Episode 76 – Tiernan gets a UK politics update from Natalie Bloomer (@natalie_bloomer) at politics.co.uk. Also a look at the universal disappointment of universal credit and a new section where Tiernan replies to your emails, complete with a new awful jingle!
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Tiernan gets a UK politics update from Natalie Bloomer (@natalie_bloomer) at politics.co.uk. Also a look at the universal disappointment of universal credit and a new section where Tiernan replies to your emails, complete with a new awful jingle!
Links and sources of info from Natalie Bloomer’s interview:
All the usual ParPolBro stuff:
Hello and welcome to Partly Political Broadcast episode 76. I’m Tiernan Douieb and this week like Prime Minister and what happens when one supply teacher you had that made you realise oh wait, adults really don’t know everything, is allowed to rise up the ranks Theresa May, like her I … cough cough cough cough this week cough cough I’m sorry cough cough excuse me cough cough cough… Ha! Of course I won’t be doing the whole show like that, it’d be really hacky.
Yes that gag is the bar for this week’s show. Closing the Conservative conference last week, Theresa May pitched the idea that each generation should live the British Dream, a terrifying notion because I really don’t want to spend the next four years waking up to find I’m in my school assembly and I’ve forgotten to put my trousers on. But instead, while coughing and spluttering through the set as through she’d stupidly had the wrong engine oil put in pre-conference, being handed a p45 by comedian Simon Brodkin and then letters falling off the backdrop of the stage, it turns out that actually living the British Dream is allowing everyone to revel in absolute schadenfraude for at least an afternoon. Because in true karmic style, of course it would turn out the British Dream was a German word. If May continues this arc and rewards the British public perhaps with her slipping on a banana skin mid-interview or conducts Prime Minister’s Questions while someone carries a ladder around that she repeatedly tries and fails to duck, she may end up being popular once again, or at least get a decent sitcom time slot on BBC1. In reality though, this speech was the last straw for many who believe that despite pushing through her croaky voice and cough, that really Theresa May lost her political voice months ago. MP for Welwyn Hatfield and hamster who’s witnessed true horror that he can never unsee Grant Shapps, announced that he had a letter signed by 30 MPs calling for May to resign though I wonder if this was actually a clever plan to elicit some public sympathy for May because really the only thing most people would like to see more than Theresa May failing is Grant Shapps, who by any other name is still an arsehole, falling headfirst down a deep well then someone editing his Wikipedia page with day to day updates about how stuck he is down there. May has said she won’t be stepping down as she doesn’t hide from a challenge. You know, except all the debates she avoided during the snap election earlier this year. Or meeting the survivors of the Grenfell Tower Fire. Or condemning Donald Trump’s comments. The way this is looking, May not hiding from the challenge to her leadership will likely involve her disappearing without comment as Amber Rudd steps in as a substitute.
Foreign Secretary and overripe potato Boris Johnson is urging so called friends to stop briefing against May, which is further proof that he doesn’t actually have any real friends. Boris told the Conservative conference last week during his speech that we can win the future, though judging by the age of most people in attendance if it’s more than a few months away, they might not make it that far. Johnson insisted that it is time to let the British lion roar, which considering the circles he moves in, is probably just to let his so-called friends know where to find the British lion so they can shoot it and have a picture taken. As always, controversy follows Johnson around like a lingering fart follows a massive arse, and this time it was his comments at a Conservative conference fringe event that kicked up a stink. He was recorded as saying that the Libyan city Sirte could be the new Dubai but ‘all they have to do is clear the dead bodies away’. A horrible callous statement completely expected of Johnson, and proof that he trying his best to ensure that former PM David Cameron’s Libyan intervention continues to be carried out without any intelligence analysis at all. BoJo should really listen to his own advice as the Conservative government could be a working machine but all they have to do is clear the dead weights like him away. Senior Conservatives are now advising May do exactly that and demote Boris, though Boris says if she tries he’ll just say no. Which will probably work as May said earlier in the week she doesn’t want to be surrounded by yes-men. Meanwhile Brexiteers in the party want May to sack Chancellor of the Exchequer and sad Mordecai from The Regular Show Philip Hammond, because he’s making Brexit hard and being miserable. What a sensible suggestion. You know what else makes Brexit hard and miserable? That’s right. Brexit. Maybe sack that off too?
