Brexit

Welsh Labour Will Campaign to Remain

This morning I received an email from Mark Drakeford, the First Minister of Wales, outlining his party’s approach to the Brexit shenanigans. I thought I would share this below.

I have lots going on at the moment, as I am still waiting on my WILG assessment and am in the midst of a staffing crisis. My stress levels are through the roof, and I have decided not to attend the first session of the counselling course that I was due to begin tonight. However, I do not live in a bubble and I realise that this Brexit palaver needs to be put to bed as soon as possible, so that politicians can get to work on the multiple problems that have been ignored in the face of all this Euro nonsense.

I am not sure what exactly is my position on the Brexit debate. I just want to see the back to it all, but believe in Mark Drakeford and  his political acumen. Therefore, I am sharing his opinions.

*** 

Dear Nathan,

Given the dramatic and worrying events in Westminster recently, I thought this would be a good time to write to you personally to set out the Welsh Labour Party’s position on Brexit.

Welsh Labour believes that Wales’ best interests will only be served by remaining in the European Union.

We campaigned for a remain vote in the 2016 referendum and nothing we have seen or learned in the three years’ since has changed our minds.

Any type of Brexit – even the softest possible – will cause potentially irreparable damage to Wales and its economy. This is because Wales is heavily dependent on manufacturing and agri-food and 60% of our exports go straight to the EU.

We will support all the efforts our colleagues in Westminster are taking to prevent the no deal Brexit, which the Prime Minister and the Tory government is hell-bent on pursuing.

Labour has made an unequivocal commitment to put the Brexit decision back to the people.

In that referendum, we, as Welsh Labour, must and will campaign to remain in the EU.

Yours in solidarity,
Mark Drakeford AM
Welsh Labour Leader and First Minister

The Final Furlong #SaveWILG

I am up to my neck in negotiations with my local authority over emergency payments for my depleted Direct Payments account. It has taken a beating over the past six months, as I have been using it to fund the 24/7 support that I so desperately need. I had saved quite a sum to be used in such a situation – it was always going to happen, due to the fact that I live with a progressive disability and had not been fully reassessed since 2010.

I am pleased to report that, having met with the Head of Adult Social Care, WCBC have agreed to make the relevant payments to ensure that I can continue to receive the support I need, at least until the end of my forthcoming WILG reassessment.

There is one thing that I would like to make clear to WCBC and all local authorities. One of the meetings I recently had with WCBC, through up the question of where the additional funds that I am now in desperate need of, would come from? I was shocked and disappointed that WCBC and a number of other local authorities, do not seem to grasp the fact that the #SaveWILG campaign that I led, resulted in the Welsh Government agreeing to fund any extra costs incurred. This was clearly outlined in a written statement on the future of WILG payments, made by the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services, Julie Morgan on the 18th of July:

I would remind Members that the cost of these independent care assessments, and any additional support for people that might be identified from them, will be met by the Welsh Government. This is so that there can be no question of changes being made to people’s care and support as a cost cutting measure. The under-pinning principle of my approach is to ensure that outcomes reached are consistent with supporting people’s agreed well-being outcomes.

It is important that all local authorities realise that Ministers have agreed to fund any increased care costs that may arise from the outcome of an independent assessment.

Even though the #SaveWILG campaign has been extremely critical of local authorities in Wales over the past four years when dealing with WILG recipients, we have actually assisted cash-strapped councils by reducing the amount they are expected to pay to support disabled people with high support needs across Wales.

WILG recipients and their supporters need to remember this fact, and hammer it home when confronted by adult social care professionals who do not keep up with the news, or realise just what an impact the #SaveWILG campaign has had. The Welsh Government has actually done something pretty special and deserve all the credit in the world. They have listened to our fears, read the evidence we collected and acted decisively. Sadly, there is little room for any positive news in the media at the moment, as we are all obsessed with the actions of a Conservative Muppet and the mess he is making of the BREXIT debacle.

All we need to do now, is remind all local authorities of the changes that have been introduced…

WALESPOSTCARDFRONT001

 

Corbyn Issues Brexit Update #JC4PM

The People Must Make the Final Decision on Brexit

I am sharing the following email that I received as a Labour Party member, from our First Minister, Mark Drakeford. Throughout the email, Drakeford puts forward views that are necessary to get us out of the impossible situation that has been created by the Tories in Westminster.

