We need to stop clinging on to outdated systems and start looking forwards **SNAP! GE Opinion**

TODAY IS THE LAST DAY YOU CAN REGISTER TO VOTE ON JUNE 8TH, REGISTER TO VOTE HERE: https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote

In the run up to the snap election, Pre-Qual will be giving a platform for young people to share their views and feelings about the upcoming vote, as we feel that the views of young people are rarely shared or treated with the respect they deserve. We will be publishing a short opinion piece from each of our members on this blog, every day in the run up to the election. So make sure you keep checking out our social media for more content! And if you’re a young person who wants their voice to be heard, get in touch! Here is one of our members explaining, in no uncertain terms, why she’ll be voting in a parliamentary election for the first time on June 8th:

This snap election will be the first time I’ve ever voted in parliamentary (or local) elections, not because it’s the first time I’ll be old enough, and not because it’s the first time I’ve cared about politics. I was 18 during the 2015 general election, and was getting into direct action after studying politics at A level and deciding I wanted to be involved in the struggle for a better society. When I didn’t vote, I was criticised for complaining about a system which I wasn’t even participating in, I wasn’t using the voice the suffragettes had fought so hard for me to have. For me, withdrawing my consent IS using my voice; I refuse to legitimise this sham of a democratic system, I refuse to vote for the lesser of two evils. First Past The Post (FPTP) is bullshit. Our two party system is a joke. The fact we still have a monarchy AND a House of Lords is ridiculous. Neoliberalism is broken and capitalism is failing ordinary people, and we need to stop clinging on to outdated systems and start looking forwards.

Although that has been the stance I’ve taken on voting, politics is never cut and dry, and context is also key. Having said all of that, I have come to the conclusion that to not vote during this election based on principle, and out of a desire to not legitimise a failing system, would be wrong. As a political activist, I must recognise the struggle is not only one of ideology, and principle, it is one of improving the material conditions of my fellow humans. The UK is at breaking point, and a re-election of the Tories will usher in changes that terrify me to my core, and make me fear for everyone I love, and everyone I’ve never met. So whilst I don’t think Labour and Jeremy Corbyn are a solution to the massive systemic crisis we are facing nationally and globally, I’ll be damned if I don’t do everything within my power to put a halt to the ideological austerity and, let’s be honest, social cleansing that the Tories are inflicting upon working people.

 

If you’re a young person would like your voice to be heard in this election (or if you’d like to be involved with Pre-Qual), give us a shout on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or at on our email, prequal.uk@gmail.com

REGISTER TO VOTE by May the 22nd: https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote

I would hate for people to think that the vote is all they can do to fight for their rights **SNAP! GE Opinion**

In the run up to the snap election, Pre-Qual will be giving a platform for young people to share their views and feelings about the upcoming vote, as we feel that the views and positions of young people are rarely shared or treated with the respect they deserve. We will be publishing a 300-400 word opinion piece from each of our members on this blog, every day in the run up to the election, as well as producing some short videos expressing our personal views on the election. So make sure you keep checking out our social media for more content! And if you’re a young person who wants their voice to be heard, get in touch! Here in the second piece in our series, one of our members speaks out about her passionately explains here position on the election:

I’m simultaneously hopeful and despondent about the upcoming snap election – it seems to me that the only socially acceptable democratic tool in this country is openly being used to further the Tory agenda. It has conveniently been placed around scandals creeping up from the last election, the Conservative’s highest approval rating in years, and at a time when the country is panic-stricken and divided by Brexit; and that’s not even mentioning the fact that Theresa May had stated multiple times she would not call one.

I am cautiously optimistic about Jeremy Corbyns chance to win the general election. It shouldn’t even warrant explaining how unfair, biased and cruel the majority of our (Tory-donor) media has been to Corbyn, his party, and the entire country. This is the part of our democracy and fast-food culture of politics that makes me so deeply angry and disillusioned: the conditioned inability to look past party leaders and personality politics, and how easily and nonchalantly news giants willfully mislead the electorate. As I speak, ICM polls show that Theresa May’s approval ratings are almost twice as high as Corbyn’s, despite approval for policies written into the labour manifesto having approval almost twice as high as the policies of Mays Conservative policies.

I did not anticipate still living in Peter Kyle’s Hove constituency for the next general election, but unfortunately, here I am. I will be voting for him even though I morally abhor some of his stances, and curse the way he has voted in Parliament sometimes. It’s a sad side effect of our first past the post system that in order to do my bit to stop Theresa May breathing fire on our NHS and other public services, I must cast my vote to somebody who I do not feel represents me or what I want for my constituency. I truly do admire Jeremy Corbyn for staying so sane and civil, and even relatively uncorrupted whilst fighting a broken and sad, money driven system of (what I consider to be false) democracy from the inside. I would urge that anyone who cares about the ill, disabled, disadvantaged, vulnerable and poor members of the world to do what they can to take the Tories out.

I did consider not participating and spoiling my ballot but you can do both – the socially acceptable way of practicing democracy, and the road less travelled. I would hate for people to think that the vote is all they can do to fight for their rights. It’s just a tiny part of a battle, and although this election is so desperately important right now, please let’s not forget to do what we can aside of it.

