Welcome to Tory Britain, where you can’t even age with dignity: scroungers, shirkers and the neo-liberal rhetoric of strength.

By Milly Morris

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Growing up as the youngest of fourteen siblings and living in poverty for her entire life, my Grandma has always fought to keep her head above water. In 1939, she left school at fourteen – the year that World War II broke out – and cared for her disabled father, who had lost his leg in the First World War. After he died, she was evicted and became homeless whilst she struggled to look for work.

Despite her difficult experiences, the stories that she relayed to my siblings and I were always centred around community spirit, friendship and the trouble that she would get up to at my age. Indeed, throughout my life, she has consistently taught me that compassion and community are essential to human existence. Moreover, from the perspective of the average Tory MP, my Grandma is a “model citizen”: she has worked hard her entire life, paid her taxes and – much to my annoyance – always gets excited at the sight of the Queen on TV.

Today, at 93-years-old, surely she should be able to relinquish some of her individual responsibility and be one of many vulnerable citizens that the government aims to protect and support?

Yet, when my Grandma was sent to hospital last week, she was left in a corridor for nine hours before being seen. The lack of resources meant that she wasn’t even permitted a bed for the time that she was there, being left to sleep in a wheelchair. Despite the warm and friendly staff attempting to cater to all patients, the waiting room was crowded and chaotic; patients and their families were left in undignified discomfort, lying and sitting on the floor.

Since the announcement of the upcoming general election in June, the right-wing press have hailed Theresa May’s “strength” as guaranteeing the country with a sense of stability. This is despite the fact that the UN recently condemned austerity politics as the main source of poverty and inequality in the UK, disproportionately effecting women and children.

For Foucault, language “mediates our understanding of the world” and shapes the social reality that we live in via portrayals of that reality. Indeed, within neoliberal society, rampant individualism is often misconstrued as strength whilst compassion is associated with weakness, instability and – as the right-wing media would like us to believe – millennial “entitlement.” One can see such language being played out in binary representations of Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn; whilst May is a “safe pair of hands”, Corbyn’s desires to support vulnerable individuals mean that he is repeatedly presented as “out of touch” and a “loser.”

Arguably, this ubiquitous rhetoric of contempt for “weakness” has led us to the point where our most vulnerable in society are simply being tossed onto the scrapheap and left to rot. For example, calls to support refugees are branded as overly emotional, irrational and naïve. When Gary Linicker critiqued The Sun’s racist coverage of refugees – including Katie Hopkin’s column which referred to them as “cockroaches” – he was branded a “leftie luvvie.” In contrast, when David Cameron announced his plans for airstrikes on Syria, The Sun’s headline was: “Wham! Bam! Thank you Cam!”, suggesting that the former Prime Minister was efficient and strong in his violent reaction to the refugee crisis.

Moreover, such discourse shifts collective responsibilities onto the individual and demonises those who struggle to keep up. Rather than lay the blame for the refugee crisis at the foot at violent government’s doors, the right-wing media consistently asks why individual asylum seekers don’t “go back where they came from” to “fight for their own freedom.” In terms of the welfare state, individual “benefit scroungers” and migrant workers are seen to be forcing our services into disarray. This is despite the fact that the government’s welfare plans have been found to have “serious design flaws.” Indeed, we are now living in a country where starving benefit “scroungers” will go to prison for stealing £12.60 worth of meat, seemingly forgetting the fact that:

(…) just a few years ago – over 300 parliamentarians were found to have claimed expenses to which they weren’t entitled; hundreds of thousands handed over to some of the richest people in the country for duck houses, moat repairs and heating their stables.

Arguably, such pervasive and stigmatic language has meant that people are afraid to ask for help for fear of appearing ‘weak.’ Indeed, this may be why so many people who are suffering at the hand of Tory austerity are still willing to vote for Theresa May in June; when we individualize issues, people turn inwards rather than looking outwards at the powerful structures which govern our existence.

