Category Archives: tory scum

Schools collecting immigration data is racist. Boycott this data collection.

This year’s schools census has sneakily added something in, something which may at first seem relatively innocuous, but on closer inspection is very frightening indeed. This year’s schools census is collecting data on children’s country of birth.

In an environment where racist violence is on the rise, it is not safe for such identifiable information about children as young as 2 to be accessible to anyone. Schools census data has already been given to the Home Office (who could gleefully enact state violence on children and their families), or to police (who gleefully help out)… or even to right-wing newspapers like the Daily Telegraph. This is not a safe use of the data of already-vulnerable children, and can only expose these kids to further harm.

Already, this vicious data collection exercise has led to schools enacting racism. Some schools have targeted non-white children, ordering them to provide passport information. Not only is this jawdroppingly racist, but it’s horribly unnecessary: passport information or birth certificates aren’t necessary.

In fact, none of this exercise is compulsory in the slightest.

Schools are not obliged to supply this information, simply attempt to collect it. And parents and students are in no way obliged to provide this data.

The Against Borders for Children campaign is calling for families and schools alike to refuse to provide this information, and therefore protect children.

If you are a parent, or a school-age student, you can refuse to supply the information. This is your right, and there will be no punishment. Parents have until 5th October to inform schools that they will not be supplying the information, and the ABC campaign has a template letter you can use.

Even if your family has been in the UK since before Stonehenge went up, refuse to supply this information: your refusal to comply protects children who need protecting.

If you teach, you can make sure your students are aware of their rights, and work within your school to suggest that collecting this data is not prioritised. You can also raise these talking points with your colleagues.

If you’re working in collecting the data–for example, doing IT at a school–you can enter all the data as “not known”.

All of this is perfectly legal, and will not in any way affect your school’s funding.

And even if you are entirely, personally unaffected by this–I know I don’t have my own horse in this race!–you can still help protect children by raising awareness of this issue. Talk about it. Share leaflets. Write to your MP.

Make this attempt to push boundaries in collecting data on children the complete failure and embarrassment it deserves to me. No child is illegal, and racist harassment must stay out of our schools.


Is Theresa May A Feminist Icon? Listen to KILLJOY FM for why she really, really isn’t

My friend, feminist extraordinaire Ray Filar, has started a really good radio show, and they were kind enough to invite me on the inaugural episode, where we discussed the question, is Theresa May a feminist icon? Me, Ray, and migrant rights activist Antonia Bright of Movement For Justice all agree that she isn’t, and frankly an hour wasn’t long enough to cover all the reasons why (although we made some headway). Take a bit of time to listen to our conversation, covering May’s violences against migrant women, complicity in austerity, why “blue feminism” is a shivering pile of turds, and what feminism needs to be doing instead of cheering on a monster.

Content note: the discussion covers detention, FGM, violence against women and domestic violence.

Listen to KILLJOY FM every Wednesday on Resonance FM, online or on 104.4 in London.

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Blocking fat people and smokers from accessing healthcare hits our most scapegoated punchbags

Content note: this post discusses gatekeeping healthcare, and structural oppressions

Various NHS commissioning groups have decided to cut costs by blocking access to surgery for people deemed to be obese, and smokers. To the terminally naive, this can be considered an intuitive, common-sense solution, which would encourage people to make better healthcare choices. To the rest of us, we know that choice is, for the most part, an illusion, and that such bans to healthcare access affect certain groups disproportionately–coincidentally, the same groups who make for convenient scapegoats.

First, let’s look at who’s more likely to smoke. LGBT people are much more likely to smoke than straights, and less likely to try to quit. People with mental illness are also far more likely to smoke–up to 2 in 5 cigarettes smoked will be by a mentally ill person. And of course, these groups are not mutually exclusive, with LGBT people at a higher risk of mental illness. Also, poor people are more likely to smoke, and deprivation makes it harder to stop.

When it comes to obesity, let’s first have a look at what’s deemed obese: some CCGs are using the BMI of 30 as a cut-off, which is an absolutely terrible idea. BMI is a nonsense statistic, particularly when applied to how calculating fat an individual is. A substantial portion of Olympic athletes, upon returning after their heroes’ welcome and perhaps needing an operation on injuries, would be turned away by the NHS, because their body weight is too “obese” for surgery–among other issues, BMI does not distinguish between muscle and fat. It’s also particularly statistically dodgy when someone is particularly tall or short, so Usain Bolt and Simone Biles should be glad they’re not going to find themselves at the mercy of the NHS.

