Saturday, 5 July 2008

Glasgow East - no mean constituency

I have been reading with interest the blogs and articles by more talented people, and feel that I ought to give my tuppenceworth. Back in December, I posted about the discrepances in the voters roll for Glasgow Bridgeton back in the 1930s. Several of my extended family (the children of my gg grandfather's second (and bigamous, but that's another story)) marriage emigrated from the slums of Bridgeton to start new lives in New Zealand.

At that time, of course, Bridgeton was a rock-solid Labour constituency. Now it doesn't exist. Why not? Because in the 1960s, thousands of people were moved out of the slums to peripheral housing schemes and to 'new towns'. It was interesting to visit where my relatives lived a few months ago: the tenements are long gone, but the street signs are still there for Carstairs Street, Colvend Street, Poplin Street, Swanston Street etc. No one lives there now. It is hard to imagine looking down Carstairs Street towards what was Strathclyde School, that at one time thousands of people lived in the tiny area that is bounded by the above streets. If they had residents today, those people would be eligible to vote in Glasgow East.

The people who did not take the assisted passage route were the losers, no doubt about it. The constituency of Glasgow East is one of the most deprived in the country. At the 2005 Election, the unemployment rate was 7.7%, above average but hardly headline-grabbing. Look beneath the lies, damned lies and statistics, and factor in the number of people on incapacity benefits, and we discover that around 50% of the adult 'working' population is unemployed.

The Tory candidate who had been selected for the next General Election has stood down, in favour of Davena Rankin, a rising star. A black, female trade unionist, she is absolutely right to challenge all sorts of stereotypes. She will hopefully be selected for a winnable seat in the near future. However, what about Pat McPhee, who has stood down? The truth is, she had volunteered to stand in a constituency that few Tories would want, out of loyalty to the party. But this leads us to another important fact:

Glasgow East is the sort of constituency which political parties generally ignore. To try and displace Labour would be a fruitless task for all other parties. Labour itself does not bother, for two reasons: (1)Labour can take the votes for granted and (2) Engaging with the people would mean trying to solve some of the worst poverty in the western world.

When Broon bangs on about 'raising families out of poverty', he is talking about bunging a few quid to people just below an arbitrary poverty line so that they are just above it. In the real world, they are little better off, but he is able to trumpet statistics to show that he is tackling poverty. Such measures do not work among the poorest parts of Glasgow East. There are families, generations of whom have been unemployed. There is a huge drugs problem. Male life expectancy in Calton is not just lower than that the much-quoted examples of North Korea or the Gaza strip. Fraser Nelson points out that it is lower than in Sudan, Cambodia or Ghana.

There is a poverty of ambition among the poorest communities. People do not expect to work; to get a degree (only 7% are graduates, virtually all of whom live in the middle class enclaves of Mount Vernon and Baillieston) or to live anywhere else. They do not need patronising health campaigns: the people know they eat unhealthily, smoke too much, drink too much and take too many illegal drugs. They just don't see that they have anything to live for. Labour doesn't want to change this, because it would take too much effort and there aren't enouh votes in helping the underclass.

The underclass, funnily enough, are not deprived in the way people were decades ago. They have indoor toilets; electricity, hot and cold running water; they get their Giros; they have clothes and shoes; they do not starve. Compared to half the world's population, they are not getting such a bad deal. However, in an affluent society, it is not enough for those people to have dignity and to contribute to that society.

Give them more money? No. Labour has raised taxes by £1.25 TRILLION in the last eleven years. If a socialist Utopia could be bought, it would have been. Improvements in public services have not come close to providing value for the money that has been spent. Give a jaikey more money in his Giro, and it will only benefit the local drug dealer, off licence or bookmaker.

It is constituencies like Glasgow East which demonstrate the emptiness and wickedness of socialism. The socialists couldn't care less about those who really experience poverty. Socialists have represented this area for decades, and what do the people have to show for it?

I am pleased to see that David Cameron intends campaigning strongly in this constituency. Forget about tactical votes for the SNP. Labour will win Glasgow East, because it exists on a different planet to most other constituencies, even those which are fairly deprived. People in the most deprived areas are immune to interest rate rises, since they don't have mortgages. They are immune to threats to jobs, because they don't expect to work. They are immune to inflation, because their benefits will be increased automatically. They associate Labour with having a roof over their heads and getting their Giros. No other party has a chance there.

However, as I say, it is vital that the Tories campaign strongly. Part of the reason the vote fell between 1979-97 is that Mrs Thatcher and John Major were perceived as not caring about Scotland. This was particularly the case in industrial central Scotland, as thousands of mining and steelmaking jobs were lost. The Tories were seen as an 'English' party which only cared about the south east. David Cameron, to his credit, has asserted that he wants the Conservative Party to represent the whole country. He needs to make that visible. He needs to take Liam Fox out of whichever backroom he is stored in, dust him down, and get his face on to television in Scotland to show that the Tories do have something to offer a boy from a working class council scheme in the west of Scotland. He needs to get the whole Shadow Cabinet involved, and as many other MPs as possible, to show that the Conservatives care not only about Glasgow East, but about Scotland as a whole.

There are still about 15 constituencies in Scotland, despite the Tories' best efforts to lose them, where the Conservatives either have a chance of winning, or at least have a significant pocket of support which can be built on. In places like Glasgow East, who knows what can be achieved? No one else has tried.

Friday, 4 July 2008

Giving RE a bad name

A rather worrying article in the Daily Mail today, alleging that two schoolboys were given detention because they refused to 'pray to Allah' as part of an RE lesson.

Which political party do you think is making an issue of this?

Perhaps the Labour Party, having responsibility for the nation's education? Nope.
Perhaps the Conservative Party, being entrusted with representing the Opposition view? Nope.
Perhaps the Lib Dems, doing whatever it is they are supposed to do? Nope.
Perhaps the BNP, doing what it does best, stirring up resentment and division? Of course!

As soon as Islam is mentioned, the mainstream politicians and the Lib Dems retreat into their bunkers. They know that to express a point of view could end their political career, leaving only the BNP prepared to take on the issue.

Now, I am not rushing to judgement regarding the school or teacher. I know very well how a teacher's words can be twisted a thousand times between the lesson and the story appearing in the Daily Mail.

If the story is true, then it is of course very worrying. There is no way that children should be forced to pray to Allah or to anyone else in an RE lesson. That should not be the point of the lesson. Even if it is not true, this is the sort of story which gives RE a bad name. It has taken decades for RE teachers to achieve any kind of credibility, and this is the kind of story that we can all do without.

I find the Deputy Head Teacher's comments very worrying, if correctly reported: "It's difficult to know at the moment whether this was part of the curriculum or not. I am not an RE teacher, I am an English teacher." Eh? Three answers: (1) It shouldn't part of the curriculum (assuming the reports are correct) and (2) A DHT is paid his or her large salary to do more than be a specialist in their own subject. If he doesn't know that praying to Allah is not part of the curriculum of any normal comprehensive school, then... I shall be charitable and presume that he has been misquoted. Finally (3) if the teacher has articulately given [him] her version of events, then why does he not put us out of our misery, and just explain what that articulate version was?

It is perfectly reasonable for an RE teacher to ask children to act out what religious people do as part of a ceremony. However, they should make clear that it is not actually prayer/worship, it is only a role-play. They should also be very sensitive about children not wishing to be part of a role play. That may be as simple as a child being shy and self-conscious, or as major as a real religious or moral objection to the activity. As I say, I am not making a judgement on what the teacher actually said or did. I know very well who people can be misquoted and how children can misunderstand the simplest of instructions.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

I am rich and should pay more tax

At least, according to the Marxist GMB union,which is seeking tax increases for anyone earning more than £40,000 a year.

It would not affect me by much, obviously. I am a teacher after all, earning not far over £40,000, but it is the principle of the thing. I barely have two brass farthings to rub together. Honestly. I know I should be able to live more comfortably on what I earn, but I don't. I would personally prefer to see the threshold for higher rate tax increased to around £100,000 so that it only affects genuinely high earners, not those of us who are struggling to make ends meet with the soaring cost of living.

Of course, right now the unions have got Labour by the whatsits. Labour is bankrupt and more and more heavily reliant on the unions for financial support. That means unless Broon has considerable moral fibre (and let's not pretend!), he will be forced to do deals in order to keep his vile party in existence.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Political joke

Thanks to Man in a Shed.

What is the difference between Gordon Brown and Robert Mugabe?

Mugabe was elected!

Well, it tickles me.

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Funny, or too close to the bone?

Just have to share with you an email I have received. I offer no comments as to its suitablitiy, because I can't decide:


Good morning and welcome to a brand new edition of 'ASYLUM'.

Today's program features another chance to take part in our exciting competition: Hijack an airliner and win a council house! We've already given away hundreds of millions of pounds and thousands of dream homes, courtesy of our sponsor the British Taxpayer. And don't forget, we're now the fastest growing game on the planet.

Anyone can play, provided they don't already hold a valid British passport, and you only need one word of English: 'ASYLUM'!

Prizes include all-expenses-paid accommodation, cash benefits starting at £180 a week and a chance to earn thousands more begging, mugging and accosting drivers at traffic lights. This competition is open to everyone buying a ticket or stowing away on one of our partner airlines, ferry companies or Eurostar.

No application ever refused reasonable or unreasonable. All you have to do is destroy all your papers and remember the magic password: 'ASYLUM'.

Only this week 140 members of the Taliban family from Afghanistan were flown Goat Class from Kabul to our international gateway at Stansted where local law enforcement officers were on hand to fast-track them to their luxury £200-a-night rooms in the fabulous four star Hilton Hotel. They join tens of thousands of other lucky winners already staying in hotels all over Britain .

Our most popular destinations also include the White Cliffs of Dover and the world famous Toddington Services area In Historic Bedfordshire.

If you still don't understand the rules, don't forget there's no need to phone a friend or ask the audience, just apply for legal aid. Hundreds of lawyers, social workers and counsellors are waiting to help. It won't cost you a penny, so play today; it could change your life forever.

Iraqi terrorists, Afghan dissidents, Albanian gangsters, pro-Pinochet activists, anti-Pinochet activists, Kosovan drug-smugglers, Tamil Tigers, bogus Bosnians, Rwandan mass murderers, Somali guerrillas...COME ON DOWN!

Get along to the airport, get along to the lorry park, get along to the ferry terminal. Don't stop in Germany or France . Go straight to Britain and you are guaranteed to be one of tens of thousands of lucky winners in the softest game on earth.

Everyone's a winner, when they play 'ASYLUM'.