Loch Mess: the Caledonian Crisis, 2034 – a blog post from the future

ScotlandFlagYesterday saw a marked escalation of the conflict between England and Scotland.  In a statement released by Downing Street, Prime Minister Euan Blair confirmed the significant expansion of English military action:

“I have ordered reinforcements to bolster the British troops placed along the Scottish border.  Operation Hadrian has being stepped up to maintain the integrity of our borders”

In addition the Prime Minister confirmed that a massive joint manoeuvre had been launched with Russian forces to “protect and secure the international business interests” around Aberdeen, the centre of Scotland’s oil industry.  It is believed that around 15,000 troops, the majority of whom are Russian, have landed in the Scottish Highlands and have effectively sealed off Aberdeen from the rest of Scotland.

Roots of the crisis

The Caledonian Crisis has its roots in the Bank of England’s decision in 2015 to give Scotland ten year’s notice to stop using the Sterling currency after they voted for independence from the UK.

Scotland’s planned transition to the Euro by 2025 was then derailed by the public anger created by Scotland coming last in the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest.  Many had believed that Scotland’s entry, from veteran duo The Proclaimers, would win the contest.  But despite critical acclaim they were awarded Nil Points.   This international snub kick-started the ‘Nil Points = No Euro’ campaign in which urged successfully convinced the Scottish government to create its own currency.

Loch Mess

However attempts to form their own currency hit problems when Rangers fans felt the new proposed bank notes featured too much Celtic green and white. The uncertainty around the future of the currency, dubbed ‘Loch Mess’ by English media, drove Scotland into hyper-inflation and financial meltdown. Glasgow and Edinburgh have experienced serious unrest as mass unemployment and shortage of food bites hard.

Throughout the 2020s, conflict between Scots and English affected all major cities.  This followed the Special Powers (Scotland) Act which made the public wearing of kilts illegal, banned the film Braveheart and only allowed Irish Whiskey (with an ‘e’) to be drunk in England.  All food stuffs with a ‘distinctly Scottish connection’ were banned after widespread rumours of extremists concealing explosives as Haggis.

As disruption continued, the English government pushed ahead in 2030 with the forced repatriation of ‘anyone with a discernable Scottish accent’ from English territory.  Overnight, Scottish people living and working in England went into hiding and many enrolled in elocution lessons to stop saying ‘aye’ and ‘wee’.  Security forces continue to search for those living amongst us as ‘closet Scots’.

Escalation

Yesterday’s the English government’s military actions mark a rapid escalation in the level of the conflict. As ever oil is at the heart of the issue.  During the years of uncertainty, more and more of Scotland’s oil industry was bought up by Russian oligarchs.  And once the current crisis started, England became under increasing pressure from Moscow to take action. As the Prime Minister Blair said

“Along with our Russian allies, we have secured Aberdeen in order to protect the long term business interests of the international community.  Our nation has a long and impressive history of wars fought to protect oil interests and I fully intend to maintain this proud tradition.” 

When questioned on why Russia were so involved, the PM replied:

“England can learn a lot from how they dealt with their trouble-makers in the former Ukraine region.  Plus they’ve opened some great restaurants in Knightsbridge.”

Speaking from his Presidential Palace of Balmoral, Scottish Head of State Alex Salmond declared that the English aggression would be met with similar force:

“They may take away our oil, but they can never take away our Freedom!”

It was only twenty years ago that the people of Scotland voted for independence from the United Kingdom.  Surely no one could have predicted the way events have unravelled since that that fateful decision back in 2014.

Posted in Social commentary | Tagged | 1 Comment

The dis-integration of Christian social action

lovethyneighborasthyselfIn the last 15 years there has been huge growth in social action projects established by churches. The rise of Food Banks has probably been the most high profile example but there has also been a massive increase in Church-run Night Shelters and debt advice services.

These newer initiatives have joined well-established projects which have been run by other churches for generations.  The West London Mission, where I work, is a good example. We began our work in 1887 and back then we ran Food Depots, clothing banks, soup kitchens as well as Thrift Clubs to help people save money and a ‘Poor Man’s lawyer’ to give free legal advice.  Today, we employ over 70 people and run a wide range of services for people affected by homelessness, addictions and other personal problems.

The big challenge

It cannot be disputed that Churches are very good at establishing social action projects. The big challenge is how these projects maintain a Christian ethos and continue to be explicit carriers of Christian hope.  I know of so many organisations, both large and small, which were birthed with a strong Christian basis but have now left it behind.  In our secularised times, faith often becomes just a slightly embarrassing footnote of their history.

