Tag Archives: clothes

Sack the spads, finish the focus groups and stick to your guns, Jeremy!

One focus group member said Mr Corbyn’s appearance would make the UK a laughing-stock abroad. Does he look bad to you?

He is a man who has just won an election – overwhelmingly – with no tie and with his vest showing. Putting on a suit is the last thing Jeremy Corbyn needs to do.

But already, only two weeks into his leadership of the Labour Party, people are trying to change him. They voiced concern about his unwillingness to sing the National Anthem or bend the knee to the Queen, for example.

He’s a Republican and an Atheist, so these things are against his principles. We all knew this before he was elected, and he was elected anyway. It’s a little late to complain about them now!

His attitude to terrorist organisations has also been called into question, even though it is the same attitude that brought peace to Northern Ireland when Tony Blair tried it out.

And then there’s the question of his dress sense. The Graun had a go in an article today: “‘I find him exciting in some ways but then I have other thoughts on the national anthem and not dressing appropriately. There is a time and a place to fight those fights,’ said a woman, not the only one to link notions of being ‘scruffy’ with credibility (‘We’d be a laughing stock abroad,’ said another).”

Is Yanis Varoufakis a laughing stock around here? Of course not. But his dress sense is far from conventional.

Yanis Varoufakis (left) with George Osborne. The trustworthy one isn't wearing a tie.

Yanis Varoufakis (left) with George Osborne. The trustworthy one isn’t wearing a tie.

What we’re seeing is the typical hypocrisy of the Middle Class, which can be summed up as: “He can do the job but we don’t want him if he won’t keep up appearances.” These are the people who want Hyacinth Bucket (remember her?) running the country.

But what people in these focus groups say isn’t nearly as influential as what is said by those who organise them and interpret their comments – usually in line with the wishes of whoever is paying.

So Deborah Mattinson of Britain Thinks, the organiser of the focus groups quoted in the Graun, tells us: “They already know quite a bit about him and they are worried about what they regard as ‘extreme’ policies.

“They’re worried, for example, that he does not speak to their concerns about the economy and immigration, that he won’t unite the Labour party and that under his leadership it will become divided and weak.”

That is not what the people themselves said. You can feel the influence of the paymasters bleeding through – or so it seems to This Writer.

Mrs Mike feels the same way. A few days ago, she asked me to write an article supporting Mr Corbyn’s position on clothing, the economy (anti-austerity), foreign affairs (negotiation rather than aggression), and – very strongly – his own personal beliefs.

Her belief – and I agree with it – is that it is these unique qualities that lifted Jeremy Corbyn to the leadership of the Labour Party.

The voters who put him there will be angry if he lets the spads and focus groups mould him into something they don’t support – and rightly so.

The message could not be clearer: Sack the spads, Jeremy. Put away the focus groups. They’re not focusing on anything you need to worry about.

Don’t you go changing.

Source: Focus groups give Jeremy Corbyn catch-22: stick to his guns but change his values | Politics | The Guardian

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Assembly member lives on benefits to experience the effects of ‘welfare reform’

The day job: Rebecca Evans AM in the more familiar environment of the Assembly debating chamber [Image: ITV].

The day job: Rebecca Evans AM in the more familiar environment of the Assembly debating chamber [Image: ITV].

I wanted to share this with you because, as a constituent and a member of the Labour Party, I’m quite proud of Mid and West Wales Labour AM Rebecca Evans, who spent a week living on an amount equivalent to Jobseekers’ Allowance and discussing ‘welfare reform’ with people who deal with its effects on a day-to-day basis, to find out what it is like.

She wrote an article about her experience for Wales Online which I am taking the liberty of excerpting here. Over to you, Rebecca:

With the average household in Wales expected to lose 4.1 per cent of their income due to policy changes, support is vital for those living on the poverty line.

Although people are understandably cynical when politicians attempt to live life on the breadline, I wanted to raise awareness of the challenges facing welfare claimants and gain a better understanding of how well understood the changes are.

Living off £72.40 for one week, I did not expect to truly experience the day-to-day life of people who rely on welfare support. I was aware that when Monday came around I would step back into my normal routine. But I wanted to experience at least some of the challenges and difficult decisions facing many thousands of people every day.

The Your Benefits are Changing money advice team calculated that the average weekly expenditure for someone living off Jobseeker’s Allowance in my home area of Carmarthenshire leaves just £13.58 for food and essentials once transport costs, utilities, the TV licence, phone bills and the bedroom tax have been paid – which equates to less than £2 a day.

On this income, any trip to the supermarket becomes a stressful task as every single penny matters.

When speaking with job seekers, food bank volunteers, YBAC money advisors and housing association staff and tenants during the week, the message was the same: people are struggling and many have had their lives irrevocably damaged by welfare policies.

The Bedroom Tax has had a serious impact on thousands of people across Wales, and the shortage of suitable housing has only enhanced poverty levels. Brought in as part of the Welfare Reform Act… the policy is estimated to have affected 36,000 tenants in the social housing sector, including 3,500 disabled households. As a direct result… housing association tenants accrued £1.1 million in arrears during the first six months.

Housing associations are rightly concerned that a move to monthly payments will prove incredibly challenging for those on low incomes, leading to an increase in the number of people that turn to emergency food supplies.

A YBAC money advisor told me food poverty levels can be worse for people who live on housing estates because they may only have one shop within walking distance, and that shop may have limited discounts. Food prices have risen by 12 per cent since 2007, so it is no surprise 900,000 people across the UK have turned to food banks in the past year… but the fact that we need food banks in 21st never ceases to be shocking.

The families I met during my week on benefits rely on second hand clothes and goods, and rarely buy anything new – let alone any kind of treats. They try to put aside £20 a week, but unexpected emergencies leave them unable to save.

A YBAC money advisor told me that around a quarter of people seeking advice are actually in work, and that the majority of children in poverty live in a household where one adult works. One mum with a young baby told me that her husband is on a zero-hour contract, meaning that the family can’t plan financially with any certainty.

This smashes the myth that welfare reform is all about supporting the unemployed back to work.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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Yet another Bedroom Tax tale to make your blood boil

compassionbypass

Vox Political just had this Bedroom Tax story from a commenter on Facebook who has asked not to be named. I don’t think it needs any commentary from me:

“A neighbour of mine couldnt bear to give up the family home so she struggled and paid £24 a week for two spare rooms.

“She was missing all her other payments and not eating for days.

“She then had to start selling things from her house…

“Then started asking us if we had any old clothes because she had found a place where they weigh old clothes and give you money for them…

“Then because we had given her all we had, another so-called friend told her how she does without food… She then started taking speed as you don’t feel hungry and what money was left she could at least use to feed her daughter.

“She came to mine and broke down because she was ill with it.

“She’s okay now but guess how?

“After all she had been through…

“For nearly 10 months…

“We then found out…

“Because of the 1996 loophole…

“She was exempt.”

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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