If you’re a young person would like your voice to be heard in this election (or if you’d like to be involved with Pre-Qual), give us a shout on Facebook, Twitter,Instagram or at on our email,prequal.uk@gmail.com

REGISTER TO VOTE by May the 22nd:https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote





Not to be heard **SNAP! GE Opinion**

In the run up to the snap election, Pre-Qual will be giving a platform for young people to share their views and feelings about the upcoming vote, as we feel that the views and positions of young people are rarely shared or treated with the respect they deserve. We will be publishing a 300-400 word opinion piece from each of our members on this blog, every day in the run up to the election, as well as producing some short videos expressing our personal views on the election. So make sure you keep checking out our social media for more content! And if you’re a young person who wants their voice to be heard, get in touch! Here in the first piece in our series, one of our members speaks out about her experience of the election:

Not to be heard.

With the general election near, and with me finally being old enough that my age reflects my maturity levels to the level that I can decide what happens to me, I couldn’t wait to be part of the inspired youngsters who will vote this time they know ‘their vote matters’. With the registration ready, having read, listened and talked about every aspect of the Tories, Lib Dems and Labour party, I felt my mind was set and my cross was ready. What a shock it was to realise I don’t get to vote. Not a British Citizen because you weren’t born here? Fuck off back to your own country. Can’t afford £1000 to become a British Citizen? Work harder. Your opinion is not to be heard. Even though you’ve involuntarily lived here from the age of 5 and you have contributed to the country’s wealth statistics for over 13 years, we won’t listen to your opinion till you give us your money. We’ll still take your grades and hard work, claim it as our own and feed our society to the rest of the world, tempt them into our rich educational system then only shut them up and ignore them.

We don’t care the vote will affect you, your education and your future. Be grateful that you’re even allowed to be here.  It doesn’t seem fair to allow a non-British person to become a British Citizen for free after they’ve lived here for over 10 years, especially not if they moved here before the age of 18 and absolutely not if they come here to study for over 5 years and increased our higher education standards with their sleepless nights of sweat and tears.

 

If you’re a young person would like your voice to be heard in this election (or if you’d like to be involved with Pre-Qual), give us a shout on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or at on our email, prequal.uk@gmail.com

REGISTER TO VOTE by May the 22nd: https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote

SNAP! We’re having an election!

In the run up to the snap election, Pre-Qual will be giving a platform for young people to share their views and feelings about the upcoming vote, as we feel that the views and positions of young people are rarely shared or treated with the respect they deserve. We will be publishing a 300-400 word opinion piece from each of our members on this blog, every day in the run up to the election, as well as producing some short videos expressing our personal views on the election. So make sure you keep checking out our social media for more content! And if you’re a young person who wants their voice to be heard, get in touch! Below is Pre-Qual’s collective response to the snap election:

As everybody will be well aware by now, our Prime Minister, Theresa May, has done exactly what she promised she wouldn’t do and taken it upon herself to decide for her party, and the rest of the country, that June the 8th would be a spiffing day to hold a snap General Election. Given the state of the polls placing her 20 points ahead of Corbyn’s Labour at the time, a cynic might suggest that this sudden, screeching U-turn was little more than political gamesmanship, an attempt to remove any significant opposition to the Tories in Parliament. But we’re sure May would never do something so transparently self-interested…

Image result for theresa may chips

Inevitably, social media and the traditional media have exploded with information about the election; polls, policy announcements and manifesto revelations, hilarious pictures of our Supreme Leader (sorry, Prime Minister) eating chips as though she were actually a real person rather than the inanimate hunk of wax chosen to house Margaret Thatcher’s last Horcrux, Jeremy Corbyn’s car driving over the foot of a BBC reporter as he was heading off to launch his grime career with Boy Better Know… the list goes on.

Image result for jeremy corbyn boy better know

So, naturally, we thought we should throw our own spin on this snap election out into the deluge of opinion swamping our newsfeeds and newspaper columns.

Let’s be clear; Pre-Qual are a non-partisan organisation and we will not promote any particular party as the solution to the problem of inequality in our national and global community, since we simply don’t believe that the necessary change is being offered by any current party, or that the current political system is one which could even facilitate such change.

Let’s start with the Conservatives. This is a ruling party which has, in it’s 7 years as the largest party in the Commons, overseen rising levels of inequality, a national debt almost double what they inherited in 2010, a rising number of hate crimes against people of colour, the LGBTQ+ community and the disabled, and an ever increasing number of homeless on the streets; not to mention 30,000 deaths in 2015 alone linked directly to cuts in funding for the NHS and social care. The list of crimes perpetrated by the Conservative party against the ordinary people of this country are too numerous to list here without causing emotional desensitisation. It seems that Conservative Party policies can only be trusted to increase inequality, rather than reduce it.

The Liberal Democrats can’t hide either. Whisked into a Coalition government in 2010 based on a progressive platform which included a promise to abolish tuition fees, Nick Clegg and his crew promptly took their opportunity to assume government positions no Liberal Democrat could ever have imagined holding after previous elections, and set about teaming up with the Tories to launch attack after attack on ordinary working people and their families. Of course, the Lib Dems were all but wiped out in the 2015 General Election, taking just 8 seats, and deservedly so; but now, spearheaded by the homophobe who had a poster of Margaret Thatcher on his wall (Tim Farron), the “Liberal” Democrats are attempting to fashion themselves as the only “real” opposition (despite having only 8 seats), seeking to draw in “Remainers” with their stance on Brexit. We don’t think that the lies of the Liberal Democrats and the crimes of the Coalition they formed with the Conservatives should be so quickly forgotten; and that on their previous record, they certainly cannot be trusted to take steps to reduce the problem of inequality in our society.