Sometimes faith fades due to a lack of passion or commitment or a key person leaving “We used to be more overt about faith but it doesn’t really happen anymore.”

Sometimes it is due to fear, especially to do with losing resources.  “It would not go down too well with our funders if we were too Christian.”

And sometimes faith just become fossilised. “A Vicar chairs the committee but there is no real connection with the church.”

Dis-integration

In these ways that faith becomes so easily dis-integrated from social action and a chasm opens up between the church and the projects it has started.  The homelessness field in which I work is littered with examples because so many homelessness charities were originally started by churches.

The split can often lead to power struggles, bitter disputes and eventual messy divorces between the church and the social projects it has formed. Often both sides end up poorer for the separation.

Relevance of faith

Its tragic because community projects often provide the best witness to faith in a sceptical world. Most people have a lot of respect for genuine care and compassion in action. Often it makes much more sense to them than a church service.

Also, faith and spirituality are so relevant in bring hope to people and tackling poverty.  In my field, this was the powerful findings of last year’s report ‘Lost and Found: faith and spirituality in the lives of homeless people’ which showed how important and relevant faith was to those on the margins.

Ambition

The growth of social action provides the church with some great opportunities.  But we must learn the lessons from the past and not allow social activism to secularise the church or neuter its message.  It is for God’s sake that we are seeking to make a difference.

Christian social activists should have strong ambition to integrate faith and spirituality alongside their practical work.  This is not simple or easy especially when working with vulnerable people.  It does not mean being coercive, inappropriate or forcing anything on anyone. But it will mean being courageous, creative and confident about how the relevance and importance of our faith.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

If you are interested in how faith connects to social action then you might be interested in joining me at this weekend at the beautiful Scargill House in Yorkshire.  I am leading this weekend with a couple of great friends who I have worked with in recent years.

For God’s Sake Make a Difference: Friday 27 February to Sunday 1 March 2015

Justice and righteousness are at the heart of God’s character. How much does the Church reflect these characteristics? How do we hold together practical and spiritual care? How do we develop an authentically missional social action?

Jon Kuhrt (West London Mission), Annie Kirke (London Diocese Missional Communities) and Paul Reily (Scargill Community and formerly of Housing Justice) explore the theology and practice of social action and ask what this has to do with the Kingdom of God today.

For all the details and how to book in please see the Scargill website.

Related posts:

Posted in Social action | 7 Comments

Pray in the tension

Lost In London - by Simon & His Camera

photo by Simon & His Camera

Today
Many of us live
A nation of strangers
Aliens in cities,
Trapped in societies
Of rapid, social change.
 
Constantly
We face new problems
With no clear answers.
It’s not happened
To us before.
Nobody’s behaved like that before.
We’ve got no tailor-made pattern.
 
It’s an itsy-bitsy life.
Let’s be quite clear,
No comprehensive lifestyles
No grand, universal designs
Let’s not look for them.
 
Rather
Let’s get clear the tension
Between heaven and earth,
Between our visions
Of God and the earth,
And the tension
Of fidelity to both.
And in the tension
Pray.
 

Taken from Prayers from a Searching Heart by Ian Calvert 

Posted in Social commentary | Tagged | 1 Comment

How should our faith affect the way we live?

Trevor Huddleston

Trevor Huddleston

This morning I listened to a short reflection* about how small actions can make a big difference. The example used was how significant it was for Desmond Tutu when as a young boy he saw a white priest doff his hat in courtesy to his mother who was a domestic worker. Growing up under apartheid  in South Africa he had never seen a white man show such respect to a black person before and it had a profound impact on him.

It was only later that Tutu learned the priest he had met as a young boy was the great anti-apartheid campaigner, Trevor Huddleston.  In amongst all the ‘important’ things that Huddleston achieved in his life, he would never have imagined the impact that this simple act of courtesy had.  And yet Tutu cited it as a key moment in his upbringing – a moment which helped set him on the incredible path he took of helping bring hope and change to millions of people.

What difference should faith make?

The story of how Huddleston’s small act made such a big difference got me thinking about the areas of life which should be affected by our faith.  In what ways should faith make a difference to how we live?  These are the ones I came up with:

  • Privately.  Authentic faith should be always changing us in ways that only we know about.  Through prayer we seek God’s grace to shape and influence our inner lives, to allow divine love to repair, restore and re-orientate us.  Real faith makes a difference when no one is watching.
  • Personally. Authentic faith influences our small, daily decisions about how we behave, like our attitude when driving and how we treat our families. But it also influences the big choices that we make about our life: the house we buy, how we use our money, where we send our children to school. Faith is expressed in the personal values we live by.
  • Practically.  Authentic faith is expressed in actions which make it tangible and visible to others – especially those who are poor and suffering.  Beliefs only become faith when they are put into action.  This is why the Bible continually emphasises the inseparability of loving God and loving our neighbours. We are blessed by God in order to be a blessing to others.
  • Professionally. Authentic faith has to be expressed in the realms in which we spend most of our time and our energy – and for many of us that is in paid employment.  In reality there is no sacred/secular divide: the workplace is just as significant a realm as ‘church’ for us to express our faith and hope in the living God.
  • Publicly.  Authentic faith can never accept being relegated into just a private realm. Faith has things to say about how society is ordered and how communities operate. From the start, Christianity was a public movement, described in the New Testament as the ‘Ekklesia’, which means public assembly. Back then, the Christian faith was never seen as a ‘private matter’ and neither is it today.
  • Politically.  Authentic faith cares about how the structures and powers in the world can be shaped to create greater fairness,  justice and peace.  We cannot care about what is happening in Iraq, Syria and Gaza and pretend that faith has nothing to do with politics.  If Jesus had not been a political threat to the Jewish and Roman authorities then he never would have been crucified.

Of course this is all far easier to write than to live out! And of course different branches of the Church have different strengths in regard to these areas.  This is why unity among Christians is important, so that we work together to show the difference that faith makes.

Faith must make a difference to how we live.  As Brennan Manning wrote:

“The greatest cause of atheism is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, then walk out the door and deny him with their lifestyle.  That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”

*Listen to the reflection by Dave Tomlinson on BBC Radio 2’s Pause for Thought

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Jonah and Islamic State – by Matt Valler

IraqThe extremist Muslim terrorist organisation Islamic State (formerly ISIS) recently captured Nineveh in northern Iraq. The atrocities they have since committed there led me to revisit this ancient story…

The word of Yahweh came to Jonah the Jew. “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it because the stench of its wickedness has reached me.” But Jonah fled to Tarshish in Spain, where the days of the Caliphate had long faded.

On the sea crossing a great storm racked the boat, and each sailor called in desperation to his god for salvation. They submitted to dice to divine the person responsible, and the dice fell upon Jonah. So they questioned him: “Who are you, and from where do you come?”

He replied, “I am a Jew and I sacrifice to Yahweh, who made the seas and the dry land. But I am running away from him, towards the land where an Islamic State tolerated Jews (before the Christians drove us out). Yahweh rides the storm clouds like a chariot and he has awoken the chaos of the seas because of me. Offer me to the sea as a sacrifice and he will be appeased.”

The sailors were unwilling to sacrifice Jonah and tried to row to dry land. But the storm grew stronger. Pleading with Yahweh for mercy they threw Jonah overboard and into the depths of the sea. At once the storm calmed; the sailors pledged themselves to Yahweh.

Jonah, however, was swallowed by a mighty fish and spent three days and three nights in its belly before it vomited him onto the land.

The word of Yahweh came again to Jonah the Jew. “Go to Nineveh, in the heart of the Islamic State, and preach against it as I commanded you before.”

So Jonah went to Nineveh. It was a vast and ancient city, the seat of mighty empires that had sprawled out across the world. Jonah walked through its streets proclaiming that in forty days the Islamic State would be overthrown.

His words reached the ears of Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The Caliph tore his robes and ordered a fast for every man, woman, child and animal; no one was to eat or drink for three days. “Let everyone call on Allah,” he commanded. “Let us give up our evil ways and our violence. Perhaps then Allah may relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we may not perish.”

When Allah saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways he did relent and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.

But Jonah became very angry at Yahweh. “Isn’t this what I said would happen? Isn’t this why I fled to Spain? I know that you are a gracious and compassionate god, slow to anger and overflowing with love! A god who decides not to destroy after all! Take my life – I am so ashamed. I would far rather die than live!”

But Yahweh replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?”

Jonah went to the east of the city and sat down on the baking sand. He made himself a shelter and waited to see what would happen to Nineveh. Then Allah made a leafy plant grow up over Jonah to give him shade – and Jonah was pleased with the plant. But at dawn the next day Allah sent a worm which chewed the plant so that it withered. And when the sun rose, Allah sent a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die.

But Allah said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about this plant?”

“It is!” said Jonah. “I’m so angry I wish I were dead!!”

