Monthly Archives: July 2015

France wants to outlaw discrimination against the poor – is that so ridiculous?

I like this idea, but i don’t think we will be seeing a UK version anytime soon.


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “France wants to outlaw discrimination against the poor – is that so ridiculous?” was written by Frances Ryan, for theguardian.com on Monday 27th July 2015 17.03 UTC

In France it could soon be illegal to discriminate against people in poverty. Under proposed legislation – already approved by the senate and likely to be passed by the chamber of deputies – it would be an offence in France to “insult the poor” or to refuse them jobs, healthcare or housing.

Similar laws banning discrimination on the grounds of social and economic origin already exist in Belgium and Bolivia, but the French version is said to be the most far-reaching. Anyone found guilty of discrimination against those suffering from “vulnerability resulting from an apparent or known economic situation” would face a maximum sentence of three years in prison and a fine of €45,000 (£32,000).

It is easy to judge the proposed French law as showing the worst excesses of the state, or to bemoan the practicalities of how difficult it could be to implement. But most of us are content to outlaw discrimination on the grounds of race, religion, or sex. Is it so ridiculous to add poverty to that list? And if it does feel ridiculous, why is that?

Whether it’s the discrimination of people in poverty or how government should respond to it, this is not a problem just for other countries. “People think that because we are poor, we must be stupid,” Oréane Chapelle, an unemployed 31-year-old from Nancy, eastern France, told Le Nouvel Observateur. Micheline Adobati, 58, her neighbour, who is a single mother with no job and five children, said: “I can’t stand social workers who tell me that they’re going to teach me how to have a weekly budget.” One study reported by The Times found that 9% of GPs, 32% of dentists and 33% of opticians in Paris refused to treat benefit claimants who lacked private medical insurance. Doctors say they are “reluctant to take on such patients for fear that they will not get paid”.

Does any of this sound familiar? These are attitudes – and even outright discrimination – that have been growing in Britain for some time. You can hear it in stories about local authorities monitoring how much people drink or smoke before awarding emergency housing payments. Or when politicians respond to a national food bank crisis by saying the poor are going hungry because they don’t know how to cook. It is there in the fact that it’s now all too common for landlords to refuse to rent flats to people on benefits. Britain is front and centre of its own discrimination of the poor – whether that’s low-income workers, benefit claimants, or the recurring myth that these are two separate species.

Economic inequality cannot survive without cultural prejudice. The media and political rhetoric surrounding the new round of cuts – from the benefit cap to child tax credits – shows this well enough. Benefit claimants “slouch” on handouts as hardworking taxpayers toil away to pay for them. Families on benefits should reproduce – or “breed” – as little as possible. Benefit sanctions – a system in such dire straits that Iain Duncan Smith’s own advisers have warned that it needs to be reviewed – are based on the very premise that the feckless poor need an incentive to get themselves out of poverty.

It is reflective of the success of the demonisation of people on low incomes or benefits that discrimination against these people could be seen as less damning than when it happens to other groups. Equally, to believe that “the poor” do not deserve protection from such prejudice buys into the myth favoured by our own government: poverty is a personal choice that the individual deserves to be punished for.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Brownstock

Played at a festival called Brownstock on Sunday July 12.

Wearing my Delta Ladies Hat.
Its in Essex at a place called Stow Maries. Just around the corner from Woodham Ferrers. Quite a big do but our little corner was basically in the bar. The Slippery Saddle Saloon…. I shall say no more  😉 A bit of dancing about ensued.

Good fun and an enthusiastic and varied audience. plenty of compliments about the band too. No beer on this occasion though.

It was a 90 minute slot but went quickly though.

The weather behaved though as we were indoors it would not have been a huge problem.

I Felt a bit deflated coming home afterwards though. For some indefinable reason I find myself increasingly ill at ease at the moment. Wherever I am I want to be somewhere else. It definitely feels like time to get out of London now, but I could well be bored anywhere really I suppose.

Yesterday I went and looked at my old office building (up near Lambeth bridge on the Westminster side), and even that is being turned into luxury apartments. Sometimes you feel your past evaporating. I am missing the tranquility of rural France though, I felt at ease, but now I feel like I have an itch that I can’t scratch.

There are limits to our empathy – and George Osborne knows it

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “There are limits to our empathy – and George Osborne knows it” was written by Jonathan Freedland, for The Guardian on Friday 10th July 2015 18.08 UTC

Perhaps it’s unwise to admit it, but one of the challenges during a budget speech is to stop your mind from wandering. Even an address of astonishing political audacity – as George Osborne’s was – has its longueurs, its moments when the stats are coming in such a blizzard, the borrowing projections merging with the annual growth percentages, that the brain, briefly blinded, looks elsewhere.

On Wednesday, mine wandered to Philadelphia. Not the city itself, but rather the Republican national convention held there in 2000. They gathered to anoint George W Bush as their nominee and laid on a spectacle that had one striking feature. Though only 4% of the delegates in the hall were black, one headline speaker after another was either African-American or from some other identifiable minority.

Primetime slots were given to Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, obviously, but the three co-chairs also happened to be a black Oklahoman, a Latino Texan and a white single mother. They found room for a gay congressman, while music came from Harold Melvin and Chaka Khan (African-American) with a cameo from Jon Secada (Cuban).

The whole effect was so brazen, it was almost comic. (One reporter likened the extravaganza to the Black and White Minstrel Show.) But the political logic was clear. The Republicans didn’t expect huge swaths of black American voters to end their historic allegiance to the Democrats and join them. They knew their prospects among Latino and gay Americans were limited. But those groups were not the target audience.

What Bush wanted to do was reassure white, suburban, swing, or floating, voters – especially women – that the Republicans had lost their harsh edge. That they were no longer so mean-spirited that a vote for them made you a bad person. The diverse faces on show at Philadelphia were there to salve the consciences of white soccer moms hesitating before backing Bush.

Which might explain why the memory of it returned on Wednesday. For a similar dynamic was at work. Who was Osborne appealing to with his announcement of a “national living wage”? He knows that precious few of Britain’s lowest-paid workers are set to rally to the Tory banner any time soon.

No, the voters Osborne wanted to reach are those for whom the Conservative brand is still tainted, those who may be doing quite well themselves, but who still associate the Tories with selfishness and even a callous disregard for the poor. Osborne was making a long-term bid for those votes. He knows they already trust him to have a cool head. Now he wants them to believe he has a warm heart.

This calculus is not new. It underpinned the modernisation project on which Osborne and David Cameron embarked a decade ago. When 2005-era Cameron spoke of “compassionate Conservatism” it was not the poor he was wooing. He wanted the votes of those who care about the poor, or more accurately those who don’t like to think they’re the sort of person who doesn’t care.

If that sounds cynical, that’s only partly because – to quote the Resolution Foundation, the group name-checked by Osborne when he announced the policy – the “national living wage” is a misnomer. Now that tax credits are to be taken away, you couldn’t actually live on it. It’s simply a welcome boost to, and relabelling of, the regular minimum wage. With unassailable chutzpah, Osborne has co-opted a halo brand that is not his – the living wage – in the hope that some of its glow will shine on him.

There is a deeper reason for scepticism. Osborne’s generosity was very carefully rationed. His judgment on who should be helped was not based not so much on need as political value. At its most obvious, there was the now-familiar bias against the young, who don’t vote, in favour of the old, who do. But this is about more than just voting blocs. Running through the chancellor’s decisions was a judgment about who the public will deem deserving and who undeserving.

Privately, the prime minister says pensioners have to be protected because they cannot change their circumstances. Which implies that the 20-year-old who will continue to work on the existing, miserly minimum wage, and is soon to be denied housing benefit and the possibility of a maintenance grant for study, is master of all he surveys, and only in his current situation because he has chosen not to change it.

It’s not important whether Cameron or Osborne truly believe this. What matters is their assumption that the voters believe it. They are gambling that Britons have empathy for pensioners and underpaid over-25s, but little for the young, for those on incapacity benefit, or on a low income with more than two children and for those who work in the public sector – all of whom were hit hard by the budget.

The cynical person here is Osborne himself. He is making a judgment about the limits of sympathy the majority of the electorate have for those falling behind. He has seen the shift in public mores, from the Cathy Come Home era of half a century ago to the Benefits Street culture of today, in which the poor are just as likely to induce anger as compassion.

And what compassion there is, Osborne has learned not to take too seriously. He doubtless remembers those 80s opinion polls which for years showed Britons insisting they regarded mass unemployment – the issue then championed by Labour – as the prime challenge facing the country, only for those same voters to re-elect Margaret Thatcher again and again.

Osborne has surely concluded that you need to do just enough to show you care – and then you can get away with plenty. Witness the inheritance tax giveaway that will take nearly £1bn a year out of the public purse by 2020 and which hands the children of those with assets a big slab of untaxed, unearned income.

In the supermarket trolley of Osborne’s budget were stashed a variety of such luxury treats, but he concealed them by putting a conspicuously organic, free range item – his “living wage” plan – on top.

Labour should be watching and learning. It would be a mistake to conclude the British public is uncaring. But nor can Labour make its pitch to the electorate on empathy alone. Voting is not an act of charity, but of self-interest – even if that self-interest includes the kind of society you want to live in. Voters want to know they can trust you to run the economy – and if you can be kind to the less fortunate, the deserving ones at least, then that’s a very pleasant bonus. But it’s that way around – and George Osborne knows it.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

France part 2

All things come to an end and its time to go home. We decided to stop over night at Le mans again, this time in a slightly different place.
Reports of the disruption with the ferries and the tunnel was giving us some food for thought though. On tuesday we left the gite and were making good time until we were about 14k from Le Mans. I had slowed down to about 115 KPH as we were getting near to our exit, when I heard that grinding noise. The front tyre had gone completely flat. Quite annoying as I had had 4 new tyres about 2 months before.

Near Le Mans

Fortunately the Gendarmes turned up tout suite but it took about 2 hours and a bit to get lifted on a truck and of the Autoroute and a tyre change. we did manage to find a bit of shade, but I did not have quite the right outfit for scrambling through brambles. It was also about 37c and we were getting a bit low on water by then. Unfortunately the spare was knackered so we limped in to le Mans off having come off the Autoroute. After arriving at our accommodation we had to figure out a plan. We did not at this point know if Le shuttle was running either. After a very hot and sleepless night we had avery quick breakfast and drove off to find a tyre fitters. we found a Mr speedy (French quickfit but better) and using some very bad French and sign language got the tyre changed, however there was another problem, the very through mechanic invited us in to the workshop to feat our eyes on the back of the rear break drum which was liberally coated in brake fluid. he opened it up and the cylinder had failed and there was an interesting mess of broken seal and gunge inside. After more bad french he said he could sort it and it would take une huere, and true to his word it did.
I suspect because they needed to get it done before lunch

At just about 12.15 we were rolling again and needed to get to Calais for a 4.50 check-in. The first hour we had to hold the speed down to get the tyres run in then there was the usually slow bit going around Rouen then 130 kph to the port apart from a quick pit stop to wee. As we approached Calais the tale end of the dreaded buchon loomed in to sight but fortunately the passenger shuttle lanes were clear and we checked in and quite quickly got loaded. We did spot a few guys wandering about on the side of the road eyeing up the trucks, but not much else.

At this point there was a technical fault on our train as the smoke/fire alarm had gone off so the train left about an hour later than it was scheduled.

At the Kent side it soon got interesting as the M20 was closed and being turned in to a giant Lorry park so much wandering about to get to Maidstone where the M20 was open again. Finally got through my front door at about 10.00.

14 days in France Part 1

I have just got back from a trip to the Charente region staying near Angoulême in a small village called Crotet.
A couple of gigs and a bit of a break as well which and its been nice to be somewhere else, and to take walks among the fields and get a bit of sunshine on the aching bones and also to just have a bit of solitude, and less sound and fury for a while. Its been very hot, consistently above 30c from about the second day.

Selfie time again

We did the journey in 2 stages from London down and on to the Shuttle then off at Calais and down to Rouen and then to Le Mans for an overnight stay at Chambre de Hote just by the Cathedral which was very comfortable. We went and found a suitable restaurant just a short walk away and had a couple of very welcome Belgian beers and a pretty good meal too. The youngish guy serving us was very in to music and we had along chat with him about all sorts of stuff including Jimmy Hendrix. The part of the city we were in is the old walled part and quite a something to see. There was a spectacular view from the room across the river and down across to the newer part of town, and the loo was in a turret, and it also had quite a view.
Plus a stained glass window in the second room.

If your staying down that way I would highly recommend

La Demeure de Laclais

4 bis Place du Cardinal Grente, 72000 Le Mans, France. This 17-century hotel is located in the historic center of Le Mans. Central Le Mans is full of sights, which guests can explore such as, the Roman ramparts (city walls) and 50 yards from Saint-Julien Cathedral. They do a very good breakfast too.

The next day we drove down to Les Amis The Gite at Crotet 16170 Saint Medard De Rouillac which is basically a hamlet surround by crops and Vineyards, though it does have a transport depot full of trucks not far away, but they are out all week and only return at the weekends. Part from the two gigs both on Sundays mostly I went for stroll around the fields each day and we played music in the house and in the garden, rehearsed some new stuff.

We took a trip to the local Super U most days for supplies. We went into Angoulême to eat on a few evenings. We have have also gigged at the Kennedy Bar on previous visits there. Angoulême is another city that has a lot of history and ramparts with spectacular views.
Formerly the capital of Angoumois in the Ancien Régime, Angoulême was a fortified town for a long time and was highly coveted due to its position at the centre of many roads important to communication so therefore suffered many sieges. From its tumultuous past the city, perched on a rocky spur, inherited a large historical, religious, and urban heritage which attracts a lot of tourists.

Nowadays Angoulême is at the centre of an agglomeration which is one of the most industrialised regions between Loire and Garonne (the paper industry was established in the 16th century, a foundry and electromechanical engineering developed more recently). It is also a commercial and administrative city with its own university of technology and a vibrant cultural life. This life is dominated by the famous Angoulême International Comics Festival that contributes substantially to the international renown of the city.

I managed to forget a lot of the French I had learned in practice, but we managed OK ish

The place Pub Gabariers that we played at is in a really fab location called St Simuex and its on the river. The first gig was great fun but the second one was hard work as 7 days later the temperature was hitting 38 to 40c and almost too much. We were playing on a sort of veranda type area with shade from the direct sun but it was hard going by the end.