Image result for nick clegg im sorry

What of Labour? This is another party which has sought to rehabilitate itself, this time following the disastrous fallout of the Blair/Brown years. It appears to have gone back towards a more traditional social democracy than the (mainly neo-liberal) politics of New Labour, in an effort to recapture the “core” vote which deserted the party during the New Labour years. This rehabilitation is perhaps the most interesting, because it is a rehabilitation which is happening from below, as citizens themselves become active in directly demanding the kind of government they want to run their country. So, it is difficult to judge the Labour party on its former failings when it is attempting to make such a fresh start; this is very much a political experiment, and time will tell if this sort of mass democratic, party of the people can be achieved within the often archaic structures of the Labour party, or if the model might work best in a new project. It certainly seems as though many members of the Parliamentary Labour Party and the National Executive Committee are vehemently opposed to this transformation of the party, as is illustrated by the incessant attempts to undermine and unseat the new leadership. We will have to wait and see to find out if these conflicts will impede the Labour party in its now apparently genuine desire to tackle inequality in the UK.

Whatever happens, simply marking a cross in a ballot box will not be enough to really tackle the issue of inequality in our society, whilst voting itself can act to pacify the masses from engaging in more radical actions to improve the conditions of their own lives. We have to fight each and every day to achieve a free and equal society for every citizen, and at times party and parliamentary bureaucracy can be detrimental to this struggle, which is why we seek to organise ourselves and encourage others to do the same. This is the only way we can guarantee freedom and equality for all people: by winning it for ourselves. It is this daily struggle against inequality which Pre-Qual will continue to fight each and every day, election or no election.

Image result for voting vs direct action

This being said, voting provides an opportunity to engage with the political system we are forced to exist within. It is not without reason that so many have given their lives to win the vote for their communities, be that working people and the poor, women, people of colour or any of the other oppressed communities who have engaged in the struggle for universal suffrage over the last two centuries. To create social change, we must engage in every political action that we can, every day; be that helping to educate your peers on political and social issues, holding pickets and demonstrations, occupying buildings or land to highlight issues and put pressure on power, or, in this case, voting.

Image result for struggle for universal suffrage

If you’re a young person would like your voice to be heard in this election (or if you’d like to be involved with Pre-Qual), give us a shout on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or at on our email, prequal.uk@gmail.com

REGISTER TO VOTE by May the 22nd: https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote

Screw your tampon tax, I’m getting a mooncup **OPINION**

I love shopping for sanitary products. It really does feel like a luxury I cannot afford – literally. In the UK, female sanitary products are still taxed at a rate of 5%. It’s astounding to me that gender discrimination is still a massive issue in the UK and worldwide. To tax on an essential product serving to prevent infection and preserve human dignity is a blatant violation of women’s rights.

This subject is considered taboo and inappropriate because the majority of the individuals running our country do not have a womb… It’s important to remember Dawn Primarolo, who was brave enough to stand up for women in parliament in 2000. Dawn managed to get a decrease on the tax to 5%, from 20% as a “luxury” item. although as I’m sure any other woman would agree, I believe this still to be ludicrous. When sunscreen is exempt from taxation. So I can afford to not turn into a lobster when I fall asleep in the sun, but I can’t afford to not bleed all over your nice cream carpet? Or maybe in the supermarket for everyone to witness. I can’t believe this even has to be reiterated, but a period is completely natural! It’s something we cannot control, and none of us would be ALIVE if it didn’t exist. And now 17 years later we’ve been told all of this hard earned money from women around the country, is actually going to be spent to oppress women’s rights. This is abuse.

It was announced that £250,000 of the Tampon Tax would be going to Life, a Pro-life charity business which proudly promotes abortion after rape the, “death penalty” for the foetus. Following the press release for this expenditure, Life made a few adjustments to their website to cover up this comment, and Anne Scanlan – education director at Life – has been on various media outlets attempting to defend the charity saying it offers a fair system of support. What utter bollocks. They are strongly against abortion, and have been “since 1970” according to the proud statement on their homepage.

Abort and termination are scary words. Firstly it’s important to consider the factors behind the choice of aborting a child. There are a number of different reasons why a woman might not want to go through with a pregnancy, all of which Life disregard, almost like machines with no human empathy. Why on earth would our government support such transparent oppression, when there are so many women suffering to cope with a pregnancy because of their personal situations?

How can anyone tell a woman who’s been sexually abused they’re doing the wrong thing when they decide, “actually, I’d rather not raise the child of my rapist”? They should have a choice. Some women having to live on the streets cannot afford to even feed themselves let alone a child. They should have a choice. Some women are young and get pregnant by accident – are you going to oppress a young woman her right to abort when a condom split? They should have a choice.

I am by no means saying it’s an easy choice. It’s one of the hardest decisions a woman can ever make, and I’m speaking from personal experience. This is physiology: every tiny fibre of your body is telling you to have this child. Every second of your day is thinking of the possibilities, what they’ll look like, images of your partner holding him/her in their arms, and it’s no easy choice admitting you can’t do it.

