our economy and our rights, and ignore catastrophe caused by their failure? Each party employing a theologian/philosopher to imagine a version of Britain to base policy on. Because religion always works out so well as a basis for ‘social structures'(ie economic system) for women and children). Much better than equality and participation in the global economy in 2011. 

Say it slowly. Mothers. Mothers. Who they are fucking is none of your business. Men looking after their kids is one thing, masking gender inequality to avoid being called deadbeat quite another.

Government consulted about squatting, didn’t like what they heard, did as they pleased.

Government ‘bypasses democracy’ to sneak through anti-squatting laws

Press Release

For Immediate Release

Government ‘bypasses democracy’ to sneak through anti-squatting laws

Housing charities, MPs, squatters, property consultants, activists, lawyers and artists have accused the government of sneaking in an amendment to the Legal Aid and Sentencing Bill announced today by Justice Secretary Ken Clarke to “make squatting in residential buildings a criminal offence”. Campaigners say the amendment will not take into account the thousands of consultation responses submitted earlier this month and will not add any further protection to residents.

Over the past 3 months the government have been undertaking a consultation process entitled “Options for Dealing with squatters” which came to an end on October 5th. Squatters Action for Secure Homes (SQUASH) have accused the government of “ignoring the consultation” by rushing through anti-squatting laws only 3 weeks after the consultation has ended. The squatting consultation response has just been published1. 90% of responses argued against taking any action on squatting. Of a total of 2217 responses, 2126 were from people concerned about the impact of criminalising squatting. The consultation response recognised “that the statistical weight of responses was therefore against taking any action on squatting”.

The amendment states that making squatting in residential building a criminal offence will “end the misery of home-owners whose properties have been preyed on by squatters”. However strong legislation already exists to protect residents from having there home squatted. Last month 160 leading legal figures wrote an open letter which was published in The Guardian explaining that under Section 7 of the Criminal Law Act 1977 it is already a criminal offence to squat someone’s home.2

SQUASH spokesperson Paul Reynolds, said:

“ The governent is ignoring the results of its own consultation which shows that the criminalisation of squatting in empty residential properties will do nothing to protect residents who are already protected by strong legislation. This amendment will criminalise the homeless in the middle of a housing crisis who use squatting as the last remaining option to keep a roof over their heads.”

John Mcdonnell, MP for Hayes and Harlington said:

“By trying to sneak this amendment through the back door the government are attempting to bypass democracy. There was over 2,200 responses to the consultation on squatting so there is no way the government could have acknowledged all the evidence”.

ENDS

For more information and interviews contact: press@squashcampaign.org or 07415 516 105 John McDonnell MP on 07956 292 576

Notes to Editors

  1. http://www.justice.gov.uk/consultations/dealing-with-squatters.htm

  2. http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/sep/25/squatting-law-media-politicians

http://squashcampaign.org/ SQUASH were founded in the early 90′s; the last time the Tories tried to criminalise squatting. SQUASH re-formed in the face of the latest threat to squatting. There are 700,000 empty properties across the UK: From 2009 Empty Homes Figures:http://www.emptyhomes.com/usefulresources/stats/statistics.html A new report done by Crisis highlights the link between squatting and homelessness:http://www.crisis.org.uk/publications-search.php?fullitem=327 Photos can be used from the SQUASH Flickr page: http://www.flickr.com/groups/squashmedia/

Comment by @gwenhyfaer which(again) deserves a post of it’s own

(Comment on Owen Jones post) In short – those of you who know everything might like to listen to those of us who are just trying to scratch our way through life as best we can, wearing our fallibility on our sleeve, at least occasionally. No matter how unnecessary you think it is. No matter how comprehensively you think your books, your ideologies, your leaders lay out the perfect unchanging (until the next version, which will of course also be perfect and unchanging) blueprint for a blissful utopia where nobody is troubled by such problems as choice, freedom or having to explain themselves to uncouth, impolite people who unaccountably don’t believe a word of their arrant bullshit.

Those who refuse to learn have nothing to teach.

Comment left on Owen Jones blog-call it a message to the Labour Left

Obviously it didn’t get through. While Owen is keen for the ‘chavs’ he based his career on to get through to the ‘political and media elites’- that doesn’t apply to him allowing them to be part of the important discussions about them he needs to have with his friends. Middle class, oxbridge educated ex parliamentary researchers who have written books about chavs are not part of the elite if they can say they are how many generations socialists? Nor are the friends of his who washed welfare reform from their pages. Maybe ‘chavs’ are just supposed to read the endless diatribes about what ‘the left’ should do, and be obedient little proles. The Labour left are going to find it slightly difficult to co-opt a global movement and keep the submissive proles in line. The perfectly reasonable comments sat there for days, ‘awaiting moderation’. Easier than addressing the perfectly reasonable criticisms within them.