In the US, President of America and what happens if you don’t lance a boil Donald Trump responded to the tragic massacre in Las Vegas last week that left 59 dead and 500 injured, by just saying that he’ll be talking about gun laws as time goes by. Of course because we all know that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is by more powerful bad guys ignoring the call for gun laws allowing more bad guys to have guns until everyone ever dies in a massive gun fight. Meanwhile the Trump Administration has rolled back the mandate for birth control meaning companies do not have to provide for it on their health care plans. It’s almost as if they adamantly want women to provide more fodder for their mass shooting sprees. In Spain hundreds of thousands of protestors marched for unity between Spain and Catalan, while Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont will make a speech this week that many expect will declare independence, despite Spain’s King Felipe IV saying it is illegal. Luckily for everyone in this tense situation, former UK prime minister and terminally ill Cheshire cat Tony Blair has pitched himself as a mediator for the situation, so I guess Kali, Thanos and the ghost of Genghis Khan weren’t available. If nothing else, I guess there is the chance that like in the UK, Blair will bring both the Spanish and Catalonian people together to join in their hatred of his stupid face.
Scotland has entirely banned fracking, saying it would cause long lasting negative impacts on communities, and let’s be fair, they already have the Scottish independence question and buckfast for that. Oh and in a last minute Brexit update, Theresa May has told the EU that the ball is in their court, which proves we didn’t listen when told we shouldn’t kick it over that way and if we try to climb the fence to get it back, they’ll tell our mum and we won’t get any cake.
Hello hello! Thank you as always for listening to this regular shoutings, and big thank you this week to the 4 people who reviewed the show on iTunes which is so very nice of you indeed, and please, please do give the show a review on your podcast application of choice. I’m guessing app is short for application right? I’ve never actually looked it up. I mean I could look it up, but why not just follow current trends and assume I’m right as that’s easier. I mean, it’s unlikely to be podcast Appalachian is it? Podcast appendicitis? Doubt it. But yes, whatever your podcast apprehensive, please do give it a review as it really helps. I mean not in the grand scheme of the universe or anything. I doubt your review will stop an impending comet from crashing into the solar system but at the same time if early 2000s Ashton Kutcher films are anything to go by, who knows. Your review could be pivotal to worldly outcomes. In fact, I take it all back, why not all review the show several times in the hope that your carefully worded praise could give Boris Johnson a nose bleed. Thank you also to Henry for donating to the Patreon which you can do at patreon.com/parpolbro and Annie who donated to the ko-fi which you can also do at ko-fi.com/parpolbro and all of those donations things can change the world, or at least my world and it all goes towards making this podcast better and spending more time on it, which if things keep going how they are, have every chance of making Boris Johnson’s ears bleed. Or burn. Or whatever it is when you mention someone a lot. Burning might be better, especially as he has such dry, straw like hair that covers his ears.
Not much admin this week apart from my show at the Aberdeen comedy festival this weekend. I’m on at the stupidly late time of 10pm at Nox, and I’ll be doing 20 mins of new stuff followed by my hour show, so if you’re in that part of the frack free north and fancy a late evening of laughings, please come along. Details are on the Aberdeen comedy festival website which you can find by using a computer or really intuitive detective skills. Instead of admin, what I did have this week was an email and a Twitter comment that I thought I’d mention and part reply to but rather than clog up this beginning bit like an aural fatberg I’ve added a new section to the end of the podcast which you can look forward to there or if you are part of the 35% of listeners who give up at 38 minutes, can ignore. That’s what the handy stats on Acast say 35% of you do, so I’m thinking of just leaving excellent secret messages on this show at 39 minutes that could lead you all to riches. Or will I? For the 35% of you, you’ll never know. But I probably won’t. Or will I? No I won’t. OR IS THIS A DOUBLE BLUFF? It’s not. I really can’t be bothered. OR CAN I?