I’m 23, and although all these thoughts were filling my mind, and my ethics screaming at me too, I had to think objectively. What kind of life could I give to this baby? I have no money, I’m a student living off the government’s poor attempt at educational financial support, which if you’re not a student, means you’re constantly in debt and trying to work at your degree and a part time job to chase forever inflating housing prices and scrape together money to eat. I don’t even own my own house, there’s no way of me being physically present to care for a child whilst I’m finishing my degree and working, and oh, having a social life for my mental wellbeing.

It all came down to this: Could I live with myself for bringing my baby into my world of precarious work and financial instability? No. Even though, even months after, I still get overly emotional when I see families with newborns, I still wonder ‘what if?’ when I have a moment to myself or when someone says, “where do you see yourself in five years time?”; I’m proud of my decision and I don’t regret anything.

The way to offer support for someone who’s at their lowest state, is compassion and empathy, as your equal. How can you, Life, give advice on something you don’t understand? Let alone agree with. And how can you, Prime Minister – and as a woman too – decide to support this bias and mentally destructive “charity”? Well, you’re definitely not speaking on my behalf May. As for that Tampon Tax, I’m not supporting Life, I’m getting a mooncup.

Written by Jess, edited by Hannah

Activists Create D.I.Y Social Centre To Say No To PSPO and Precarious Work

Yesterday, an autonomous collective of activists announced that they had occupied the former Brighton University building on Circus Street, in protest against the draconian social cleansing law, the PSPO (read more about the PSPO here), as well as to pressure Brighton University in to reversing enforced demotions and pay cuts on staff (read more about the dispute between Brighton University and the Alt-SU in solidarity with Precarious Workers Brighton here). Activists have plans to create a D.I.Y social centre, and have released the following statement describing their aims and intentions:

“We are an autonomous collective of activists who have occupied the empty Brighton University building on Circus Street, which we are turning into a D.I.Y squatted social centre and radical community space.

We have occupied the space for a number of reasons; firstly, to highlight the wealth of empty buildings across the city, in contrast to the rising problem of homelessness, and as a protest against the draconian new social cleansing law, the PSPO, which criminalises the homeless and traveller communities. We will not leave this building until this disgraceful, racist and counterproductive law is repealed, and the council opens up empty council buildings to provide shelter to the homeless rather than criminalising them, as the council agreed they would at full council on the 26th of January.

Secondly, the building has also been occupied, in part, by activists of the ALT S.U. to show solidarity with Precarious Workers Brighton and to pressure Brighton University, who are guilty of imposing demotions and breaking contracts and agreements with some of the most precariously employed teaching staff in the university. We will not leave this building until the university reverses the demotions of Hourly Paid Lecturers in the School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics, reinstates the 70% pay cut, pays them retrospectively for work done at the lower rate, and publicly commits to not attempting to enact these demotions again.

We have been busy turning our new home into a far more positive space than the empty mess we found it in. The space will be used to provide shelter for rough sleepers, and will be used to put on workshops and talks, using the building to educate once again, and to give space for radical groups to come together to share and discuss their politics; a politics which seeks to create a world free from tyranny and oppression, to ensure that no person should go without whilst there is such plenty.

It is a disgrace and a dismal failure of society that people should go without food or shelter when we waste so much and so many buildings lie empty across the country, simply gathering dust or increasing value for rich oligarchs from around the world, who will never even see the inside of the building they “own”. We have more than enough for everyone, and it is these insatiable capitalists –  who conquest for ever expanding profits and surplus at the price of every ordinary member of society, and the natural world – who are responsible for the shit storm we find ourselves in, with rising poverty and brewing climate catastrophe.

Squat the lot! Solidarity with the Precarious Workers and fuck the PSPO!

Signed by activists from:

Raised Fists Collective
Screw The System
Solfed
Alt S.U.
Brighton Anti Fascists
Prequal
Homeless Camp Against the PSPO

& Various Autonomous Activists”

Pre-Qual stands in solidarity with the activists who have occupied the building. We tried to fight the PSPO through the democratic process provided to us; getting over 5000 signatures on the petition against the PSPO, only for councillors to prevent it from even reaching the Policy Resources and Growth subcommittee. Once again, the homeless, travellers and their supporters were excluded from the democratic process, despite trying to directly engage with it. When the “democratic” process fails us, as it so often seems to do, we must utilise every other tactic at our disposal. This is the reason we support the occupation of the building on Circus Street. Brighton and Hove City Council are guilty of inciting racial hatred to garner support for their vicious PSPO, councillors must realise the damage they are doing to our community and some of the most vulnerable members of our society and scrap the PSPO.

 

How you can help:

  • The occupiers of the building have plans for workshops, talks and other events. If you have any skills that you want to share with others in a friendly, radical community space, or if you have any spare furniture or other supplies to donate, contact the D.I.Y Social Centre by giving them a message on their Facebook page here. Please support in any way you can!
  • Contact Pre-Qual on our email, prequal.uk@gmail.com, or call 07943727808 to report any uses of the PSPO, so that we can record how the law is being enforced and provide support for those people being targetted.
  • Tweet with the hashtag #NoToPSPO to raise awareness, share this blog and other articles, and talk to people at work, college, school and uni about this assault on human rights in our city.
  • Support Pre-Qual by following us on social media: on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and our Mixcloud.    
  • Come along to our organising meetings to help plan the resistance, every Wednesday at 6pm. Contact us on our email, prequal.uk@gmail.com, to find out our new meeting location.
  • Join the NFA Residents Association and the #NoToPSPO Creative Action Group to help them organise against the PSPO.

