Let freedom ring

My blogging has been a little hit and miss of late but there are big changes going on all the time.

Russian war planes. Is Putin the Anti-Christ? Syriza – will they won’t they?? Who’ll win what at the Oscars? Who killed that girl last year on that BBC show?

The big issues that drive us just keep on coming, so where do I start?

I guess Syriza, as I took a bit of a verbal beating around Christmas for daring to suggest that you can’t vote your way out of political system designed to serve and protect itself. The argument laid at my laptop screen was that the Greeks had a chance to vote out austerity by electing a socialist party, a vote made more important by the presence of far right elements such as the Golden Dawn. “You say there is no difference between Syriza and Golden Dawn? Then you are lost!”was their Obi-Wan Kenobi cry.

That is not quite what I said. I said that I did not believe that Syriza would have the ability to deliver what they promised, a reverse of the bailout programme, which has seen 25% youth unemployment and over 50% unemployment on the whole. Syriza were voted in on the belief that they would deliver the promises they made when they started the course 4 years ago. I believed this because ultimately, the men and women in suits that we vote on are not the ones who hold the cards, it is the faceless ones in corporations that do.

What we have witnessed in the build up to the recent Greek elections were a watering down of Syriza’s position. Instead of promising to tear up the austerity programme, they promised to renegotiate the bailout. One month on and the newly elected Greek Government have dipped their toes into the piranha tank by suggesting they could exit the agreement and the Euro but as the deadline loomed, they settled for an extension, with their home work to follow like a naughty school child late with an assignment. The early signs are this new, negotiated programme is full of measures that any self-respecting government would expect, such as dealing with tax evasion.

How can a victim negotiate with their assailant?

The Greeks rallied for real change. Thousands took to the streets to see this change take place, now Tsipras and Syriza have a duty to deliver, by any means necessary, what the people asked for. If they don’t get it, do not be surprised to see them back on the streets demanding another election.

Which was the crux of my point about the values of voting in our current political system. Voting is always held up as the pinnacle of democracy, what people have fought and died for generations and that by not voting, we discredit their struggle. I disagree.

Much of the mainstream media is pushing, like never before, to ensure people vote this May in the General Election 2015. Why? Sky are running their campaign for kids to stand up and be counted, movies flicker on our cinema screens debating this very topic, using historical and visceral images of men and women being beaten on bridges for daring to try to vote, all designed to shame us into voting this May. Where I disagree is that it is not the vote that changes things, but the struggle that comes before it. People taking direct and indirect actions to influence an issue, using civil disobedience, economic withdrawal and a variety of other techniques to achieve their goal but crucially by acting together. These are tactics that have proved successful throughout our history but lessons we have perhaps forgotten. The vote then comes as a way of placating us, to end the uprising and this is what the establishment fears the most; not our vote, but our strength, as a collective. This is why they work so hard to divide and rule us using the politics and language of fear and hatred.

Of the movie Selma, which I refer to in respect of movies raising the importance of voting, the movie touches on a bigger issue of what the point is in having the vote if you are unable to use it or make it count? The way our current democracy (and I would like a proper definition of what democracy really is?) works is that we have a popularity contest, we pick someone we like better (or hate less than the others) based on the image portrayed of them by our media and then wait to be told for 5 years what we may or may not be entitled to vote on. The rest of the time, the part-timers sit in one of their 9 bars or 13 restaurants, drinking tea, whilst the House of Commons sits largely empty as a debate on one of a thousand different issues that may or may not affect you directly rages on until a bell rings. Then they scurry around like cockroaches on a landfill when the lights come on, voting how their party whip tells them to. If they don’t, they are ejected from the party and end up facing discipline. No mandate. No accountability, not at least until the next popularity contest is called and what’s worse is that the majority of them LIKE it this way.

How can that be democracy? They get voted in and decide for you without clear mandates? Sounds like dictatorship to me. You can lobby and speak to them until you are blue in the face (I have done so) but it is all for nothing as they will do their own thing, or what their party whip tells them to, unless they have a conscience. They can lie, cheat, defraud and mislead with impunity and like victims of domestic abuse, we keep going back for more, hoping that things will get better because they want what’s best for us. By voting in the current political system we are only legitimising what they do to us because we have no real say on any of the decisions made.

But I digress, quite badly in fact but it’s late, I’m tired and wondering how long it will be until the pot shots start raining in because I hold a different view-point on how we achieve the same goals.

The point is that Syriza have a duty to the people who believed in them to do the things that they said they would and create a better world for them than the one being forced upon them by the economic terrorists at the ECB and IMF and at the moment they are failing to realise those ideals. Don’t take my word for it, read it from the horses lips as this 92-year-old on the front line of the battle against austerity says.

As a wise man once said, it’s not who they are underneath but what they DO that defines them. We are watching, we are waiting. Now let freedom ring.

99.WSPNB-BoE-sign

Democracy is hypocrisy, I am getting tired of saying it.

The problem with democracy is anything more than the faintest whisper of it and it is gone.

A recent Council meeting in Luton witnessed a shameful display, by a minority of Councillors, when local residents attended to oppose the plans for the closure of a series of libraries within the town that will disproportionately affect children, the elderly and the disabled as a result.

Stitched Panorama

The public gathered in the viewing arena and awaited their champions, Doreen Steinberg and Janice Jones, two ladies who between them secured over 10,000 signatures in less than a week from local residents who opposed the closure of a vital resource to their families. As a result of the size of their petition they had an entitlement to speak for 6 minutes on their petition and desire to keep the libraries open. To the councils shame they let only one of the ladies speak, Doreen, later claiming that she had used up the other ladies time too. They were apparently only to have 3 minutes each. Is the council that busy that they could not let a woman, who put considerably more effort (it would seem) in to consulting with the people these proposals directly affect, to have a few minutes to put her argument across? Apparently so.

Doreen spoke of democracy and the fact that the consultation process that resulted in the “lesser of two evils” being chosen by the culture department, was misleading at best and at worst a lie.  Having personally spoken to thousands of people, with families, who had heard nothing about the consultation process, Doreen laid the finger of blame at a council who seemed bereft of ideas and/or unwilling to be more creative in solving their problems; choosing instead to default to the lowest common denominator of cuts and closures.

It is easy politics for Labour led council’s to point the finger of blame at a Tory led government for budget cuts. Tory councillors then lay counter blame for their actions on the previous government.

The gallery sat and listened as a succession of Councillors laid blame and counter blame on who was responsible for the situation they find themselves in, at no time even looking to consider how they might come up with more imaginative ways to keep the libraries open. As civic leaders, their role should be to put their differences aside to show community cohesion and try to find a creative solution to the problem.  Their argument? that as Councillors they are not a protest group. If they do not push through the cuts then central government would remove them and do it anyway.

This is utter rubbish. They are elected to be the people’s representatives and their voice on any number of issues. If you stand for what yo believe then that is the risk you take, the public back lash for an act of dictatorial aggression such as that would galvanise communities surely?

Whilst Doreen gave her speech I personally counted (at one point) 7 Councillors either playing on their phones, whether it be facebook, twitter, instagram or some other disctraction, whilst others read the next thing on their agendas. A disgrace considering the way Doreen had conducted and articulated herself. The council also tried to distance themselves from responsibility for the closures by saying that the responsibility for running the libraries now falls to a culture group (effectively a charity) and that they are the people we should be speaking too. What madness is this? Council employed workers, in council run, owned or leased buildings, being run by an external firm? Call us cynical but sounds like an outsourcing and steps towards selling off these services to private firms. Luton Culture asked for ideas on how to make the libraries profitable but they are not there to make money, they are there to provide a service to the community, a fact that seems to have been lost by politicians since the 1980’s!

bookkkkk

When the dust had settled and the vote was taken it was unanimous, serving once again to prove that democracy is hypocrisy. The public gallery exploded into calls of “book burners” and “shame”.

The decision taken seemed to be an act of cowardice, a flat refusal to campaign against cuts and just apply Tory ideology in the hope it convinces people to vote differently at the next election. This is an abdication of responsibility and in the meantime local communities have to suffer and hope that the right-wing media spin of scapegoating over immigration and the EU does not convince the people to vote for a Tory majority at the next election.

Below is the speech Janice should have been allowed to make, Janice collected the first 1000 signatures but was not allowed to speak. This is what she had to say:

Asda allowed us 8 days to ask people to sign our petition we collected over 11,000 signatures. Local community support of Hendersons , Wigmore Arms, and Asda was amazing.

Luton people from young to old want to keep the libraries open. They are the hub of the community and an essential service both educationally and economically. Instead of closing them down we should be looking to invest in our future, with new technology and bringing fresh ideas into the 21st century.

May I ask why the libraries consultation process never considered Wigmore Hall as an alternative site for Wigmore Library as it is a council owned building which has been vacant for at least 5 years and has plenty of parking and is accessible by bus. It is just a few hundred yards from the existing library.

Wigmore is a stragetic library as it covers 72,000 residents and Stopsley is a community library designed to serve the village. If Wigmore were to close the Council has no viable alternative for this very large area.

Luton has been named and shamed as the second worst town to live in, but we can turn that around and make this town great, by not losing our libraries and amenities like lots of other towns. The Charitable trust called Luton Culture was set up in 2008 to run the events, museums and libraries by using gift aid from London Luton airports profits. A great idea and one we can use to sponsor the libraries using large companies in Luton. I.e. Asda, various airlines at the airport, Luton Hoo and offices at Capability Green, to name a few.

Maggie Appleton, CEO  of the Culture Trust, requested ideas on how to make the library profitable.

One suggestion would be to site a Post Office inside Wigmore Library. This would generate income but also encourage all ages into the library.

Another idea would be to charge a nominal fee for membership annually. Most people said they would not mind paying. Also has additional funding been made available?

Libraries are not a thing of the past, they are the way forward and with new technology we can make them work for us, by improved communications and marketing. Finding out what products, services people want through market research and grab and go questionnaires for customer’s issues.

We can turn Luton round by revolutionising peoples way of thinking by working together as a community and not letting it turn into a ghost town, losing all its amenities, culture and heritage. Luton has a really good Airport, fantastic schools, colleges, Universities; we have a multi-cultural race of people who shape Luton into a wealth of vibrant histories, music and diversity.

Our Luton Carnival brings people of all religions, wealth and backgrounds together to celebrate what Luton is all about, being proud to live and work and bring up our future generations in a thriving town. We need to show other towns and cities what we can achieve through careful planning and marketing strategies. Yes it’s a challenge, but it’s one that’s worth its weight in gold, and knowledge is just that.

 

Janice Jones                                                      9.9.2013