So on this week’s show there’ll be that new section with a new jingle too, plus I interview Natalie Bloomer from politics.co.uk who gives us an excellent update on where we’re at now with everything in UK politics, plus a further look at conference season and why universal credit is such a universal shit show. But first up:
When it comes to a number of issues such as a lack of Brexit plan, the failures of universal credit, nurse staffing issues etc etc the government are usually remiss at addressing the elephant in the room properly, but I’m pleased to say that when it comes to matter of banning the sale and trade of ivory items they are very much staring that elephant in the face and saying ‘we’ve realised unlike the British public, you never forget so we’d better sort this out.’ Environmental Secretary and living shrunken head Michael Gove has announced a consultation into banning trade in ivory of all ages. What that means is that while before it was fine to trade in dead elephant parts if you were under 6 years old…no I’m only joking. What it means is that previous ban attempts excluded antiques from before 1947 but this would mean a total ban. There is a ban on UK trade of raw ivory, but we are the leading exporters of ivory antiques and carvings which has increased global demand for ivory and is linked to elephant poaching in Africa which kills 20,000 elephants per year and is rapidly declining their population. The UK exhibiting a total ban would also help influence how China will enforce their proposed ivory ban. The consultation will be over 12 weeks and the only obstacles include antique dealers kicking up a hissy fit because they say that a ban on pre-1947 ivory antiques won’t save a single living elephant. Sure, but I’m sure you wouldn’t like it if someone took your old relatives and paraded their incisors around on a chest of drawers telling everyone it was a sought after item. Gove has also suggested there are exemptions to the ban including items of cultural importance, items with only a small proportion of ivory and musical instruments cause hey fuck you Dumbo, I don’t care if you go extinct as long we can play chopsticks on a baby grand. The consultation will run until 29th December so hopefully from 2018 the only time you’ll have tusks in the UK is every time we click our tongues at crappy political decisions.
The total number of pensioners entitled to tax relief has increased by 10%, the treasury have revealed. Yeah finally rich old people are catching a break! That’s long overdue, am I right? I’m so sick of these young people catching a break everywhere while none of those who’ve already bought houses and have decent jobs get anything. Yeeesh. The pension tax relief gives people earning over £45k a year £1 into their pension for every 60p they contribute, whereas lower earners have to pay 80p for the same contribution. Bloody something for nothing culture eh? This 10% increase amounts to about £5.3bn and if the government were to abolish it, they’d wipe out the budget deficit pretty much immediately. There have been rumours that Chancellor Philip Hammond will be either making cuts to the tax relief or slicing existing allowances in the next budget, but at the same time do the Conservatives want to cut off the only age group that seems to support them with Lord Hesletine warning earlier this year that 2% of Conservative members are dying off every year which is why I’m already planning a celebratory party for 2067. The Conservative conference was all about clawing back younger voters by offering them not enough money to buy unaffordable houses, or saying how nice they are for not increase student tuition fees but instead keeping them at the same high amounts they are. So if they are keeping young voters away but are considering telling older richer voters they’ll get pension cuts this could leave them in a tricky situation. And more importantly, less time for me to plan my party.
INTERVIEW WITH NATALIE:
I like to pride myself on skipping the bits of TV shows where they say ‘previously on’ assuming that I obviously remember everything before then getting 15 minutes into the show realising I’ve forgotten everything, have to rewind back to the previously on bit and successfully waste 15 minutes of my life I’ll never get back. I have seen the Blade Runner sequel and was very pleased that days before I had learned to watch the first one again and therefore things in the sequel made sense despite my bladder regularly wishing the whole experience was about 30 minutes shorter and none of it answering whether or not Theresa May dreams of electric sheep or not. What I’m saying, in a very roundabout way, or for US listeners, er a very T junction way, is that sometimes a little refresher is good. And I don’t mean the sweets by swizzles. Although they are also yums. With UK politics being a constant total mess and the last year seeing the political scene change more times than Katy Perry’s live show costumes, it’s useful to stop for a minute and work out where things are at. Conference season is nearly at a close and we’ll very soon be embarking onto the next few months of Brexit talks, parliament and whatever other messes no doubt appear so I thought this week it’d be good to just make it clear what’s going on. As you might have noticed on this show I can occasionally write the jokes but my analysis is usually limited to how much I’ve checked twitter that day. But there are too many questions that need answers in UK politics at the moment for this show to go without analysis. For example, how is it the Conservatives are aiming to build a country that works for everyone when they can barely construct a sentence without being attacked for it by fellow party members or coughing through it? How is it Labour were supposed to fail because they were too unpopular but now somehow dangerous because they’re too popular? And where are the Lib Dems? Has anyone seen them? Have they called or left a message?