But Yahweh said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It came one day and went the next. Should I not be concerned about this great city of Nineveh full of countless innocent children?”

Some notes on the text…

I’ve long been fascinated by the way Jonah is read/misread – all the controversy about whether a man could be eaten by a whale or not (a pretty incidental feature of the plot) diverting attention from the bit at the end where God pleads with Jonah to be more compassionate (an unexpected turn).

Jonah is a story set at a time where Nineveh was the most powerful city on earth. It was the capital of the brutal Assyrian Empire. For Jonah to walk into Nineveh and proclaim destruction in the 8th century BCE would have been similar insanity to an unarmed Jew walking into the heart of the Islamic State today and proclaiming its overthrow. That was the historical moment that provoked the rewrite.

The names for ‘God’ have been kept as per the original; ‘Allah’ is an Arabic translation of the Hebrew ‘Elohim’, the word translated as ‘God’ in most versions of the Old Testament.

I’m very interested by the nuance of the names for ‘God’ used in the Bible; for example the way that Elohim (the Hebrew word for God) is a plural word used as a singular and drawn from Canaanite mythology (El is the chief Canaanite god and the Elohim is variously the divine pantheon and the sole god to whom one pledges fidelity). In the story of Jonah, both ‘Yahweh’ and ‘Elohim’ speak with Jonah, but the Ninevites only know ‘Elohim’. Elohim is a more generic way of referring to God than Yahweh, and operates within the language in the same way that ‘Allah’ operates in Arabic.

It is poignant to me that Jonah fled to Spain, the heart of the Islamic Caliphate of the West which from the 10th to the 14th century was broadly tolerant towards Jews, before the Christians took over and mercilessly persecuted them. Through a few accidents of history, Nineveh and Spain are now connected again by their opposite approaches to religious tolerance, the theme of Jonah.

In all of this mix the story of Jonah tells itself, mixing up our expectations about different gods – their names and loyalties – and offering an outrageous and provocative story through which to imagine the seemingly impossible; more than anything else the softening of our hard hearts and the prospect of peace.

Matt Valler is a social entrepreneur who specialises in the disruption and reimagination of religious narratives. He tweets at @mattvaller

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‘The Human Propensity to F*** things Up’

“One of the major obstacles to communicating what belief feels like is that I’m not working with a blank slate. Our culture is smudged over with half-legible religious scribblings. The vocabulary that used to describe religious emotions hasn’t gone away…instead, it’s still in circulation, but re-purposed, with new meanings generated by new usages…

Case in point: the word ‘sin’, that well-known contemporary brand name for ice cream. And high-end chocolate truffles. And lingerie in which the colour red predominates.  And sex toys; and cocktails… ‘Sin’ you can see, always refers to the pleasurable consumption of something.

If I say the word sin to you…it’s going to sound like as if I am bizarrely opposed to pleasure, and because of the on-going link between sin and sex, it will seem likely that at the root of my problem with pleasure is a problem with sex.

So I won’t do that.  Because that isn’t at all what I mean.

What I and other believers understand by the word I’m not saying to you has got very little to do with yummy transgression.  For us, it refers to something much more like the human tendency, the human propensity to fuck up.  Or let’s add one more word; the human propensity to fuck things up, because what we’re talking about here is not just our tendency to lurch and stumble and screw up accident, our passive role as agents of entropy. It’s our active inclination to break stuff, ‘stuff’ here including moods, promises, relationships we care about, and our own well-being and other people’s, as well as material objects whose high gloss positively seems to invite a big fat scratch.  Now I hope we are on common ground.

For most of us the point eventually arrives when, at least for an hour or a day or a season, we find we have to take notice of our HPtFtU (as I think I better call it).  Our appointment with realisation often comes at one of the classic moments of adult failure; when a marriage ends, when a career stalls or crumbles, when a relationship fades away with a child only seen on Saturdays, when the supposedly recreational coke habit turns out to be exercising veto powers over every other hope and dream…

The HPtFtU dawns on you. You have indeed fucked things up. Of course you have. You’re human, and that’s where we live; that’s our normal experience.”

 

Unapologetic - by Francis Spufford

All text taken from ‘The Crack in Everything’, chapter two of Unapologetic: Why, despite everything, Christianity can still make surprising emotional sense by Francis Spufford.

I would highly recommend Unapologetic, especially for those who are not Christians.  Its unlike any book I have ever read before because it takes seriously the need to communicate faith in a way people actually can hear and understand.  If you are a Christian then buy it, read it, and give it to someone who isn’t.

Buy Unapologetic by Francis Spufford

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From the DRC to London: helping Theodore realise his hope of education – by Rachel Henry

TheodoreTheodore*, 18, comes from the North East of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). He was brought up in a region where there are regular attacks on civilians by armed groups.  When he was a child, his family fled an attack on their village and settled in a camp for internally displaced people on the outskirts of Goma.

In 2008, during the violent ‘Battle of Goma’, Theodore’s father and mother were killed. He fled again, this time on his own as a 14 year old. He travelled by land through several African countries, and ultimately, after a journey of over 18 months, arrived in the UK aged 16.

In the UK

Theodore was taken into the care of the Croydon Social Services and given a temporary form of leave to remain in the UK that would last until he was seventeen and a half years old. He was placed in a house with other separated children who had also recently arrived.

In the house, Theodore struggled to communicate and make friends because whilst he spoke French, the other boys spoke Dari or Arabic. He suffered from regular flashbacks of the violence he experienced in his home country, and found it difficult to sleep at night because of the images in his mind of all he had seen.

Despite his interrupted education, Theodore has always wanted to become a teacher. When he arrived in the UK, the Refugee Support Network helped him get a place in an English for Speakers of Other Languages class at college and matched him with Sarah*, one of our educational mentors.

The big difference

When he first met with Sarah, Theodore told us that she was the only adult in his life who was not paid to help him, but was doing so simply because she wanted to. This simple fact made a big difference.  It started to help Theodore feel less alone and isolated.

Theodore has now been mentored for just over a year, and his teacher tells us that since being matched with a mentor his confidence has grown, his insomnia has reduced and he has made faster and better progress with his studies.

Last week Theodore phoned our team and said:

“You have helped me like no one else has helped me! Every time I think of you I say thank you God because you have helped me study better”

Help needed!

Refugee Support Network are running educational mentoring programme and we really need more mentors who can help people like Theodore. Watch this short film about our work:

Rachel Henry works at the Refugee Support Network, lives in Streatham, South London and is a member of Streatham Baptist Church.

Posted in Social action | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Cranmer and the toxic nature of anonymous blogging

Thomas_CranmerFor those of you who don’t know, Cranmer is the name of a blog which comments on religious and political issues.  He describes himself as “Bishop of the Blogosphere, Pastor of the World Wide Web and Chaplain to the Digital Archdiocese”.

Cranmer has won a large following by expressing right-wing, traditionalist perspectives on both religion and politics with idiosyncratic wit and clever prose.  You can read a long list of commendations (and criticisms) from well-known figures which he proudly shares on the home page of his site.

‘Trolling’

Recently, Cranmer has got into a heated twitter-based argument with the Bishop of Buckingham, Alan Wilson, and his Chaplain, Canon Rosie Harper, over his criticism of her views on the Assisted Dying Bill.

I am not going to get into their disagreement on the issue itself – as can be seen by the differences between George Carey and Justin Welby, even Archbishops disagree strongly on this issue.  But sadly the argument descended in the way twitter rows often do, with the Bishop accusing Cranmer of ‘trolling’ Rosie Harper and Cranmer reacting furiously, and pompously, in his own defence.

Cloak of anonymity

The key problem this row again highlights, is that Cranmer writes under a cloak of anonymity.  This lack of openness about who it actually is expressing these opinions adds further toxicity to the frequently poisonous nature of online debate.  That it comes from an avowedly Christian perspective makes it even more incongruous.

It means that his arguments with real people – people with friends, family, followers and reputations – are not fair fights.  Cranmer writes drawing on knowledge that he has gathered in his real identity and mixes it freely with his fictional, pseudo-historical persona. Take this example from his recent post on his row:

“To be so accused by a bishop is a serious matter, especially when that bishop is one’s own temporal overseer whom one has met half-a-dozen times over the years…His Grace has also met the Bishop’s Chaplain twice. Not, of course, that either would have been aware.”

His views can run free, shared with thousands, harming or delighting people, without being anchored in the accountability which honesty and openness bring.

Accountability

I don’t pretend to be a blogger in the same league as Cranmer, but my experience over the last few years has shown me the dangers of this medium.  R&R has had almost half a million views since it started. As the numbers of readers increase, the need for accountability also rises.  Power corrupts.

What I write needs to be open to challenge when it does not connect to the life I live. What I do at work, in my community and in my church needs to correspond to what I write.  Otherwise there is too much danger of hypocrisy. How easily online personas become white-washed tombs full of old bones and corruption.

