SAD AND DIFFICULT TIMES

newspapers (Tehrān)
Image by birdfarm via Flickr

Norway is in mourning. The bombs and shootings of innocent people is too horrendous to contemplate for long. But it has to be faced. There are people who will do this sort of thing because they believe in a fanatical ideology and they think everyone else should subscribe to it. At least, I guess that is why they perpetrate such terrible crimes against others.

Norway is a liberal country. Their Prime Minister has said that what has happened will not push Norway off course. They will remain a liberal society. But he is aware that these crimes look as if they were committed by a fellow countryman and that throws up questions about the society that the man was living in.

In my opinion, the way people behave reflects on the way a society is constructed. In the UK we have seen, in recent weeks our faith in the morals and ethics of some people shattered. We have had to accept that all was not as simple as it seemed. That the freedom of the press could be corrupted by allowing stories to be researched using criminal and unethical methods.

A free press is the mark of a democracy, of a liberal and caring society, isn’t it? In countries where a dictator rules, the press is the first thing to be curtailed. It is sobering to have to accept that our democracy is threatened by the actions of organisations like News Corporation. We know that even senior politicians were scared of getting on the wrong side of Rupert Murdoch. This is all wrong. Murdoch tried to play the whole thing down by suggesting that the reaction to what had happened was just hysterical and at that point,  Cameron sided with him. That was last week. Things have moved on since then and I hope Mr. Cameron accepts that the scale of the corruption that has been uncovered is mind-blowing.

I quake in my shoes when I think of what might have happened had BSkyB taken over. Could it be that our government would have turned into puppets with Murdoch firmly in control of their strings? Where would our precious democracy have been then? How has power in this country been handled recently? The bankers and Murdoch appear to have held the reins, while the cart horses – our political leaders – have plodded along behind. This has to stop.

To have allowed Murdoch the sort of power that enabled him to attack the personal lives of our politicians, is truly scandalous. Murdoch perhaps saw himself as a Mafia godfather? His methods seem to me, to mirror the way that organisation works. But here in the UK, the current scandal has suddenly become very focused. We now have our political leaders finally seeing the light and speaking out. One glimpse of hope is that there are excellent and decent journalists are out there and hopefully, they will prevail.

What has happened in Norway will fill the papers for the next few days and the recent scandal will diminish for a while. But it must never be forgotten and it must be a warning to everyone working in the media, that relationships with politicians and the police must always be beyond reproach.

WHY COVER-UPS?

MacCon covers-up for Calgary police misconduct
Image by thivierr via Flickr

In 2009, in a tiny village in England, a woman at a garden party told her group of friends that she really hoped that the BNP would ‘get in’, as she was terrified we would all be ruled by ‘those Muslims” one day soon. She went on to verbally attack a local Asian woman who had just moved into the village. No one said anything in the Asian woman’s defence.  In another incident in 2008, a district councillor in cahoots with a local developer, protected his unlawful behaviour by stopping the local council from taking legal action against him. The rest of the council colluded by staying silent. In 2007, a woman used a charity credit card to obtain goods for herself. When the crime was discovered, she tried to pin it on someone else. The trustees believed her but when the truth came out, it was suppressed. My point is that in all these situations, things were hushed up. These events were never reported or addressed by our legal system, even though they were wrong and created much distress to many people. No-one spoke out. People agreed to stay mute and to hope things would blow over.  Small pockets of corruption and bigotry were hidden, because people allowed them to be. The silent road was easier.

It happens in a more magnified way in high places, as we have seen in the Murdoch scandal. But it has dribbled down to lower places because it has become an acceptable culture. We have lost our sense of justice and when that happens, ethics and morals go, too. Why is this? What has happened to honesty and integrity? Why are we not confronting wrong-doing; not just when the proverbial hits the fan, but when it is first discovered? Why do we subscribe to cover-ups?