For Partly Political Broadcast’s Previously On section I spoke to the brilliant Natalie Bloomer who is one of the writers at Politics.co.uk. Natalie very kindly agreed to let me ask her generally what on earth is going on. Thank you to Budgie on twitter for one of the questions too. Hopefully this should catch you all up with where we are now although as you hear this there is every chance something will have changed and all of this will instantly be irrelevant anyway. Hooray for politics! But either way I found this chat very useful and informative indeed.
Oh and sorry but …
Ok there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that Natalie on this interview can be heard very clearly and was recorded properly. The bad news is that like my interview with Matt Turner a few weeks ago, the recording of me is awful. And not just because I’m awful. I mean it is that, but also, it sounds like I’m talking through a hessian sack. Which I was because that’s my standard interview outfit, but it’s not just that. Seriously though, there’s been some update to the recording appoggiatura I use that means it likes to go ‘hey I see your microphone’ then as I hit recording totally ghosts it. I think I’ve fixed it for next week but for this week you’ll just have to pretend that I interviewed Natalie while talking through a trombone mute. I am sorry. But maybe try to see it as me being the unclear voice of politics and Natalie as the clear, understandable answers. Yeah? I mean why would you have an update that made things worse? And that is a question that applies both to every computer update ever and most governmental policies for the last 7 years. Anyway, here’s Natalie, enjoy:
INTERVIEW PART 1:
We’ll be back with Natalie and muffled me in a minute but first:
Sometimes combining several good ideas together doesn’t always work. For example, Batman vs Superman which took two well known and liked superheroes put them together and made something twice as shit as it could’ve been, or Walkers Cheese, cucumber and salad cream crisps which tasted like I imagine what licking the pipes in a Savlon factory would be like. Another perfect example is Universal Credit. Created in 2010 by former Work and Pensions Secretary and grumpy choad Iain Duncan Smith, the idea was that it’d combine income support, jobseeker’s allowance, employment and support allowance, housing benefit, child tax credit and working tax credit all into one handy payment, supposedly making benefits more simple. This one does everything payment would get paid directly into claimants’ banks so they can then use it to cover all the benefits they are eligible for. The idea was that you can claim universal credit if you’re in or out of work but your payments reduce the more you earn so all working towards the idea that no one ends up in a situation where its more worth their while to claim benefits than find work, unless you are Iain Duncan Smith in which case why work to make anything better for anyone when your in laws have bought you a mansion and you can spend all your earnings on expensive breakfasts.
Universal Credit is currently about 5 years behind schedule as it was meant to be implemented back in 2011, but a series of problems including a £2.4bn IT system failure that Duncan Smith blamed civil servants for because of course the person behind a system that enforces extra responsibility on claimants can’t take blame for his own screw ups. But despite this it started rolling out slowly, like me out of a comfy chair after a Sunday lunch, to about five job centres a month as of May last year, with now about 600,000 people currently using it, but the government have decided to go ahead with an accelerated rollout, like me out of a comfy chair after I’ve had booze with my Sunday lunch and can’t stand up properly, so that’ll be 50 job centres a month from this month. But Labour, Lib Dem and in fact a lot of Conservative MPs are calling for the government to halt these plans, with even former prime minister John Major warning today that if they go ahead with this they risk opening their door to a return of a nightmare, and he should know what that looks like as he had Edwina Currie round his house several times.
But why is it a problem? Well for a start all claimants have a minimum 42 day wait, which often translates to 60 days before they get their first payment when they move to universal credit. This leaves people, who are on little to no income without any cash at all for 6 weeks, something that has lead to cases of eviction as landlords are no longer paid housing benefits direct to them, a rise in food bank use, a rise in use of expensive credit loads, and many cases of distress. Now the government have addressed this with work and pensions secretary and man who’s surname appropriately matches the sound most people make when they listen to him, David Gauke, has said that people waiting for payments would be able to access cash up front, to help them till their first universal credit payment, but this cash would be a loan and has to be repaid in 6 months. Yes like a pay day loan company only while they don’t have interest on the repayments, they also have little in the people that are applying’s lives. Plus claimants have to prove they need the loan to pay bills, buy food or prevent illness you know, like everyone needs money for because that’s what money’s and about half of everyone on universal credit so far has had to apply for this loans, something David Gauke says is good because it shows they are getting the help they need and everyone else says no David, it shows your shitty universal credit is leaving people fucked. It feels like someone taking the plasters you’ve offered them after you kicked the crap out of them is a good example that they’re getting the help they need rather than a clear case of you really need to stop going round being a psychopath.
As well as this gap in payment there are a ton of other universal issues. Private landlords are no longer taking on tenants on universal credit as they say the risk of them not paying rent is too high, housing associations have warned the accumulated costs of bad debts run up tenants on universal credit could affect their house building plans, and claimants say Universal Credit is really overly complex and confusing, especially if you don’t have online access, which how can you have if you haven’t had any money for six weeks? It’s like a benefits version of when a new pair of scissors is put in a packet you need scissors to open. Plus the Resolution Foundation think tank says that due to reductions in work allowances brought in by former chancellor and skin job George Osborne means that 2.5m low income working households will be more than £1000 a year worse off on Universal Credit and that many families who are on tax credits now, won’t be eligible for universal credit at all. And you start to realise that this is even more damaging to people than even Batman vs Superman. It is universally a shit show.
I’ve struggled to find current figures but just over a year ago, Universal Credit had cost more than £16bn to implement which was already £4bn more than originally planned. The Conservatives are insistent that Universal Credit works and say the roll out will continue as planned being completed by 2022. because it’s now their party trade mark to blindly press ahead with big expensive failures that cause damage, far beyond caring whether they work or not. Honestly with Universal Credit and Brexit it’s a wonder the Conservatives next plan won’t be a remake of Waterworld, followed by a nationalised chocolate teapot factory and I dunno, any sort of trade deal with Donald Trump. Oh wait…. Oh dear.
And now, back to Natalie:
INTERVIEW PART 2:
Thank you lots to Natalie for that brilliant update and hopefully you should be all caught up before we embark on UK politics season 6007. You can find Natalie on Twitter @natalie_bloomer and you can also read lots of her articles at politics.co.uk. The other tweeters Natalie recommends are Dawn Foster who you can find on Twitter @dawnhfoster and she also writes for several publications including the Guardian. Stephen K Bush writes mainly for the new statestman and can be found on Twitter @stephenkb and Sian Harris is not on Twitter but again you can find her articles in lots of places. Online places that is. I’m not sure you can find them, say, in a rainforest or an ancient Aztec temple. But to be fair, I haven’t checked so I could be wrong.
I’m aware that I did a little online poll on facebook and twitter asking what you wanted to hear about and you overwhelmingly (by that I mean about 7 people more) wanted me to interview someone about the Catalonian independence election and I hopefully should be soon. With everything still so up in the air over there, it’s hard to pin anyone down for a chat with a podcast when they are keeping an eagle eye on goings on. But I do have someone who I should hopefully be able to talk to in a couple of weeks. If you have any other areas you’d like me to interview someone on or someone you’d like me to interview please, as always, drop me a line @parpolbro on Twitter, the partly political broadcast group on Facebook or email@example.com. Or like the blue capped cordon blue songbird, why not convey your message in a series of feet taps, head bobs and dancing and hopefully I’ll find an ornithologist to translate it. Either that or you’ll at least find a lovely blue capped cordon blue songbird mate and then you’ll have their chirpy sounds to listen to instead of this podcast anyway. Email is as always, easiest.
We are now in the last week of conference season with the SNP and Green Party conferences under way. So far at the Scottish National Party conference leader Nicola Sturgeon confirmed that her government will pay the so-called settled status fee of any EU citizen working in the public sector in Scotland before calling Brexit a developing disaster which is unfair, as according to negotiations Brexit really doesn’t seem to be developing much. It’s very much a stagnant disaster. Meanwhile at the Greens conference co-leader Jonathan Bartley has told the party they will stick up for the little guy which is good news for anyone only making small fireworks night decorations and that the Greens have changed the political weather on issues from fracking to austerity, which does sound a lot like they are responsible for climate change. Which I thought they were against. I’ll look more in depth at both conferences next week once they’ve both finished but till then, let’s take a quick look at the rest of last week’s Conservative conference as there were a few more moments and comments of note worth mentioning.
And no I don’t want to talk about Jacob Rees-Mogg’s patronising comments on how it is right to be generous to EU citizens in the UK because ‘how lucky we are that 3 million brave souls crossed a continent to a country where they didn’t speak the language to work hard and take on jobs.’ I’m pleased it’s a favourable sentiment, sort of, to EU citizens in the UK, but really, didn’t know the language? Just because we Brits take pride in learning to point and shout at things and demand chips in every restaurant we go to, doesn’t mean other European countries take the same attitude towards foreign languages. Though to be fair, no one has spoken the same language as Rees-Mogg since Chaucer. Nor is it particularly worth mentioning how Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt wore a Tate and Lyle lanyard while discussing childhood obesity in Britain because Hunt is so painfully unaware of anything to do with healthcare it wouldn’t surprise me if he lectured on how the NHS needed to make more cuts after using £44000 of taxpayers money to pay for a new bathroom in his house. Oh wait, he did do that. He actually did do that. Then again, he does need a decent bathroom to cope with the torrent of hypocritical shit he churns out on a daily basis.
Instead what is worth looking at is International Development Secretary Priti Patel’s comments on how Brexit is an opportunity for widespread deregulation. Deregulation could lead to less worker’s rights, less health and safety care and, well, the sort of reckless obsession with profit over people that lead to the Grenfell Tower fire. Patel has previously mentioned that she thinks working time protection should be scrapped for self employed lorry drivers. Yeah sounds great Priti. I mean if you’ve seen the way some of the drive on the M1 at night at the moment, I’m sure keeping them going for 48 hours will really help that. While there are arguments for some red tape that leads to unnecessary paper work and admin to go, there’s also a number of areas where cutting it would be much much worse. Also how would you do Indiana Jones airplane lines on maps or, well, tape red things so it looks seamless? Do Tories think of nothing?
Home Secretary Amber Rudd’s proposals for new laws on criminalising extremist content have already been hugely criticised as ‘incredibly dangerous’. She stated that anyone repeatedly watching criminal content online could get up to 15 years in jail, though I’m not sure if that’d include anyone that watches repeats of her terrifying authoritarian speeches. Open rights group have said this sort of legislation would cause problems for journalists investigating such matters but also may stop people tempted by extremism from coming forward as they’d have to admit what they had seen online and would be immediately criminalised. The government’s current independent reviewer of terrorism legislation QC Max Hill has recently stated that the government need fewer terrorism laws, not more but it’s highly likely Amber Rudd will have him locked up by the end of the year for such extremist views.
And lastly, May’s speech. Aside from the coughing, pranking and very unstable and unstrong set, it contained more balls than a soft play area pit. To be honest, as with a lot of what May says, I forgot most of it seconds after she said it, with the only bit sticking being her apology for a the snap election campaign. I really wish she’d left it there and walked off. She mentioned a number of supposed achievements from her government including the increase in nurses which is true since 2010 but doesn’t mention the first decrease in registered nurses over the last year for the first time since 2008. She mentioned free childcare doubling for children 3-4 years old but didn’t mention that nurseries won’t have the places or funding to cope with this. And the National Living Wage which the living wage foundation say isn’t a living wage. May talked about how the Hillsborough families are finally seeing justice served, something that she really can’t take any credit for, and she mentioned how the survivors of Child Sex Abuse are now on the long road to truth, despite the fact the enquiry she commissioned has totally stalled and is ignoring the needs of those very survivors. After all that she told the conference never to let the left have a monopoly on compassion, presumably because she’s already planning to sell bits of it to virgin care. It’s generally amazing that with everything else that happened during that speech that her pants didn’t immediately ignite as well.
But apart from all the usual hubris, there was little actual content. Ed Miliband’s energy price cap fee has been plagurised and re-used, as was Corbyn’s pledge for an opt out on organ donation and part of me wondered if May was going to just finish her speech by getting everyone to sing Jerusalem. But the one thing May did mention was housing. She pledged to renew the building of council housing by making £2bn available. But £2bn really won’t help at all. In 2010 George Osborne cut annual capital funding for housing associations from £3bn to just £450m which is the sort of slash they’d be concerned about putting in a saw film. This meant housing associations stopped the model of social rent, and instead moved to affordable rent which, like affordable housing, is 80% of market rents. So with social rent new build housing only being around a 1000 per year, affordable rent housing are taking most of the tenants, but the costs are stupidly high meaning the government have had to pay billions in housing benefits to landlords because of their own lack of house building. Sajid Javid pledged £7bn to the sector over 5 years and May has now added £2bn but it’s still nowhere near the £3bn per year it had before 2010. So while a reversal of Osborne’s cuts is welcome that amount is the bare minimum of help.
But it’s cool, cos we’re meant to have sympathy for May because she had a coughing fit. I can’t help but feel she only did that so she could continuely tell us all to k’off as often as possible.
Yes, this is my new section called Post Truth, where I will be responding to the very rare bits of correspondence I get from you, the listener. Or this week, from two listeners which is exciting as it means there’s more than one of you. Don’t get jealous ok? Anyway first up is an email that I thought I would read to you as, well, it contains some very interesting thoughts and info on the really upsetting situation in Myanmar at the moment, something I briefly mentioned in episode 72 and shows no signs of being any less depressing or horrific. As you’ll see, in this letter though, this is something you might be able to help with so thought I should just read it all out. I will keep this listeners name and details anonymous as, well you’ll see. So here you go:
The reason I’m emailing is that I’ve recently been having some issues with the politics here in Myanmar. I would guess you’ve heard all about the genocide/ethnic cleaning in Rakhine state, leading tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims to flee Myanmar, risking their own lives to become refugees in Bangladesh.
Living here, I get a completely different side of the story than you will in the UK. I use an app called Flipboard to get my news, so I read about the crisis in English from Western news sources I can trust. However, any conversation I have with a local leads to the awkward moment when they deny any violence from the military. I’ve had strangers admit relief when they find out I’m not Muslim; people telling me the Rohingya burn their own homes; people confidently claiming no one has died in Rakhine State. And this isn’t a conversation I want to have, for fear of being arrested or banned from the country.
Burmese people are the nicest, warmest people I’ve ever met. I cannot describe how safe and welcome I feel living in this amazing country. I’ve lived abroad for 4 years, in various countries, and this is hands-down the best country. But there are, obviously, issues.
After the British left the country during WW2, the resulting power vacuum lead to a military regime and year of poverty and a lack of civil rights for the Burmese. It was illegal to dye your hair, to wear certain clothes, to party. In recent years, the military government has given way to a psuedo-democracy, in which Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Prize winner, is the defacto leader, propped up by a corrupt and power-hungry military.
This new government have repealed censorship, so, unlike in Thailand, newspapers in Myanmar can print anything they want. However, probably worse than censorship is Section 66(d), which threatens up to three years in prison for “extorting, coercing, restraining wrongfully, defaming, disturbing, causing undue influence or threatening any person using a telecommunications network.”
