Tag Archives: play

Tell your friends to watch Windrush drama Sitting in Limbo – it’s more than the BBC will do!

The Empire Windrush brought many people to the UK to help rebuild the country after World War II. If it had still been in service a couple of years ago, the Tories would have been trying to use it to deport them all again.

Did you know the BBC is screening a drama based on the “Windrush generation” racism scandal?

It’s on this evening (Monday, June 8, 2020), starting at 8.30pm and the BBC appears to have done its best not to promote it in any way.

Make up your own mind on what that says about the BBC’s relationship with the Conservative government, whose racism is likely to be a major story element.

And make up your own mind on whether the Corporation’s reticence has anything to do with the death of George Floyd in the United States, and protests in support of people of colour that have taken place in the UK since it happened, culminating in the removal and sinking of Edward Colston’s statue in Bristol yesterday (June 7).

Fortunately, Radio Times at least mentions the play. It says:

Sitting in Limbo could hardly be more timely. Arriving at an extraordinary moment in history as the Black Lives Matter movement grows and as protests take place around the world, this feature-length BBC One drama shines the spotlight on the painful, raw and recent Windrush scandal.

Starring Patrick Robinson and written by Stephen S. Thompson,  the factual drama is based on the real-life experiences of a Jamaican-born British man whose life was upended when the Home Office decided that he was actually here illegally.

Anthony has lived in the UK since he was eight years old, but when he decided to obtain a passport and visit his elderly mother in Jamaica, he learnt that there was no record of him as a British citizen. The onus was now on him to prove his citizenship to the Home Office.

Unable to claim his benefits and forced to leave his job, Anthony was left in limbo. He was later forcibly removed from his home and detained as an illegal immigrant, placing his story at the heart of the Windrush immigration scandal, which saw a government crackdown on the children of the “Windrush generation,” who unlike their parents often travelled without their own documents.

Thompson said: “Like everyone caught up in the Windrush scandal, Anthony has been severely traumatised by the experience. It has badly affected his confidence and left him questioning his very identity. As his brother, I saw what he went through first-hand. I couldn’t bear the idea that he had suffered in vain and it made me determined to tell his story. For me, this is personal.”

Source: Sitting in Limbo – BBC One Windrush scandal drama | cast, air date, what it’s about – Radio Times

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BBC1 classic adaptation is as relevant now as when it was written – sadly

David Thewlis as the Inspector and Finn Cole as Eric Birling in the BBC's upcoming 'An Inspector Calls' Photo: BBC Pictures/Drama Repbulic

David Thewlis as the Inspector and Finn Cole as Eric Birling in the BBC’s ‘An Inspector Calls’ [Image: BBC Pictures/Drama Republic].

SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t seen An Inspector Calls, and don’t want to have it ruined for you, it would be a good idea not to read this article just yet.

The BBC took an unexpected – but welcome – turn to the Left for an hour and a half on Sunday evening (September 13), when it screened a new adaptation of An Inspector Calls.

The play, first performed in the then-Soviet Union in 1945, is considered to be a scathing critique of the hypocrisies of pre-World War One English society and an expression of Priestley’s Socialist political principles.

It details a visit by an ‘Inspector Goole’ to the stately home of the prosperous Middle Class (some might say Upper Class) Birling family, where he questions each family member about the suicide of a young working-class woman, Eva Smith (also known as Daisy Renton), revealing that they have been responsible for the young woman’s exploitation, abandonment and social ruin, effectively leading to her death.

Having seen Les Miserables only a few weeks ago, it seems likely to This Writer, that Priestley may have taken his inspiration from Victor Hugo, whose character Fantine’s fall begins when she is sacked from her job at a factory – just as Eva Smith’s does when Birling sacks her, after she calls a strike for higher pay to meet ever-increasing rent costs. Both are reduced to prostitution of one kind or another.

Does this seem familiar to anybody, here and now, in the 21st century?

We have ever-increasing rents and a government that is unwilling to do anything about them other than worsen them with its Bedroom Tax – because it forces the poor out of desirable residential areas.

We have employers who won’t raise wages to cover these spiralling costs, and can remove troublesome workers with impunity because the government has compliantly weakened the trade unions to the point of impotence.

We have a benefits system that, despite being the last resort for people who are otherwise without hope, withdraws payments from the neediest people for the flimsiest of reasons, leaving many of them in the belief that suicide is their only escape.