As well as the muscular and the all-round encouraged under usual circumstances, who else is likely to be considered obese? Certain minority ethnic groups are more likely to have BMIs over 30–in the UK, particularly Black Caribbean, Black African, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indian and Irish people. Again, mentally ill people are more likely to be at risk, both as a result of their illness itself, or as a result of medication side effects. And once again, poor people are more likely to be considered obese. People with physical disabilities are also more likely to be obese. Incidentally, one of the surgeries “obese” people are blocked from accessing is hip or knee replacements–exactly how the NHS expects them to exercise to lose weight while unable to move, they have not yet explained.

So, NHS trusts with these policies will be disproportionately picking on groups who have been historically and currently disproportionately picked on and blamed for their own misfortune. It is yet another manifestation of the general state approach to behaviour change, which goes like this:

Step 1: Deprive marginalised people of a basic need
Step 2: ??????
Step 3: BEHAVIOUR CHANGE!

Unsurprisingly, there’s no evidence that this works, but it’s a nice little bedtime story for fascists-in-denial to tell themselves, that people are being refused healthcare because they made poor life choices.

At this point, the terminally naive might pipe up that obese people and smokers are at a greater risk of surgical complications than non-smokers or thin people. Yes. That’s true. However, there are also lots of other groups who are at greater risk of surgical complications. Like the elderly. Or the very young. Or malnutrition. Or even drinking moderate amounts of alcohol. Or being a bit cold around the time of your operation. Think of the billions that could be saved if they stopped operating on moderate drinkers: suddenly, there’d be barely any operations, especially if they also stopped operating on kids!

Of course that would be absurd: another myth in play here is that healthcare needs to be rationed at all. The NHS is in crisis, but this crisis isn’t caused by obese people, or smokers, or immigrants, or striking junior doctors, or whichever scapegoat you want to pick. This crisis has been manufactured by years of butchering the NHS. Hospitals are not given enough money to function, and given unrealistic targets to meet on these shoestring budgets, along with a hefty dose of bloated private sector provider inefficiency. In truth, with adequate money, the NHS could happily accommodate everyone who needed treatment.

Given that the government would be perfectly happy for the NHS to go tits-up so the private sector could further cannibalise it, that’s unlikely to happen–that harm comes to the most marginalised people is simply a welcome bonus.

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Theresa May as Prime Minister would be a disaster for women

Content note: this post discusses border violence, benefits violence, rape, violence against women

It is looking remarkably like Theresa May might be the next Prime Minister, elected by the approximately 0.3% of the population that are members of the Tory party. I would have expected widespread terror at this option, but apparently most liberal white feminists simply seem excited that there might be A Lady in power: Suzanne Moore, for example, is excited:

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The pathetic scope of the media feminism has never been more apparent. Theresa May as PM would be bad news for pretty much every woman in this country, and all that would trickle down from her would be death and despair. Let’s have a little look at some of the terrible things she’s done which are harmful towards women.

Yarl’s Wood

While Theresa May cannot be given full responsibility for having opened the place–that honour goes to Tony Blair–May has certainly done her damndest to keep the place open and silence any news coming out of it. Yarl’s Wood is a detention centre for women, where they are held, usually before they’re deported. That in and of itself is violence against women: innocent women are imprisoned against their will simply for where they were born. However, Yarl’s Wood manages to double up as a hotbed of rape and abuse. Women are sent there to be raped.

Theresa May, rather than dealing with the problem, allowed it, and now chooses to cover it up. She blocked information about the scale of the issue coming to light, because it might damage the commercial interests of the private sector company running this repulsive place.

Humiliating vulnerable LGBT women

Let’s get one thing straight: Theresa May. May has a history of voting in a homophobic direction, such as against repealing Section 28, and against lesbian couples having fertility rights. That’s long in the past, though, and from her position as Home Secretary, she’s developed new ways of attacking LGBT people.

Take, for example, the institutional humiliation of LGBT asylum seekers. One case study here is Aderonke Apata, a lesbian woman from Nigeria who sought asylum in the UK because she faces the death penalty for her activism. Theresa May’s Home Office wanted evidence of Aderonke’s sexual orientation. This included a sex tape of Aderonke with her girlfriend. And even after this humiliating treatment, Theresa May ruled her “not lesbian enough”. Another lesbian woman was ruled “not lesbian enough” for wearing lipstick to court.

Her stance on human rights

Theresa May absolutely fucking hates the Human Rights Act. A lot of this is likely to do with the fact it presents a great big humane obstacle to her deporting whoever the hell she likes, whenever the hell she likes. She’s been a consistent opponent of the Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights; with her last call to ditch human rights coming just weeks before the referendum.

Sure, she’s reversed her opposition to human rights now she has a sniff of power, but given how consistent and single-minded she’s been in this crusade, can we really trust her?

Repealing the Human Rights Act and/or leaving the European Convention on Human Rights would have devastating consequences, because women are humans. Thanks to the Human Rights Act, the police must act in cases of domestic violence or rape (if the survivor wants that), privacy must be respected–and it protects the human rights of marginalised women. So, forgive me if I’m concerned about the disproportionate impact abolishing human rights might have on women.

Austerity

Speaking of disproportionate impact on women, do you know what’s had an absolutely devastating impact on women? Austerity.

Austerity has had a horrifying impact on women: rape crisis services closing, women being forced to stay with violent partners due to a lack of services and having nowhere to go, limiting family size… the list goes on and on and on and on. It’s widening the general gender equality gap, and, of course, hitting women who have intersecting oppressions even harder.

Every step of the way, Theresa May has voted these violences against women through. May’s hands are soaked in the blood of women.

Do you want to see her position on migrant women rolled out to all women?

In her current position, Theresa May can only abuse migrant women. She can only humiliate migrant women, tear apart their families, and incite violence against them. Having seen her viciousness for six years, I’d like nothing more than to immure her, hide her away where she can harm nobody.

The violences she has already enacted are enough for a thousand lifetimes, and I cannot believe there are those who would seek to give her more power. However, if you’re the kind of white heterosexual middle-class abled woman who has a media platform, you’ll probably be fine. She’ll probably look out for you, while destroying everybody else.


Brexit was an enormous game of Chicken that we all lost.

I hate being right. It’s only been hours since the UK voted, by a very narrow margin to leave the EU, and everything has already gone to shit. In fact, it’s gone so much to shit that I can’t even be particularly happy that the Shinyfaced Pigfucker has finally fucked off.

I am fairly sure that a lot of leave voters did not quite understand what they were voting for. It was sold to them, everything was sold to them, as a bargaining chip. They did not necessarily think that it would actually happen.

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It happened. They shat the bed and now we all have to lie in it.

I am also unsure as to whether there has ever been an exit strategy. David Cameron has performed the political equivalent of dropping an eggy fart in a room and then swanning on out. It will be up to the Brexit faction to pick up the pieces and try to deliver the Garden of Eden that they promised. And they will not be able to do that, because it was not possible, and it never will be possible, and curbing immigration isn’t exactly going to help when the economy has tanked, businesses have ragequit, nobody will trade with the UK, Scotland secedes, university research collapses and on and on and on.

David Cameron’s successor, whichever godawful dingleberry it is, is likely going to find themselves as the least popular Prime Minister ever. Yes, perhaps even less popular than Shinyfaced Pigfucker Who Absolutely Ruined The Country himself. After all, they will be completely unelected, and utterly failing to deliver on any of the lofty snake oil promised before they took us to the polls. Again, I wish I could gloat over this: if it were a TV show, it would certainly be a gripping plot.

I’m not even convinced that Nigel Farage actually wanted to win this referendum. His strength lies in opposing, and now he’s got what he said he wants, he will become obsolete. He has even reversed on a key campaign promise–an extra £350million a week to the NHS–within minutes of the result coming out.  There was no strategy beyond “leave the EU”, and he has nothing to offer now that the decision is made.

What happened in this referendum was a massive game of Chicken. It was posturing, bravado, a game the right thought they could use to make their position stronger. Among the politicians, their victory could only be in apparent defeat. But the thing about playing Chicken is that sometimes you get run over.

It was treated almost like a game among politicians, and perhaps even many voters. Some, like mass killer Iain Duncan Smith, thought it was “fun”.

It was a gamble with devastating consequences.

I wish over the next few days, weeks, months, years, I could take comfort in the downfall of the terrible people who engineered this. I wish I could laugh at the regret on the facts of those who were taken in, looking no further than their own sense of xenophobia. I wish I could take a detached sigh as they have nobody left to blame for the absolute mess, with immigration down and the EU no longer something to point at.

I wish I could watch from a distance as the right wing drown in the slurry they created. But I cannot, because these drowning men will drag us all down.

They played a game, and we all lost.

 


I don’t love the EU, but I’m voting remain out of apathy and spite

I could make sensible appeals based on fact to vote to remain in the EU: that it will likely destroy an economy already circling the drain. I could counter some of the lies being fed to the populace, like the comical assertion that Turkey are joining the EU soon, or that the EU is somehow responsible for destroying the NHS. I could even point to my friends and family, EU citizens in the UK, and UK citizens working in EU countries, and say that I don’t want life to get harder for them.

But honestly, all of this has been said before, over and over. And it’s not like the Remain campaign has done a job that is in any way competent in making either a case against the right wing rhetoric of shower of bastards in the Leave camp, or stirring up any interest in the EU.

And furthermore, I actually don’t care all that much: I veer between antipathy and apathy to the political process, and this is definitely my feeling towards the EU.

