The Dichotomies of Labour



I am a traditional Labour supporter. I believe in fairness and equal opportunities for all. Just last night when interviewed by a market research company carrying out polling, I gave Labour maximum ratings as the party I am most likely to vote for in the General Election.

However I have become furious at comments made by Rachel Reeves in the Guardian.

The interview begins in fairly recognisable Labour territory, a pledge to reduce reliance on food banks. Now, food banks do fantastic work, that is indisputable, but one cannot turn their face away from the fact that it is the Coalition’s unrelenting ideological pursuit of austerity which necessitated their creation.

But, ensuring that people have enough to live on to purchase their own food restores their dignity and allows them to participate fully in society.

It was not the proposal to reduce the use of food banks that provoked my anger however.

Politicians of all colours have been at pains to suggest they support hard-working people. On the face of it this is a good thing, if you contribute to the country then you should be rewarded for your efforts.

However this drive to support the hard-working has had an unintended consequence, hostility towards the unemployed and those who cannot work. What this debate lacks in abundance is nuance and the ability to drill down into the many reasons why people cannot work.

In further comments, Rachel Reeves appears to pander to that hostility. In suggesting that Labour does not want to be seen as the party of the welfare state, she says;

“We are not the party of people on benefits. We don’t want to be seen and we’re not the party to represent those who are out of work. Labour are a party of working people, formed by working people.

However, in attempting to diffuse criticism that Labour is soft on the unemployed, you are saying that you do not care about vast swathes of the electorate. I find the assertion that Labour does not represent me insulting. Labour should be out to win not haemorrhage votes


It is little more than a betrayal of the strong socialist credo upon which Labour is founded to disassociate itself from the welfare state. Labour should be proud of the fact that it created a framework which helps the sick, and the vulnerable and most needy in our society.

More worryingly, it communicates to a huge proportion of the electorate the message that this politics business is not for them¸ that you just don’t understand how politics works, you proletarian oiks!

I felt small when I read Rachel Reeves’ comments. It reminded me of the visceral pain William Beech, the young hero of Michelle Magorian’s novel Goodnight Mister Tom feels when he is sent to the “baby” class as he is unable to read.

Having a disability does not preclude you from voting. Nor does it make you any less politically savvy than anyone else. I think that disabled people as a social group are much disenfranchised with their treatment at the hands of the Conservative led coalition and would gladly use their vote to help form a Labour led Government on May 7th.  The comments of Rachel Reeves do feel like a betrayal

I voted Labour in 1997 because I saw politicians like Tony Blair as understanding of my situation. I saw John Prescott produce his pledge card on television, and felt he was a conviction politician who believed every word on that card – therefore I believed him too.

Things Can Only Get Better became more than a catchy campaign anthem (which should definitely be on Ed Miliband’s campaign playlist by the way). It became a state of mind for the British electorate, in economic conditions not altogether dissimilar to those we are currently experiencing. It offered real hope.

But today’s Labour seems hamstrung by two things, an ideological fight with the Conservatives, and a paralysis over economic stewardship. But I would invite Labour to think introspectively about who they are fighting the election for, or against. Are they fighting against the Tories, or for the voters?

When I first saw Rachel Reeves comments I thought they were crass and spiteful. Such commentary does not emerge from socialism, it emerges from a desire to be seen as ideologically tough on an issue which is costly to the Exchequer.

However, if you boast that you will be tough on welfare, then, although many benefit claimants are in work, you are also adding to the stigma that people such as those with mental health problems or disabilities face.

If I have noticed one thing living under the brutal austerity of the Coalition, it is a politics riven with a hectoring, bullying tone towards the unemployed. I know politicians might say that they are not talking about me, they are talking about people who can work who don’t. But do you know why I am not reassured by this placation? The public does not differentiate between different types of benefit claimants, nor their individual narratives, because endless games of divide and conquer do not afford such opportunities. Egged on by the Coalition, and now it seems by the Opposition, on the issue of welfare the electorate is enticed into a game of dog whistle Heroes (those who work) and Villains (those who don’t). But it is not that simple.

For behind the grandeur of social theory, there are human beings who will live out the costs of politicians’ ideological boasts. I find a delicious irony in an interview that on one level, wants to reduce food bank use that on another level simultaneously vilifies the unemployed without even a flicker of awareness. That is why I think the morals of making such pronouncements at best questionable

I will end with a reminder and a warning. It is not for politicians to dictate who votes for them, creating a false dichotomy between desirable and undesirable voters, or put another way, good and bad ones. The electorate can however, choose to vote for you, or consign you to the Opposition benches. Labour would do well to remember this today.













































DrinkAware? Some victim awareness too please!