Just look at that wording! You can’t defame any person. You can’t even disturb them!
What this means in real terms is that people are scared to print anything risky. Before, under censorship, you could write whatever you want, but the government could prevent it from being printed. Now, after it’s printed, your house could be stormed and you could go to prison.
So the government are peddling lies, telling their citizens that no-one is dying, that the Rohingya are burning their own homes. And they’ve been inciting hatred towards the Rohingya for years, for being “illegal refugees”, and for being Muslim. Aung San Suu Kyi can’t fight this because if she does, the military will remove her from power and the whole country will return to poverty.
And no-one can argue with this, without fear of being arrested. Myanmar is an underdeveloped country, with uneducated citizens. They can’t get their news from another country, because it would be in another language, and most people can only speak and read Burmese. Until very recently, any protest against the government was quickly stopped, often with the use of violence, so there is no basis for fighting this. The government are systematically deceiving their citizens so they can go on committing genocide.
The news I see in Burmese (which I try to translate) is a world apart from what I read in English. And until this stops, the government will not be challenged from within their own country. I see no news about other countries condemning Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya, so locals won’t either. When Malala condemned Aung San Suu Kyi, all Burmese news had to say about it was “Malala deserves to be [killed/raped/beaten…]”.
I feel very useless, living here but being unable to fight this injustice for fear of prison. Which is why I’m emailing you. Perhaps if more people outside of Myanmar learned about Section 66(d), something could be done about it. Because nothing is changing here. The situation is getting so bad that I’m seriously considering leaving if it doesn’t improve – I feel uncomfortable contributing to the economy of a country that is so corrupt, especially with my visa fees going directly into their pocket.
Human Rights Watch wrote this: https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/06/29/burma-repeal-section-66d-2013-telecommunications-law about the law, to give you some more background. Listeners could even donate to HRW. But, more than that, they could spread the word, and hopefully create a discourse about it.
Obviously, if you decide to mention this in a future episode, I would prefer it if you didn’t use my name. It’s just, I’d rather not spend 3 years in prison. Technically, this email would be enough for that but I’ll cross my fingers on that one…
Any way, enough depressing talk… Thanks for podcasting your wee heart out, and if I ever get a job in a developed country that has such things as bank accounts, I’ll buy you a coffee! Assuming I don’t get arrested after I hit send.
Thank you so much for the email anonymous listener and while it’s heart breaking reading and god I hope you deleted the email after sending, it’s so useful to get info from the source as it were, as Myanmar has not been fully back in the news since the initial attacks towards the rohingya a few weeks ago. So if you’re listening and various charities are working on spreading the word and repealing section 66d including the aforementioned human rights watch, Amnesty international and the burmacampaign.org.uk have a draft letter you can copy and paste and addresses of who to send it to at UK based Embassry of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar so please do that. If you aren’t UK based you can write to the Myanmar embassy in your country. All these things are always worth doing and the more global pressure that can be built up the higher the chance this law could be repealed.
Right, on a lighter but still depressing note, @mad_cyclist on Twitter aka Dave asked me why I didn’t ask anyone at the Labour conference about their strange support of Brexit. Well no, I didn’t partly because I didn’t really get to speak to anyone much
And that’s all for this week’s show. Thank you again for listening with your ear holes and if you haven’t reviewed the show or donated at the patreon or ko-fi or told your friends about it or posted about it on social media or coughed the url inbetween policies at your party conference, then please, please do.
Thanks as always to Acast for hosting the show and to my brother the Last Skeptik who’s new album This Is Where It Gets Good is now available to buy at all good, bad and indifferent music outlets.
This will be back next week when Brexit negotiations will no doubt involve David Davis having lost his key card and being stuck in a revolving door while the EU goes to lunch.
This week’s show was brought to you by Philip Hammond’s Triple Lockets cough sweets. Bitter tasting, costly and generally miserable, they should cure a cough within minutes but can’t stop you being full of crap.