You could argue that it is all down to our disinterest in religion and a supreme being who is up there, finger waving at us when we transgress. But religions have been the cause of great wickedness, in fact some unspeakable crimes have been committed in the name of religion. Of course, at it’s best, religion attempts to teach us to be good, to be kind and helpful and caring, but do we have to do that, because God tells us to. Surely we can tap into our innate sense or right and wrong without needing doctrine? After all, we are humans and not animals acting only on instinct…

Watching the Murdoch scandal evolve, it’s hard to accept that the crimes committed go back years. Someone knew what was going on. Maybe hundreds knew, yet no-one said anything. The culture of fear and acceptance of wrong-doing pervaded. Blind eyes were turned and the corruption continued. Watching Murdoch at the enquiry bought home what a sad figure he actually is. I find him sad because by allowing such a culture to seep through his business empire, he has lost respect and those in his wake have also lost their integrity. Some have now lost their jobs. On the other hand, there must have been many people, who had they known what was happening in their workplace, would have immediately resigned. You cannot believe that among the thousands of people Murdoch employed world-wide, there were not many who would have made a stand,  had they known the truth? But the culture of cover-up at the top must have meant that ordinary workers were kept in the dark until someone took things just a step too far, ie a murdered child’s phone was hacked. Now the mighty are falling like dominoes. What took place was so shameful, so deeply offensive that nothing, in my view, can compensate for behaviour, that when it was happening, was seen as ‘normal’ in the world of this particular type of investigative journalism.

Enough of Murdoch and his gang. What worries me is that this culture of cover-up and acceptance of corruption is now so endemic that we may have passed the point of no return. But I have faith in humanity; I have faith in our ability to make good out of bad. I must have faith because if I don’t, what is left?

 

WHISTLE BLOWING

Qiqi Green Whistle 8-16-09 3
Image by stevendepolo via Flickr

There are people out there who are as thick as two short thieves and today, one of them is me. I seem to have the knack of raising hackles because, so I am told, I am too truthful.

So what does that mean? I call a spade a spade, while others have never seen a spade? I speak my mind because I believe that what is in my mind can do some good, if the knowledge is passed on? I won’t play the game? You know, the game where everyone avoids the truth and pretends everything is okay, even if they are in the midst of treachery and evil doings?

I’ve always been a leaper; I leap into situations that others avoid like the plague. My mother used to tell me I had too much to say for myself. In the leaping scenario, I’m fighting battles before I hit the ground. Injustice is like a large thorn in my tonsil. I cannot rest until I have messed with it, so that eventually it splinters and cuts my mouth – metaphor for righting wrongs.

There has been a great deal in the media of late about journalists and newspapers that ‘investigate’. They front, or run campaigns for justice. Sometimes the campaign is successful and a new law is passed that is much needed. But sometimes, their sanctimonious attitude is just about selling more newsprint. The current debacle with the Murdochs shows that once a stone is thrown into the pond, the ripples have no end. It’s a long drop if you are at the top.

As far as my life is concerned, when I see an injustice, I feel compelled to do something about it. No matter how I am vilified or attacked, I force on. I have been a whistle-blower, and there has been no reward, apart from knowing that the misdemeanor you have uncovered and complained about, might not happen again because you have exposed it. It does take a certain amount of courage, but I think I simply have a sort of blind anger when I am confronted by something that is so patently unjust that I cannot let is pass without doing something.

When you do blow the whistle, you find that certain people will hate you to the point of wanting to annihilate you altogether. Making a stand while you keep standing, can be difficult. I have found myself embroiled in a situation where the people perpetrating the injustice have status and power.  They may even be feared in the community. You have to be very sure of your facts to give the whistle even a perfunctory peep, because they will destroy you if they have half a chance. You have to be like a terrier with a bone. You just keep at it and eventually, the truth will worm its way through the rot and emerge, all shiny and new. But the toll will be immense. Your whole life may change. You will certainly be a different person.

So is it worth it? Ignoring the bad stuff might be better, surely? No. Never. To pretend that bad stuff doesn’t exist – the head in the sand attitude – hurts many more people than speaking up.  In the end, your inner landscape feels a lot better if you do what you know is right. But you have to be sure you are right and many will try to cut you down and persuade you that you are crazy. It takes strength, tenacity and committment. It takes stupidity, too. The sort of stupidity that says you don’t give a fig what anybody thinks about you. That is a sort of stupidity, isn’t it? Because these days, it’s so much easier to be clever and keep your mouth shut or let truth and lies intermingle like a sort of disphonic symphony… That’s the sort of music that has been much in demand in recent weeks.

