The Dull of Winter
The Dull of Winter
The North East has some of the most attractive countryside in England, but I have to say the Highlands and its coastline has even Northumberland beat by quite a distance. As I look out of the window I realise that clearly Northumberland and the Highlands do share one other thing, they have a type of rain, a drizzle, almost a smear of rain that gets through even the most impermeable of clothing, soaking you through, soaking you to you are cold, deep seated cold that is helped by shivering skin. It’s a unique type of cold, a damp cold of winter that I have only felt here in Northumberland, possibly aided and abetted by the freezing North Sea wind coming down from the Arctic. The cold seeps into you with the water, I am convinced it does, and passes through the skin (regardless of medical opinion) to make even your bones ache and your teeth chatter with the dank, soggy, penetrating moisture of this current lurch into December.
It seems to have been ages since the sun warmed me, brought light flooding in, a natural heat and not the stuffy air the radiators and heaters create but to be able to afford to do this is a privilege I am grateful for. For many people heating in any season just isn’t possible, hundreds of thousands can NOT afford to heat even one room. This fact haunts me every Christmas and I think the grey, dank days recently are reflective of my mood when I also remember the 30,000 plus deaths that happen each year due to ‘cold’ related problems. 30,000 people every year and there is evidence this number is growing proportionally to the level of poverty that is rising in this affluent Country of ours. This is merely the tip of the iceberg; these deaths are in this not so United Kingdom, not so “in it together” Kingdom, this ‘Great’ Britain, people dying of the cold so not so ‘Great’ for these people who are in such poverty they die, all thanks to Coalition policy.
These are our people in our country, people who have paid National Insurance and taxes in many cases, some for all their working lives, now too old, too frail and too skint to afford heating being turned on, Can you imagine having to choose between having food or moderate warmth from heating? Having to choose to feed your children or keep them warm, even if this is still the choice as you skip meals as a parent? I can’t imagine this and I come from a working class family, so these millionaires in Westminster ruling over us, wearing suits that cost so much they could feed and keep warm a family of five for a year. Just one suit from our political elite and I am ashamed to say this includes the Labour Party – shameful.
These awful deaths are compounded by energy companies exploiting those least able to pay their bills, as most end up with a pay as you go meter, for which they are charged the highest rate per kilowatt. This smacks of the same exploitation of people in fuel poverty that has been seen by payday loan companies, there is no difference and the poorest have no choice either. They can always shop for cheaper suppliers using ‘comparison’ sites, such as Compare the Market the Government & Energy Companies will tell you. However, to do this you need a bank account you can set-up a standing order from (not just an account benefits are paid into); you need to have a steady income that also provides for enough food; you have to have a reasonable credit rating and not owe for energy; and, my favourite, you have to be able to afford a computer and broadband to ‘surf’ the 100’s of offers that will be display, none of which you are eligible for if you already have a token pay-as-you-go energy meter. In essence the people at the poorest end of the consumer scale pay more for their energy than people who can afford the high energy costs.
But unfortunately they are not alone, this same problem is faced by the millions of families in, and I hate to use this phrase, ‘general’ escalating poverty, and don’t be thinking they are all out of work either, there are millions now who are earning so little, even though they may work 40 plus hours a week, that they need the Welfare State to support them, and still they have to survive by using food banks and/or skimping on heating. This cheap workforce only benefits the owners, so the divide just gets wider and wider. The people generating the wealth have less pay and less job security since the 2010, Zero Hours contracts have exploded into mass use. Within these households are children living in 21st Century Britain going hungry and/or experiencing extended periods of cold, experiences we thought were resigned to Dickensian and Victorian Britain. We think as adults we have choices, well I tell you now that many of the families I am talking about have no options available to them, and the children never have choices, no the children never do. People are dying from cold in their thousands and it could be completely prevented if we just took control of the energy companies and nationalised them into one Government run charitable organisation that use any and all profit to:
Develop alternative energies and alternative energy strategies so we can eradicate reliance of fossil fuels;
Coordinate with all the charities involved in community welfare to make sure the people currently in fuel poverty have free fuel or heavily discount energy;
Ensure that people using token type meters are NOT put on the highest tariffs as happens at the moment;
Now I am not, as you may now be assuming, a raving socialist as I have dared to mention the word ‘nationalise’, no sorry to disappoint. I am something that this Coalition of terrorising Tories and their suck-ups the awful lying Lib Dems couldn’t understand or comprehend in any way. Come to think of it I am fairly sure that UKIP and even Labour would struggle with the concepts of:
Care of ones neighbour
Care of the people least able to care for themselves
Care of the poorest
Care of the disadvantaged
Care of those in ill-health
Care and support of the disabled
A living wage
Just remember not a single disabled person caused the crash of 2008 that has led to the justification that is used everyday, “austerity”;
Care of the very people the visionaries Bevan & Attlee designed the Welfare State & NHS for but they went further than this and actually re-designed and re-defined the thinking of successive Governments. Attlee established that people in political power not just there to lead the country in times of trouble, what they did in peace time was incredibly important too. Attlee believed politicians are given power by the people to serve the people and take care of the neediest and the most vulnerable. Those placed in Government by the people are there as guardians, in power to serve others and not to be self-serving or to use the Offices they have been given for personal gain in any way. This current Government, but this includes all the Political Parties new and old alike, need to stop using the NHS for political point scoring and ensure it is funded properly to meet the needs of the people; this applies to the Welfare State. If this means paying more tax and national insurance then so be it put punishing people for being ill or down on their luck, for being in hardship, on hard times. Support not ‘sanctions’.
I also think it is worth pointing out that it is not the disabled that are causing the real expenditure in our Welfare State, but yet they are unfairly targeted and made scapegoats. Disabled people are, to this disgusting Coalition, what immigration is to the fascists hiding in plain sight in UKIP. NO ONE CHOSE TO BE DISABLED! The Government fail to mention that expenditure on disabled people through benefits is but a small fraction of the money spent on pensions. I totally agree that this money should be spent on pensions; this really is not my point, which is that this Government persecutes those they should protect and use their position to benefit themselves and their friends. Don’t believe me then explain why:
George Osborne’s Best Man made a fortune of the selloff of Royal Mail;
Why the top 90 Tory donors have substantial interests in private healthcare that are bidding for and winning contracts, diverting business away from the NHS;
But as we look at Christmas Day and completely forget the homeless, those in fuel and general poverty, forget that hardly any MPs turned up for the recent debates on the Bedroom Tax, including the majority of Labour MPs, forget that we can hardly tell the difference between the millionaires leading the political parties in Westminster, there is still a chink of light shining bright and it isn’t the star above the nativity scene. We have the chance in 2015 to give this tyrannical Tory/Limp Dem abusive amoral Coalition a bloody nose at the General Election. At the same time we demand of ‘new’ New Labour that they return to socialist values or risk being marginalised for a generation as we invest in the Green Party and the ‘green’ way, and by so doing telling various interests to Frack Off! I have not heard Labour stand up to the energy companies.
Yours most sincerely
Smiling Cat Ventures (www.smilingcatventures.org)
Twitter: @AbleNotDisabled (https://twitter.com/)
Face Book: Disability in Business (www.facebook.com/DisabilityInBusiness)
Linked-In: Jonathan Wade (Innovative Minds at Work) (www.linkedin.com)