In wider society, there is nothing inherently wrong with promoting the responsible consumption of alcohol. In a worst-case scenario alcohol becomes an addiction requiring medical treatment. However, there is much wrong with the latest campaign poster from DrinkAware, and the messages it promotes are harmful to girls and women, and a get out of jail free card for perpetrators.

The image depicted is that of a hospital corridor, with two arrows pointing in opposite directions towards the Maternity Ward and the Sexual Health Clinic respectively. Written across the poster is the caption;

“Being drunk just once age 13. Twice as likely to have unprotected sex.”

This poster explicitly blames young girls regarding the possibility of getting drunk and pregnant through unprotected sex. However, sex is not a singular act. It is a plural one. This poster erases completely the responsibility and role of men in a drunk 13-year-old becoming pregnant. It is their responsibility not to engage in sex with a girl or woman who is drunk and in the scenario outlined on the poster it would also be an illegal act. Also, it does not provide a source for its claim that girls are twice as likely to have unprotected sex

But we live in a victim blaming culture, and this poster places the sole blame on teenage girls. It does not say anything at all about the role of men and boys in taking advantage of intoxicated girls, nor does it address their responsibility to be in control of their actions.

The finger wagging, paternalistic tone struck by this poster is extremely disappointing, and it does nothing to encourage girls who may have been raped while under the influence of alcohol to come forward to authorities if they want to and speak about their experiences.

This poster is pure blackmail. In terms of its subtext, it says “just once age 13 is enough and it is all your fault you silly girl!”

Boys and men are equally responsible during sex yet this poster renders them conveniently invisible. They would be responsible in the event of pregnancy too, yet this poster renders them invisible. Where are the posters telling men and boys that being drunk just once aged 13 could get a girl pregnant and instructing them to keep it in their pants? Exactly! Nowhere!

In wider society, we love to shame and condemn women and girls as that poster does, yet we turn a blind eye, or even reward boys and men for bad behaviour.

There is something else wrong with this poster is. We have two arrows pointing in opposite directions, firstly towards the Maternity Ward and secondly towards the Sexual Health Clinic.

This gives the impression that there are only two outcomes with respect to unprotected sex. The complete erasure of boys from the campaign may cause you to believe that it is women alone who are responsible for these outcomes, when in fact men bear the responsibility to.

Turning first to the maternity ward the poster completely neglects to mention the option of abortion, an option which any responsible clinician would discuss with a girl faced with this scenario, and any responsible campaign should make girls aware of this possibility too.  To frame pregnancy as a consequence over which a girl has no control is disrespectful and damaging to women, and irresponsible on the part of DrinkAware.

With regard to sexual health, sex as I said previously is a plural act. Men also have responsibility for their sexual health, and as such would be responsible for any woman getting an STI.

Overall though, this campaign makes me feel extremely uncomfortable. It gives the impression that women are totally responsible for unwanted sexual advances (ergo rape) and for the consequences. It blames them totally for drinking alcohol at a young age, despite the fact that a man may be buying it for them and taking advantage of the situation, yet there are no equivalent campaigns warning men of the dangers of having sex while drunk, and telling them to keep it in their pants.

This campaign leaves women isolated and at sea. It plays on the politics of fear and shaming women. Yet sadly, this campaign represents a missed opportunity. It could have been used to educate women and girls about the support that is out there for rape victims who have been raped while under the influence of alcohol. It could also have been used to educate them about the help and support that is out there in the event of unwanted teenage pregnancy.

As it stands this campaign poster is damaging. It blames the victim for a traumatic ordeal, and renders invisible every male perpetrator. As such it is serving no other purpose than to be a servant of patriarchy and I would advocate for its immediate removal. I would also ask DrinkAware to be more careful planning future campaigns with how it uses language to avoid belittling, victimising and shaming rape victims.

NB: Jane England has started a petition to try to get the poster banned. She has petitioned the Media and Public Affairs manager at DrinkAware, Kelly O’Sullivan. PLEASE SIGN.

The Only Thing Dave Lee Travis is a victim of is his own egoism

In the days before the Internet and mobile phones, radio was uppermost in the dissemination of pop music and showbiz gossip. In particular, BBC Radio 1 was the Holy Grail and its DJs were like the Simon Cowell’s of their day.

One such DJ was Dave Lee Travis, affectionately dubbed The Hairy Cornflake or ‘DLT.’ Disc jockeys like Travis had real credibility and kudos amongst their fans as Radio One was one of the few places young people could gain access to information and updates concerning their favourite stars. Travis and his colleagues would also make regular TV appearances on the weekly music show Top of the Pops.

It is clear since the actions of Jimmy Savile came to light that there was a culture of “anything goes” at the BBC when the fame, celebrity and notoriety enjoyed by Travis and his colleagues was at its peak. Fame can also result in chutzpah, and a feeling that one is untouchable and irreplaceable.

Yet, it was all these qualities and more which were in evidence as he irascibly preached to the assembled media outside Southwark Crown Court yesterday. In his statement to the waiting media he tried to wheedle and cajole the public into believing that the offence with which he was charged somehow happened due to circumstances beyond his control. He spoke demonstrating no remorse in relation to the offence committed, nor did he show any empathy for the victim. Instead, he painted himself as the victim, the wronged and inconvenienced party who had been crippled by the court case.

This brings us back to much more familiar territory. Familiar, because this is what perpetrators so often do. As a disc jockey, Dave Lee Travis was a master of the use of language. He wanted to convince us that he had done nothing wrong, and avoid taking responsibility. His courting of the media yesterday showed that he is a man unwilling to rescind the grip of celebrity, a man who wants to be in ultimate control. Yesterday represented a show of defiance, and a point-blank refusal to take any responsibility for his own actions, preferring instead to blame the Crown Prosecution Service for wasting money on two trials.

In plentiful evidence here are the hallmarks of most abusers, power and control. In his own small way, David Griffin probably wanted to control the reporting of yesterday’s events. He is a man in denial, at least publicly. He spoke of being mortified. How then must his victims have felt?

At best, he is delusional. At worst he is a cruel and cold-blooded narcissist who painted himself as a victim in all of this. Seeing him on the steps of Southwark Crown Court yesterday outraged me. The cruelest irony is that the statements he made could have been from the victim. When he suggests that it is of little comfort to him that he was acquitted of so many offences, I am in no doubt that it is of little comfort to his victims too. In an ultimate act of hubris he denies that he is a sexual predator. A conviction for indecent assault however makes his denial somewhat incorrect.

The victim spoke in an impact statement of her pain at being called a liar and a fantasist. Dave Lee Travis is a perpetrator. He is absolutely not a victim. Perhaps he is in complete denial about what he has done.

That is what annoyed me about his appearance in front of the cameras yesterday. He refused to acknowledge that he had brought this upon himself. If he had never indecently assaulted his victim, he would never have been in court. People do not receive convictions for criminal offences for no good reason. He wants us to believe that he and his family know the truth. His victim also knows the truth. Combative and remorseless to the last he even shouted in court at the Sunday Times journalist Camilla Long, telling her she was making him uncomfortable. How must your victim have felt then? When you squeezed her breasts for 10 to 15 seconds? I suppose she was highly comfortable and ecstatic? Not.

When they are convicted of a criminal offence most people would leave the courtroom quietly by the nearest exit. Not so Travis – a showman until the end. Perhaps times were not so different when Travis was at the height of his fame on Radio One. Misogyny was rife and victims were disbelieved, but what Travis seemed to resent most of all was being held to account for his actions. His faux bemusement did not fool me however.

What I fail to understand though is why the media allowed this man to showboat in front of the cameras after being convicted of a criminal offence. It is because of such showboating, the ability to talk and manipulate that The Hairy Cornflake thought he was untouchable. Well, not this time. The milk has soured and we know the truth. The actions of the media were disrespectful to victims everywhere. There should not have been a single microphone outside the court room to allow DLT to spread his message. There was no hint of contrition. Unlike radio, it is one incidence where silence would have been better.

The people whose humanity he disregarded will have to live with the trauma his actions he visited upon them for the rest of their lives. Yet, all too often women are told to get over it, don’t get angry, he didn’t mean anything by it. I say don’t get over it, be angry, and to quote him “we know the truth.”

In Defence of Women’s Aid


Women’s Aid, like all organisations in the charitable sector faces a daily battle. The first facet of that battle is concerned with money and funding – put simply how to maintain the same level of service for those women and children it helps with less money in the face of savage Government cuts brought about by austerity.

Furthermore it faces an ideological battle with the kind of masculinity that says it is okay to hurt abuse and be violent to women.

Overall it would be fair to say that Women’s Aid is facing challenging times. The last thing it needs is another battle to fight as well. According to this piece, there may be one looming however.

The trans community is angry once again, this time over the need to provide a Gender Recognition Certificate if you are a trans woman wishing to work for Women’s Aid. The same burden of proof however is not required to be provided by trans men.

This is yet another example of the trans community being in conflict with women. Women’s Aid is in a fairly unique position in that it helps women and children who are in extreme danger from violent partners and may be very vulnerable. It is likely that women presenting to Women’s Aid requiring assistance will be doing so after a great deal of personal trauma, abuse and chaos in their lives.

Therefore, they and their children require the maximum protection possible.

The headline also shows a very vague understanding of what Women’s Aid actually is there to do. It is not there to be a safe haven for trans staff, but rather a safe haven for the many women and children it supports across the UK.

A Gender Recognition Certificate would in this case demonstrate to Women’s Aid that the person applying for the job had lived in their chosen gender role for a certain period of time, thus demonstrating commitment to it. It would also show that the person in turn had no thoughts of returning to a previous gender role.

I believe that the trans standpoint and that of Women’s Aid clash in this instance. On a deeper level what we see is a conflict between respect for an individual’s identity and the wider interests of women as a social class.

I believe Women’s Aid have been unfairly maligned in this instance. They are merely trying to safeguard the interests of a vulnerable subgroup of women whose needs up until the point when they chose to seek help will have been minimised or ignored altogether. Understandably, they may fear men as a social group. Therefore it is vital that Women’s Aid have every single possible safeguarding measure and litmus test in place to ensure the safety of women in their care.

Too often the wants and desires of trans women seem to be in competition with the safety of women. Such competition is dangerous and must end for the benefit of women and trans women.

If I, as a trans woman wanted to work at Women’s Aid and was asked to provide a gender recognition certificate I would have no problem with this. It is unproblematic to me because my dedication to and passion for the work of helping the vulnerable would override any concerns I had about legislation.

As Women’s Aid told Gaystar News;

‘Victims of domestic violence are at the centre of what we do, and there can be no compromise on the safety of the women and children we work with.

‘Decades of experience working with women escaping perpetrators of domestic violence has taught us that there is nothing perpetrators will not do to gain access to their victims.

‘Perpetrators hack into computer records, break into buildings, and will tell any lie that they think will allow them closer to their victim. We therefore take steps to ensure all of our employees and volunteers, cis [non-trans] and trans, are who they say they are and do not pose any risk.

‘We ask all potential employees and volunteers for proof of identity to ensure we can meet our safeguarding responsibilities.’

So we can see from Women’s Aid’s statement that they are just doing their job. In essence meeting the needs of the women they work for, and do great work with.

Decades of experience are not to be dismissed or treated in a cognitively dissonant fashion. They should be embraced and listened to wholeheartedly.

People are becoming more tech savvy, and with the social media revolution, the downside of it is that it makes victims more accessible to perpetrators.

As such organisations such as Women’s Aid need to be vigilant, ever more so as new technological developments come to fruition. Therefore I do not see any issue with somebody being asked for a Gender Recognition Certificate. Whatever its imperfections, it is a legally recognised document by which Women’s Aid can be doubly sure that an individual is who they say they are if they present wishing to be employed.

In my view, the Gaystar news piece was extremely deaf to the issues which domestic violence organisations battle with on a daily basis. The issue here is not trans discrimination, but rather safeguarding women.

Too often in society, women’s needs are ignored and place too far down the food chain. I applaud Women’s Aid for putting them first. I am saddened that this causes such controversy for the trans community. Women’s Aid is uncompromising because the women who seek its help have been compromised enough and have had to make compromises and concessions to violent partners just to keep themselves safe and alive. I do not think Gender Recognition Certificates are  not a big ask as an additional burden of proof. Let us remember that it is the safety of women that is at stake.

Finally with regard to what Sarah Brown says on toilets and cliches, what is cliche to Sarah may be personal safety to another, or even the violation of that personal safety in a worst case scenario. Let us remember to that whilst having to produce a gender recognition certificate may be mildly irritating for a trans person, it is not tantamount to punishment.

Women’s Aid is merely protecting the interests of the client group it serves. We have seen the vulnerability of domestic violence victims through the lens of Maxine Minniver and Patrick Blake in Hollyoaks recently. Yet for many, this is more than a soap opera storyline. This is their lived reality.

I am angry that the issue of Gender Recognition Certificates is distracting from Women’s Aid’s important work. Producing a gender recognition certificate to do work you are passionate about is a mild inconvenience, and is disproportionate to the trauma experienced by women whom Women’s Aid help. Domestic violence and how it needlessly debilitates women psychologically, physically and emotionally is the only punishment we should be talking about here.

If you are experiencing domestic violence and require help, advice and support call 0808 2000 247

Vauxhall Hate Crime Attacks – Witness appeal

Lambeth Hate Crime Blog

Following two homophobic hate crime attacks in Vauxhall over the weekend police are appealing for witnesses to come forward to help identify three suspects pictured below- a man wearing a blue jacket and two women.

If you have any information please contact  Lambeth Community Safety Unit on 0208 649 2176 or 07909 906 168.

Please quote crime reference numbers 217303/14 & 1217300/14.

Breaking News – according to Pink News the two women have handed themselves into the police. Now we are just looking for the man – and any independent witnesses who saw what happened to come forward. Watch this space!

Three suspects - Man and Two women Three suspects – Man and Two women

Male suspect wearing blue jacket

Male suspect

Female suspects

In the first incident, at approximately 4am on Sunday morning (8th June 2014), a substance was sprayed in the faces of two young men outside the Lightbox nightclub in South Lambeth Place, Vauxhall.

A short time later, police were made…

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