And that’s why I’m voting Remain.

The EU isn’t great. It kind of sits there, a mostly-neutral force which doesn’t do much (despite what the Leave lot would have you believe). It’s nice to be able to travel through Europe without having to faff about with passports, and I like that so many of my pals live in various European cities where they can work freely and I can go and visit them. At the end of the day, that’s about the long and short of my own personal feelings towards the EU: lukewarm.

This all-powerful bureaucracy of the EU is pretty much a myth, and one which was largely engineered by Boris Johnson, who, in his own words was given “a weird sense of power” for doing it. I know that the EU doesn’t really do much, and certainly isn’t responsible for the failings of capitalism, and a government driven by violent ideology.

Nonetheless, I like the things that the EU is blamed for. I like that it makes life harder for those who want to implement xenophobic immigration policy. I like that it makes life harder for those who want to turn every job into a Sports Direct-style sweatshop. I like that it makes life harder for those who want to force everyone in a city to breathe polluted air. I like that it makes life harder for those who want to abuse the marginalised.

Basically, the EU makes life a little harder for some horrible people who want to do horrible things. I don’t even know the extent to which it does or does not actually tie them up, but since they’re blaming the EU for all this I’ll give the EU a bit of credit for it.

A vote to leave is essentially a victory for some terrible people with terrible ideas. There is no left Brexit, and almost all of its prominent supporters aren’t singing any more. There is only empowerment for the right–and potential disaster.

We are balanced on a knife edge, and I am thoroughly unconvinced by the right’s repeated assurances that leaving the EU wouldn’t completely tank the economy, which would have devastating consequences for those like me who are precariously employed. What absolutely will happen–because they’ve promised this and banged on and on about it–would be a crackdown on movement of people, and I don’t want to see any victory for those who dehumanise refugees and immigrants alike.

I don’t want horrible people who treat fellow humans like animals to emerge triumphant.

The Remain campaign has failed miserably in its aims, mostly pandering to the right wing rhetoric of the Leave camp and agreeing with them that human beings are a problem to be solved. One of the few exceptions was Jo Cox, and she’s dead now, probably killed for that.

The Remain camp don’t really deserve to win this referendum, having exhibited a willful incompetence of opposing the far right.

And yet, the far right deserve to win less.

And ultimately, that’s why I’m voting Remain. Out of spite. Out of spite to those who would willingly tank the economy and turn their country into a petty, lonely island, simply because they don’t like the fact that sometimes people have brown skin or speak Polish. Out of spite to those who believe human rights to be a problem, rather than an absolutely necessary protection. Out of spite to exploitative bosses and bigots alike.

Fuck them. Vote Remain.


Why I’m not cheering for scrapping the “tampon tax”

Content warning: this post discusses Tories and menstruation

It looks like the “tampon tax”–the VAT paid on sanitary products–is going away at last. Hypothetically, this should be something to celebrate, but in my role as miserable killjoy bitch, I’m not cheering. I’m not cheering, because I have some concerns, and they’re pretty fucking big ones.

In Wednesday’s budget announcement, the sadly-not-on-fire George Osborne made a very crude attempt to appeal to women by saying that revenue raised from the tampon tax would go to women’s organisations (despite menstruation not just being “a women’s issue”!)

Less than 36 hours later, suddenly we’re hearing that the tampon tax is being scrapped. So, does this mean that there’ll less money for women’s organisations and services than initially budgeted-for? If the removal of the tampon tax comes in with immediate effect, that’s exactly what it would mean. If it’s going to be a while before it comes it, that’s little better: it just means there’ll be a funding black hole for where there was once a kitty for women’s organisations and services, there no longer is one. In other words, it’s not a problem right now, but it will be in the near future.

Either way, rather than something to cheer about, this is simply something that this Tory government are doing very well: moving money away from the public purse and putting it into private hands. Last night, I made a prediction, and I want to go on record with this prediction and spread it far and wide as possible, so I can at least feel a burn of smugness about being proved right while the world fucking burns.

I seriously doubt that the reduction in VAT will pass on to people who need to purchase sanitary products. Sellers know that people are used to paying a certain amount for tampons, etc. They make the occasional special offers, and so forth, and maybe they’ll even temporarily reduce the price when the tampon tax is scrapped, but within a few months, we’ll all be paying the same we always paid for sanitary products, except now that additional 5% is lining private pockets.

So ultimately, there is nothing to cheer about with the abolition of the tampon tax. It’s a PR exercise, nothing more, nothing less. We’re meant to be happy for David Cameron for Being On The Side Of Women while simultaneously Getting A Better Deal For Britain In Europe, but fuck him with a large pike. His government is killing women, and nominally knocking 5% off of a product that is already a massive rip-off does nothing to alleviate that