In the 19th century we had Les Miserables. In the 20th century we had An Inspector Calls. Where is the 21st century expression of this exploitation?

The plot is already written for us: This time, the doomed character would be sacked from their job for complaining that conditions there had created health problems that put them in permanent pain. An appeal to their trade union would fall on deaf ears. Forced to resort to benefits, they would face the inhuman work capability assessment – and fail to achieve the number of points needed to gain incapacity payments, meaning they would have to sign onto Jobseekers’ Allowance. But JSA demands that a person must be fit for work, and forces claimants to carry out ridiculous tasks in order to prove that they are doing all they can to find work. An invalid, unable to comply, would be forced off the benefit if their illness was obvious, or sanctioned if it wasn’t. With no money and no health, what is left for them but death – either slowly due to their illness or quickly due to suicide?

All it needs is a 21st century way of bringing this home to the Middle- and Upper-Class vermin who participate in this degradation of their fellow citizens, or support it with their votes.

Would any writers care to take on the task?

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Tory attack on the poor spreads from the disabled to the elderly and children

The big question: Tories want nurses to ask the elderly, "Will you die so we can save some pennies on your pension and healthcare?"

The big question: Tories want nurses to ask the elderly, “Will you die so we can save some pennies on your pension and healthcare?”

For once, the Daily Mail‘s indignation is right on the button.

It reports today that district nurses are being asked to encourage elderly people to sign their lives away.

These ask if people have a preference to die at home when their time comes – and go on to suggest: Do you agree to a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) notice?

In other words, if they suffer a life-threatening health risk and doctors could bring them back, will they tell the medical professionals not to bother?

Nobody knows how long an elderly person might live after having their life saved. Some might say the Mail is simply trying to protect its readership – but this does seem to be a cynical attempt to save money – not only on health care but also on pension payments.

“The Royal College of Nursing says its members, most of whom will be meeting the patient for the first time, should not be put into the position of asking the elderly to sign their life away, particularly since they may be confused and not have a relative present to support them,” the Mail‘s comment column states.

It quotes a healthcare expert who said “the question itself is ‘callous’ and potentially disturbing, since it might leave the frail or vulnerable wondering if the visiting nurse ‘knows something they do not’, and death is imminent.

“Doubtless the NHS will say there is no malice intended, but this approach is as deeply troubling as it is insensitive. Don’t forget the Liverpool Care Pathway – under which patients judged to be dying were left without treatment, food or fluids – similarly began with supposedly humane intentions, only to be scrapped after… fears that it was being coldly misused to free hospital beds.”

Slightly less believable – on the face of it – is a plan reported in the Daily Mirror to force children in a central London council estate to use a play area underground.

The Conservative-led council that runs the Churchill Gardens estate wants to use current play facilities at the primary school to build an elderly people’s home, the paper reported.

Land marked out to accommodate the elderly will instead be used – get this – “for luxury apartments overlooking the Thames and the multi-billion-pound Battersea power station development. Flats that no-one in the overcrowded Churchill Gardens estate will be able to afford”.

Yes – it’s social engineering. Bring in the super-rich; bury the proles (and their children). Ensure enough Conservative voters live in the area to keep the Tories in control there.

Does anybody think the council has any intention of building children’s play facilities underground? It seems a bizarre effort, considering this council’s desire to do anything rather than spend money on the poor. Also, it would open up the estate to the possibility of terrible crimes, as children who are out of sight – as Tory councillors seem to desire – would be prey to criminals.

Both stories highlight the attitude of Conservatives in power in the UK today. They don’t care about anyone but their own.

They deprive the poor to save money, and then lavish it on those who have too much already.

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My Bedroom Tax protest speech

Standing in the shadow of a giant: Vox Political's Mike Sivier (front) at 'Cooper Corner', with Caerphilly Castle in the background.

Standing in the shadow of a giant: Vox Political’s Mike Sivier (front) at ‘Cooper Corner’, with Caerphilly Castle in the background.

Vox Political was relatively quiet yesterday; although I reblogged plenty of articles from other sources, there was no new piece from the site itself because I was in Caerphilly, delivering a speech at a Bedroom Tax protest there.

