Monthly Archives: August 2014

Hate Crime Laws Should Protect Everybody.

Recently there has been a wave of anti-terror laws introduced and new ASBO criteria included in order to clamp down of the spread of racial hatred on the Internet. Just yesterday David Cameron announced that ‘hate preachers’ should be silenced with the introduction of new anti-terror ASBOS to stop there from spreading their bile on the Internet.  He is, off course, referring to the Islamic fundamentalists who actively use the Internet to spread their hatred of our peace loving citizens and actively try to recruit young Muslims to take up the fight of Islam.

The government came under fire in the past for trying to issue an exclusion order of a visiting Muslim preacher called Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips and the another against Zakir Naik, to stop them from spreading messages that stir up tensions. All the time new measures are introduced to prevent people being about to spread nasty sentiment about minority groups of people.

This week another hate preacher manage to pass through the ever tightening net, and spouted his particular strain of bile over the Internet via twitter without any outspoken backlash or criticism from the powers that be. Richard Dawkins told a pregnant woman over twitter that, in the event of discovering her baby has Downs Syndrome, she should have and abortion and that it would be immoral to bring a Downs Syndrome child into the world. To give Mr Dawkind his dues, he has since appologised to the woman involved and suggested his remarks may have been taken out of context. This was just the latest in a long string of vicious attacks Mr Dawkins had made on various groups of people the most obvious of which off course are Christians.

Whatever the sentiments of his remarks he, unlike the Islamic fundamentalists who tend to have their twitter accounts closed or Youtube videos taken down, Dawkins is given and open platform upon which to spout his vile and putrid messages from. I as a disabled person, although not with Downs Syndrome, find his attitude toward disabled people very hurtful indeed and deeply offensive. It bothers me that he is not viewed as a fundamentalist or hate preacher, but rather is unduly elevated to some status as pseudo philosopher or modern thinker.

Just like the BNP who are somewhat contained from inciting racial hatred throughout the community via the media, it would seem appropriate that Dawkins was similarly prevented from spreading his particular form of hatred. Hatred is, off course, is a very strong word but it seems an appropriate use to describe the way Dawkins speaks out against Christian people and others a like as we have witness.

The threat of Islamic fundamentalism is something our generation has to live with and try and tackle and it is only right that anybody caught inciting or promoting racial intolerance should be dealt with by the law. Much as I despise what they do, I don’t dwell on the Islamic threat and the dangers these people present on our streets. I have faith in the authorities to protect us so I don’t worry about my personal safety while traveling on and off public transport.

I do however care deeply for the families who’s lives are consumed by having a disabled member, whether with Down Syndrome or another disability, and have to endure all sorts of prejudice each day while going about their everyday lives. The last thing these people need is to endure this kind of intolerance and vile messages being broadcast on social and mainstream media.  The law needs to protect us all from every form of hatred while others, particularly Mr Dawkins, need to learn the values the people with Downs Syndrome teach us, off acceptance, tolerance and love.

Charity and Sport

imagesIt was poignant moment that will stay etched in the minds of many of the over a billion people who were estimated to have been watching. As the world held its breath with excitement and anticipation of the events that were about to unfold suddenly everything stopped and the opening ceremony of the 20th Commonwealth Games were put on hold for just a little longer. Ewan McGregor then made a passionate appeal on behalf on Unicef. Asking us to remember the poor and destitute children of the commonwealth he suggested that we all donate 5 pounds to the charity. In a the next moment the stadium was ablaze with the lights of mobile phone and in a few minutes Unicef were better off to the tune of 3.5 millions ponds.

It was a brilliant moment and have come about by a pioneering partnership between Glasgow 2014, the organizing committee, and international charity Unicef. Sport has, for a very long time, been used to raise monies for charity but nothing quite like this has been achieved before. Applauded as widely as it was, the event has made some question and raised discomfort with many.  The discomfort and unease come for some with the notion that, in some ways, it lets governments off the hook.