”Owen, the problem is not what you describe. The problem we have is one of a deliberate lack of political representation. Lack of political representation, lack of access to legal system, lack of representation in the media for the millions and millions who our political class are afraid of. This is not going to be solved by lefties barging in dictating what people need and what they want, and I don’t mean to be rude- you might not be the only person in teh world who has noticed this is real. It was real last year, it is real now, it has been real all year as the left have swapped fantasies of who the so called working class are. It has been real while families cut back on food, and chose between food and housing. It is real for the social workers who cant get a child protection plan fro a kid over 13. It is real for the people delivering services that have been flogged off. It has been real for a people who actually understand what is happening and why. It is real for the people in your book who have no political representation.

How about just for once, the labour left stand aside and let people decide what they want for themselves. The insistence that everything be framed within parameters that corresponded with the left in the last year meant that while lefties siezed on an cuts destroying peoples lives- the people worst affected had to be deliberately marginalised. Union resources used to support Labour, your friends actually working very hard to make sure the implications of welfare cuts were not discussed. As the issue of welfare cuts which have put a grenade under deprivation, a housing crisis, and a household debt crisis, the left with Labour at its moderate heart whitewashed the issue. Because the political party you  are passionate about could not possibly have the debate move beyond scroungers. Our unions decided that the labour line was what we needed.

So maybe the lesson for the occupation is for you and the rest of the professional left. You dont know as much as you think you do, and I think its time we started hearing people speak, rather than have lefties argue about what we need. You are barely out of university, and i am guessin that there are people in the coutnry who have a slighgt bit more insight into their economic circumstances, than you and your friends. And just because the occupation doesn’t want YOUR politics or yet another situation to be co-opted by the labour left, doesnt mean they are uninterested in politics or changing it.

And the visibility of people coming together to discuss the shared economic circumstances Labour, the tories and the Lib dems do not want discussed, is a damn sight more powerful than any list of demands. The occupation may come up with a blistering alternative to capitalism, I doubt it. But what it will achieve, if political parties can try not to co-opt it- is better and bigger. The divide and rule politics of demonising everyone and pitting us against each other, is more difficult when we are talking and visibly so.”

A letter of solidarity from those who were at Tahrir Square as we watched, incredulous.

To all those across the world currently occupying parks, squares and other spaces, your comrades in Cairo are watching you in solidarity. Having received so much advice from you about transitioning to democracy, we thought it's our turn to pass on some advice.

Indeed, we are now in many ways involved in the same struggle. What most pundits call "the Arab spring" has its roots in the demonstrations, riots, strikes and occupations taking place all around the world, its foundations lie in years-long struggles by people and popular movements. The moment that we find ourselves in is nothing new, as we in Egypt and others have been fighting against systems of repression, disenfranchisement and the unchecked ravages of global capitalism (yes, we said it, capitalism): a system that has made a world that is dangerous and cruel to its inhabitants. As the interests of government increasingly cater to the interests and comforts of private, transnational capital, our cities and homes have become progressively more abstract and violent places, subject to the casual ravages of the next economic development or urban renewal scheme.

An entire generation across the globe has grown up realising, rationally and emotionally, that we have no future in the current order of things. Living under structural adjustment policies and the supposed expertise of international organisations like the World Bank and IMF, we watched as our resources, industries and public services were sold off and dismantled as the "free market" pushed an addiction to foreign goods, to foreign food even. The profits and benefits of those freed markets went elsewhere, while Egypt and other countries in the south found their immiseration reinforced by a massive increase in police repression and torture.

The current crisis in America and western Europe has begun to bring this reality home to you as well: that as things stand we will all work ourselves raw, our backs broken by personal debt and public austerity. Not content with carving out the remnants of the public sphere and the welfare state, capitalism and the austerity state now even attack the private realm and people's right to decent dwelling as thousands of foreclosed-upon homeowners find themselves both homeless and indebted to the banks who have forced them on to the streets.

So we stand with you not just in your attempts to bring down the old but to experiment with the new. We are not protesting. Who is there to protest to? What could we ask them for that they could grant? We are occupying. We are reclaiming those same spaces of public practice that have been commodified, privatised and locked into the hands of faceless bureaucracy, real estate portfolios and police "protection". Hold on to these spaces, nurture them and let the boundaries of your occupations grow. After all, who built these parks, these plazas, these buildings? Whose labour made them real and livable?

Why should it seem so natural that they should be withheld from us, policed and disciplined? Reclaiming these spaces and managing them justly and collectively is proof enough of our legitimacy.

In our own occupations of Tahrir, we encountered people entering the square every day in tears because it was the first time they had walked through those streets and spaces without being harassed by police; it is not just the ideas that are important, these spaces are fundamental to the possibility of a new world. These are public spaces. Spaces for gathering, leisure, meeting and interacting – these spaces should be the reason we live in cities. Where the state and the interests of owners have made them inaccessible, exclusive or dangerous, it is up to us to make sure that they are safe, inclusive and just. We have and must continue to open them to anyone that wants to build a better world, particularly for the marginalised, the excluded and those groups who have suffered the worst.

