The estate we’re in: how working class people became the ‘problem’ | Lisa McKenzie | Society | The Guardian

Lisa McKenzie writes “…my research, my book, and my own journey as a working-class woman who has earned a career at the London School of Economics, shows how wrong the mainstream politicians have got this. I have fought hard to get to a place with the networks that will allow me to have a platform to speak and to be heard. And I will continue to fight.”

via The estate we’re in: how working class people became the ‘problem’ | Lisa McKenzie | Society | The Guardian.

2015 will be a year of political thrills – and colossal dangers | Polly Toynbee | Comment is free | The Guardian

For those at the sharp end – the low-paid, the food bank users, bedroom tax debtors and all who struggle with rising rents and unpayable bills on fallen incomes – life will become more or less bearable according to the swing of the electoral pendulum. For middling earners fretting over inescapable commuter rail fare rises, outraged by the energy companies’ cartel, anxious over their children’s chance of finding a decent footing in work or housing, what happens at Westminster matters more than ever. Those feeling alienated need to know that not voting is no protest: it’s a vote gifted to those you most detest.

For the country, another five years of Conservatives alone or in coalition, inflected by Ukip influence, would leave us barely recognisable to ourselves by 2020. Read Polly’s full article below –

2015 will be a year of political thrills – and colossal dangers | Polly Toynbee | Comment is free | The Guardian.

The Law Society backs legal challenge by Rights of Women to restore access to legal aid for victims of domestic violence | womensgrid – women’s groups news

Legal aid is a lifeline for victims of abuse, enabling them to escape from abusive relationships, protect their children, and manage their financial situations. Access to justice is vital in these cases – the statistics are stark; two women are killed each week by a current or former partner and 500 recent victims of domestic violence commit suicide every year.

The Law Society backs legal challenge by Rights of Women to restore access to legal aid for victims of domestic violence | womensgrid – women’s groups news.

New Statesman | The case for universal childcare lies in our collective social responsibility

An interesting article from Reema Patel putting the ethical argument for universal childcare and the position that care for children is a social responsibility that we all have, and a social cost that we are all expected to contribute towards – because children form the bedrock of our society, whether we choose to have them or not.

New Statesman | The case for universal childcare lies in our collective social responsibility.


British values?

Have a read of Paul Bernal’s blog and his take on Gove’s “British values” – I’m with Paul on this one…

Paul Bernal's Blog

Whenever I hear the words ‘British values’ it sends shivers down my spine – and gives me a deep sense of suspicion as to the motives of those using the words. Michael Gove’s evocation is the latest but he’s far from alone – a good deal of UKIP’s ‘appeal’ rests on some kind of a sense of ‘British values’, while Labour are just as guilty of it as the Tories.

Perhaps I’m jaundiced – and perhaps it’s something about my age – but I’m also always reminded of the excellent Tom Robinson song ‘Power in the Darkness’, which sums it up for me. The key part is this:

“Today, institutions fundamental
To the British system of government are under attack
The public schools, the house of lords
The church of England, the holy institution of marriage
Even our magnificent police force are no longer safe
From those who would undermine…

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Never had a man less reason to be humble about his talent


Hall Green’s best loved comic, Tony Hancock would have been 90 today and it is only fitting to say happy birthday Tony from all of us in Hall Green who love your work . 

Hancock left us all too early but we are lucky to have records, films, BBC programmes and YouTube clips to enjoy his supreme talent.

Many have their favourite Hancock sketch from the classic Blood Donor to the Radio Ham. My favourite has always been The Missing Page. A clever, haunting evocation of the power of the written word. Hancock and his sidekick Sid James try to solve the mystery of a whodunit without the last page of the book. Their  travels and attempts to solve the mystery is a comic masterpiece.

One of thhancocke funniest scenes in set in a library. My recent campaign to save Hall Green library reminds me of the need for that continued place – the community library and the part it plays in our communities. Where we are free to roam the shelves and to enjoy the discovery of a novel, a biography or a recipe book.

I am so proud that we in Hall Green saved our community library although we know that our continued vigilance will be necessary with the challenging budget constraints we will be facing over the coming years.