It would appear that ‘strength’ in this instance is less about providing feasible solutions for a divided country and more about shifting attention away from those who are profiting from atomistic individualism whilst simultaneously re-writing the narratives for those who criticise such ideals as simply naïve.

Yet, at a time when the NHS is on the brink of being dismantled, we must ask ourselves: if the government does not look after our most vulnerable citizens, then what are the state’s real interests?

Handy things the BBC taught me

Sophie Harman

Newsreading

I don’t know if you saw the email in January from the BBC looking for ‘Expert Women.’ It was unfortunately worded, as if the BBC could make women experts or that somehow women needed help being experts. Aside from the wording the intent was good: most experts on TV and radio are men and the BBC have recognised this and decided to do something about it. I applied and was accepted. I also found the day to be brilliant and very helpful. I thought it would be worth sharing some of the things I found out for four reasons. First, some of my friends were one of the 400+ women who applied. The demand or need for such knowledge is clearly there. Second, you may be like me and think TV or radio is not for you. I thought this and then after the day changed my mind. Apparently this is what a lot of women think. Third, according to research from City University London the ratio of male/female experts in Politics is 10/1 and foreign affairs 5/1. In the long list we were shown at the beginning of the day, Politics was the worst of all academic disciplines. I see this as a discipline fail. Finally, it is an opportunity for me to share a picture of me presenting the news (I am taking a call from a foreign correspondent on the line) in my Mum’s kitchen. Once male/female ratios are equal I’ll post the full video complete with thrilling guided tour of my home town of Chesham. I can’t add you to a BBC database (which is half the problem) but some of these points may help you go for it should you get the call.

  1. Um, well, so – are all acceptable words to use in a TV or radio interview. Don’t stress about them. We all use them in everyday speech. Think about how often you use um, like, well, so when talking in the pub/coffee shop/on the phone. Always.
  2. If you dry up/go blank presenters will help you. Professional presenters or interviewers know what to do: this is their job, they will therefore pick you up, prompt you and get you back on track if you forget your name. So don’t worry about blanking.
  3. Breathe through your mouth. This was a big reveal for me as years of yoga mean I always think breathing through your nose is best. Big mistake! Yawning is also good as it relaxes your jaw and wakes up your brain.
  4. Who cares if you get high pitched when you’re nervous? You are not Thatcher and this is not the 80s, women don’t have to moderate their voices anymore. Having an annoying voice has not stopped Robert Peston.
  5. If you flush/go red – no-one can see if you’re on radio and it is not clear on telly.
  6. Never read. You may want notes as a crutch but reading from them will make you sound and look rubbish. They will also make you more nervous.
  7. TV studios (well the BBC ones) are like the university seminar rooms you to try to change – in the basement, windowless, in odd corridors – with added cameras. So nothing to fear there.
  8. Examples to illustrate your point are big. They are effective at communicating and impacting with people listening/watching.
  9. Pivoting – talk about what you want. If you listen to the radio/watch TV you’ll see this all the time. ‘That’s an interesting question, but the real issue is…’
  10. Take your bangles off if on radio (I sadly abandoned wearing bangles everyday years ago because of keyboard bashing but I salute those of you who remain committed to the bangle) – the mega mics pick up everything.
  11. Because no-one can see you on radio you can raise your hand to the presenter if you have a point to make and they’re ignoring you
  12. Be easy – if they call and you can do it, turn up and do it: no drama.
  13. Have a back up list of excellent women – this is a big one. If we want to get more women on the radio and TV we’ve got to help each other. If you get the call and cant make it, have a go-to list ready to refer another woman. If anyone wants to be added to my global health women expert list let me know!
  14. Contact editors/producers if something newsworthy happens in your area. E.g. if you’re an expert in Milton Keynes and there’s a local government coup – let them know! Also update your linkedin (apparently a search tool for journalists – who knew?). You can contact them by Twitter or emailing them (all BBC addresss seem to be in the format of harman@bbc.co.uk)
  15. What to wear: no stripes, no white, if on radio less jewellery the better. Apparently there is a secret society led by Susannah Reid of dresses that look good and fit mics on telly but I am not privy to that information. When I am I’ll break the Reid omerta and share.
  16. Do some homework on the show you’re on. The Today Programme has a different style to PM to Woman’s Hour. Still be yourself but get a sense of the pace and tone.
  17. Fun Fact! Impersonating the accent of the person talking to you is not insulting – it is called ‘code switching’ and (correct me if I’m wrong linguists) is something women predominantly do to communicate effectively.

