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Everywhere you turn these days it seems there’s a new petition, new hashtag, new cause. I’m not quite sure what this says about us, that we’re basically begging for people to listen to us, to change their behaviour, to recognise that we’re there. Perhaps it’s related to the British queueing mechanism – if there’s a queue, we’ll join in. If there’s a petition, we’ll sign it.
Except we don’t, actually. Not unless someone famous talks about it. So right at the moment in the run up to the planned badger cull, Dr Brian May is championing a petition against the cull, and that’s got 245,000 signatures. Plenty for the issue to be debated in parliament. (Except wasn’t it already debated in parliament, and didn’t they decide to do this anyway?)
Similarly, I’ve already blogged about the banknotes petition. There are quite a few bloggers writing about it now, and I’ve seen occcasional articles in the mainstream press about it.
Benefits now. I think the government has succeeded in completely reframing the discussion on benefits. Despite there being no evidence of widespread fraud, it’s shameful to need benefits. Scroungers and shirkers are the words in common use – even ironically this is an acceptance of labels that do not apply. Many of the people relying on housing benefit and tax credits are in work. Some of them working for companies who cheerfully and unashamedly dodge paying tax, through complete legal loopholes governments all around the world have colluded in arranging.
Yes, I do think it’s that bad. Most politicians are not of the real world. Look at people like William Hague. He’s on a very healthy salary for his full time job as an MP. And yet he’s absolutely raking it in alongside, with directorships, after dinner speeches and consultancy. How does he find enough hours in the day? Something must be giving surely? This is why they think it’s easy to just pop out and earn a bit extra to cover the bedroom tax – because for them it is. The concept of the living wage – something desperately needed in this country is alien as it might impact on the share and dividends they are living on.
Is there anything we can do? Well, you *can* sign petitions. I think it’s utterly disgusting that the benefits changes that have been brought in so far have been without a full cumulative impact assessment on how they effect disabled people. But more than that, I think that we need to actually take action.
When you spend the money you have to spend, if you can, try to do it with companies that pay a decent wage. I can’t actually find any supermarket that’s signed up to the living wage scheme, but both Aldi and Lidl appear to pay all staff (including cleaners!) above the £6.19 suggested. ETA: I got my numbers completely confused here. £6.19 is the mininum wage, the suggested living wage is £7.45 for most of country and £8.55 for London. Which means that Aldi is doing fairly well, but Lidl has a way to go yet. And look out for companies avoiding avoiding paying taxes if you see what I mean. So shop with Hive instead of Amazon – support independent booksellers.
Politicians seem increasingly irrelevant in day to day life. They aren’t addressing tax avoidance, or living wage. They seem to prefer to believe that attacking the poorest members of society, who did nothing to cause the recession we’re still in, will make us all believe that that’s the answer. Don’t believe them. Do your own research.