We Must Say No To PSPO

On Saturday the 1st of April, police began enforcing Brighton and Hove City Council’s new Public Space Protection Order (PSPO). Tomorrow, we must come together as a city to resist it.

PSPO’s are draconian legislation which might be compared to a geographically based “ASBO”, in that it is supposed to criminalise certain activities in certain geographical areas. It sounds perfectly reasonable; but PSPOs have the potential to be so broad in terms of the behaviour and activities they outlaw that they represent a clear and present threat to our liberties. This is the begin of the end of freedom for the public in public spaces. Already Bassetlaw County Council have a PSPO prohibiting under 16s from gathering in groups of three or more, whilst Croydon Council are seeking to create a PSPO which bans public speech that could be considered “anti-social” or a “nuisance”.

Here in Brighton, different groups are being targeted; specifically, the homeless and traveller communities. The new PSPO makes it an offence to occupy a tent, vehicle or structure (including a sleeping bag), to light and maintain a fire, and to not provide an officer – either a police officer or council officer, and with public land being privatised, possibly private security too – with your name and address; something which which is inherently impossible for a homeless person or traveller, who has no fixed address, to comply with. It is literally making it an offence not to have a home, and criminalising the only ways those who have no roof over their head can have shelter.

For some peculiar reason, councillors and some members of the media seem to think that the PSPO in our city is not targeting the homeless, and is rather designed to prohibit the activities of travellers. Some of the reasons for this have included statements that the PSPO does not affect the areas where most homeless people sleep or camp, and merely targets the areas where travellers tend to stop most. This is entirely false. Areas such as Preston Park are often used by rough sleepers who would rather sleep somewhere less central, to try and avoid the sort of abuse regularly directed at homeless people by the general public, and to try and detach themselves from the drug use and alcoholism which is sadly so prevalent among homeless communities. These people are now being punished for trying to protect themselves, and making an offence out of being unable to provide an officer with an address is surely evidence in itself that this PSPO targets rough sleepers.

The council have said that the order works by an officer giving the target of the PSPO an order that they must stop the activities they are engaging in which are prohibited by the PSPO (such as sleeping in a tent or vehicle, lighting or maintaining a fire). The target is then supposed to have up to 12 hours to stop the activity before the officer issues a fine or arrest the target. However, in practise, the manner in which Brighton’s police have been enforcing the PSPOs shows just how dangerous it can be to hand police such sweeping powers, with police appearing to use PSPOs as a cover for harrassing the homeless.

Already since Saturday, we have spoken to one individual who had their tent destroyed, along with their photographic ID, when they were sleeping in Preston Park. They were not given 12 hours to leave. This same individual had their tent destroyed when sleeping at Saunders Park; an area not included in the council’s PSPO. One rough sleeper we spoke to said they had been been woken up whilst sleeping in a doorway, which he had permission from the owner of the building to sleep in, and threatened with a fine under the PSPO. This is despite the fact that doorways are in no way covered by the PSPO. These are only two examples of stories we are hearing more and more of on a daily basis. This is a clear abuse of powers by police, and it would not be happening if the council had not created a PSPO which targets those without a home.

This is all without referring to the disgraceful sentiment that the PSPO is somehow justified, because it is meant to target travellers and gypsies. This is not only a misapplication of the law, which is supposed to target activities and behaviours rather than specific groups, but it smacks of outright racism. There are many ethnically protected gypsy and traveller groups, whose rights are meant to be guaranteed under the Human Rights Act 1998. However, it seems that people are quick to forget what has happened before on one of the many times when gypsies and travellers have been persecuted, when 80% of the global Roma population was wiped out during the Holocaust. Despite this history of persecution, some critics suggest that romaphobia and other forms of discrimination towards travellers are still the last acceptable form of racism. By creating a PSPO which directly targets these groups, Brighton and Hove City Council and every councillor who has supported the PSPO are legitimising this form of racial prejudice.

Homeless people need homes not cells, and travellers need proper negotiated stopping times and more legal sites where they can live their traditional lives in peace. Why did the council refuse to open up empty council buildings for use by the homeless? Why are there reports that emergency accommodation flats have been left empty for two years when the homeless population continues to rise?

This is social cleansing, pure and simple. When the tyrannical wotsit Donald Trump announced his “Muslim ban”, thousands of people marched through the streets of Brighton to oppose his odious racist. We now call on the people of Brighton and Hove to march for the rights of groups under attack here in our very city for no other reason than their lifestyle, their traditions and their ethnicity. Join the demonstration at Brighton Town Hall, from 1pm till late tomorrow. Don’t let the council criminalise the homeless and traveller communities.

 

How you can help:

  • Support the sleep out against the PSPO at St Peter’s by coming and staying the night, just popping by to show some solidarity or dropping off any of the supplies they need! You can see what they need on the Facebook page here.
  • Join the demonstration against the PSPO at Brighton Town Hall from 1pm, where the petition against the PSPO will be debated by full council. Find the Facebook event here.
  • Use this website to automatically send a template email opposing the PSPO to your local councillors.
  • Tweet with the hashtag #NoToPSPO to raise awareness, share this blog and other articles, and talk to people at work, college, school and uni about this assault on human rights in our city.
  • Support Pre-Qual by following us on social media: on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and our Mixcloud.    
  • Get involved by coming along to our meetings to help us organise, every Wednesday at 6:00pm at the Plant Rooms, and support our actions.