What you do in these spaces is neither as grandiose and abstract nor as quotidian as "real democracy"; the nascent forms of praxis and social engagement being made in the occupations avoid the empty ideals and stale parliamentarianism that the term democracy has come to represent. And so the occupations must continue, because there is no one left to ask for reform. They must continue because we are creating what we can no longer wait for.

But the ideologies of property and propriety will manifest themselves again. Whether through the overt opposition of property owners or municipalities to your encampments or the more subtle attempts to control space through traffic regulations, anti-camping laws or health and safety rules. There is a direct conflict between what we seek to make of our cities and our spaces and what the law and the systems of policing standing behind it would have us do.

We faced such direct and indirect violence, and continue to face it. Those who said that the Egyptian revolution was peaceful did not see the horrors that police visited upon us, nor did they see the resistance and even force that revolutionaries used against the police to defend their tentative occupations and spaces: by the government's own admission, 99 police stations were put to the torch, thousands of police cars were destroyed and all of the ruling party's offices around Egypt were burned down. Barricades were erected, officers were beaten back and pelted with rocks even as they fired tear gas and live ammunition on us. But at the end of the day on 28 January they retreated, and we had won our cities.

It is not our desire to participate in violence, but it is even less our desire to lose. If we do not resist, actively, when they come to take what we have won back, then we will surely lose. Do not confuse the tactics that we used when we shouted "peaceful" with fetishising nonviolence; if the state had given up immediately we would have been overjoyed, but as they sought to abuse us, beat us, kill us, we knew that there was no other option than to fight back. Had we laid down and allowed ourselves to be arrested, tortured and martyred to "make a point", we would be no less bloodied, beaten and dead. Be prepared to defend these things you have occupied, that you are building, because, after everything else has been taken from us, these reclaimed spaces are so very precious.

By way of concluding, then, our only real advice to you is to continue, keep going and do not stop. Occupy more, find each other, build larger and larger networks and keep discovering new ways to experiment with social life, consensus and democracy. Discover new ways to use these spaces, discover new ways to hold on to them and never give them up again. Resist fiercely when you are under attack, but otherwise take pleasure in what you are doing, let it be easy, fun even. We are all watching one another now, and from Cairo we want to say that we are in solidarity with you, and we love you all for what you are doing.

Policy based evidence making

Our last Labour government became known for something described as ‘policy based evidence making‘. For those of us in the public sector, this meant ignoring the evidence building about services, ignoring professional knowledge, and knowing that any attempts at evidence gathering were to support the policy requirements of the day, not your service users. Regardless of the consequences. 

The problem with this approach is that our public services are run contrary to evidence, to suit the whims of politicians with no connection to anything. Social Work, far from being about children, is a strange job. What social work actually is, is the service that exists to mop up between the cracks of the failures of politics, economics and social policy. Given our social policy has been operated under the delusion that we need the feral rich to impart morality to ‘the poor’, and Labour’s main priority was to criminalise and disenfranchise the poorest in the country,  social work has been in trouble for a while. The first department to be hit for cuts, and the one politicians want least attention brought to. While being the first focus of attempts by politicians to score points by being ignorant twats about something or some group.

Social Work, as a professional body of knowledge, relies on assessment of evidence. Of effectiveness. It is at the core of all interventions. Unlike MPs, we have to take our use of taxpayers money very seriously, and interventions have consequences that can’t be handed over to someone else. 
Outside that professional body of knowledge, social work has been broken up into tiny agencies. The social work role subsumed into a case manager, managing the paperwork that comes with having 14-20 professionals doing a teeny bit of something each for one family, in the hope it creates a something like a service. Huge chunks of social work and social care were farmed out to clueless and unprofessional groups, charities, even religious organisations. In the last few years, any old Toby Young style fuckwit with an ego to inflict on young people and families(especially where there is a profit to be made) could be given free rein if they could flatter the right politician. And let’s face it, the only philosophy our politicians give a shit about is marketisation and selling off services. Returning to an evidence based policy system is long overdue and possibly too late for social work or social care. Field’s unlikely to recover from the kicking all our political parties have aimed their way while shouting about Surestart.

Social work has had it’s back broken by politicians, and now my ex colleagues are leaving in droves. They can’t risk working in an environment where poverty is deliberately created, especially as they face their careers ending every time the proverbial hits the fan and have to work against all evidence, all the time.  As poverty has deepened, social work has become more fractured, less guided by evidence and less and less effective, and ever more expensive. As resources get scarcer, the idea that you are supposed to even begin to address anyone’s needs becomes a laughable concept.

Number 10 have engaged the services of the hilariously named UK Alliance for Useful Evidence run by Nesta. A think tank to tackle the problem. Quelle suprise. Do I think another think tank, on top of the various policy wonks, gurus and fantasists who decide policies that affect real people, showing services they are neither involved in delivering or receiving how to gather evidence is useful? No. Do I fuck. How about we let health, education, and social care be protected from undue influence by politicians. Let the well established professional knowledge and ethics guide the delivery of services. Here’s a shocker, why don’t we have people involved in the business be part of er….running it?  Nah, that’s just radical.