Jeremy Corbyn

Disability News Service: Labour ‘on collision course with UN and EHRC over independent living’

The following article has been written by John Pring and appears on his excellent Disability News Service website which can be found by clicking on this link.

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The Labour party is on a “collision course” with the equality and human rights watchdog and the United Nations because of its failure to accept the need for a legal right to independent living, according to a national network of disabled people’s organisations (DPOs).

The Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance (ROFA) has called on Labour to join the TUC in backing its proposals for a new National Independent Living Support Service (NILSS) that would give disabled people crucial new rights to free support.

A meeting of ROFA members and supporters from across England agreed on Friday on their priorities for winning support for NILSS.

Among those priorities was to push Labour to include the plans in its next general election manifesto.

There was also “contempt” at the meeting for the Conservative-led government’s continuing failure to publish its own much-delayed plans for solving the adult social care funding crisis.

ROFA’s demands for a NILSS were first set out in January, in the Independent Living for the Future document, and backing for the plan appears to be growing.

On Friday, the Trades Union Congress passed a motion – proposed by Sean McGovern, co-chair of TUC’s disabled workers’ committee – that calls on the next Labour government to establish a NILSS.

The motion had been passed by TUC’s annual Disabled Workers’ Conference in May.

Such a service, running alongside the NHS, would provide a universal right to independent living, with support provided free at the point of need, funded by general taxation, managed by central government, and delivered locally in co-production with disabled people.

Similar motions have been passed by local Labour branches, with the hope that the proposals will be debated on the floor of the party’s annual conference in Brighton from 21 September.

And the day after Friday’s meeting, ROFA member Andrew Day passed Jeremy Corbyn a letter, when the Labour leader visited him during a visit to Norwich, in which he asked him to meet ROFA to discuss the NILSS proposals.

Mark Harrison, a ROFA member who helped draw up the strategy and took part in Friday’s meeting, said the disabled people’s movement was united behind NILSS.

He said the idea could be “transformational” if it was adopted by Labour as part of its general election manifesto.

But he said he did not believe that the party’s shadow social care minister, Barbara Keeley, had engaged with representative DPOs on social care and the right to independent living, as the party should have been doing because of principles laid out in article four of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Labour disputed this and insisted that Keeley had not refused to meet with RoFA, and “regularly consults with a range of stakeholders, including people with lived experience, on social care policy development”.

Harrison said Labour’s current policies on social care were “pathetic” and “neither transformational nor socialist”.

He said Labour was currently on a “collision course” with the UN committee on the rights of persons with disabilities, which has called for the UK to introduce a legal right to independent living, and the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which has also backed such a move.

Although Labour’s 2017 general election manifesto (PDF) promised to sign the UN convention into UK law, the party has since shied away from promising a legal right to independent living, which is offered by article 19 of the treaty.

Harrison said ROFA would hold the Labour party’s “feet to the fire” over independent living.

He said: “This could be a flagship commitment of a new Labour government coming to power.”

He also said there was “complete contempt” for the government at Friday’s meeting over its failure to publish its plans for social care, and for its own failure to engage with representative organisations of disabled people.

He said “momentum was building” behind the NILSS idea, and he added: “That was the good thing about Friday: the momentum is building up and people are really on it, determined that we are not going to let this one go.

“The Labour party should not be waiting. It should be engaging with us now.”

A Labour party spokesperson said: “The proposals fall across a range of government policy areas, from work and pensions and health and social care to justice.

“They will be considered carefully as part of Labour’s policy development process.”

She added: “Labour is committed to addressing the crisis in social care.

“Our plans for a National Care Service will provide dignity in older age, and independence and support for people with disabilities.

“Our plans will ensure that social care receives the funding it needs, at a time when Tory austerity has created the national crisis in social care.”

The Department of Health and Social Care had failed to comment by noon today (Thursday).

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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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

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EU Election Tweets #VoteLabour

Her are some of my favourite Tweets which show why we must #VoteLabour in the EU elections tomorrow.

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WLG Steering Committee Statement on Chris Williamson MP

You will no doubt have seen that Chris Williamson, the Labour MP for Derby North, has been suspended by the Labour party and had the whip withdrawn pending an investigation into his conduct following complaints, including from other Labour MPs. This relates to comments that he made at a Sheffield Momentum meeting about Labour’s approach to anti-Semitism and his booking of a room at the House of Commons for Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL), to enable them to show a film about the suspended Labour activist, Jackie Walker.

The initial announcement of an investigation into these matters was only later followed by the suspension and withdrawal of the whip, seemingly in response to demands from a number of prominent party figures, including the Deputy Leader, Tom Watson, and a letter from the Tribune Group of 38 Labour MPs, which includes the Welsh MPs, Chris Elmore, David Hanson, Stephen Kinnock, Anna McMorrin, Owen Smith and Jo Stevens.

There has been much discussion of this issue, within and beyond the Labour party, and the WLG Steering Committee felt it important to put our own position on the record, via the following statement:

The Welsh Labour Grassroots (WLG) Steering Committee is concerned by the suspension of Chris Williamson and by much of the public discussion of his case. We accept that the party needed to investigate the issues that gave rise to the complaint against him but we believe that the suspension and withdrawal of the whip was unfair and unnecessary and that much of the commentary by Labour politicians and media commentators misinterprets Chris Williamson’s comments and misrepresents his attitude towards anti-Semitism.

Chris Williamson has been accused of suggesting that Labour has apologised too readily to people in the Jewish community who may have experienced anti-Semitism. It seems clear to us, however, that this was not his intent; rather, he was seeking to argue that Labour politicians have often been too quick to accept questionable claims about the scale of the problem and ill-informed criticism of its handling of it, rather than accurately quantifying the incidence of reported cases* and acknowledging the party’s positive record in challenging racism, while admitting that more could still be done.

One may agree or disagree with this view, or feel that Chris Williamson should have taken greater care in the way he expressed it (as he himself appears to accept in his public apology) but it is surely well within the scope of legitimate debate. No significant Labour officer or elected representative has disputed that anti-Semitism is abhorrent or sought to deny that it exists within the Labour party. But to seek to close down any discussion about the prevalence of anti-Semitism or the best way of fighting it is to undermine Labour’s best traditions of healthy debate and to hamper efforts to root out prejudice and address the conditions that allow it to develop. The conduct of some commentators also risks creating a “hostile environment” in which anyone defending Palestinian rights and criticising the Israeli state fears being tarnished as “anti-Semitic”.

Chris Williamson has a long record of actively opposing racism and fascism in all their forms – indeed, a more impressive record in this respect than many of his detractors can claim. Like Jeremy Corbyn, he has distinguished himself by speaking his mind fearlessly on a range of issues, from Labour’s housing policy to the campaign to undermine the elected government of Venezuela. Unlike many other MPs, he has been a strong advocate of democratisation within the party and a loyal supporter of our elected Leader. 

We find the ‘trial by media’ to which Chris has been subjected deeply unedifying; those who object to his comments and actions are, of course, within their rights to submit formal complaints but to air their grievances so loudly and publicly can only undermine Labour at a time when we should be united in holding the Tory government to account and risks denying Chris Williamson a fair hearing.

We note that the Labour NEC decided some time ago to abandon the automatic use of administrative suspension pending the outcome of a disciplinary complaint, in all but the most serious cases (such as when the member in question poses some sort of ongoing threat to others). We see no justification for suspending Chris Williamson and call for his suspension to be ended and the whip restored.

WLG remains implacably opposed to anti-Semitism, along with all other forms of racism, such as Islamophobia, and bigotry and prejudice of any kind. We offer our unconditional solidarity to all those who encounter such hatred, regardless of whether we otherwise agree with them politically. We believe that all cases of anti-Semitic abuse should continue to be dealt with through the party’s disciplinary procedures and we applaud the steps taken under Jeremy Corbyn and Jennie Formby to implement the Chakrabarti recommendations, including the expansion of the NCC to deal with cases more quickly, as well as the efforts made to educate our members about the issue.  

We believe, however, that the tone of public discussion on this issue often militates against the kind of frank and serious discussion needed to develop effective solutions. The strident calls for punitive action against Chris Williamson are an unhealthy symptom of this problem and we believe he deserves our support in seeking a fair hearing.
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*Statistics published by the General Secretary reveal that, over the last ten months, complaints received have led to 453 members being investigated for anti-Semitism; it has been pointed out that this amounts to 1/12th of 1% of the total party membership.