We are not afraid, and we refuse to be divided *OPINION*

Following the attack in Westminster on Wednesday afternoon, which has left five people dead including the attacker and 50 injured, we felt it important to issue this message.

The first part of this post is a message of solidarity with all of those who have been injured, with their loved ones and with those who have lost family and friends to this horrific crime. Yesterday was a time to reflect and be thankful for what we have, and to mourn for what has been taken away from some. We should be proud of the actions taken by onlookers who rushed to the side of the injured and the dying to help them. London, and the rest of the United Kingdom, stands strong in the face of extremist threats of any and all descriptions. We are not afraid and we will not be made to feel afraid. Now, we must react; and we must choose our reactions carefully.

Some have reacted already; they reacted as soon as the first body was hit, before the identity of the attacker had even been confirmed. These are the people seeking to profit from the chaos, to create political capital from the suffering. Right wing extremists, fascists of all stripes, are attempting to hijack and control the narrative of this attack. The fascist, Christian extremist group Britain First have already called a demonstration for April Fools Day, which seems apt, but these people are serious and they are dangerous to the fabric of a peaceful and tolerant society; we cannot allow them to spread their hateful doctrine through the streets of London and profit from the fear of citizens. Meanwhile, the fascist, Islamic extremist group ISIS have claimed the attack, adding to their international aura of fear and promoting their vile ideology and methods. However, as with many of the attacks on the west which ISIS have claimed and with the “caliphate’s” influence on the wane, it is likely they had no involvement in the attack whatsoever.

We cannot let these fascist groups profit from our fear. Britain First and its ilk, as well as ISIS and other Islamic extremist groups, are agitating for a global civil war, a titanic clash of civilisations between East and West. We must do all we can to prevent this, and the only way in which we can do this is to identify the true enemy and unite in solidarity against them.  

Our citizens are suffering due to the actions of a government which is enslaved to private interests. Attacks such as the one in Westminster are small examples of the vicious violence which we export to Middle Eastern and African countries on a daily basis, dropped from Typhoon aircraft and drones onto villages of civilians. These are not wars which benefit us in any way; they only serve to enrich the bankers who invest in the military industrial complex and bet on the outcomes of war. For ordinary people, it only creates a rising hatred for the British among those whose homes and countries have been decimated by our bombs. It would be foolish to expect anything else. The blame lies with the vested interests who manipulate our political representatives into taking our country into wars which only serve to make ordinary people targets for terror. We must resist the neo-colonialist wars in the Middle East and Africa, give our support to those fighting the  anti-fascist revolution in Rojava and Islamic fascist threat in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere. We must fight the white supremacists who seek to use tragedies such as the one which occurred on Wednesday to further their own genocidal agenda, and show solidarity and love to all of those who have become targets for hate.

There is a long road ahead. One of the great challenges which faces our generation is the same as the challenge which faced our grandparents in the 1930s and 40s; the defeat of fascism, in every culture where it emerges. We can only do this if we realise our common enemy; an establishment made up from bankers, businessmen and politicians who seek to divide us so as to rule us and profit from our exertions. Who would prefer a fascist state which protects their interests over a society which can provide for us all. We must unite to take the political power from this cabal of plutocrats who divide us, so as to defend our common interests of peace and prosperity for all beings. If the politicians cannot protect our interests, then we must do it ourselves. One thing is for sure: we are not afraid, and we refuse to be divided.

How you can help:

By Seb

Brighton and Hove’s Youth Services Survive

Before we go anywhere in terms of analysing the result of the council’s budget meeting on February the 23rd and discussing how we can move forward, we just want to say well f****** done everybody!!! We all absolutely smashed this campaign, and youth services will survive another year!!!

Congratulations to everyone who took part in the campaign coalition to Protect Youth Services, from designing flyers to attending and organising demonstrations, postering, leafleting, emailing councillors, asking questions at committee meetings and everything else which went on behind the scenes. This is a brilliant reminder that when communities organise and don’t give in, we can get real results. It has been a privilege for Pre-Qual to be involved in a campaign which will have a concrete effect on the lives of young people in the city. We’ve been humbled by the humility of the youth workers involved and it’s been an absolute pleasure to meet and work with some of the amazing young people who use the services; we even picked up a couple of new members along the way!17098382_1204012686363962_4007158869658047886_n

The serious stuff: follow the money

Now for the serious stuff. The initial proposal by the Labour-led council was for an 80% cut in funding for youth services in the city, equivalent to a £450,000 cut to the yearly budget. Over the course of the campaign, Labour put approximately £100,000 back into the budget as a result of campaigning by the Protect Youth Services coalition, before councillors at the budget meeting on the 23rd of February finally announced a deal to protect youth services for another year at least, ultimately putting £645,000 back into the budget for youth services over the next three years. This means that although 15% of the budget has still been cut, the youth services which make up the Youth Collective will be able to continue their vital work.

