Thursday, 23 May 2013

Not in God's name

I don't know whether yesterday's murder in Woolwich deserves to be described as 'terrorism' or not, but the subsequent attack of one mosque, and attempted attack on another, were certainly hate crime.Politicians and the media stir up Islamophobia all the time, create tension nobody needs, and the result is that a couple of peoples' action has created a situation where mosques are being attacked, and my wife is afraid to visit the local mosque. I've come across Facebook postings where people were claiming that Muslims aren't condemning what happened. Let's make it clear that they are. I hesistate to link to the Muslim pages on Facebook which I took these images from because of the hate being spewed across them.

I've been married for coming up to eighteen years, I've met a great many Muslims, and I've yet to come across a single one who believed that violence was ever justified in God's name.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Lobby of Albert Bore's Surgery, and Other Matters

It's been a hectic week. I had a bad cold all last week, which left me fit for nothing. Then on Saturday I was in Westminster Central Hall, opposite the Houses of Parliament, for a national anti-cuts meeting. There were over 300 people attending, and we decided to form a national anti-cuts federation, open to all the groups fighting the cuts.

I spent most of the day sitting there in a daze, then had to take a service at my church next morning. One of our Worship Leaders did everything but the sermon - that's the advantage of my church; we're very participatory, with a lot of talented people, so the preacher doesn't have to do too much - and preached on Revelation. This was quite apposite, as I always feel it was written as a warning to a church which was getting too comfortable with Roman rule. And here we are, with many of the congregation being kicked in the teeth by the government.

Then I had to rush straight off after a cup of tea, to the first Birmingham Anti-Cuts Federation meeting. 38 people were there, from sixteen different groups across the city.

That was quite constructive, and I ended un in a small group afterwards discussing standing Left candidates for the Council. I think this is important; the Labour administration is hopeless, there are wards like mine where nobody ever bothers to campaign, and we need to shake things up and offer an alternative.

Then on Wednesday I was at a meeting of the local Ladywood group. We hadn't done the leafleting we did last time, but nineteen people came, we heard more awful stories, and it's beginning to feel as though we have a campaign going.

Tonight we had a lobby of Albert Bore's surgery at the Council House - which is an odd, intimidating place to have it - with about twenty people picketing outside. We met in Ladywood, and six people walked up the canal into town together while i dashed back home as I'd forgotten the camera.

The people at the Council house responded by bolting the door, and only letting two people in at a time. That was rapidly reduced to one. So rather than several local residents seeing him together, and delivering a petition, everyone had to see him one at a time, and it took up his whole surgery, which ended up overrunning. Towards the end, the guy on the door got quite stroppy; Bore didn't want to see any more Bedroom Tax people. We had an argument with him, and insisted on his letting the last one in. She had a very perfunctory meeting, with Bore complaining about the time.

I didn't see him myself, but apparently he wasn't very helpful at all, and wouldn't commit himself to anything. Altogether not the response we'd have hoped for; refusing to see us together was particularly bad, and made it far more intimidating than it needed to be. We seem to be making an impact, though!

Friday, 3 May 2013

Meeting with Albert Bore


Myself and four others form Birmingham Benefit Justice Campaign just had half an hour with Albert Bore, leader of Birmingham City Council, about the Bedroom Tax. It wasn't insurrounding as plush as this (the Council House), it was in a local primary school, and we were sitting on child-sized chairs. 

I gave him copies of a letter people signed at a meeting we held locally the other day, asking for a no evictions policy. I've nothing against him personally; he's probably a perfectly well-meaning individual, and I wouldn't question that the Bedroom Tax is going to cause real problems for Local Authorities. I know the Poll Tax did. But he's like a spineless jellyfish; he seems to have no conception of actually taking a stand and resisting the powerful, so he always ends up giving them what they want.

He said that they're following a wait and see policy as they don't know how the situation's going to develop. That does mean no immediate evictions, but he said they will evict eventually. I think we need to go on talking, go on making nice (even if it hurts), and use that to keep the pressure on, and to ensure that we know what he's up to. 

He did at least say that they've got lawyers looking at issues around bedroom size. This is a point of contention since, while the new Act fails to define a bedroom, the Housing Act 1985 specifies that it has to be 70 square feet or more. A lot of people are getting charged the tax - or, more accurately - having their Housing Benefit cut - on the basis of rooms which are smaller than that. If the courts decide that they aren't bedrooms within the meaning of the Act, councils are going to be in trouble. Some housing Associations have been reassessing bedrooms as box rooms or studies, perhaps to get  round this one.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Ladywood Bedroom Tax Group

The last week's been a bit of a nightmare, helping the wife with some stuff, and on top of that I've been struggling with the allotment, as my CFS has been affecting me quite badly. I don't have it badly on any sort of objective scale - I've never been in a wheelchair, though I was almost bedridden at one point - but it's quite bad enough at the moment to stop me doing the digging which is badly needed. I think I can now get back to the blog, though, at least.

 This is Blondin, the famous Victorian tightrope walker who once pushed someone across Niagara Falls in a wheelbarrow. He came to Birmingham in 1873, and walked a tightrope across Edgbaston Reservoir. According to local legend, the rope stretched and he got his feet wet. The statue was put up on the Middleway in 1992.

Right now, life for many people is like falling off a tightrope. With all the cuts going on, I keep meeting people who just don't know what to do. Yesterday it was a homeless woman; she'd moved into a hostel not far away, but she had no money, no food, and the blankets smelt so bad it made her feel sick. She's four moths pregnant, and the stress is causing problems; she was in quite a lot of pain when I saw her. We gave her food from the Food Bank, and crockery, cutlery and blankets from the church. It's not much, but short of overthrowing the government, we couldn't do anything more.

Today I met someone with four kids, £800 and odd a month coming in, and after all the cuts, £1100 plus going out on essential expenditure. What's she supposed to do, rob a bank?

On Wednesday, we had a successful local meeting about the Bedroom Tax, with about 30 people attending. We'd put notices in local shops, and put a thousand leaflets through peoples' doors. This latter was a drop in the bucket given the number of flats round here, and it was the notices in the shops which seemed to have drawn people in.

We decided to visit Albert Bore's surgery on Friday, to lobby him, and deliver copies of a letter I got people to sign. Albert is the Council leader, and so far shows no sign of willingness to stand up to the government. We're also picketing his surgery at the Council House on the 17th. We've set a date for another meeting, and I hope we have more people to the next one, as word spreads that there's a group of us who are willing to be supportive, and to stand up to the government.