Caerphilly is the birthplace of the late, great comic Tommy Cooper, and it was in the shadow of his statue that the demonstration took place. I instantly (and privately) named the location ‘Cooper Corner’.

I took the opportunity to lighten proceedings at the start by suggesting that Mr Cooper (albeit in petrified effigy) would be providing the jokes. I held the microphone up towards the statue. “Anything? No? No. I didn’t think so.” Turning back to the crowd I added: “The Bedroom Tax is no laughing matter.” Then I got into the body of the speech:

“I write a small blog called Vox Political. I started it a couple of years ago as an attempt to put in writing what a reasonable, thinking person might have to say about government policies in these years of forced austerity, and politics in general.

“As you can probably imagine, this means I knew about the Bedroom Tax, several months before it was actually imposed on us all. I was writing articles warning people against it from October 2012. The trouble was, Vox Political is a small blog that even now has only a few thousand readers a day – and the mainstream media has been almost entirely bought by a political machine with far more funding than I have.

“It is a tax, by the way. You may have heard a lot of nonsense that it isn’t, but consider it this way: a tax is defined as a compulsory contribution to state revenue, levied by the government against a citizen’s person, property or activity, to support government policies.

“It is not a ‘spare-room subsidy’. If anyone in authority tries to tell you you’re having your ‘spare-room subsidy’ removed (or more likely, imposed, they’re so confused about this), just tell them to go and find the Act of Parliament that introduced the ‘spare room subsidy’, using those words. Tell them if they can find it, you’ll pay it – but if they can’t, they must not take any money away from you. They won’t be able to find it because it doesn’t exist.

“It is more accurately described as the ‘State Underoccupation Charge’ – SUC! And it really does suck.

“It sucks money that social housing tenants need for food, heat, water and other necessities out of their pockets and forces them to send it to their landlord instead – either the local council or a social landlord like a housing association. The reasoning behind it has always been that this would encourage people to move, but in fact we know that there is no social accommodation for them to move into. When the Bedroom Tax became law, there was only enough smaller housing to accommodate around 15 per cent of the affected households. It is clearly a trap, designed to make poor people poorer.

“This is why the first advice I put on my blog was for anyone affected by the Bedroom Tax to appeal against it – and I was criticised quite harshly for it, because some people decided such action would mark tenants out as troublemakers and create more problems for them. At the time, I thought it was right to give some of the aggravation back to the people who were foisting this additional burden onto lower-income families; make them work for it, if they want it so badly. As it turns out, I was right to do so, because there are so many loopholes in the legislation that it seems almost anybody could avoid paying!

“Do you think Stephanie Bottrill would have died if she had known that she could successfully appeal against her Bedroom Tax, on the grounds that she had been a social housing tenant since before January 1996 and was therefore exempt? The government spitefully closed that particular loophole earlier this month, but that lady is already dead, due to a lie. Had she been properly informed, she could have successfully fought it off and then taken advice on how to cope with it after the government amendment was brought in.

“There is a case for corporate manslaughter against the Department for Work and Pensions, right there. If tested in court, it seems likely that the way its activities have been managed and organised by senior management – the fact that it foisted the Bedroom Tax, wrongly, on this lady – will be found to have led to her death, in gross breach of its duty of care to those who claim state benefits (in this case, Housing Benefit).

“David Cameron has wasted a great deal of oxygen telling us all that disabled people are not affected by the tax. Perhaps he could explain why a disabled gentleman in my home town was forced to move out of his specially-adapted home, incurring not only the cost of moving but an extra £5,000 for removing the adaptations and installing them into new accommodation? He appealed against Bedroom Tax decision but the result came back after the date when he had to be out of his home. Can you guess what it was? That’s right – he won. I have been trying to get him to take legal action against the council and the government about this as it would be an important test case.

“There are other grounds for appealing against the Bedroom Tax. Just because your council wants to claim every room that could be a bedroom is a bedroom, that doesn’t make it so. A fellow blogger, Joe Halewood, has published a list of other room designations that you are allowed to have.

“It includes a study, a utility room, a play room, even an Iain Duncan Smith voodoo doll-making room, if that takes your fancy!

“I was particularly happy to hear that you can have a study as I’ve been writing my blog from the broom cupboard – oh! That’s another room you can have!

“Check the DWP’s online forms. They ask about bedrooms, and then they ask about other rooms. The distinction is clear.”