This may be all self-evident to anyone who has gone on media training. However training always seems to tell you how to be when the BBC seemed to stress over and over how it is best to just be yourself. Top thing I learned, give it a go, and if you don’t like it don’t do it again. Mumbling on radio 4 won’t end your career. You’ve got nothing to lose.

Erotic Performance and Spectatorship: New Frontiers in Erotic Dance

Sex Work Research Hub

by Katy Pilcher

Erotic dance is one of the most contentious issues in feminist debates today and a source of fascination in media representations, yet little is known about those who perform erotic dance for women customers, or the experiences of these spectators themselves. Through vivid ethnographies of a lesbian leisure venue and a male strip show, Erotic Performance and Spectatorship examines the gender and sexual politics of erotic dance, simultaneously relating these to debates about sex work more widely. Drawing on insights gleaned through participant observation within erotic dance spaces; interviews with dancers, customers and management; together with a photo-elicitation venture with a dancer, this book subverts previous assumptions that only women perform erotic dance and only men spectate, and develops the debate beyond assumptions that erotic dance is either straightforwardly degrading or empowering.

Through the voices of dancers and customers, together with my own reflections on participating in…

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Diversity in academia: It takes raindrops to make a river

UK PSA Women & Politics Specialist Group

PSA ECNJessica Smith (Birkbeck), Communications Officer for the PSA Early Career Network, reflects on the ECN’s recent workshop on ‘Demystifying and Navigating Early Career Academia’, held at the University of Manchester on 3 February 2017. 

In February, the Political Studies Association’s Early Career Network hosted a day of workshops and panels at the University of Manchester aimed at demystifying early academia and discussing how we can increase diversity in our ranks, co-sponsored by the PSA Women and Politics Specialist Group. The most recent figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency showed that just 24 per cent of UK professors are women, we know that it is lower in political science (around 20%) and that numbers for BME representation are even worse. The day offered training sessions for early career academics within which there was recognition of the varying experiences different identities and backgrounds can create. The day finished with a panel on increasing diversity in…

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Ideal academics (and the women behind them)

The Slow Academic

A highlight of the week on Twitter has been the hashtag from @bruceholsinger #thanksfortyping which reveals the contributions of anonymous wives to the research of male academics:

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The entire thread is well worth reading (and there are also some more recent positive examples where wives are named and acknowledged). It reminded me of the uncomfortable images of hidden mothers in Victorian photographs:

Hidden mother in unsettling Victorian photograph of childrenmother-and-baby-portrait-001Image result for victorian hidden mothersImage result for victorian hidden mothers

In a previous post, I provided some links on the disproportionate load of care work, emotional labour, housework and service that women carry in and out of the academy. #Thanksfortyping shows…

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Globalisation & the environment (a rap)

Thomas Sheldon

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INTRO

With regard to the environment, the

impact of globalisation is significant,

Multifaceted and complex, but I will

try my best in this brief talk to address, a

few theories and thoughts that have been put forward,

to assess the descriptive and normative nature,

of this relationship between nature and global

trade between nations. So let’s begin…

VERSE 1

Globalisation is often thought,

To damage our ecology across the board. When the

transport of goods by ocean and air alone, a-

-ccounts for a tenth of all petroleum blown, it’s

easy to see how you’d reach this conclusion, but

in reality the situation is nuanced,

The bad may well outweigh the good, but

some positive elements can’t be ignored.