Check out the video below of The Missing Page. It may be over 50 years old but it is still a great 30 minutes and when we talk about classic English humour then this portrays that so brilliantly.

Whether you are in Hall Green , East Cheam or wherever… raise a small toast to this long lost but not forgotten son of Hall Green.

Happy 90th Tony from all your fans!

One of Britain’s holy cows?

I stayed in a violent marriage for 16 years and if you pay any credence to Messent’s argument that makes me one of Britain’s holy cows.

I met my first husband when I was just 18. By the time I was 23 we had become a family of four. The violence started just after the birth of our first child and I was beaten on an almost daily basis for the following fourteen years.

Messent’s article suggests that women who stay in abusive relationships are somehow to blame for their abuse. She victim blames by suggesting that ‘women allow themselves to be used as punch bags’ and fails to identify the very real fact that many women feel that they have no real choices.

Messent ends by asking “Why, then, is it also the offence so many women baulk at taking to court, their silence perpetuating the evils used to control them?”. This statement in itself provides the answer to her argument but she fails to recognise it and her article does nothing more than assist in perpetuating the common myths associated to domestic violence.

The tons of research undertaken over the years shows that women in violent relationships are more often than not isolated from family and friends and usually left financially dependent on the abuser.  We also know that even if women were able to leave, they are too scared to leave. This fact is totally ignored by Messent and the fact that more than 70 percent of violence happens after a woman has left. Messent’s statement that “The women who allow themselves to be used as punch bags are often their own worst enemies.” clearly shows this.

The reality of abuse and more importantly the reasons for staying in an abusive relationship are far more complex than Messent’s simplistic argument offers. But using this simplistic approach – women in abusive relationships have no power.

The effects of domestic violence touches every aspect of your life. If being beaten, bitten and kicked on a daily basis isn’t bad enough, then there is the sexual violence. Beaten, raped and made to feel worthless. You are isolated. You are humiliated. If someone tells you enough times that it is your fault…you start beginning to believe it. You become an unwilling accomplice in hiding it from others. Yes there are days when you want to be beaten – as this is better than waiting all day for the inevitable beating. There are days when you want to be beaten so that your kids don’t witness it when they come home from school. There are days when you want to be beaten so that you don’t get dragged out of work, humilated and then beaten.

It is far too easy to question the reason that women ‘choose to stay’ and to blame women when they don’t report the abuse to the police but when you are living in a violent relationship there are quite simply no easy solutions.

My invitation to a wondrous and beautiful place of return


A warm welcome at Zawiyat al-Ma’ab al-Shadhiliya

I had a fantastic time at the official opening event of a new community asset in Hall Green. The Birmingham Shadhiliya Trust, a Sunni Sufi Muslim charity, took over the old hut that used to belong to the Sea Cadets.

This hut, and the land it sat on had been neglected for many years and both have now been transformed into a space that will offer the perfect home for many different activities.

Sunni Sufis follow a Sufi spiritual guide, Sheikh Nuh Keller, an American who converted to Islam in the 70s and was authorised as a master of the Hashamiya al-Darqawiya al-Shadhiliya Sufi order in the late 90s. Sufism is the form of Islam that focuses upon spirituality, mysticism, improving one’s inner state and serving others. This focus has been translated throughout the development and the building has been named Zawiyat al-Ma’ab al-Shadhiliya (A wondrous and beautiful place of return).


Cllr Bowles, Kerry Jenkins and Birmingham Mayor, Mike Leddy

Lord Mayor, Mike Leddy undertook the official ceremony which was attended by members of the Trust, user groups, neighbours and councillors. We were treated to a falconry display, invited to have a go at archery, offered fabulous food and indulged with henna art.

With an unofficial motto of service before self’  – the  Sufi focus on spirituality, mysticism, improving one’s inner state and serving others was ever present and it was a day to remember and I am sure that a warmer welcome would be hard to find.

A number of activities have already been arranged with a scout group starting very soon, yoga classes and archery. I look forward to many further visits and getting involved in some of the activities that will be taking place over the coming months and urge others to take a look and see what is on offer.