Episode 19 – Tiernan discusses the effects of the Trade Union Bill with Peter Kavanagh from Unite The Union (@unitetheunion). Plus some terrible 80’s rap about the Psychoactive Substances Bill.
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Hey kids, don’t do legal highs
Now this may come as a bit of surprise
But they’re not legal
Despite their name
And yes that sounds insane
Like the whole psychoactive drugs bill
Which due to an amendment makes slightly more sense
As they now aren’t banning just anything that affects your brain
From a cup of tea to the smell of rain
But legal highs, now aren’t legal highs
Like compassionate Conservatism or Coldplay Live
Like Sports personality or Living Wage
It don’t make sense but no matter what your age
Don’t do legal highs
Hello and welcome to episode 19 of the Partly Political Broadcast. I’m Tiernan Douieb, or at least that’s what it says on the labels inside my underwear. I can’t tell you how much confusion it caused when I bought some Calvin Klein boxers that one time.
On this week’s show I have a chat with London & Eastern Regional Secretary for Unite, Peter Kavanagh, all about the Trade Union bill. I’ll also be looking at the new in effect Psychoactive Substances Bill, though I won’t be inhaling, and yeah, more EU boring boring …..zzzzzz….oh god just wake me up when it’s June 24th. On Saturday on my way to my gig in Oxford, I was driving along my 7th least favourite motorway the M40 and I saw a big billboard saying ‘Halt Ze German Advance – Vote Leave.’ Now I should quickly point out that this has been spotted by a lot of people and Vote Leave have already said it’s not an official poster of theirs. But the fact many thought it was and it’s probably been made by someone who supports their campaign rather than an opponent, says an awful lot about Vote Leave. The argument has become more about Allo Allo style xenophobic stereotypes than any actual substance. I don’t think it makes much sense either. ‘Halt Ze German Advance’ is written in a faux German accent. So it is meant to be one German that’s warning us about other Germans? Am I reading it entirely wrong and perhaps Ze German is just one person? It does sound like the name of someone who might enter the Turner prize with collages of dogs arseholes or something doesn’t it? Either way thoroughly depressing and it feels like we’re just days away from some bigot telling us we need to leave the EU to avoid the ‘cheese eating surrender monkeys’.
As always thanks for listening to this show. I’ve been looking at the stats, because I have some, and it seems like quite a lot of you listen to this within two days of the podcast coming out, but then several more of you are still a few weeks behind. I did one of those Twitter polls to ask you how often you’d like the podcast to be, though as with Twitter polls, only 30 people voted, which is under 3% of you, and at least two of those think I shouldn’t be doing a podcast at all. So while 57% of those 30 people do think it should be weekly and I could just to a UK election with it and decide that’s enough of the electorate to make a decision that could affect all of your lives, why not drop me a line and let me know if weekly is ok? Or would you only like words and thoughts every two weeks, monthly, yearly or perhaps only when there’s a blood moon and delivered by owl? Let me know.
Also for those of you who don’t have enough podcasts to listen to in your week, check out Nick Revell and Ben Powell’s new one ‘The Madness On Planet Earth’. I’m on episode one, as is the very funny Grainne Maguire and we discuss, amongst other very important things, whether bad haircuts make politicians evil.
Right, here’s this week’s:
In America, the country that operates like 50 smaller dysfunctional countries at a formal picnic, Donald Trump is now the official Republican Presidential candidate despite the initial protests of many Republicans including Speaker Of The US House of Representatives Paul Ryan. Ryan hasn’t yet endorsed Trump and seems sceptical about doing so, but has said they’ve had some ‘productive conversations’ which is surprising as no one knew Trump was capable of those. While the Democratic candidate is still to be officially announced it looks like it’ll be a Trump / Clinton race to the White House. And recent polls suggest Donald is more popular than Hilary, despite a political fact checker stating that 91% of his statements are lies. It just makes me confused as to what Americans want. Is it that they’re all just big Labyrinth fans and assume if they have a President who acts like the door that always lies it’ll be a fun daily riddle to have to work out what the truth of each situation is? Meanwhile Trump has been stating that illegal migrants get better treatment than US war vets while Trump has previously hired illegal immigrants for his building projects while he recently held a fundraiser for war vets where half of the donations have disappeared.