Perhaps a global neoliberal order,

Allows positive pressure to spread wider,

If we vote with our wallets and purses,

And every time we make a purchase, we

take into consideration, the pollution and re-

duction to bio-diversification that ensues,

the companies that profit from it, will see their profits plummet,

Unless they change the way they make their pay,

J. Frankel puts it quite simply,

Without global trade between countries,

The ethical consumer in Milan wouldn’t

be able to sway the producer in Taiwan,

But that doesn’t negate the state’s role, con-

sumers can only control when they’re in the know,

Proper labelling of packaging is a must,

With origin and method of production up front,

Without a set of laws to dictate,

Companies can too easily obfuscate,

If free markets entail a free choice,

Then the state has to step up and regulate,

But what chance is there that they’d do this?

Most governments have double incentives,

As Professor Peter Newell puts it:

Those charged with tackling environmental problems and promoting sustainable development are the same actors that create the conditions for the expansion of trade, production and finance which generates environmental harm in the first place. It is imperative to be clear about the contradictions and strategic dilemmas that flow from this situation if we are to meaningfully advance a project of socially just sustainable development in a context of globalisation”.

So,

There’s the fear that globalised markets, make

states afraid to reign in their corporates,

So they reduce the regulatory burden, placed

upon them so they compete stronger.

If China can produce your goods cheaper,

Despite causing more pollution,

And if neither you nor them pay for the clean up,

Most firms will see it as an efficient solution.

This ‘race to the bottom’ hypothesis,

Isn’t entirely evidenced however.

Empirical studies have generally concluded,

Environmental regulation doesn’t always do this,

The cost of complying with eco-regulation,

Doesn’t compare to other considerations,

The price of labour, training and infrastructure

Is much greater, and besides

In his book, ‘Trading Up’, David Vogel,

Says that northern markets are too profitable

To be ignored even when the cost of compliance is

borne, so standards rise overall,

I think this analysis is flawed,

Although a company that moves overseas wouldn’t

want to ignore northern markets and in

turn they ensure that their goods are fit for

Sale over here and fully comply with

our laws, our laws are quite poor.

Though not by design, it’s more by compulsion,

Let me explain the conundrum…

VERSE 2

It’s all because the W.T.O,

Though permitting the setting of trade barriers

Where an imported product is damaging to the

environment of the importing country,

Don’t allow for the importing country

To set restrictions on the method of production

Utilised in the originating country

Even if the method contributes to global warming.

Therefore it’s hardly surprising to see that

in developing states factory standards are shaky,

and to compete on the international scene they

have to keep production methods cheap or cease to be.

Consider an example: a

factory in Bangladesh that manufactures textiles.

It’s heavily polluting, but a

waste treatment plant would vastly reduce this.

The only problem is the cost,

When any global company can cut corners to undercut,

They can’t afford to clean up, and the

tax rate’s low so the state’s broke and can’t pay too.

Well that’s not exactly true,

The government has money but has to spend it subsidising,

Water supplies for the factories’ dyes,

To keep the economy alive.

So in a sense, it’s fair to say that

states have the power to regulate effectively,

But in reality, it depends entirely

on the type of externality.

If pollution is local to a region, then

states can legislate to alleviate the grievance,

But if the problems are more global, then

unilateral action won’t work to solve them,

And wealth plays an enormous part, or

What Boyce calls the ‘ability to afford’.

The UK can pay for clean cars, while

developing countries can’t.

If we feel that a decent environment,

Isn’t a luxury but more a human right,

Then the north can’t just ignore, the

damage that’s caused by the goods we import,

When pollution is externalised to war-

mer climes or future times so that we’re blind to

what we’ll reap from what we sow, it’s inevita-

ble that competition won’t address on its own

The crisis of the commons,

That global warming represents.

We need to co-operate or

sooner or later we’re spent.

VERSE 3

So far we’ve looked at how people,

countries and international agreements,

In the context of neoliberal

capital can still act to advance en-

-vironmental protection.

