The hell with this garbage. Let’s rule ourselves.


Let me tell you a bit about waiting:

One day last week, I took myself right across London to attend a jobcentre meeting with a woman who has some support needs. The woman had been told to come in to meet with a so-called work coach. She wasn’t too sure what this meeting was about. The jobcentre had organised the meeting a couple of weeks back and the woman was concerned about it. You could say that the thought of the meeting had been weighing on her mind for some time.

Not that anyone could care less about that. When this woman arrived at the jobcentre, she was told that the work coach wasn’t at work that day (ha ha – yes, the irony) and the meeting was cancelled. The woman told me that nobody rang her to let her know the meeting was off, to save her the trouble of coming in. Another date for a meeting with the work coach was set for a few weeks’ time. That means she has another month to wait and to wonder what the work coach wants with her. You could say that’s now weighing on her mind.

I can’t tell you how often this sort of thing happens to people who must use these barely-functional, so-called services: appointments changed at the last minute, meetings pushed to new times which claimants aren’t told about, work programme sessions cancelled a few hours before the event, or claimants travelling all the way to the jobcentre to find that the person they expected to meet is nowhere to be found. It is no exaggeration to say that these things happen on an amazingly regular basis. There’s a real departmental contempt to it if you ask me: a right old “unemployed people deserve punishment, not the normal courtesies” from the DWP. I suppose we’re also seeing an annihilated sector now: not enough staff, hopeless communications between jobcentres and outsourced work programme and workfare companies, and morale so low that organisations barely have a pulse.

The problem right now is that the political and media classes care even less about deteriorating public services than they did before the runup to the election. I didn’t actually know that was possible, but it is. There’s nobody around to take any of these problems to – in an official sense, at least. There never was, of course – social security has been destroyed in equal parts by a vicious coalition government and a fantastically weak Labour opposition, and neither was ever inclined to race to the aid of people who attend jobcentres – but at least you could see what you were up against when parliament was formed and abuse someone for it. Occasionally, you’d even find a mainstream media editor who understood that there was a world outside warped political cycles. Now, commentators are cheerfully foretelling an age of instability while we’re exposed to a post-election, months-long and extremely rubbish game of thrones. That concept sets my teeth on edge – not because I want a government particularly, but because it shows that the ruling class is arrogant enough to believe that it can take its sweet time to bash out deals to its own advantage. There’s absolutely no sense of urgency there. It must be great to live in a world where you can destroy other people’s much-needed public services, then let those services deteriorate even further while you haggle for the power to destroy more. Little wonder that people are taking future planning into their own hands.

All of which is a long way of saying that blogging here will probably be light until next week. I aim to fully re-engage when we reach that post-election point (we usually reach it pretty fast) when our political heroes are wiping their butts on their current manifestos and waving at us in their rearview mirrors. That’s the time for political engagement in my view – when you see the real agendas.

Will still be available on twitter, although probably not much. I actually can’t take the bullshit. There is no doubt I will kick the screen in if someone else tries to suggest to me that Labour is the only answer. Labour can’t even bring itself to agree to keep the Independent Living Fund. With or without government, we’re still nowhere on social security. At all.

12 thoughts on “The hell with this garbage. Let’s rule ourselves.

  1. Hi, Kate

    Before giving up completely on UK electoral politics, I think we need to consider that it is not only poor people that the BBC marginalises by censorship. Yet there will be a debate worth tracking this comin Tuesday 5 May — even if it reveals that a Green Party spokesperson has been marginalised yet again through being ‘facilitated out’ of the opportunity to answer questions on air.

    The Green Party DWP Spokesperson and parliamentary candidate for Streatham is Jonathan Bartley — a family carer. And the Green Party of England & Wales while being tens of thousands strong in London alone, like DIY activists, is comprised predominantly of amateurs.

    In Canada the Green Party leader Elizabeth May was elected to parliament after being omitted from Canada’s televised leader’s debate. After her election, she was asked by a radio commentator whether it would not have been better for her to ‘leave politics to the experts’. And she replied that “amateurs built the Ark. Professionals built the Titanic.”

    Another woman who combined street activism with political activism was Wangaara Mathai. She objected to land being deforested and replaced with a car park, a Kenyan contact once told me. One of the actions that Wangari Maathai and other women conducted was marching naked through the streets of Nairobi naked. The reason it was a naked march was to emphasise police brutality on account of the bruises they bore.

    I myself am a party-political activist while Kilburn Unemployed is non-party-political and my KUWG comrades have their own party-political allegiances or none. And we choose our modes of campaigning according to what we can do, rather than what mass media tell us are our only ‘options’.

    • That’s largely why my firm belief is that the only way to bring about change is to have enough grassroots activism going to frighten the hell out of whoever is in power. That’s what I mean by ruling ourselves in effect. I wouldn’t give up on electoral politics necessarily, inasmuch as I would always look for new and interesting ways to scare the shit out of anyone who gets a foothold in electoral politics. It’s definitely my view that the most successful anti austerity campaigns have been the ones that have operated largely outside electoral politics and established structures – so, Boycott Workfare, DPAC and groups like that. Focus E15, yourselves putting pressure on locally. I imagine that will continue to be the case, regardless who wins this election. Or cobbles together a win, etc.

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