Freedom to speech, preach and disagree

The thing about free speech is that it comes with opinions and it is a fact that everybody has one and expresses it through that basic human right.

Orwell freedom is slavery

People like to point to poppy burning, hate speech and ‘no white areas’ and, more recently, the sudden rise of ISIS as fundamental breaches and dangers of our way of life and slur on the sacrifice made by so many over two wars and the countless others fought in the past 100 years. The same people do not however, extend that reasoning to the overt and blatant erosion of our rights to privacy and free speech through legislation. Legislation that has been passed in the past decade as a result of the supposed war on terror (exacerbated by the religious doctrines and foreign policy of successive governments, both sides of the Atlantic) such as Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (TPIM), Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill (DRIP), Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act (USA PATRIOT ACT), Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), and the Crime and Anti Social Behaviour Bills have done far greater damage to the pillars and belief we entrust into our freedom, right to assembly, right to speak and express our views etc, but has gone largely unnoticed with the majority remaining silent. They cite things such as ‘I have nothing to hide, so why not’ as the reason that they allow our governments to continue to unravel the fabric of our existence under our very noses and these liberties float away to the sounds of rapturous applause in the Houses of Scoundrels. Charlie Brooker wrote an excellent article in the Guardian yesterday in his usual satirical nature.

In an unsurprising, but no less despicable move, the latest piece of legislation to be rushed through in the UK pulling the carpet from under us (DRIP) was pushed through whilst committed and caring people were involved in the recent public sector strike. Not unlike Obama rushing though RIPA on New Years Eve whilst the rest of the US partied the night away. A piece of legislation agreed and ratified by all three party leaders, whilst the public sector was on strike and many rallies and marches around the UK were being addressed by Labour MP’s, councillors or perspective or otherwise, beg-friending us to vote for them in 2015 as if they will offer us any real alternative to what we already have. According to the record, only 51 MP’s voted against the bill, with 438 voting in favour. A breakdown can be found here.

Many people like to call for the banning of marches, rallies, and certain types of speech, and others recently have asked me whether or not some individuals should refrain from posting on social media certain views for the fear of offending someone or other, but for me this is setting dangerous precedents. If we ban one type of speech over another, who is left to make the call what is acceptable over the other, when we have already seen a heinous list of legislation passed that has already clamped down on our rights, whether we realise yet or not? what causes offence is subjective from one individual to another and if we believe in the right to freedom of speech and expression, we have to take it warts and all. If however we do not like certain speech that is being expressed we have choices (supposedly) and options at our disposal, one answer is to have a better argument, not to report or arbitrarily ban what you don’t like to hear. If it offends you that much your choices are; un-friend, mute, ignore, exclude those individuals talking shit you don’t like and otherwise remove them from your social circle, OR you can face up and engage in a debate, exchanging opinions and views until you either have a sea change from one side or the other in opinions, or you agree to disagree.

If neither of those options work for you, you could always try North Korea.



Anti human spikes: Humans, the great pest.

A row has erupted this week after images of floor spikes outside Southwark housing development spread across social media sites. Housing developers and corporations started the deployment of anti-human spikes in an effort to deter homeless people from sleeping in their doorways.

Floor spikes

Not only do homeless people (who are victims of a wide-ranging list of social ills) have to deal with inner demons and the general ill feelings towards them by the wider society, they now have to face the obvious fact that sections of our society now view them as pests, as vermin, no different to a pigeon or any other unwanted animal. The news has spread quickly through the social media, with local residents going to check for themselves whether or not these reports are accurate. Russia Today has done a good piece collating some of the many comments on this latest phenomena.

The real question is who, how and why did this come to be seen as a good idea for developing and implementing and why did builders complete the work? Time and again I have referenced the fact that ‘following orders’ has been ruled as being unjustifiable. Men and women of good concise cannot and must not blindly follow orders. Every law and policy instigated by our governments and employers are set only to deal with symptoms and do nothing to address root causes of issues. I cannot really begin to articulate the scope of my disdain for these anti-human devices, but would like to think that it is something that is shared by the majority and not the minority. The way our system is currently set up, defaults and bankruptcy are built into it as a matter of course and, with the continuous bombardment and controlled demolition of the welfare state, eviction and homeless are now a large feature too.

Bench ahd

Anti human devices are not a new craze by any means, anyone who has missed their spot on a park bench and ended up with a handle jammed in their rectum will attest to that, but the spikes being used by billion pound corporations represent a shift in the way in which we are viewed as people. This situation is rife across corporations and political parties on both sides of the political spectrum. We should be asking ourselves why, in the 21st century as the 6th richest nation in the world, do we have people sleeping rough, when we have over 600,000 empty houses according to Homes from Empty Homes statistics from 2013? We should be asking why 3.5 million children in the UK face being in ‘absolute poverty’ by the year 2020? This is a figure that changes repeatedly in the mainstream media according to the government spin of the day, it is almost reminiscent of George Orwell’s classic 1984, whereby news is edited and re-edited to fit the argument that day.

Screen Shot 2014-06-09 at 14.02.02

There are no official figures of course for the number of homeless people in the UK because they are not able to be officially recorded, but it would not be too much a stretch to presume that the number is below that of the number of empty premises we have, including industrial units, throughout the country. Perhaps a solution to the ‘blight’ of homeless people on the door fronts of Tesco etc could be for them to use some of those billion pounds of profit that they earn every year from the public being put to use on building shelters for these people to go and providing them with treatment and rehabilitation, rather than invest in anti-human devices? The Customer Care department for Tesco contacted me on a social media platform to say that the anti homeless spikes were being used to deter people from sitting, smoking and drinking outside their premises and to prevent them from intimidating their customers as they entered. Surely that is what the security they employ and the local police service is for? Similarly, what is to deter theses ‘vagrants’ from doing the same whilst standing?

I’m calling bullshit on the official stories for why these anti human devices are springing up, the simple matter is that we are being labelled as vermin and treated as such. A great British Value.



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!


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