But this doesn’t necessitate action,

Despite the fact that we can see,

Global temperature rising so predictably,

And due to human directed activity,

There are those who would deny responsibility,

And as the far-right gains in popularity,

The worrying fragility of public awareness is

laid bare before us, and it’s enormous-

ly important to reflect on the fact that

right now the man who sits in the White House,

thinks the Chinese invented the greenhouse,

And wants to ignore environmental law, and

thinks we can afford to abort the Paris Climate Accord,

He may be on the other side of the pond,

But the consequences will be felt from London to Hong Kong,

For decades most states could have been blamed

For not doing enough to help save the

planet from our ecologically damaging ways

but other threats dropped off the radar,

It’s not exclusively the laws that are made and the

talks that are staged that relate in an obvious way

to the environment that have the potential to sway,

climatological change. Let me

give you an example so you can relate,

As Trump and Bannon plan to ban citizens travelling from seven

Majority Muslim states, thereby undermining

trust that wasn’t easily made, it’s not unthinkable that

all the work that went into assuaging Iran,

could be harmed beyond repair and lead to an affair where,

both end up proliferating nuclear arms,

and the aftermath sees the earth scorched bare and,

leaves the seas toxic sees the leaves dropped from

all the treetops. And that’s just the local,

turn to the global, most studies show that,

from pole to pole will be frozen over,

A cyanosis that the globe won’t cope with,

For five years our crop yield will be near zero,

Black smoke injected into the stratosphere

will block light and cause plant life to die,

Sobriety is called for,

We can’t afford to ignore the risk of a nuclear war,

And how it would affect the climate,

On a global scale like no war before it,

CONCLUSION

So to conclude I’ll offer my own thoughts.

In my view we need more co-operation,

And less competition to ensure,

We make globalisation work for us all.

From hate-mongering to greed,

From cutting every corner just to earn enough to eat,

To maximising profit by homogenising seeds,

It’s unsustainable. So I propose…

Well, right now the W.T.O

sets rules to promote financial growth,

and though the evidence shows it’s not so, they

hold that this is the sole consideration,

In trying to fight degradation:

‘States will clean up if they prosper’ they say.

But we need compulsion,

The stakes are too high to rely on fake wisdom.

In the same way world trade states,

must agree to liberalise their trade with others nations,

I say they should make a dedication,

To cut pollution and reduce carbon emission.

If all countries had to play ball,

Companies couldn’t be undercut anymore,

It would encourage finding genuine efficiency,

And not externalising liabilities.

So in short its worth keeping in mind,

Despite all the trends we might find,

The way globalisation will evolve,

Depends on us and the world we choose to mould.

I’ll end now with a quote from James Boyce,

To emphasise this most important point,

When it comes to our future direction…

As its critics fear, globalisation could accelerate worldwide environmental degradation and deepen environmental inequalities. Yet globalisation also gives impetus to countervailing forces that could bring about a greener and less divided world. The history of the future is still to be written.”

PSA Care Commission commentary on The Spring Budget

Juanita Elias

Chancellor Philip Hammond’s first budget saw the government make commitments to make £2 billion in funds available for social care over the next three years. This was a significant development especially considering how Hammond had been widely criticised after his autumn financial statement which failed to make any mention of the NHS or Social Care. Indeed the criticism faced by Hammond from local government, social care providers, key charities and think tanks alongside the political opposition was palpable. In certain respects then, this appeared to be an embarrassing about turn in government policy – but is that really the case? Or are we looking at business as usual when it comes to issues of social care?

More money for the sector is something that must, of course, be welcomed. The fact that this funding is not linked to last year’s introduction of the council tax funded social care levy is a positive development – since this served to distribute care funding via a postcode lottery in which those local authorities with the highest proportions of older people are also those that have significantly lower council tax revenue bases. It also appears that this is not money that is being syphoned off from elsewhere, although we will have to see what conditions are attached to this extra funding.