It is incredibly important that we ask where this money which has been put back into the budget has come from. Most of it will be coming from the Housing Revenue Account, on the basis that those living in council estates are those most likely to benefit from properly funded youth services. The Housing Revenue Account records all revenue expenditure and income from council controlled housing and other services, and is essentially a fund to be spent only on housing related services. Given the dire state of much council accommodation in the city (check out ETHRAG, Brighton Housing Coalition and Brighton SolFed for more information on current housing campaigns in the city) it is clear that any money which is diverted from the HRA will limit the council’s ability to deal with the poor conditions rife in council housing and flats. Although the residents of council estates will see a benefit from youth services in terms of things such as the wellbeing of young people, reduced crime and homelessness, a reduction in the HRA will likely have a negative impact on the conditions of the places they live. The issues addressed by youth services are not the same as those addressed by the HRA and as such to say the benefits of one can replace the benefits of the other is simply wrong.

Protect youth services, cut executive pay

This is a large reason as to why Pre-Qual campaigned so heavily for two things: firstly, we campaigned for councillors to open a review of the current pay of the council’s 16 person executive team – they currently earn in the region of £1.5 million each year, with the council’s CEO Geoff Raw netting more than the Prime Minister. We argued that a 30% reduction in this executive pay would equal the originally proposed 80% cut to youth services, and would mean that money would not have to come from services which serve those of us already struggling, such as HRA, but could come from  those members of our community who enjoy wealth and privilege at the expense of the taxpayer, and who would only have to sacrifice a relatively small portion of their future wealth.

Instead, leader of the council Warren Morgan flatly refused to even consider a review. We emailed the CEO Geoff Raw regarding this issue, calling for solidarity with the vulnerable members of our community who are to be rocked by the now confirmed cuts, but he has yet to provide a response, despite responding to previous emails. We set up a petition and even decorated the final budget meeting with flyers on the issue, but Cllr Morgan and Geoff Raw have stood steadfast in their position. With council tax rising 5% and vicious cuts to services confirmed, the refusal to review the executive’s bloated salaries is made all the more difficult to take by new information learned by Pre-Qual. This is that a former Brighton and Hove councillor, with a wealth of relevant experience, applied to the CEO position before it was handed to Mr Raw, and offered to take the position with no pay so that the CEO’s £150,000 yearly salary might be used for services for the members of our community who need them most. One can only speculate as to why this former councillor’s application was not even dignified with a response, while Mr Raw was handed over a six figure salary.

Youth-service-cuts-protest-leaflet-20170223

No ifs, no buts, no more council cuts

Secondly, at the start of the campaign we called for the council to declare a “no cuts” budget. This is an action for which there is precedent, where the council refuses to set a budget within the funding limits set by central government. Our reasoning for this call was that the proposed cuts in the budget would be unavoidably devastating for many, if not all, of the residents of our city, with cuts going through across the board, from temporary and emergency accommodation to support for disabled adults. We believe these cuts to be shortsighted both economically and socially, and hoped that the proposed cuts to youth services might best illustrate the massive cost to our city of the Conservative government’s enforced cuts to Local Authorities. Fundamentally, we did not believe that any service that provides for the most vulnerable in our communities is more deserving of funding than another, so it would be unfair to take money from one service to fund another. Unfortunately, this call for “no cuts” quickly died as the reality of the situation dictated that such a budget would not occur, and the best we could hope for was mitigating the effects of the proposed cuts to youth services. However, this should be seen as the beginning, not the end, of calls for a “no cuts” budget.IMG_7026.JPG

What next?

This leads us onto the most pressing question now that the budget has been announced: what next for youth services in the city, and the coalition which came together to protect youth services?

The Protect Youth Services coalition are currently in the process of organising a meeting to plan the next steps (join the Protect Youth Services Facebook group or keep an eye on Pre-Qual’s social media for updates), but at it stands, there are two key issues to be addressed; how are youth services to adapt to the 15% cut in funding, and how can we organise to prevent the cuts again next year.

Pre-Qual are honoured to have been asked to participate in the conversation on how youth work will change in the coming months. What we hope to bring to this conversation is the idea that there should be greater democracy within the operation of youth services, including both young people and workers in decision making. We hope that this would have two effects: firstly, that decisions would end up being fairer and more agreeable when they include both workers and service users. Secondly, we believe that young people will hugely benefit from the responsibility of taking part in the decision making process, and that in creating a democratic atmosphere within youth services it will also provide a model for the fairer and more equal society which our generation aspires to. Not taught in schools, politics is an alien subject to many young people, so youth services can be the perfect place for young people to begin their political education by directly participating in the democratic operation of a service or organisation. We look forward to working with the Youth Collective and other youth service providers on these issues.

Building a movement

Finally, we believe it is absolutely vital that we begin our planning and our campaigning against cuts to council services as early as possible. One thing which we have taken as a key lesson from the campaign to protect youth services is that by simply reacting to decisions we automatically put ourselves at a disadvantage. Campaigners have maintained this reactive attitude for for too long, merely responding to the latest attack on ordinary people by the political establishment. Instead we must be proactive in building a movement to defend our interests. When the proposed cuts were announced, we found ourselves in a position where we had only a couple of months to put together an effective campaign. By beginning our preparations now and building a strong coalition of groups opposed to cuts across the city we might be able to stop the cuts altogether next year, with a strong ground campaign engaging residents in the issues to gain mass support and building a strong enough case for a “no cuts” budget that the council cannot ignore it. As such, we call on every group which has fought cuts to any and all services to join us in building a movement to end the violent cycle of cuts which are destroying our city and the lives of its residents.

If this campaign to protect youth services has proved one thing, it is that when you organise around a demand which is achievable, have an argument which is strong enough and you pursue that argument with enough persistence and a great enough diversity of tactics, you can achieve concrete success. These were the key elements which won the youth service campaign; saving the service was realistically achievable, the arguments were solid and we simply did not leave the council alone, pursuing every possible avenue available to us, from getting out onto the streets to legally challenging the consultation process. By following this formula we believe that we can be successful in fighting off the cuts again next year, but we can’t do it on our own: we need your help.

Sign the petition on executive pay in the council: http://bit.do/execpaypetition

Get in touch with us to get involved in building the campaign to beat the cuts next year: prequal.uk@gmail.com

Follow us on social media for more information on campaigns and events: https://www.facebook.com/PreQualUK/

https://twitter.com/prequaluk

https://www.instagram.com/prequaluk/?hl=en

Only 7 days left to #protectyouthservices!

With only 7 days left until the council’s Budget meeting on the 23rd of February, where councillors will be making the final decision on how the council’s axe will fall, we thought we’d give a brief update on the campaign and how we can really make the most of these last seven days to get our councillors to protect vital youth services in the city.

At the start of the campaign, Pre-Qual had hoped that the coalition which had come together to protect youth services in the city may be able to use the example of these socially and economically short sighted cuts to vital youth services to call on councillors to do what is truly best for the city and refuse to acquiesce to the demands for further cuts from central government which will devastate the lives of many of the most vulnerable members of our community, by setting a “no cuts” budget. Unfortunately, it quickly became apparent that the Labour led council would be doing nothing to resist the cuts being handed down by the Conservatives in Westminster, with the party’s National Executive Committee and leader Jeremy Corbyn stating that Labour councillors who sought this route would face disciplinary action.

Having to ignore the disappointment of a Labour led council which was, at best, reluctant to stand up for the interests of the most disadvantaged residents of our city, we found ourselves in a position where the best we could do was to try to put a stop to what we saw as some of the most dangerous cuts being proposed, and also cuts which were important to us directly as a youth-led organisation. Many of you will be familiar with how the campaign has unfolded since then, with demonstrations outside council meetings, multiple rounds of questions to councillors at committee meetings, a massive drive for residents of Brighton and Hove to contact their local councillor regarding the cuts and a huge march through Brighton city centre which drew hundreds of people. We want to thank the people of Brighton and Hove for their solidarity in this campaign.

The actions of the campaign have drawn concrete results. Former Chair of the Children, Young People and Skills committee, Tom Bewick, who had seemed genuinely sympathetic towards the campaign, resigned from his position following one particularly intense round of questions from young people at a council committee meeting, with his replacement Dan Chapman declaring that £100,000 would be being put back into the budget at the last full council meeting. This shows that by organising and working together we can achieve real results, but there’s still more to be done.

One thing we are acutely aware of is that with the council refusing to set a “no cuts” budget, if the youth services are to be saved the money will simply be taken from somewhere else. This is something which Pre-Qual simply cannot support. All of the services under threat of cuts provide a vital function for some of the most vulnerable members of our community, from support for disabled adults to temporary accommodation for families made homeless, and it would be just as much a crime to take more money away from them. This is why we have been working on convincing councillors to make a review of executive pay within the council. As we worked out, a 30% cut in the yearly pay of the executive would be equal to the 80% cut to youth services which was originally proposed. We think it is only fair that if the cuts must be made, they do not disproportionately affect those of us already struggling, and that those who are getting rich off taxpayer funded six figure salaries make a fair contribution to the wellbeing of the rest of our community. Help our campaign for a review of executive pay by signing this petition: bit.do/execpaypetition.

One other approach we are trying in these last few days before the decision is made is a legal challenge to the legitimacy of the tokenistic “consultation” which was released by the council. The “consultation” broke all of the principles which must be followed so as to make a consultation legitimate (check out the “4 Gunning Principles” if you’re interested), and as such we have sought legal advice on how to proceed with a challenge. As it stands, we have submitted a letter to the Chief Executive of the council, Geoff Raw, detailing the illegitimacy of the “consultation” and requesting that the cuts be postponed until a proper and legal consultation has taken place. If you have any legal experience and would be interested in helping us out in our challenge, please contact us at prequal.uk@gmail.com.

With so little time to go, it’s vital we continue putting pressure on the council to protect youth services in the city. Keep contacting your local councillor (you can do that here: https://present.brighton-hove.gov.uk/mgFindMember.aspx), come down to the Level on Saturday where there will be a pop-up youth centre with all sorts of cool stuff as well as petitions and people who can help you contact your councillor (event: https://www.facebook.com/events/737433473078594/) and make sure you get yourself down to Hove Twon Hall on Wednesday the 23rd at 4:00pm as the council meets to decide the budget; this is our last chance to make our voices heard so lets get a massive turn out for this! (Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/411822639165380/)

And if you’ve liked what you’ve seen from Pre-Qual and want to get involved yourself, give us an email at prequal.uk@gmail.com, or even better, come down to our first open meeting at 6:00pm on March 1st at Marwoods! (Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/180562162427406/)