Wednesday, 19 April 2017

The Rape of Logic

The "rape clause" is abhorrent. It requires women claiming Child Benefit for a third or subsequent child to prove that the child was conceived by rape. Introduced by George Osborne in 2016, the clause was spotted by the SNP's Alison Thewliss MP, who has led a growing campaign to have it scrapped.

The rape clause means that a woman claiming Child Benefit will have to relive her rape each time she changes​ her claim or circumstances, when she moves home or work or has her benefits reviewed. 18 years of remembering and reminding officialdom of the violent event that changed her life.

It will be poor women who will suffer most. Women of wealth can avoid the trauma of proving rape by simply not claiming the benefit. But women with less wealth or none need the £2,500 a year, the money that was meant to help them and their children. When you remember that there are 500,000 women and girls living in poverty in Scotland you get an idea of the scale of the problem.

The rape clause attacks the poorest women. It was imposed on them by David Cameron and George Osborne, then the alpha males of the Tory party, so like the subject it touches it is about male power over women.

But the rape clause runs against Tory logic. Isn't the Tory party, the party of the traditional family? The party of the family has ensured that traditional families whose children are conceived in a loving, caring relationship are less well off. It's a tax on larger loving families. What was George thinking of? Going against the traditional family values of the Tory party?

George, like David and now Theresa May, has an utterly cynical, selfish view of power. Ethics, or a moral line in favour of the family, just don't appear on his mental map. Selfish power, weilded through the neoliberal policy of screwing the poor to soak the rich, is his primary interest.

And Theresa May's announcement of elections in June is in the same, cynical, power-building line of thought. Theresa wants a dominant position for her right wing neoliberal Brexit branch of Tory politics, so she is grabbing the chance to crush the weakened Labour party.

This is the degrading state of Tory politics at Westminster. Selfish, greedy Tories dominating a parliament that has lost any sense of caring for people in need. A Tory parliament that defies its own beliefs, its own logic, to hit poor women who have been raped.

Scotland must free itself now from the shackles of cynical Tory power. At the local and now General elections vote till you boak. And sign the Scrap the Rape Clause petition.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Prawn and Ships

The European Union's Ombudsman, Emily O'Reilly, was interviewed in yesterday's La Vanguardia, the leading Catalan newspaper. Asked by Anna Buj of La Vanguardia about Brexit, Ms O'Reilly said: 

"People have the right to no surprises at the end of the two years of negotiations, and as far as possible they should know how the conversations are going." [I am translating back into English from the Catalan, so this is not a precise quote, but you get the gist.]

When Anna Buj asked whether people would be able to have easy access to information on the negotiations, Ms O'Reilly said:

"It's interesting: Michel Barnier - the EU's chief Brexit negotiator - has said that the negotiations will be very transparent, while the Prime Minister, Theresa May, says the reverse. In recent months she has been saying that the negotiations will be in private and that there will be sanctions against anyone who leaks information. Transparency will be used as a tactic during these negotiations because in the UK many politicians are strongly in support of Brexit, some want a hard Brexit and everyone will be following the negotiations closely. If they see compromises being offered in areas that they don't like, they will put pressure on the Government. Transparency will be a challenge for the British Government."

We are at the start of two years in which we, and everything we have and do, are topics for negotiation by Westminster. Scottish fisheries, Scotland's renewable energy, her oil, her industry, her population, her worker's rights, her financial system, data protection...all of these are topics that David Davis and Theresa May will throw into the negotiating pot. I, and the other 1.2 million Britons living in the rest of the EU, are pawns in this game, with no vote, and no influence over outcomes that will shape our lives, forever.

Despite Michel Barnier's promise of transparency, we can be sure that much of these negotiations will take place without our knowledge. We will not know for thirty years what actually happened, and even then we can expect that all sorts of back-room cloak-and-dagger stuff about armies and spies and secret exchanges will not be released, ever.

So it comes down to our confidence in the government at Westminster. How much will they bother about Scotland, in Brussels? Will they hand over our prawn and ships in exchange for passporting rights for the City, or market access for Toyota cars?

Well, yes. Because the interests of Westminster are aligned with the City and big business. The City of London has had a lobbyist inside the House of Commons since 1571, and you can be certain that companies in everything from financial services to private health are wining and dining and quietly, subtly, persuading the Government to favour this or that profitable end. 

You can also expect a lot of shiny, bright lights during the negotiations. War with Spain over Gibraltar is just the first of many, amplified by a willing media led by Murdoch's Sun-Sky media empire, and by the Barclay twins' Telegraph. These bright lights are designed to distract you from what is really going on.

There is one politician whom I trust to fight hard for our interests in Europe: Nicola Sturgeon, our First Minister. She has played a blinder so far, outflanking the blundering Westminster government at every step. Lang may her lum reek. 

But even Nicola Sturgeon will have a tough time playing any significant role in these talks. Scotland is too wee, too poor to be of the least interest to Westminster. We, our industry, our fisheries, our oil and our people, are just chips to play for. Holyrood, with the collapse of the Sewell Convention, cannot intervene.

Brexit has shown us that Scotland is just a midge on the back of Imperial Britain. We are not worth consideration, and we are going to be the losers in Brexit...until we are independent. Then we can stand up and decide for ourselves how we want to work with Europe and the rest of the world. 

Then, we will be a sovereign people. Only then.