Nonetheless we must raise the concern that many other have also raised that this is still not enough. Such are the numbers of people living with unmet care needs, does this funding constitute more of a sticking plaster?  Bold thinking is required about how to manage the care crisis long term. The government promises in the budget that it will ‘set out proposals in a green paper to put the social care system on a more secure and sustainable long-term footing’. We also know that parliament is currently undertaking a review of social care and integration – but concerns are consistently raised that unless funding for social care is properly ring-fenced within integrated health budgets and these budgets themselves receive further funding, then social care will become a ‘Cinderella service’ – or the service that always has to simply get by on whatever funds are made available. Furthermore, it also seems to be the case that the government can easily ignore/fail to respond to the findings of this inquiry.  This and previous governments have an established history of kicking the can down the road so to speak when it comes to addressing the issue of the consistent underfunding of social care. After all, we have been here before. The 2011 Dilnot commission sought to address the issue of NHS funding, commitments that were taken up in the 2014 Care Act but never actually implemented. Other sensible proposals such as the 2014 Barker commission have simply been ignored. So what will the proposed green paper actually do?

Reflecting on Hammond’s budget, we also need to consider the way in which social care is consistently framed merely as a ‘problem’ for the NHS. Spending on social care certainly promises to free up NHS beds – but at the same time, missing from such a simplistic equation, is any notion of a right to be cared for, of any underpinning vision in which care for older people is seen as a central component of living in a just and fair society. The care crisis is not simply a crisis for the NHS, it is also an everyday crisis – one in which many many older people are simply denied the opportunity to live well into old age and their carers (both paid and unpaid) struggle to ensure people’s care needs are met. A focus purely on social care as a crisis for the NHS also means that we lose sight of how this crisis has gotten so bad in the first place. Part of the story here is about successive government’s failing to implement long term funding solutions for the sector – but there is more than merely this at work – what we identified in our report Towards a New Deal for Care and Carers was that gendered norms of caring (the idea that someone, usually a female family member) will step in and do the work of care actually makes possible these years of government neglect. Foreign investors might leave an ailing steel or car plant – but how easy is it for family members to abandon those that they love? Why does there appear to be little willingness on the part of the state to step in and support carers in times of need? Care then, is socially necessary labour that is widely undervalued and overwhelmingly performed by women. Caring for older relatives is important work, and yes, it is also often rewarding work – but it is, at the same time, difficult, backbreaking, labour with little respite which serves to lock many women out of higher paying work opportunities. As we found in our report, the difficulties of navigating a complex care system places further stresses and strains on those doing this work.

An Age UK commentary prior to the budget made the important distinction between social care (that is, personal care for those unable to care for themselves) and other forms of care (from friendship through to local services such as lunch clubs and day centres) – and suggested that there was a tendency in government thinking for the latter form of care to be seen as some sort of replacement for the former. This is an important point; the ‘big society’ will not save social care. At the same time these two forms of care must be seen as linked. Unpaid carers and older people seeking to navigate the social care system are doing so at a time when their ability to access information is becoming ever more difficult. Library and day centre closures for example are the inevitable outcome of the cuts to local authority budgets at a time of social care crisis – but such places often serve as important hubs for the accessing information about help available to older people and their carers. So let’s also talk about how austerity has impacted those community based services that enable older people to live fulfilling and meaningful lives.

In the current context, any funding for social care is of course welcome. But at the same time, we have to shift the conversation in ways that acknowledge how we cannot as a society rely on families to pick up the slack. Comments by Government care Minister David Mowat in January that families need to do more, show that government thinking in this area has not shifted. On a budget that took place on the same day as International Women’s Day, it shouldn’t be forgotten that asking women – and it is indeed usually women – to take on more and more of the burden of unpaid care is something that is at odds with the attainment of gender equality and what Teresa May suggested back in July 2016 when she stood on the steps of Downing Street and said that she would strive to deliver ‘a county that works for everyone’.

[Reblogged with permission from Commission on Care]