Archive for July, 2015

questions to Labour Leadership candidates

July 11, 2015

Questions to ask the Labour Leadership candidates? here’s mine.
1 What policies would you support as leader which will assure disabled people that a Labour Government is best placed to promote the rights of disabled citizens in our society? 2 Why should disabled people vote Labour?
3 What will Labour do to remove the barriers that stop disabled people getting and keeping jobs? How would our right to work become a reality under your leadership?
4 What would the next Labour Government under your leadership do to create a society where good social care truly delivers the independence and inclusion of all disabled people?
5 What will the next Labour Government under your leadership do to address disability harassment, discrimination and violence?
6 what will a Labour Government under your leadership do to increase the supply of homes in all sectors built to Lifetime Home Standards?
7 What will a Labour Government do under your leadership to promote disabled people’s right to ride?
8 12 M Britons are disabled. Under your leadership what will Labour do to ensure the selection of candidates at all levels, reflects Britain today, including disabled people?

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when did fairness, dignity and respect leave the room?”

July 11, 2015

Maiden speech to Haringey Full Council in the Haringey debate on Mentall health issues
Monday November 24, 2014
when did fairness, dignity and respect leave the room?”
I am honoured to address the council on this important issue. This is for my chosen sister Tina, , a lesbian mental health system survivor; who did not survive, despite her loving circle of friends.

Listen to the daily mail shouting! Fraudsters, liars, lazy parasites . Scroungers, undeserving benefit cheats. Work shy burdons on the tax payer. Just a few taunts aimed at disabled people, mental health service users and system survivors among us. I Welcome Lib Dem’s focus and commitment on mental health issue. ALL disabled people, Mental health service users and system survivors amongst us, are the biggest casualties of the austerity zealots. Mental breakdown and even suicides have resulted from cuts. Living on next to nothing is stressful to say the least. Employment Support Allowance is frightening disabled people off benefits. If claimants can’t meet their work-related activities plan, their benefits are cut. The work Capability test doesn’t measure the true barriers to employment. It also fails to measure the impact of mental health issues upon people’s lives amongst other factors.

Add this, to the torment caused by the torrent of abuse aimed at benefit recipients; and the message is shockingly clear to disabled people. they say we are too expensive; not value for money, and that we don’t deserve support.

Yet government tax plans will benefit the rich. So if you’re a banker it seems you deserve sympathy.

The government says that there’s no choice, that there’s no money and we have to take action now. We’re all in it together.

Add up: cuts In service provision, + major job cuts, + cuts in benefits, then add rising inflation, and high unemployment (green shoots not withstanding), we just don’t have a chance.

Cuts are compounded further by the fact of poverty and other barriers that face Disabled people from different communities. young Pakistani Londoner’s are twice as likely to be disabled as their Peers, reflecting the compound impact of disability discrimination, racism and poverty. In Haringey, high rates of mental ill health are compounded by racism, poverty, poor housing, joblessness and discrimination.

We have extensive equality law in the UK: But it is no protector when institutions who should be standing for us all, work only for the privilege, the establishment for the rich.

the coalition turns its back on promoting an equal society in favour of the survival of the fittest; and in which disabled people including mental health service users and survivors, are the losers. when did fairness, dignity and respect leave the room?”

Councillor Kirsten Hearn
Labour member for Sstroud Green Ward.

Lost Boys

July 11, 2015

Another blog piece found in the depths of my writing file.
Lost Boys
Friday May 22, 2015.
Walking down the road last night, I am greeted by a friend’s grandson who I know has stepped onto the path of destruction, which begins as he hangs out on the fringes of a street gang. the grandson is at the truenting, petty thieving, running away, foot soldier of older gang member kind of place. Sweet voiced and polite, he engages me in conversation, courteously and well manneredly, as his grandmother has taught him. But I know that he has been in another gangs territory, getting up to goddess-knows-what and that later tonight, he will continue, this is what his nights are like, according to his grant mother and auntie.

I am reminded of the journey taken from terrible gang violence to remorse for wrong and determination to live a life as a loving parent to his children, as described to me once,by a prisoner. Redemption, for him, brought about by his own actions, is so clearly, alive and kicking. for both young people, their parenting was less than helpful to their future. I tell the grandson about the prisoner, how after a very long prison sentence, he has built a life and a future worth celebrating, but that he will always look over his shoulder to see if the gang he bore witness against, is catching up on him. The grandson sounds impressed, but I suspect this is what he wants me to hear.