Then I closed the speech. In retrospect, I should have finished with a few words about the fact that this was the first bit of public speaking I had ever done. I could have given them something along these lines: “I am aware that speech-making is a lucrative sideline for many people, including comedians (although I’m not aware that Mr Cooper ever made any) and also politicians. Perhaps I should use this platform to suggest that, if you know anybody who is considering booking a speaker for a special occasion – society dinner, rugby club social, wedding or party, why not ask them to get in touch with me – instead of Iain Duncan Smith!”

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Coalition policy success: 80,000 children homeless for Christmas

shame

Tory politicians don’t care and Liberal Democrats don’t have any power – that’s why 80,000 children are being housed in temporary accommodation, alongside drug users and enduring threats of violence, as reported by Shelter today.

The government’s own figures show 2,090 families living in bed and breakfasts – an increase of eight per cent on 2012 and the largest number in 10 years, according to The Guardian. Of these, 760 have been living in B&Bs longer than the legal six-week limit – a 10 per cent increase on last year.

More than 43,000 other homeless households with children are in other emergency accommodation – usually privately-rented short-term flats, which are expensive. This is an increase of nine per cent on last year.

To put this into context, a Labour government commitment to halve the number of families in this kind of emergency accommodation meant the total fell between 2005 and 2010 – but it has been rising again since June 2011.

This is a human disaster created by the Coalition government.

Most families interviewed by the charity said they felt unsafe, with one child directly threatened by a man after an argument over a shared bathroom. Almost half said their children had witnessed incidents such as sexual offences, drug use and dealing.

One mother of three said: “One of the reasons we left was one of the residents trying to sell us crack cocaine.”

Most of the 25 families Shelter interviewed lived in one room; half said the children were sharing beds with parents or siblings and the family was sharing kitchen facilities with others. All but three said it was hard to find a safe place for their children to play. Three families had no cooking facilities and one reported sharing a cooker and fridge with 22 other people.

More than half had to share a bathroom or toilet with strangers, with 10 families sharing with seven or more other people; two-thirds had no table to eat on, and schoolchildren were finding it hard to do homework.

And their health is suffering: “It’s so hard to give him a balanced diet as it’s impossible to make proper meals here, let alone a Christmas dinner. He’s getting really pale and is so tired all the time. He gets so scared but it’s difficult when I’m scared myself. This is no place for a child to live,” said a mother in a Hounslow B&B.

“This shouldn’t be happening in 21st century Britain,” said Shelter’s chief executive, Campbell Robb, who described the charity’s findings as “shocking” and the conditions forced on families as “shameful”.

He said: “No child should be homeless, let alone 80,000. But tragically, with more people struggling to make ends meet and homelessness on the rise, we’re bracing ourselves for an increase in demand from families who desperately need our help.”

Housing minister Kris Hopkins couldn’t care less. “We’ve given councils nearly £1bn to tackle homelessness and to support people affected by the welfare reforms,” he sniffed.

“I am very clear that they should be fully able to meet their legal responsibility to house families in suitable accommodation.”

Let us be very clear on this: the problem is not that Tories like Hopkins don’t understand. This is exactly the result that they wanted; they just won’t acknowledge it because it is electorally damaging.

Look at the policies that created this problem: The bedroom tax; the ‘Pickles Poll Tax’, otherwise known as the Council Tax reduction scheme; the benefit cap that so many people in this country seem to support without understanding any of its implications.

Vox Political reported back in January what they would mean: “There will be a rise in rent and mortgage arrears… affordable housing will be less available and landlords less able or willing to rent to tenants on benefits… Private sector rental may become less attractive to landlords if tenants aren’t paying the rent. This will lead to a growth in homelessness. Councils have statutory duties and may see an increasing burden.”

But increases to the Discretionary Housing Payment fund have been entirely insignificant compared with the extra burden councils have faced. They received £150 million between them; Durham County Council had £883,000 and spent it all within eight weeks.

We have seen the start of the social cleansing predicted by this blog back in August 2012, when we noted that at least one council would use these measures to “clear out the poor and set up shop as a desirable residence for the rich”.

The housing bubble created by George Osborne with his ‘Help To Buy’ scheme will accelerate this process.

So don’t let a Tory tell you it’s nothing to do with them. They wanted this. In fact, 80,000 homeless children at Christmas is probably not enough for them.