And really I just feel sorry for the Americans that they choice will be a dead behind the eyes, corporate, pro-war puppet with stupid hair or a ludicrous lying moron with stupid hair. Perhaps the Republicans and Democrats need to change their motifs accordingly. The Republican elephant needs to become something that like Trump, conveniently forgets what he’s said the day before. Maybe a goldfish? And the Democratic donkey could instead be a slightly grinning crocodile?
Tony Blair – Corbyn/EU – Shipman
Speaking of cold blooded creatures Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has refused to say whether or not he’ll accept the verdict of the Chilcott report when it is released. Bet that’s not at all disappointing for Lord Chilcott who’s spent 7 years writing it. ‘Here you go! I’ve finally finished! After all these years. What? You’re just going to ignore it? Oh.’ Blair also stated that Jeremy Corbyn in power would be a very dangerous experiment for the UK, which considering Blair revelled in dangerous experiments in the middle east, I think that may be a compliment from him. T-Bla also suggested that the dislike many of the public now have for him wasn’t at all to do with the Iraq war, but the fact he won three general elections for Labour. Sure mate. And do you know what? No one really minded Harold Shipman murdering all those people, they were just jealous of his doctorate.
The man who worked out how to turn unpaid workfare into reality TV, Lord Alan Sugar, has been hired as the government’s Enterprise Tsar. He’ll be undertaking a series of road shows up and down the country talking to school-leavers and businesses probably about how no one’s used Amstrad for so many years that he now has to spend his time telling idiots they’ve failed at cleaning enough dogs with cut price blancmanges and so someone from their team Expeditwat has to be fired. Lord Sugar has recently resigned from the Labour Party, which was the source of mocking from George Osborne at Prime Minister’s Question Time who told the opposition that Lord Sugar had told them ‘you’re fired.’ Back in 2005 Lord Sugar said the iPod would be dead, kaput, gone by the following Christmas. Now political parties are arguing over who’s side he’s on. We’re all fucked people. Totally fucked.
PSYCHOACTIVE SUBSTANCE BILL
Politicians and poorly thought through drugs bills go together like an aquarium of dangerous fish and professional brick throwers. Remember in 2009 when David Nutt wrote a report stating that statistically speaking taking ecstasy was less risky than going horse riding, and that alcohol was far more harmful than most drugs? And the then Home Secretary Alan Johnson responded by ignoring all the evidence, saying Nutt had crossed the line from science to policy, and dismissed him from his position as an advisor while re-upgrading cannabis from a Class C to a Class B drug against all recommendations. This happened mainly because David Nutt’s report didn’t fit in at all with the government’s proposed ideas of cracking, yes pun intended, down hard on drug use. That and if you were to ban drunk people riding around on horses instead of ecstasy a lot of MPs friends would be very unhappy, even though millions of people each weekend would be the opposite.
This time round there’s a whole new hash of a drugs policy. Yes, pun intended. On May 26th a bill the New Scientist called “one of the stupidest, most dangerous and unscientific pieces of drugs legislation ever conceived” came into force, because the government always need to be the best at something even though it’s often being best at being the very, very, worst. The Psychoactive Substances Bill went through several changes and turns before it was finalized, mainly because it took a while before the Home Office really knew what it was that they were making illegal. Their original definition of a psychoactive substance was anything that ‘produces a psychoactive effect in a person if by stimulating or depressing the person’s central nervous system it affects the person’s mental functioning or emotional state.’ Which if you take that as read, means anything that affects people in any way. They could have been banning chocolate or smelling flowers or seeing someone in inappropriate footwear tank it on an icy road while walking to a nightclub in the winter. Yes, it does seem about right that Theresa May, who probably spends her weekends terrorizing Narnia, would want to remove anything that stimulated any sense of feeling from the general public. I’m fairly certain she’s got blue prints on her desk to completely ban smiling in public and the concept of laughter.
Luckily however the Advisory Council On The Misuse of Drugs exists and their job is to inform the home office about drugs and the possible harm of them. David Nutt and several of his colleagues were part of it till 2009 when, as I mentioned before, they informed the home office about drugs and their possible harm and so consequently got fired. But this time round, despite being mostly ignored at first, the ACMD suggest the Home Office to amend the bill so it now applied to the scientific definition of ‘psychoactive substance’ and not everything that ever existed that stimulated people’s brains which I think only excludes ITV on a Saturday night. The Home Office then said no, and then secretly did that anyway so it looked like it was all their idea and said the ACMD did it to support their policy rather than them suggesting it to stop the policy from being full on batshit making everything illegal unless the government say it’s not.
So that’s sort of good, but really the bill overall has quite a few serious consequences of the sort you’d expect the cast of Grange Hill to tell you about in an informative video. All drugs except alcohol, poppers and tobacco are now illegal, including legal highs that people are still insisting are called legal highs even though they aren’t. And it’s an odd choice as a lot of legal highs haven’t yet been tested for human consumption, well not officially, so no one really knows how risky they are. Legal highs have been implicated in the deaths of 76 people over the last decade, so less than Putin, and considering how many are taken each year, that’s not very many. And while there are valid concerns over the safety of taking them, especially withdrawal symptoms when you stop, now that they’ve been made illegal, there’s evidence to suggest that black market dealers have taken over the trade which is far more dangerous. As David Nutt has pointed out ‘shops selling the illegal highs weren’t interested in killing people, but black market dealers just want to make a profit’ so the illegal legal highs could now be mixed with anything. And with overstretched police forces and proposed closures of a fifth of courts, a lot of time will now be taken up with this that could’ve been spent dealing with other crimes.
It’s almost as if by listening to genuine concerns by those that actually have expertise in the area, the Home Office could’ve made a much safer policy rather than one they rushed through to appear to be tough on drugs. I would advise they step back and take a chill pill but I don’t think they’d listen.
INTERVIEW WITH PETE PART 1
After 10 months of challenges and debates in Parliament and out, the Trade Union Bill, now called the Trade Union Act 2016 became law at the beginning of this month proving once again that when the Conservatives say they are the party that back ‘hard working people’, you realise it’s off a cliff as a message to all the others who are demanding better pay & conditions. Some amendments were made, curbing elements of the bill, such as anyone on a picket line having to show their personal details to the police, which was an odd idea in the first place. I mean what would the police have done if you didn’t have ID? Refuse you entry to the job you’re striking from being at?
However the main parts of the bill were kept focusing on making it harder on the whole for workers to take action. Now I’m sure some of you are thinking why does it matter? What is a union? Can you have a unioff? Workers rights? But when is it workers lefts day? And questions like that. Well this week I spoke to Peter Kavanagh all about what this Trade Union Act means for workers and why unions are still important in today’s world. Peter is the Unite the Union Regional Secretary for London and Eastern and it was very nice to talk about a unions other than the European one for a bit. Though yes that does get mentioned in the second half. Sorry. There’s just no escaping it.
We’ll be back with Peter in just a minute, but first:
There’s no evidence that legal highs are bad
But that’s ok, because now they’re banned
There’s also no evidence that fracking is bad
But that’s ok because now fracking is planned
Even though it might cause earthquakes
Or poison water over time
But fracking is fine
Even though it could cause tremors
Or ancient dinosaurs sorcerer terrors
To leap out from the ground
And kill us all before we made a sound
But fracking is fine and legal highs are bad
Don’t ask me why, I’m not your dad
Don’t do legal highs
WITH OR WITHOUT EU
Not long left till I can throw that jingle in the trash can and stop having to tell you about things like a pro-EU man in a Gorilla suit being punched in the face at a Boris Johnson Vote Leave rally and there wasn’t even a four year old boy anywhere near him. Yes that’s the sort of campaigning that’s been happening this week. Assaults against people in fancy dress, which to be fair, I’ve often wished would happen more often, but in this case where Boris Johnson’s statements on the EU are pure monkey business it did seem fair. There was also someone dressed as a banana but I think they got away unharmed after giving the crowd the slip. I’m not even sorry.
That was probably the highlight of a week that was mostly more economic scaremongering from the Bremain campaign while Boris and Michael Gove attacked David Cameron for failing to hit promised targets for curbing immigration. And here we have the crux of the most interesting part of this week’s EU nonsense. Conservative Party MPs are criticising the head of the Conservative party for not reaching targets they were also aiming to reach. The immigration targets themselves are quite ridiculous, as the government claimed they’d get net immigration to below 100,000 and the Office Of National Statistics has released figures for 2015 when the numbers were 333,000 so way off target. Net migration is the difference between people coming into the UK for at least a year and those leaving. So you could argue that to get net migration down, more UK citizens need to piss off, which let’s face it, after another three weeks of EU campaigns we might all want to. Of that 333,000 only 184,000 were EU only migration so even if we left the EU it wouldn’t even halve the immigration statistics, and there’s a lot to say that the EU migration figures would stay the same, but just become part of the overall migration figures anyway. But ignoring Gove’s claims that all this migration will damage schools, which would be tough considering there’s not much left that isn’t damaged thanks to him and Nicky Morgan, or that it’ll put pressure on the NHS, the UK population is set to rise by 10m in 25 years anyway on account of us living longer so immigration or not, those systems have been so depleted by government cuts they’ll be in a mess either way.
What’s more interesting is that Gove and Boris are so directly attacking David Cameron. As is Priti Patel who said Cameron was ‘too rich to care about immigration’ forgetting that it’s rich people who hope to exploit workers the most. Not that anyone should ever assume Priti Patel knows what she’s talking about, but there is a lot of talk of a coup against the Prime Minister following the referendum whichever way it goes. Nadine Dorries who’s only ever had people enthusiastically voting for her when it meant they wouldn’t have to see her on their TV anymore, said that she’d written a letter to the Prime Minister asking him to step down. And an unnamed Tory MP told the Sunday Times that he doesn’t want to stab Cameron in the back, he wants to ‘stab him in the front so I can see the expression on his face.’ Which is the first time a Conservative MP has ever held the same opinions as the public. The unnamed MP also added ‘All we have to do is catch the prime minister with a live boy or a dead girl and we are away.’ Which is a quote from US politican Edwin Edwards in 1983, but also aptly describes David Cameron’s giant lizard feeding habits which are yet to be caught on camera despite Attenborough’s best attempts.
So it’s not looking good for Cameron. If it’s a Brexit then he’ll have lost the campaign that’s he’s backing meaning it’s likely he won’t be able to stay PM after losing such face. But if it’s a Bremain, it’d only take 50 Tory MPs writing to the Conservative party’s 1922 committee to cause a new leadership contest. It’s called 1922 as that was the year they stopped updating their politics. So yep, only 50 MPs and there probably are that many who are anti-Europe and would be willing to unseat D-Cam. Yey, you think! An earlier end to Cameron than was planned how nice! But then who would replace him? And as your mind races through the potentials, like a gallery of genetic test subjects that have all gone horribly wrong, then the fear really sets in.
Now my plans are that Episode 21 in a couple of weeks will be an EU special where I go through each and every issue and see if we can get some actual info on any of it. But until then I thought I’d quickly try and talk about the regular assumption that the EU is undemocratically elected. So firstly the EU is neither run by the European Commission. Nor is the European Commission the government of Europe, or in charge of how you wear your hair or what time you go to bed. Well unless your mum is in the European Commission then ignore those last two. What the EU is though, is run completely unlike the UK political system meaning that like most thing outside of the EU, we can’t really be bothered to understand it and why oh why won’t they just all speak English and serve me some chips?
The way it works is that the European Commission proposes new laws, manages polices and budgets and represents the EU. It’s all led by 28 people, one from each member state and the Commission President who is currently Jean-Claude Juncker, a man who you might recognise as looking a lot like mouse in a suit. The Commision President is nominated by the Prime Ministers and presidents of all the member states, who you know, the citizens of that state vote for, so already there’s some indirect democracy going on there. And then the Commission can’t pass any laws unless approved by a majority vote in the European Parliament, which consists of MEP’s directly elected by the citizens of their country. Therefore you democratically elect an MEP unless you didn’t bother to vote, then that MEP turns up to European Parliament and has a direct vote in EU policies, unless you voted for a UKIP candidate in which case they either won’t turn up half the time meaning you have no say at all, or they do turn up but vote against the policy even if it’s to try and save elephants and everyone loves elephants.
So are they undemocratically elected? Well if you consider that the Conservatives may have committed election fraud for 21 of their candidates leading them to have a majority in the House Of Commons, which if it’s decided by the Court as being the case, then that is undemocratic. So the Prime Minister who is undemocratically elected helps decide who is on the European Commission, then yeah, I guess that is undemocratic, though I’d hardly blame that on the EU. And anyway I’m being facetious as Jean-Claude Juncker was elected in 2014 and that was when the Coalition government were in. So when people say the EU is undemocratic and the commission are unelected, what they mean is ‘I couldn’t be bothered to look at how it works and I probably wouldn’t understand it anyway as it’s all foreigns’. But hey, bloody unelected elected bureaucrats that don’t represent us except for where we voted for them to? Makes me sick.
So does that make any difference to whether we should stay or leave? No not really. Sorry. Ask me another one.
And now back to my interview with Peter Kavanagh:
INTERVIEW WITH PETE PART 2
Thanks to Peter for talking to me. If you are interested in joining a union or perhaps enquiring if it’s possible for your workplace or area of work to have one, check out Unite at unitetheunion.org or on Twitter @unitetheunion. As I said, I’m part of Equity which is a union for performers and while I haven’t had to use them often they were so helpful with making sure I got paid for a beer advert I did about 10 years ago, that I actually ended up getting paid money that I wasn’t owed. Ha! Carlsberg don’t do accountancy but if they did they’d probably be shit at it. And they did. And they were. Win!
Next week I’m going to be speaking to Open Democracy Editor Adam Ramsay about Scotland’s current political situation, but if you have any recommendations for people you’d like me to interview in upcoming weeks or subjects I should try and hunt down someone to talk to about, then let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org or on the Twitters and Facebooks.
QUESTION OF THE WEEK
In line with the Psychoactive Substance Bill and me not wanting to ask any more EU based questions, this week’s question of the week where I say the word week more than anyone should ever say week in a sentence. Week! This week’s question was ‘What highs would you ban under the bill and why?’ And the people said:
ban high-ho. Those dwarves have had it too good for too long.
I’d like to ban hiatuses but there’s no point – hiatuses gonna hiate.
High Wycombe, because it makes no sense without Low Wycombe
I’d say ban high horses, but they are essentially the platform on which all UK drug laws are based.
I’d ban catnip. The country is going to the dogs.
And that’s all for this week’s podcast. If you have enjoyed the show please do spread the word, maybe on toast and hand that spreaded word toast to other people who may enjoy it too. Then they can eat it and digest it and eventually crap it out. Oh no, this analogy’s gone horribly wrong. Look please do tell others about it, and do review us on iTunes if you can, it really does help. As always you can contact me on Twitter @parpolbro, facebook at parpolbro or at the email@example.com that still has had less action than a white crayon.
This week’s show was brought to you by the Letter E, which should make you all very happy.
Theresa May is sadly here to stay
Despite her making bad decisions every day
From police forces to the fire bridage
She doesn’t like people who come to anyone’s aid
She hates the European Court Of Human Rights
But she likes water cannons though they can damage your sight
Right now she hates legal highs
Cos they might make you enjoy yourself
And that ain’t right
Theresa May will try anyways
To make sure you’re all unhappy till the end of days
Don’t do legal highs