We part, amiably enough and I walk slowly home pondering on the craziness of a world in which possessions and money and the something-for-nothing culture are prized above and beyond love, nurturing and support. Is the difference between these two young men, the fact that the grandson has a loving grandmother and tough-love auntie, or is this not enough to turn him away from a path that may lead to something that will blight his life, even possibly take his life?

In the grandson’s case, the agencies attempt to intervene but he has to actively engage for it to work. In the prisoner’s case, he made a choice, then actively engaged, which is why he has stepped over the threshold into a new life.

Huge rounds of cuts in criminal justice services are on their way. I shudder at the thought of Michael Gove in charge of justice
goddess-help-us-all!

Caribbean Queen RIP

July 11, 2015

Caribbean Queen RIP
Sunday March 23, 2014:
“Returning from dinner at a friend’s, this evening, my taxi driver tells me he was a regular attendee at my upstairs neighbour’s soirees, more than 20 years ago. We fall to remembering Ian Warred, DJ, club manager and photographer, a larger than life, supremely camp pink-kaftan-wearing Jamaican gay guy, wild locks and all who died 20 years ago this month. One of many brothers in struggle lost to AIDS in the dark days before retro-viral drugs made it possible to think of life with HIV, he was my cheerful, noisy but friendly and yes protective neighbour for more than 6 years. .
Heavily into lesbian grunge at the time, I would sneak out of the house hoping Ian wasn’t looking out of the window. If he caught sight of my scruffy arse hi-tailing it down the road, he was not shy about bellowing his disapproval for the whole street to hear. It was a bit like having a gay man for a mother!
“Put some colour on, girlfriend” he would shriek as I shuffled away, clad from head to foot in black and matching black, with a bit of toning black to go with it.

Ah the days when we were young and could party all night and didn’t get fixated about what we looked like, because of course, fashion was a patriarchal plot!
RIP Ian Warred, you are still missed, 20 years on.

A gap at our baracade

July 11, 2015

Unpublished blog from 2014
A gap at our baracade
RIP Jenny Cook
Wednesday July 16, 2014
A friend said on hearing that Jenny Cook (60) has died today; “another empty space at our table”. For those of us who have at points during Jenny’s life, spent time sitting at table talking, we who consider ourselves to be family, & that family to include Jenny, today the table is thinner, emptier, quieter than before.

In a week since Jenny was rushed to hospital with a terrifying chest infection, we are in in that strange place of explaining the variety & difference that is Jenny, to a medical world a little baffled by her difference an uniqueness, but who, to a man & woman stands up to the challenge of treating her best they can, with every skill they can muster. Cancer, chemo, chest infection, a body which has not stood up well to the ravages of time & a serious of ailments, illness & health crisis after health crisis, in combination, in a parade of what must have at times felt like cruel twists of fate have assaulted her. Yet she has stood up to their attack, somehow reshaped & regrouped, worked out another way to be, found the most amazingly devoted personal assistants to help, & stayed the course, sometimes against all odds.

In recent years, she ran her life from her bed. But in my memory & in evidence of the many photos of Jenny taken by Ruth Bashall, a history of activism, of fighting back, of saying “no”, is revealed. Today as her heart stops, rallies again & stops again, we who witness her last hours of life, see in this final dance of her heart’s rhythm on the screen, a fighter, a warrior-crip-dyke, a woman who says “no” & “not in my name” & so much more.

Our Jenny lies curled on her side in that signature at rest, safe & in comfort pose, a little frown on her brow. In her stillness, I still feel the energy of her determination, for she is not lying on her back with her hands folded across her chest, all neat & prim. In death she defies convention as she did in life.

Yes, a space at our table, but also a very big gap on our barricades. Rest in peace, Jenny Cook, 1954 to 2014.