Anonymous blogging is understandable if you are living in an oppressive regime, or if you are whistle-blowing on major wrong-doing.  But neither of these categories are relevant in this case.  Cranmer’s anonymity gives a licence to say what he wants.  It is a freedom that is easily misused.

Toxic

So however popular, I think Cranmer’s blog has something toxic at its heart. It creates more problems than it helps resolve, generates more darkness than light.  And this is a theological issue – because it is not possible to stand for Christian truth through being deceptive.  We can only bear witness to truth by acting truthfully. As Paul puts it ‘Let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light’ (Romans 13:12)

A good example of intelligent and faithful debate on faith and politics is the God and Politics in the UK blog authored by Gillan Scott.  Here is a blogger who manages to write passionately and powerfully and generates a large readership.  But Gillan is open and humble about who he is. And its telling that he never goes in for spiteful remarks or cheap jibes.

Whoever is writing under the guise of this 16th century Archbishop should take note: ‘His Grace’ should add truth to his list of attributes.  Open the curtains and let the light in, share who you are and shed the cloak of anonymity.  Ultimately the truth will set you free.

Related:

Posted in Theology & Church | Tagged | 16 Comments

If a picture is worth a thousand words…

Today’s Church Times cover is an absolute classic.

Cover of Church Times

 

Posted in Theology & Church | 1 Comment

Why I support the strikers – by Jonathan Chilvers

Jonathan Chilvers out with the strikers today

Jonathan Chilvers out with the strikers today

Today I have been out supporting the Public Sector strikers in Warwickshire. Some passers-by came up to the picket line to show their support.

However, listening on the radio, a number of people have been hostile towards strikers. There have been three points people have made against the strikes:

1) “There’s no money”

The ‘cuts’ mantra has been drip fed to us daily for the last four years:

“In these times of austerity, when there is less money around, we have to face up to reality, we can no longer afford to do this, we all have to tighten our belts…”

The clear implication when applied to public sector pay is ‘don’t complain and ask for more than your lot, you’re being greedy and risking a recovery’.  The thing is, there is money – it’s just in the wrong places.

The UK’s GDP has just about recovered to where it was in 2008 before the recession. We’ve got higher national debt to repay, but there’s still a lot of wealth in the UK to make those payments.

In 1625 the great Francis Bacon wrote:

‘Money is like muck. Not good except it be spread’

The same is true today and after a 3 year pay freeze equating to a 17.5% cut in real terms, mostly low paid workers are well within their rights to be calling for a fairer share for the jobs they do.

2) “Public Sector workers are better paid than those in private sector jobs”

True. On average public sector employees are better paid, but this is not an excuse to stay quiet and ‘level down’. Public sector wages and terms and conditions should be a benchmark for all. It’s ironic that when some on ‘the left’ oppose private or grammar schools ‘the right’ say that you shouldn’t level down in the name of equality. But when it comes to wages that argument suddenly doesn’t apply.

Let’s work together to deal with low pay across the board. Employees in the private sector are just as able to strike as those in the public sector, but are historically less unionised. That needs to change.

3) “the strike is disruptive and damaging”

People have to take a day off work because school is closed or can’t go to the library or the swimming pool. Yes, this can be disruptive, but low pay is far far more damaging. Millions try and juggle electricity and food bills with the added stress of paying the extras for a school trip or children’s birthday.

Low pay isn’t about not being able to afford a holiday – it’s about constantly living on the edge of surviving at the end of the month. Debt causes arguments, stress and relationship breakdowns. Witness the surge in CAB divorce advice when the first post-Christmas credit card bill hits the mat at the end of January each year.

Fuel, food and rent/mortgage rises have driven inflation which is exactly what the low paid spend the lion’s share of their wage on. A pay freeze for 3 years is catastrophic for millions of families.

Taking one day’s strike action to try and get a fairer deal for the next three years was a sacrifice in itself for many. I was humbled by a number of strikers juggling childcare and travelling long distances because they thought it was worth taking a stand. Many of them told me that they were doing it for their colleagues in the same team as them who didn’t feel able to strike because they didn’t feel able to lose a day’s pay.

Proud to support

We may tentatively be entering an economic recovery, but how we share the wealth in that recovery is crucial. It’s time to stop falling for ‘The Myth of No Money’ and start working for a more equal society where every person gets paid a fair wage whether in the public or private sector.

The people I met today on strike demonstrations were at the forefront of taking a stand to end damagingly low pay and I am proud to support them.

Posted in Politics | Tagged | 3 Comments