Over the last 4 years of government we have witnessed the living standards of some of the poorest people in our country being eroded away as a result of brutal cuts to frontline service. People on the lowest incomes have lost monies as benefits such as working tax credit and child benefits have been slashed. Many charities who provided a service to the vulnerable such as giving out hot meals and shelter have lost their funding and frontline services to the poor have diminished.

For many, the notion that vulnerable people ought rely in philanthropic giving for basic necessities in this country is deeply disturbing. Here in Scotland was have some of the poorest people in Europe, let alone the UK, yet we seem happy to let the Scottish Government to squander money on other things when people on the streets of our cities go hungry. The use of food banks has increased while, at the same time, in the last year 1 billion pounds of monies ear marked for anit-povery projects has been instead used to fund a council tax cut that will inevitably benefit the middle earners and not those on the lowest incomes.

We as a community need to keep up pressure on our government to help the poor both here at home and abroad. The coalition Government has maintained levels of overseas aid going to the likes of Unicef, but in the grand scheme of things, this is a drop in the ocean.  How ironic is it that the opening ceremony of the games took place in Parkhead one of poorest areas in the UK. It’s a wonder how much the locals felt like giving as the saw the Queen being driven into the stadium in her chauffeur driven Bentley. Much as we must continue our charitable giving, we must also keep pressure on our governments, both at Holyrood and Westminster, to lift people out of poverty both at home and overseas and not to spend money on populist policy to boost their ratings at the ballot box.

How Many U-turns Will The Liberal Democrats Be Prepared To Do?

imagesOn Friday evening Danny Alexander appeared on Channel 4 news offering somewhat of an apology and policy u-turn on behalf of the Liberal Democrats for what was one of the most unpopular policies of the coalition government, the Bedroom Tax. Alexander stopped slightly short of an all out apology but said that those who have not been offered alternative accommodation for them and their families should not loose money by having their Housing Benefit cut.

One can’t help feel a bit sorry for Danny Alexander. From the off set he has been the face of the coalition who has been used to deliver the most unpopular policies that this government have introduced over the last 4 years. He was the one who explained, among other things, how difficult a decision it was to start stripping disabled people their dignity and deny them vital monies they need to live and maintain whatever independence they had.

We are clearly witnessing the start of divisions developing between the two coalition partners. The Liberal Democrats ministers in particular, will try to distance themselves, and their party, from the Conservatives and some of most unpopular policies that have been implemented over the last 4 years. The coming months will inevitably see the two coalition parties trying to establish their own identities again and distance themselves from each other.  It remains to be seen just how many policy turns and how hypocritical the Liberal Democrats will be prepared to be in order to salvage what little dignity they have left.

On their watch, the Liberal Democrats have stood by and supported the Conservatives while some of the poorest and most vulnerable members of our society have come under attack like never before. Thousands of disabled people have lost vital monies they rely on to live independent lives while other who are chronically ill have suffered the indignity at the hand of ATOS who have found them to be ‘fit for work’.

As well as the unemployed who have been attacked and spoken about in the most degrading way, those who are in work have also suffered horrifying indignity and hands of this coalition government.  Hard working families on lower incomes have been striped of their tax credit while at the same time VAT has been increased. Cuts in childcare services as well as greater financial strain on families has left thousands relying on food banks to make ends meet. All of these policies introduced by the coalition have eroded the living standards of hundreds of thousands of the poorest people in the community.

None of these policies could have been put through this government without the support of the Liberal Democrats. They had choice whether or not to support the conservatives, or whether to stand for and protect the livelihoods of the poor and marginalized in society. In February of this year the Labour Party tabled a motion to scrap the Bedroom TAX, but the Liberal Democrats again chose to support the conservatives and stand by it.

The choices they have made over the last 4 years ought not be forgotten, no matter how many apologies and policy u-turns the Liberal Democrats make between now and next May. No matter how many times Danny Alexander, or anybody from the Liberal Democrats, announces a withdrawal of support for another unpopular policy, it must be remembered that without their support it could not have been introduced in the first place. It is hoped that every apology or u-turn that they do make will help etch in the minds of voters, between now and next May, the cut in living standards and the indignities now faced by hundreds of thousands of poeople.