BORIS and His Night Tube Fantasies

July 11, 2015

BORIS and His Night Tube Fantasies
Saturday July 11, 2015.
It would be great to have a 24 hour tube service, but not at any price. Talking to a tube worker at Finsbury Park yesterday lunchtime, he tells me, the strike was solid, not because everyone wants more money, but because workers fear they will be forced to work nights. It is hard enough getting time to see his children, thanks to the way shifts are arranged, he says. In general, tube workers have little choice of the hours they work. One week a worker is on dead earlies, (starting at 5 am). A few days later, they get a relatively normal day time start, then a series of dead lates, (not finishing till 1 am). They may have a day or two off in-between, but often, they are working 7 days in a row. Oh and they can’t drink in the 2 days before going on duty, so no nipping down the pub with the girls of a Friday night.
Shift working with hours that switch and change is terrible for the body clock. You can’t do this all the time. The body won’t have it, especially as you age. Someone has to work most of the clock around so we can have the brilliant service we do. Adding a fourth option to the hours a worker can be asked to work, if they have little choice to do it, is asking too much.
I don’t get the impression that tube workers are against the night tube; they want it to be properly planned, with environmental, equality and service impacts fully considered before it goes ahead. There will be workers willing to do nights, but only with the right safeguards, the right amount of staff to keep the system safe so a World class service can continue to be provided on the night tube too.
The night tube is yet another damaging vanity project for Boris, like his soddin’ inaccessible Boris Bus! Ignorant of the figures on the numbers of passengers who fell off the back of the route master, Boris committed himself to the outdated, romantic ideal of an old fashioned chubby red London bus, trundling comfortably through the city. The resultant bus is barely accessible, with a squat wheelchair space and no room to squeeze oneself past a fat buggy. It has a pointless back door which can’t be used unless there is also a conductor on board.
If Boris had run the Night Tube idea past TFL and they had sat down with unions months ago, something might have been salvaged. Possibly, broaching the idea in a manner that asked staff and unions to suggest how it could be made to work might have produced innovation and cooperation. Instead, bullish industrial relation tactics are deployed, forcing the unions onto the defensive.
Of course its nonsense that in this world class city, the tube closes down at all. Providing an efficient, safe, customer and staff friendly service surely is the goal. Who else to inform thinking other than the workers who actually do the job? In some (daily Mail and Evening standard) circles, it has long been cultural to tut about the tube and its workers. But I won’t have a word said against them.
I’m visually impaired and travel alone, four days out of seven, at various times, making a range of different journeys on the system. I have had nothing but fabulous service from staff, even when they’ve been stressed. You couldn’t say that of the Paris Metro, for example, for you’d be hard press to find a member of staff at all.
Despite their shrinking numbers, the quality of London Underground staff is what makes the tube so safe. We’ve just commemorated ten years since the terrible bombings on three tube trains and a bus. Who was on the scene immediately after the bombs exploded, at Algate, Kings Cross and Edgeware? Whenever a passenger falls under a train or a drunk kicks off on a crowded platform on a Friday night, who’s there first? A tube worker of course. It’s their visible presence on the system that provides the reassurance for travellers who, in years past, would not have considered taking the last tube home.
The London Underground is an excellent public service, staffed by committed professionals. . It’s tremendously overcrowded and at times, stretched to braking point. Yes, we need more investment to take the continuously increased demand. Any extension of the service has to be carefully planned to make sure it doesn’t bring the rest crashing down.
So next time you’re out on the system, smile at the next member of London Underground staff you come across, and maybe say thank you for the great service you are getting.

Adventures with half an eye

July 11, 2015

Adventures with half an eye

Saturday June 27, 2015:

I hate it when facebook eats my words! I have just written a piece about Pride and without a “by your leave” or even an “up yours, you prosy old dyke”, it sodding well gone all silent and consumed my wise outpourings. Hurrumph!

So you’re not going to hear about the adventures of my pride pal & I, only half an eye between the two of us. Lost is the description of our two person accapella version of Baker Street, (with me on mouth sax). Never to be heard are our adventures with densely unobservant and mainly oddly dressed, other street inhabitants, also bent on being at Pride.

Sorry but, the malapropisms of Siri, as I attempt to text friends to explain where we are, are lost too. the world will not hear of the weirdness we find in realising that some stewards are ablist fools, who believe us when we say, we’re loitering inside the barrier somewhere around Piccadilly because our wheelchair using companion’s motor is very tired and needs a rest and as she’s acting as our eyes “we’re blind you know” non of us can move right now.

No, all the delights of the commercially driven, capitalist Pride bonanza, unreconstructed ableism of some pride goers, the “aw poor things” patronage of others, will never be told. Oh and neither will it be heard that, despite all this, nothing, but nothing will stop me and other disabled people getting out on the street, this one day of the year and confounding the belief that we don’t exist, by being visibly, proudly, cheerfully, triumphantly & defiantly disabled lesbians, so there, nur!