***

Dear Nathan,

I know that over the past few days you will have seen many reports in the press around Brexit and our Welsh Labour Government’s view on what should happen next. And I wanted to write to you directly to explain how our position has evolved.

Since 2016, when Wales voted – narrowly – to leave the European Union, the Welsh Government has argued for a form of Brexit which would, as far as possible, protect Welsh jobs and the Welsh economy. Our Labour colleagues in Westminster have done the same – most recently in negotiations with the UK Tory Government.

However, the collapse of the talks between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn and the current election for a new leader of the Conservative Party changes all that. The Tory leadership race is rapidly becoming a contest between harder and harder forms of Brexit – hugely increasing the very real danger of a no-deal Brexit that would be catastrophic for our nation. Recognising that, means we have to re-think how we approach Brexit in Wales. I believe the chance to do the sort of deal I have always advocated – a deal that would protect Welsh jobs and the Welsh economy – is now at an end. That is why my view, and the view of the Welsh Labour Government, is that going back to the people and asking them for their verdict is the best way forward. The final decision on Brexit must now be made by the public in a referendum. And, for the avoidance of any doubt, a Welsh Labour Government would campaign in such a vote for Wales to remain in the EU.

I am delighted that following last week’s election, Jackie Jones will sit in the European Parliament, and I know she will be a brilliant Welsh Labour MEP. But there is no hiding the fact that last week’s results were clearly deeply disappointing for our Party. Over the coming weeks and months, I want to take every opportunity to get out across Wales and hear from as many of you as possible. I know that many of you have passionate, differing, and sincerely held views, and I believe that the diversity of our membership is a strength, not a weakness. We are – and always have been – a broad church, but we are united by our belief in social justice and the firm conviction that we achieve more together than we do alone. In these turbulent and polarised times, it is more important than ever to remember that and act accordingly.

Best wishes,
Mark Drakeford
Welsh Labour Leader and First Minister

Great Tastes of America: The Mississippi Stack

DISCLAIMER: The following blog is written totally independently from McDonald’s CorporationGreat Tastes of America is a registered trademark and I am not associated with the product line in any way. I am not seeking to promote or disparage the American fast food giant in any way, shape or form. All opinions expressed below are personal to me and my Socialist background. I should add that anything written on these blogs should be taken with a pinch of salt – sachets available from McDonald’s counters. 

In the second of a new series, I will be eating and reviewing the Great Tastes of America range of burgers from popular fast food chain, McDonald’s.

I am unhappy about this for a number of reasons – from calories to Capitalism – but it is a good writing mechanism for me to hang my anger at modern society upon. I will be forcing fast food meals down my fat face for the next 12 weeks (one every fortnight) while discussing everything that I find unappetising about the modern world we live in.

***

The Mississippi Stack is made up of two 100% British and Irish beef burgers with bacon, mild cheddar, tomato and onion relish, rich and sticky BBQ sauce, red onion and lettuce in a toasted ciabatta.

Mississipi Stack

I demolished the Mississippi Stack in the car at the side of the road on my way to the pub to watch Newport County v Tranmere Rovers in the League Two Play-off Final. This was a contest between two teams that most Wrexham fans – myself included – have reason to dislike. Both teams have recently won promotion from the National League while Wrexham have proved hapless also-rans who seem destined to a future of non-league football.

With feelings of justified bitterness and a hint of jealousy, I tucked in to my fortnightly taste of America that did little to lift my spirits. It was devoid of the sharp pickle that had made the New York Stack so enjoyable. Instead, there was a minimal layer of  onion relish and a BBQ sauce that proved slightly spicy, but ultimately underwhelming. There was just not enough of the BBQ sauce and the outer edges of the slimline burgers were dry, uninspiring and tasteless.

If I had been in a better mood before indulging in this burger, my review may have been more positive but I was gripped  with envy – something that was not helped by former Wrexham forward, Connor Jennings, scoring the winning goal for Tranmere Rovers deep into extra-time. If only he had stayed loyal to the Red Dragons and not been tempted to our Scouse rivals by the smell of filthy lucre.

The hunger pains are still biting as I type whilst generally irritated and dismayed at all around me. Satisfaction will never be found in the selfish modern world that we are stuck in…

***

This long bank holiday weekend is one to forget. The results of the EU Elections have been pouring in and suggest worrying times ahead with the rise of right-wing ignorance across the continent.

No where was this more obvious than in the UK with the supposed rise of the Brexit Party and typically biased reporting by the BBC who merely paint a picture to support the prevailing status quo. This was summed up in the following tweet by Timothy Garton Ash (@fromTGA):

I am also sharing a Facebook post from my friend and comrade Adam Samuels, who has sensibly reflected on the election results and made the following observations:

Re the Euro elections from a Labour POV… So far, what this says to me is that people are even more entrenched in their views. The country is even more split if that were possible. People are pig-headed and not willing to compromise. It’s f**k the other side. There is no good solution. We should also remember this is not a General Election. It was also PR and not FPTP. I am saying of course we should listen and respect the comments and votes, but we must get all the information in first and then digest everything. No knee jerk reactions. No bold statements of “If Labour don’t do XYZ I am leaving, not campaigning, not voting etc”.

We take stock and reason things out. There are no easy answers, no matter what extreme Leavers and Remainers will tell us. The two things we must never forget, and we must remind emotional, passionate, good comrades is that we need our Manifesto put into practice. But, and we must never underestimate this, we need someone strong enough to take the crap and attacks to allow those policies to get through. Of course, that is Jeremy Corbyn. 

This story will continue to develop and expand as the hours pass. This is a truly explosive time to be involved in politics and it is taking all of our energy and resources to continue the good fight. However, no one should be in any doubt that we will all continue pushing for justice for the many, not the few while ensuring everyone is protected in a fair and equal society.

The fight goes on…

We need a General Election

Following the departure date set by Theresa May on Friday, Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn was quick out of the blocks in rightly calling for a General Election.

***

Dear Nathan, 

The Prime Minister is right to have resigned. She has now accepted what the country has known for months: she cannot govern, and nor can her divided and disintegrating party. 
The burning injustices she promised to tackle three years ago are even starker today.

The Conservative Party has utterly failed the country over Brexit and is unable to improve people’s lives or deal with their most pressing needs.

Parliament is deadlocked and the Conservatives offer no solutions to the other major challenges facing our country.

The last thing the country needs is weeks of more Conservative infighting followed by yet another unelected Prime Minister.

Whoever becomes the new Conservative Leader must let the people decide our country’s future, through an immediate general election.

Signed, Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Labour Party

Jeremy Corbyn
Leader of the Labour Party

23231405_10154906898951669_4517009228304192343_n

Persons with Disabilities: 10 reasons to vote in the European elections

The following article has been written by the European Disability Forum and can be read via PDF by clicking here.

***

“The EU? They are only bureaucrats. Why should I vote for them?” A question (statement?) that we are used to hearing again and again.

It is not true. The EU has a big impact in the lives of persons with disabilities. It has several initiatives that have directly improved, or that have led EU countries to improve, the lives of persons with disabilities.

The next elections for the European Parliament will take place 23-26 May (depending on the country). Here are ten reasons on why you should go and vote (if you are not one of the 800,000 citizens currently unable to vote due to discriminatory laws):

1. Because the EU fights for accessibility

EU institutions have been working hard to assure that both the physical and virtual world are more accessible for persons with disabilities. Public transport and public websites, among others, have become more accessible (for example, it obliges airports to provide assistance to persons with disabilities. It also obliges EU countries to make all new train stations accessible). The EU also recently agreed on a law that will make many products and services more accessible to us!

These laws, some of which then need to be put by EU counties into their national laws, have not only improved accessibility throughout the EU but also inspired some countries to go the extra mile.

Important to know: The laws the EU passes are “minimum standards”. This means that (unlike some people think) an EU law cannot reduce the rights you already have. For example, the EU obliges countries to make all new and refurbished train stations accessible, but of course Member States can also do more than that and include old stations in the law.