Being outspoken and speaking your mind is even harder if you are a woman. Your voice must have the tembre of an angel, otherwise you will be accused of being hard, cold, bullying, brash; the list is long. A man in a similar situation is though to be forthright, positive, in control, powerful. Even in 2011, women have to use certain tactics to be heard. Female politicians ignore this at their peril. They know that the best way to be listened to is to have a silky voice and a sweet countenance. I watched a female MP questioning the Murdochs on TV yesterday. She had a brilliant intellect and her questions were to the point and brooked no refusal, but the voice was gentle and lilting. There wasn’t a trace of accusation or aggression. She had them eating out of her hand in minutes. Not one question wasn’t answered fully.

Taking risks through your life to expose the bad stuff and try to change things for the good of everyone can make you a target for abuse. But it is always worth it because you know that when you are through on this earth, you will in some small way, have made a difference.

 

 

 

WHO CAN WE TRUST?

Julius Henry "Groucho" Marx, cropped...
Image via Wikipedia

I’m currently studying Law at the Open University.  Why should I embark on such a course of study? Read on.

We appear to be living in a culture of intrusion, where any one is fair game and lies are told as a matter of course. I ordered something on the Internet and it didn’t arrive. The girl on the end of the phone was very polite at first but it took several phone calls to get to the bottom of the issue. By the increased anxiety in her voice, I suspected a hidden agenda. I asked her if the company was in trouble. She denied it.. She then became belligerent and obviously wanted to get me off the phone as quick as possible. A bit of research revealed that this company had gone into Administration.

I  heard a senior politician on a radio programme, promising to help three people who were having a variety of financial and social problems. He told them, with sincerity, that he would investigate their plights and get something done. A month later, the programme asked the three people if their situations had been improved, by the politician.  One, a man looking for financial investment, said there had been some progress. The two others said they had been contacted by government officials and asked questions. They were told that their problems were very complex and there was little that could be done.  It became obvious that the politician was very limited in what he could actually do to help. In hindsight, it seems rash for him to say so earnestly that he would help, when the truth is, he couldn’t. We want to believe in promises, especially if they are made by people we think have power or influence.

There is a lack of trust in our political leaders. We are starting to feel disillusioned and down trodden. People have lost trust in institutions and I think, in each other. That’s a pretty nasty state of affairs. In North Carolina, a man who was unemployed, ill and had no health insurance made a stand. He decided that the only way to get help was to set up a bank robbery and steal one dollar. He handed the bank teller a note on which was written: This is a bank robbery. Give me one dollar. Then he sat in a corner of the bank and waited for the police to arrive. The 59 year old man had already sent a letter to the local newspaper saying: When you receive this a bank robbery will have been committed by me for one dollar. I am of sound mind but not so much sound body. He ended up in the county jail, facing charges of stealing from a person. The bank robbery charge was dropped as the amount stolen was so small. This man told the paper he’d lost his job. For 17 years he’d worked for Coca Cola as a delivery driver. Once the job was gone, so was his health insurance. He was suffering from a variety of painful ailments that included arthritic joints and a growth on his chest. Now he is in prison, his medical needs are being addressed.

In parts of the UK there are currently families trying to live on a budget of £16 a week for food. By the time they have put aside money for their utilities and housing, that is all the money they have left to feed themselves. The global contraction began in 2008 . Before the recession hit us in the UK the economy had diminished by 5% and the budget deficit had risen from 2.5% of GDP to 10%. It is said that the Labour government’s revenue projections were totally unrealistic. But the Conservatives, then the opposition, went along with it. They were, like Labour living in wonderland and totally misled by a false sense of security in the economy at the time.

So, in 2011, what has changed? Bank lending is still moribund and unemployment is growing. Cuts in public services are the most radical we have seen in years. We are still not in a viable recovery and it appears that most of the rest of the world are in the same boat. Greece is about to implode financially and that catastrophe will affect the rest of Europe. So the man who walked into the bank and asked for a dollar in order to receive medical treatment is making a strong comment on where we are all heading unless the governments of the world rethink their global strategies and focus on a humanitarian approach rather than a fiscal one.

When you start a business, you want it to survive and flourish. Reputation is everything and that means being straight with everyone you have dealing with. Integrity is paramount. It builds trust with your customers and it encourages creative thinking in your workforce. Groucho Marx once said: If you can fake it, you’ve got it made. Funny, but not a good business model.  Pretending to be open and honest is exhausting. It does not lead to sustainability. Pushing something that does not have its basis in honesty is not sustainable. In these difficult financial times the most important thing for your clients is that they feel they are dealing with an organisation that works to an ethical code, has built a reputation for this, is reliable and honest.

Once, there was a notion that business was like a card game and standards were different. A statement in the Harvard Business Review, January 1968 was entitled ‘ Is Business Bluffing Ethical?’ Albert Carr, the author put forward his theses that some measure of deceit was pretty much acceptable. He wrote:  ‘Executives from time to time are almost compelled, in the interest of their companies or themselves to practice some sort of deception when in negotiation with customers, dealers, labour unions, government officials or even other departments of their companies. By conscious misstatements, concealment of pertinent facts, or exaggeration – in short, by bluffing – they seek to persuade others to agree with them.’ It was apparent that those who were not prepared to play the game would become sidelined and disadvantaged in their business dealings. One university Dean is quoted as saying: Never tell a lie, but you don’t have to tell all of the truth.’

Openness in meetings creates a sense of working together and sharing the good and bad times. It creates a sense of inclusion in even the smallest decision making processes. From the top down, honesty and integrity should be at the core of running any organisation, from News International to the British government. Being truthful lets you keep things simple. Telling untruths is a hard slog. Creativity blossoms in an environment where people are able to speak out without fear. This ethos should be more than just a culture. It has to be part of the structure. There have to be signposts that show the way, through a structure, that people can speak freely, even about grievances.

There are so many good things that come out of honesty that it is hard to believe that some people will discount it. In the current global culture of seeing what you can get away for as long as you can get away with it, it is a challenge to motivate change. Making unrealistic promises about deadlines or expectations and denying that things are going pear shaped are all ways to lose credibility and a previously good reputation.  All good relationships are based on trust. It can only thrive and prosper when there is a belief that what one is doing and saying is truthful. We have the law to fall back on when this is not the case.

In the UK, we have the legal system that has taken a thousand years to evolve. We should be able to trust it; to rely on it. It is our only protection, even though we live in a democracy. That is why I have chosen to study it.

CAN WE STOP MURDOCH?

Monument to the Guide Dogs for the Blind Assoc...
Image via Wikipedia

So, now we are told that charities could be asked to run public services. (Not security, you will be delighted to know). If this is how the government sees the future of the public sector, why don’t they move over and let the charities into 10 Downing Street? Maybe Guide Dogs for The Blind would do a far better job at governing the country than Cameron and Clegg et al?

Things are collapsing in this country because there has been too much focus on profit for far too long. The make-cash-free-for-all that started when Thatcher took over, has landed us here; morally and financially teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. So are we being told that the charities in this country will begin to take over the running of the public services in order to assuage guilt about this preoccupation with profit? Is it a sort of misguided PR attempt at altruism – to be seen to be ‘caring’ by letting the charities do the work that should be funded by our taxes?  Is the plan that we all be one big happy Big Society, filling in questionnaires to tell the government how happy we are, raising money to run schools and hospitals and still paying our taxes with a smile? Are we being asked to work together in a happy, caring, ethically moral band to run the country? In that case, do we need politicians on big salaries at all? Sounds like Cameron and Clegg might be suggesting a new sort of democracy? Maybe the banks could be run by charities, too?

Morals and ethics have gone down the pan for the sake of profit. And that’s not the sort of profit that any thriving company has to make in order to pay the wages. It’s the profit that starts with the letter G. (Greed). Thank God for the BBC. Keep your hands off our BBC, James Murdoch. It’s the sort of organisation that is an anathema to you – it does it’s very best to tell the truth. It has integrity. It is quality. Hear that? QUALITY. And it belongs to us. Our money runs the BBC. We have a say in how it works.

If the Murdochs get their hands on BSkyB, you can be sure there will be very little altruism involved. It will be all about profit. And what about the quality of the services that we the consumers will be paying for? Will the quality of broadcasting be News of The World standard?

38 Degrees are asking everyone to sign a petition and to contact their MP’s to stop Murdoch. Here is a quote from them:

Can you send your MP a quick message now? Find their name and email address here:
https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/stand-up-to-murdoch

38 Degrees members helped secure this week’s vote. We’ve been challenging Murdoch’s plans since they were first announced in July 2010. In the past week we’ve sent over 150,000 messages to the government and to MPs demanding a halt whilst the latest scandal is investigated.[5] Bit by bit, we’re winning the argument that Murdoch should not be rewarded with more power.

When there’s a close vote like this in parliament, we know that we can work together to swing it the right way. We did it to save England’s forests. [6] We are doing it to protect the NHS. Now let’s make sure our MPs vote to clamp down on Rupert Murdoch and stand up for a better media and a better democracy.

The next 48 hours are crucial, so please email your MP now:
https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/stand-up-to-murdoch

I’ll be writing. I hope you will, too.

 

 

 

 

 

EVERYONE NEEDS A SECOND CHANCE

Tommy Cooper
Image via Wikipedia

Many years ago, I remember my Dad talking about the hold that the Mafia had in Italy. I remember being appalled that such a corrupt and evil organisation could have so much influence over politicians and others in public life. I remember thinking, when I am an adult they will all be in prison. I remember thinking, nothing like that could ever happen in the UK

The story that is unfolding before us is hard to stomach. Does Mr. Rupert Murdoch really have as much influence over our politicians and other public servants as the Mafia did? (And maybe still do?). Have he and his clan had that influence for some considerable time?  Surely that cannot be? Surely a surly senior citizen with a few bob in the bank can’t be that powerful, can he? In that case there’s hope for all the oldies sitting down to a nice roast dinner at the lunch clubs across Britain today.

One thing seriously bothers me. It is the way our PM is dealing with questions put to him about his former director of communications, Andy Coulson, who is about to be arrested in a case that may even bring this government to its knees. This is what he said: ‘I wasn’t given any specific information about Andy Coulson… I don’t recall being given any information…’  Isn’t this a bit like Rebekah Brooks saying that as the Editor of the News of The World, she had no knowledge of what was going on? Isn’t it part of the job spec for people who become Prime Ministers or Editors of powerful newspapers to know what is going on? Or am I just being silly and have expectations that are too high?

Okay, we all make mistakes and we all deserve a second chance, like the second chance Mr. Cameron said he gave Mr. Coulson and the second chance that Mr. Murdoch appears to want to give Ms Brooks, but hang on a minute – will this premise apply to Mr Murdoch?  Will he be given a second chance in his bid to buy BSkyB, a second chance even when the corruption is proved in a British court, if it eventually is?

So how much power does Mr. Murdoch think he has now?  It was a pretty knee-jerk reaction to play Harry Potter and magic away the News of The World – as Tommy Cooper would have said: ‘Jus’ like that!’  Sadly, he didn’t manage to make all those journalists who have lost their jobs disappear. What next? Murdoch and son know that the media is changing. They want a big piece of the action. They know that the Internet  and other technology is the future and it’s worth a lot of money. But the people in this country still have a say, a vote, a way to bring you down if you push us too far.

Surely Mr. Murdoch is just a sweet old man with a conscience, a conscience that comes to us all when we reach the age of 80 and are forced to face our mortality, no matter how much cash we have? And what about the beautiful, ambitious Ms. Brooks? I am sure he has a grandfatherly relationship with her. He seems to love nurturing her as he does anybody who is notable; politicians etc. Such a shame his methods and his off-spring are proving to be so dysfunctional.

There will be much wide-eyed protesting going on; much exaggeration, many explanations and far be it from me to accuse anybody of telling lies. Maybe the same magic disappearing act could be used on Mr. Murdoch, his entourage and Ms. Brooks. That might leave us some clean air to breath and give our politicians a second chance?

I’ve really had enough of this nasty smell that is pervading the media moguls at the moment. Only one thing left to say to them all: Clean up your act  – Jus’ like that!

DIRTY PRESS

The Six Ws of Journalism and Police Investigations
Image by Image Editor via Flickr

Who reads the News of the World? This morning, an MP on our morning BBC TV news show said there was: ‘an awful lot of lying going on…’ He was referring to the responses being given by the employees of the News of The World to allegations made that staff paid the police for information and that mobile phones were hacked into. If the allegations are true, this newspaper, that often trumpets its social injustice agenda, is a big blot on the media landscape.

So who reads the News of the World?  The MP said many of his constituents read it;  that people like to read the sort of titillating stuff that is written in the paper. Do we? Not me. To my mind, it’s rubbish; has always been rubbish and always will be. If nobody bought this obnoxious paper, it would fold. This assumption that people want to read prurient rubbish, is wrong. The paper is read because it’s for sale. It survives because it claws in millions of pound of revenue from advertisers. Many of these advertisers have now pulled their advertising from the paper.

News International own this publication. In the light of their bid to own most of the media in this country, the Prime Minister should think very carefully before he sanctions their plans. Ethics in journalism must be seen to be happening. Newspapers have enormous power. Journalists develop close relationships with politicians and the police. I am not comfortable with this. Unless the conduct of newspapers like the News of the World and news organisations like News International are held to account by the law, the concept of free speech is threatened. Cover-ups and lies threaten the integrity of our press.

I cannot imagine the pain and anguish suffered by the family of the murdered school-girl whose phone, it is alleged, was hacked into . I cannot imagine, if the allegation is proved, why any editor would allow this to happen. If employees of newspapers feel they can use any methods at all to get a story, how far will they go? It would be disingenuous not to see bribery as a key part of this debacle. Payola in such circles has always been an undercurrent. Slipping a police officer the odd wad in return for information we are told, happens. It’s an acceptable method of researching a story. No. It is totally unacceptable and it is flouting the law.

Readers should be much more concerned and vocal about what they accept when they buy a newspaper. We need to vote with our wallets if we want to preserve the quality and integrity of the press in this country. If the press feel they can do anything to sell newspapers, we are all on very dangerous ground.

WHY IS THERE STILL A STIGMA TO MENTAL ILLNESS?

Old Woman Dozing by Nicolaes Maes (1656), Oil ...
Image via Wikipedia

There is a woman in her eighties living alone, with no friends and no family. She relies on an old acquaintance who lives 50 miles away to drive over once a month and take her to the doctors, or fill up the freezer or just sit and engage in a conversation with her. Maybe this woman hasn’t prepared for her old age adequately? Maybe she has been unpleasant to others in her life and is now reaping the consequences by being seen as ‘ a difficult old woman‘? Maybe nobody gives a toss?

This woman was once the Mayor of her town. She was once devoted to charitable causes. She never married because her life was focused on helping others. Then, in her early sixties, she suffered a mental illness. Everyone disappeared. She was and is still alone, apart from this one kind person who drives 50 miles to check on her once a month and phones her once a week.

Is this yet another case of the stigma of mental illness? Here we are in the 21st century, still showing we are afraid of people who have an illness of a particular part of their body that happens to be their mind. Why? What can we do to overcome this fear that anyone who has been mentally ill is alien; needs a wide berth; cannot appreciate normal interaction and kindness?  Why is it we still give up on the mentally ill? So many of our young offenders are put into ordinary prisons when they have a mental illness and should be in a hospital. Many homeless people are also ill. We simply don’t get the fact that our minds are as vulnerable to illness as any other part of our mortal bodies. Why?

In 1999 psychiatrists launched a five-year campaign to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness. They know that if you are diagnosed with such an illness, you probably will not get support and understanding from everyone you meet or tell about your condition. It’s more likely that people will show hostility, disapproval and even fear. How many times have we heard that phrase: ‘they need to pull themselves together’ applied to someone with depression. Yet depression is one of the most common illnesses in our society. The mere mention of the word schizophrenia stirs up visions of murderers, yet this illness has dozens of different symptoms, some of which are very benign and cause the sufferer to simply withdraw from the world.

Every single person on earth has a relative somewhere along the line who has experienced a mental illness. It’s as common as warts. So a better understanding would make for a more compassionate and pro-active world. We are tolerant of young people drinking too much – a rite of passage into adulthood, we say. The use of cocaine as a recreational drug among the wealthy has escalated in recent years and we turn a blind eye. Smoking pot is acceptable. Yet mental illness can be the outcome of all these activities. But when you get a mental illness, everything changes. The stigmas still follows you, as it has done for thirty years for the old lady living alone.

TO SQUAT OR NOT?

Homeless in Amsterdam
Image via Wikipedia

This morning, an organisation supporting the rights of squatters sent their representative to speak on a TV news show. The young woman was up against a man who expressed strong views about his dislike of squatters in general. This sentence, spoken by the woman, stuck with me: 40,000 people will face homelessness as a result of the benefits cuts this government is making. The man’s opinion that squatting should be criminalised also made an impact.

Some of the leading charities have said that to turn squatters into criminals means our most vulnerable people may be put through our justice system. Is this a good use of tax payers money? There are some who think that squatting is merely a lifestyle choice. What utter nonsense! The figures are revealing. 40% of homeless people resort to squatting and most of these have already been in prison or have mental health issues. These people are not middle-class drop-outs.

The government has estimated that there are at this time, about 20,000 squatters in the UK. But those working with the homeless say this is not a realistic estimate. The economic state of the country means that some squatters will inevitably be families failing to meet their mortgage payments. We know there is a housing crisis. We know that developers are going into liquidation in their hundreds. We know the banks still refuse to lend  money and kick-start the building industry. We know that jobs are scarce and getting scarcer. We know that the housing market is defunct. If squatters occupy one of the thousands of houses that are being left to rot because their owners are absent or will not repair them, then I say good for them. There are landlords who are happy to let squatters move in and see their houses improved.

But the Ministry of Justice has other ideas. It appears that they are determined to punish squatters as if they are criminals. They have conceded however, that they will be consulting on the issue of criminalising squatting. Their housing strategy will be published later this year. It will look at persistent homelessness. They say they hope to create affordable housing and reduce the number of vacant houses in the UK. All very laudable, except there are no mortgages available and young people cannot get jobs, even when they have a good degree. And don’t forget, if they’ve been to university, they will have a huge debt, before they even contemplate a mortgage.

There is a kind of madness to all this. Outcomes from the decisions being made on our behalf by this government, are going to harm people for a very long time. What kind of democracy is this turning into?

And then there are the rogue developers who are cashing in on all this chaos. Someone always makes money out of adversity, like the ammunitions industry…  There is a sense that all is not well; that we are standing on the brink of something very unpleasant. Only the bankers are clapping their hands with glee, while the rest of us are having to prepare ourselves for hard times. The backlash to this could be a nation that becomes angry, goes on strike, refuses to accept the legislation and demands political change.

The private sector is now expected to give Greece a rescue package of thirty billion pounds, we are told. The fear is that if Greece goes under, so will the rest of Europe; the monetary domino affect. When will the penny drop? The banking sector across Europe needs a huge hose down. Maybe the banks should develop a serious altruistic approach and fund housing, health and education without wanting any pay-back? Maybe, in that way, they will repay us, the people who in reality, bailed them out.

So, what do the government do with the homeless, the old, the sick, the disabled? Hope they will simply disappear? There seems to be a rather frightening sub-text to Cameron’s agendas; accept the vulnerable in our society as criminals, scroungers, a nuisance, a group that have to be turned into a sub-culture and then the rest of us can get on being the chosen few; the people who have jobs, can own a home, can aspire to wealth and privilege, can relate to Cameron et al and be just as happy as they are to wear the same entitlement blinkers?