A lot to get through this week, but first up, the Bedroom Tax. UN Special Rapporteur Sharon Rolnik finally published her report in housing in the UK, and as expected, she repeated her call for the Bedroom tax to be scrapped. What was striking during her visit to the UK last year, was the willingness of Ministers like Grant Shapps to tell obvious lies about the visit, like she wasn’t invited (she was) or she hadn’t met any Ministers (she had). There was a similar reaction to her full report as this Guardian article explains:
Ministers savage UN report calling for abolition of UK’s bedroom tax
But Rolnik’s report wasn’t solely focused on the Bedoom Tax. Far from it. Jules Birch gives a very good summary of the report’s findings in a blog for Inside Housing:
And after some interesting decisions in the appeals courts regarding the Bedroom Tax, Joe Halewood – who has blogged tirelessly on this wretched policy – predicts the whole edifice may soon come crumbling down:
The Bedroom Tax is Dead here’s why
Moving on now, and this week Channel 5 hosted a debate provocatively titled “Big Benefits Row”. I watched it myself and found it to be quite shouty, although actually quite sympathetic to those claiming social security benefits. The two exceptions were Katie Hopkins and Edwina Currie. I’m not sure how much they say, they actually believe, as they both seem to make quite a bit of money from being invited on TV to voice opinions many find offensive, but if they are genuine, they would seem to be outstanding examples of Geogrge Lakoff’s “strict father figure” frame, which I blooged about here. In their world, those who do the right thing, work hard and play by the rules will always succeed, so anyone who is claiming benefits must be doing something wrong. You could see this in the show when a member of the audience explained (very robustly!) how she was volunteering, doing training and applying for endless jobs but still couldn’t find work. Edwina Currie’s response was just to shout back at her repeatedly “Get a job” or “Try harder”.
There were two good blog posts I noticed this week from people who were actually in the studio during the debate Jack Monroe and Sue Marsh:
Dear Edwina, Thankyou for last night. I hope it was as good for you as it was for me.
Diary of a Benefit Scrounger: The Big Benefits Row
Teaching now, and I came across this blog post written by a teacher who has recently left the profession. My partner is a teacher, and what what she tells me, a lot of this rings true. This paragraph in particular hits the nail on the head about the stresses teachers are under:
“What I couldn’t cope with was the toxic culture of fear that now pervades the whole profession. People no longer talk about ‘what this brilliant kid did’ – it’s always about who had a drop in and what grade they subsequently received. As a profession, we have been reduced from largely innovative, invested individuals to a bunch of approval-seeking junkies, because we know we’re only as good as our last Ofsted rating. Forget what the kids think of you; forget what the parents think of you, if Ofsted say ‘nope’, then that’s it. You’re not good enough.”
This is no way to treat dedicated professionals, and as the blog goes on to explain, it’s pretty terrible for the kids they teach too:
Life lessons, fear of failure and why I left teaching.
A couple of shout outs for blogs I like now. First, two posts from Irish blogger Robert Nielsen, one on concepts of freedom, and one on endogenous money:
The Two Types Of Freedom
Endogenous Money Or How Loans Create Deposits
And here’s one by Peter Martin on government budgets, and why when people like Ed Balls talk about balanced budgets and surpluses, we should treat them with scorn:
Why Governments Can’t Choose to Run Balanced Budgets.
Finally, with the Winter Olympics getting under way this week in Sochi, there’s been a lot of negative coverage of Russia and what it’s like for gay people there. Channel 4’s Dispatches program aired a documentary about Russian gangs who target gay people over there and video their actions. It’s pretty horrendous stuff. Here’s a video of some tough Russians from the Interior Ministry showing a softer (but obviously completely heterosexual) side: