Individual Voter Registration

Voting changes may see 200,000 miss out in Merseyside

Government red list means 200,000 Merseyside voters may be disenfranchised

So says the Liverpool Daily Post and Echo.  They are upset about “changes being pushed through by the government”, and it’s something to do with the electoral roll, but they don’t think it’s important to tell you that they mean Individual Voter Registration as enabled by the Electoral Registration and Administration Act 2013.

The Electoral Reform Society, like the Post in its own way, is concerned that this may lead people to lose the vote. Of course the Tories are hoping that organised, efficient people who get registered will vote Tory and that anarchists who might get around to voting Labour will drop off the list. Or so I imagine, based on no specific evidence.

Other links

[Updated 29 October – layout change]

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Russell Brand on Newsnight

Recently, Russell Brand was asked to edit New Statesman and was interviewed on Newsnight by Jeremy Paxman.  [UPDATE: transcript by frothquaffer]

Brand spoke about how existing power structures very badly fail to serve most people.  He also said that he chooses not to vote, and called (sort of) for a revolution.

There was a huge, enthusiastic reaction on Twitter – at least on my timeline.  Then there was a backlash, based in the more staid media – traditional newspapers, news sites like HuffPo, columnists and journalists with an established voice.  This was not limited to the obviously pro-establishment right wing, but included left wing voices.  Most of the criticism was centred on the voting issue, some on the lack of detailed plans for a revolution, and a great deal on ad hominem issues like Brand’s playful vocabulary and show business career; Brand was not a serious person, and only serious people were entitled to express an opinion.

What are we to understand from this?  The Left is notorious for vicious factionalism, but to what extent should we understand that these avowedly socialist cherry-pickers and hair-splitters are, intentionally or not – (fx: dramatic chord) enemies of the people?  I’m not yearning for the guillotine, but these are difficult times and I’m trying to understand who is on the side of the angels, sometimes, and who mostly isn’t.

And here are some links.  It may surprise you to learn that I haven’t read all of them with the close attention that they possibly deserve.  This isn’t and can’t be a complete list, and of course the headings rely on my personal, superficial, fallible judgement.  I may add more links as I encounter them.

Neutral (ish)

Pro-Brand

Anti-Brand (usual suspects)

Anti-Brand (arguably Left)

[Updated 29 October to add links.

Sian Norris, whose post I’ve linked today, fully recognises in a few paragraphs the broken state of our alleged democracy but still uses most of her words very forcefully and sincerely defending the right and duty to vote, as the one tiny Velcro-like lever that can resist oppression, a little, if we all pull together.  I’d reverse the emphasis, but there’s nothing here to disagree with.  Contrast this with some of the other Left voices – someone attributed this to Progress, someone else to Common Purpose – where Brand is painted as an upstart who shouldn’t talk about serious things, and only the non-voting and the call for revolution, presented as frivolously grotesque, are amplified to their audiences.  You might want to speculate that those writers are more comfortable with the current way of doing things than with addressing the consequent injustices – but then, we mostly are, even the victims.

I posted a comment over there:

Well said. Voting is the one tiny, precious lever they allow us to have and if we all pull together it can make a difference – not usually because individual votes make a difference, but because they know we are watching and fear that some of us will understand and remember.

Brand’s not really a Messiah, even if he plays one on stage. He may actually be a revolutionary of sorts, but don’t confuse him with Che Guevara. Who he is doesn’t matter nearly as much as what he says. The MSM and some (you may think) unlikely allies want to cherry-pick and refute the things he said, or can credibly be presented as having said, about voting and revolution; those arguments were more nuanced than many of the supposed rebuttals. Voting may very well seem to be a futile exercise in the face of cynical, systematic oppression; we desperately need change that is at least somewhat revolutionary in scale and kind.

The message being smothered is that democracy is broken; the system is crooked and being deliberately made worse; and it does not have to be like this. Brand is pushing effetely against the Overton window so that more of us understand that we can talk about this; eventually it may become slightly more possible for the political establishment to work for the people and not quite so much for the wealthy and the powerful.

That’s an effort that we need to applaud, support, and amplify.

]

[UPDATED 30 October 2013

Added a link to the Robert Webb piece in New Statesman.  Wondering a little late in the day if I should have a separate category for people who are broadly supportive of Brand but really don’t like him suggesting people shouldn’t vote. ]

[UPDATED 31 October 2013 – another link, plus the frothquaffer transcript]

[UPDATED 1 November 2013

Added link http://libcom.org/blog/dear-messrs-webb-lustig%E2%80%A6-01112013

It is not we who are uninformed. It is not we who deny reality. It is not we who pretend that politics for the last 30 years have revolved around who’s sat on the green benches and use that as an excuse to do the sum total of fuck all to contribute to our world and our future because some other bloke will sort it out. That’s you. It’s your casual acceptance and shrug of the shoulders that capitalist representative democracy is the best of a bad lot that has led to the utter destruction of first working class power, then our protections and rights.

Also corrected date in previous update. ]

[UPDATED 2 November 2013

Added Laurie Penny link, which (I might find if I were to read it) appears to be a subtly derailing ad hominem about Brand’s attitudes to women.

Brand is also getting some mentions at #classconf13, mostly taking it for granted that Brand’s main point and purpose is that people shouldn’t vote.]

Mandatory Reconsideration

Mandatory Reconsideration is now in effect.

If the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) make a decision about your benefits that you do not agree with, you have 1 month to ask them to reconsider it. You cannot move on on to the next stage of having an independent Judge-led review of your decision (called a tribunal hearing) without first taking this step, which is why the process is called mandatory reconsideration.

If you are trying to claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), then you will not get any benefit during the mandatory reconsideration process.

http://www.carersuk.org/help-and-advice/help-with-money/benefits-a-tax-credits/challenging-a-benefit-decision

Petition
http://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/ian-duncan-smith-targets-the-sick-vulnerable

Other links

Note that there is no intention to introduce any time limit for carrying out a mandatory reconsideration.

http://www.cpag.org.uk/content/new-appeals-rules-and-procedures

http://disabilitynewsservice.com/2013/09/dwp-dismisses-talk-of-fitness-for-work-catch-22/

http://www.cpag.org.uk/content/new-appeals-rules-and-procedures

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/appeals-process-changes-for-dwp-benefits-and-child-maintenance

http://www.rightsnet.org.uk/

[UPDATE 30 October 2013

The Socialist Worker is reporting that the DWP has issued this advice to Job Centres:

If the claimant has claimed JSA (or another benefit), they will stay on that benefit unless they ask for JSA to be re-instated. You should NOT ask the claimant if they would like to change back to ESA.

http://samedifference1.com/2013/10/30/internal-memos-reveal-fresh-attacks-on-claimants-and-job-centre-workers/ %5D

[UPDATE 10 December 2013

Strike out duplicated link

Links related to ESA appeals:

SSCS1A leaflet for tribunal appeals: http://hmctsformfinder.justice.gov.uk/courtfinder/forms/sscs001a-eng.pdf

SSCS1 appeal form: http://hmctsformfinder.justice.gov.uk/courtfinder/forms/sscs001-eng.pdf (can be filled in and then printed from Adobe Reader).

Government advice on appeals changes: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/appeals-process-changes-for-dwp-benefits-and-child-maintenance

Stick-it-to-the man advice – understandable, but may not be in every claimant’s best interest: http://dwpexamination.wordpress.com/why-it-is-important-to-appeal/

Leicester Council appeals advice with sample letters: http://www.leicester.gov.uk/EasySiteWeb/getresource.axd?AssetID=61511

NHS advice page: http://www.nhs.uk/CarersDirect/moneyandlegal/otherbenefits/Pages/ESA-challenges.aspx

Appeal advice http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/employment-and-support-allowance/esa-appeals and mandastory reconsideration FAQ http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/employment-and-support-allowance/esa-appeals/mandatory-reconsiderations

Disability Rights appeals and Mandatory reconsideration factsheet: http://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/appeals-and-mandatory-reconsideration ]

BBC Bias

Grant Shapps is once more threatening the BBC’s financial lifeline.

The political right are always saying that the BBC is dominated by left-wing views and distorts its news presentation accordingly. To take a random example:

UK GDP figures for Q3 are due later this morning and it seems they will be positive, further underlining UK economic recovery. This is bad news for labour and bad news for the BBC. I caught an item on the Today programme this morning where the idea was being floated that ALTHOUGH growth did seem to be happening, it’s the wrong sort of growth apparently. I wonder do the BBC listen to British Rail? Anyway, watch what happens as we go through the day and see how long before the BBC trots out the “cost of living” meme being retailed by Miliband and co. Now that Plan B is dead an buried, the Labour party and it’s broadcasting arm are out to ensure that welcome economic news is pricked by all kinds of inane accusations about “cost of living” trials and tribulations.

I don’t read the Biased BBC  blog regularly, and I don’t therefore know how typical this is,  I was going to write more widely about alleged BBC bias, but why not focus on this nasty example of right-wing thinking?  Let’s take it slowly.

UK GDP figures for Q3 are due later this morning and it seems they will be positive, further underlining UK economic recovery. This is bad news for labour and bad news for the BBC.

Economic growth is bad news for Labour?  Because the only thing worth discussing is a zero-sum pissing contest where Labour and the BBC are on the same side, and supposedly cheer if the country does badly while the Tories are in to bat?

I caught an item on the Today programme this morning where the idea was being floated that ALTHOUGH growth did seem to be happening, it’s the wrong sort of growth apparently. I wonder do the BBC listen to British Rail?

But so it is the wrong sort of growth.  0.8% is an unimpressive number – even if it looks bigger than 1% on first impression, it’s not.  The economy is wriggling against the bonds of austerity despite the government’s efforts, though their Help To Buy bubble is probably starting to inflate.  The finance sector and the government’s cronies are doing very nicely; working people and benefit claimants (many of whom are of course the same people) continue to struggle.  The crack about British Rail is just a little reinforcement in case the blogger’s public missed the joke about “the wrong kind of snow”, which is quite likely if they swallow this nonsense.  And they do.

Anyway, watch what happens as we go through the day and see how long before the BBC trots out the “cost of living” meme being retailed by Miliband and co. Now that Plan B is dead an buried, the Labour party and it’s broadcasting arm are out to ensure that welcome economic news is pricked by all kinds of inane accusations about “cost of living” trials and tribulations.

How strange it would be to consider how this supposed growth affects ordinary people!  The BBC would only do this if they have a hidden agenda, they must be the “Labour Party’s] broadcasting arm”.  Look, they want to spoil our pissing contest!

I wondered what the writer meant about plan B.  I think they are trying to say that austerity has been such a brilliant economic success that Osborne can shrug off any suggestion that he should change course.  This makes perfect sense if you want to believe that 0.8% GDP growth, after more than 3 years of austerity (having inherited a considerably healthier 3.5% growth), is a great accomplishment.  And that we should disregard the struggles of working people, the food banks, the evictions, the suicides.  There are plenty of jobs!  Most of these people can work!  The safety net is there for people who really need it!  Nobody needs to go hungry, they just go to the Trussell Trust because it’s there!

Low-information Tory voters don’t need facts.  No wonder they think the distorted glimpses offered by the BBC are ridiculously biased against them.