1.jpg
2. Because the EU protects you at work

In 2000, the EU passed a law that prohibits discrimination at work. This means that we are protected against discrimination when we work or have work-related training. It also means that employers need to adapt the work place to employees with disabilities.

While the situation is far from perfect, it is because of this law that you can go to court or ask the support of an anti-discrimination institution if, for example, you were discriminated when applying for a job, when you are fired from your job or when your employer refuses to grant you the adaptions needed to do your work.

3. Because EU money supports the inclusion of persons with disabilities

EU money helped Selina find her dream job in Austria. EU money funded Nicolas participation in a project between France and Spain, on the right to vote for persons with disabilities. It supports Greek persons with disabilities in living independently. It builds hospitals in Portugal. It is used to renovate houses and make them more accessible. Many Europeans are unknowingly supported by EU funds. In fact, despite their complaints, even the richest countries rely on EU money to support persons with fewer opportunities and at risk of exclusion. .

4. Because you can use your parking card in all EU countries

If you have a disability, you might be entitled to the EU parking card. This parking card is recognised in all EU countries and allows you to park in reserved spots all throughout the EU. This means that if you decide to travel or live in another EU country, you don’t need to apply for a disability parking card time and time again! A true example of “bureaucrats” reducing bureaucracy.

You can get your parking card from the relevant authority in the country you live in.

5. Because you can live in another country and still receive (some) social security benefits.

If you are an EU citizen, you can move to another EU country and still be entitle some social security benefits. For example, you can move to another EU country and keep your original old age pension. For disability benefits, it’s more complicated: you are entitled to disability allowances on the same level as a national of that country, but you have to apply for them and pass a new disability assessment process.

This is because, while the EU coordinates social security systems, some EU countries are still not totally on board: for example, a few weeks ago they denied new rules that would provide a more integrated system! This is why you need to vote and to vote for politicians that care about freedom of movement for persons with disabilities!

The positive impact of this assurance can sadly be seen by the negative impact that losing it brings: EU citizens living in the UK are in a limbo, not sure if they can receive their contributions after Brexit.

6. Because you can go to the hospital in another EU country

If you have an accident or are ill when visiting another EU country, you can go to the hospital or doctor under the same conditions as a national from that country, thanks to the European Health Insurance Card. That way, you don’t have to cut your travel short due to unaffordable health costs.

Attention: the Card cannot be used for planned treatment abroad.

7. Because of the EU Disability Card

Right now, if you visit another EU country, your disability documents may not be recognized due to a number of practical reasons (different formats, languages, assessment of what constitutes disability). The EU Disability Card, a project that is ongoing in 8 EU countries, will avoid all this by creating a card in the same format everywhere. This means that you can have access to discounted cultural and leisure services: museum, sports facilities, transport, etc.

While the card only exists in 8 EU countries, you can convince the EU to extend it to all the countries. How? By voting in May!

2.jpg
8. Because you can volunteer and/or study abroad – and get support for it.

The well-known ERASMUS+ programme, provides financial support to students that want to spend a semester or year in another EU country. This programme considers the extra needs of persons with disabilities: we are entitled to financial support to cover extra costs, such as the need for personal assistance or accessible housing.

The European Solidarity Corps is a programme that financially supports volunteering opportunities in another EU country.

9. Because 800,000 people want to vote but can’t

If all the above reasons didn’t convince you, maybe this one will: 800,000 Europeans cannot vote due to discriminatory laws that exclude them because of their disability. We need your vote to help change this.

3.jpg
10. Because we can fight better together

Can things improve? Definitely!

The EU can, and should, have more accessibility legislation. It can, and should, channel more funding for persons with disabilities. It can, and should, approve laws that protect us from discrimination in all areas of our life. This is why we need you to go out and vote! By voting, you are telling politicians that you want a Europe that cares about us, and that they should do more to achieve it.

Who to vote for?

We will not say “vote for this or that party”. What you can do is check the candidates that signed a commitment to disability. You can contact them and let them know that you will vote for them (also) because of that. If your favourite candidate is not on the list, easy: contact them and tell them to sign the pledge.

How to vote?

You can check European Parliament’s guide on how to vote in your country. To see for your country, selected your countries main language in the button on the top right of the website.