Labour candidate talks politics at Project 49

Julian and Steven discussing why it is important that those with learning disabilities also have a voice in the coming election

Julian and Steven discussing why it is important that those with learning disabilities also have a voice in the coming election

This week the Labour Party candidate for Southend West, Julian Ware-Lane, visited Project 49, a facility for adults with learning disabilities. He had been invited as the customers are an often neglected set of voters, and this was an opportunity to engage with them, and for them to find out about Julian and the Labour Party.

Project 49 is named after its address in Alexandra Street in central Southend-on-Sea. This falls within the town centre Milton ward, which Julian represents on Southend-on-Sea Borough Council.

Julian answered a range of questions about politics in general, and the Labour Party in particular. Julian explained why he was Labour, and why he believes Labour served the greater good.

Julian said: “It was a very good session and I was very impressed with the range of questions. The idea that there is such a thing as society, and that society means everyone, is intricately entwined into my political DNA. We are all interdependent. Adults with learning disabilities have a place, and I want to encourage them to express their opinions through the ballot box.”

“I have suggested that Project 49 repeat this exercise in the run-up to the 2016 local elections – people with learning disabilities also deserve a say in how their town is run.”

A warm reception

A warm reception

Women

Labour’s Record

Women in work

  • In Government Labour reduced the gender pay gap by a third – women went from earning 72p for every male pound to 80p.
  • Introduced Britain’s first ever national minimum wage, which helps around a million people a year, the majority of them women.
  • Labour gave part-time workers the same statutory employment rights as full-time workers, helping to shrink the gender pay gap
  • We introduced laws against sexual harassment in the workplace, extending and strengthening sex discrimination rules.

Putting families first

  • Opened 3,500 Sure Start Children’s Centres, providing support for parents and young children in every community.
  • We extended total maternity leave to a full year and doubled maternity pay. And we established the right of dads to two weeks paid paternity leave.
  • We introduced the right to request flexible working for millions of parents and family carers.
  • Labour doubled the number of registered childcare places to more than 1.3 million, one for every four children under eight years old.

Putting domestic violence and sex crime on the political agenda

  • Under Labour convictions for rape increased by 45% and there was a 58% decline in cases of domestic violence.
  • Labour introduced specialist domestic violence courts, toughened the law and increased sentences.
  • We took action to ensure the police, courts and criminal justice system handle violence against women in a more sensitive and effective way.

Women’s voices at the heart of the decision-making process in Government

  • Labour has more women MPs than the Tories and Lib Dems combined and women candidates in 53 per cent of our target seats.

Julian Ware-Lane calls on the council to ensure access for disabled voters at the general election

Southend West Labour election candidate Julian Ware-Lane has written to the chief executive of Southend-on-Sea Borough Council to ask what steps are being taken to ensure disabled voters are able to participate in the general election and exercise their right to vote.

Local authorities have a duty to ensure polling stations do not disadvantage disabled voters. A range of measures is also available to support disabled voters, including large print versions of ballot papers and tactile voting devices. Election staff should be properly trained to meet the needs of disabled voters

Julian has asked Southend-on-Sea council for a report on access to polling stations in Southend West constituency and what steps are being taken to inform disabled people of the different ways they can exercise their vote.

Julian said: “Ensuring disabled people are able to exercise their vote is an essential part of a healthy democracy and fundamental to their rights. The Electoral Commission has issued guidance on making registration and voting accessible to disabled people. I’ve written to Southend-on-Sea council to ask for assurance that every disabled voter in Southend West constituency will be able to get to a polling station and get the assistance they need if they want to vote in person, and to have information about alternative voting methods, such as by proxy or post.

“Disabled voters also need information about how to register to vote. If you want to register, or check whether you’re on the register, contact Southend-on-Sea Borough Council (01702 2150000) – whether you’re a disabled voter or not.”

Notes:

Local authorities have to take proactive steps to ensure that polling stations don’t disadvantage disabled people. Under the Electoral Registration and Administration Act 2013, every local authority is required to carry out an audit of its polling places by 31 January 2015. In reviewing its polling places, the Council is required to consider any representations from local residents in its area, including any issues regarding access to premises or facilities for persons with disabilities.

All voters have a right to vote independently and in secret. A person who is registered to vote or who has been officially appointed as a proxy voter cannot be refused a ballot paper or the opportunity to vote on the grounds of mental or physical incapacity.

Polling station staff must ensure that disabled voters are not offered a lower standard of service than other voters and should be able to explain what assistance is available to disabled voters wishing to vote in person at a polling station.

Disabled voters are also entitled to:

The right to request assistance to mark the ballot paper

Disabled voters may request the assistance of the Presiding Officer to mark the ballot paper for them. Alternatively, they can bring someone with them to help them vote (this person must be an immediate family member over 18 years old or a qualified elector).

Tactile voting device

This is a plastic device that is fixed onto the ballot paper so visually impaired people or those with limited dexterity can mark their ballot paper in secret.

Large-print version of the ballot paper

A large-print version of the ballot paper should be clearly displayed inside the polling station and a copy can be given to voters to take with them into the polling booth. A voter can’t vote on the large-print version, but it can be used for reference.

Assistance to electors unable to gain access to the polling station

It is the responsibility of the relevant council to designate polling places within their area and to keep these under review. In designating polling places, the council must have regard to accessibility for disabled voters. If an elector is unable to enter the polling station because of physical disability, the Presiding Officer may take the ballot paper to the elector.

The electoral commission guidance can be viewed at www.electoralcommisison.org.uk

50 shades of trouble

50ShadesPremier004I have read nothing by E. L. James. Not a line of 50 Shades of Grey, or its sequels, nor anything else by this author. However, on this occasion I am not going to allow ignorance to stymie me from venturing an opinion.

Of course I have heard about it. Almost all opinion coming from women who, in my admittedly limited experience, appear to form the overwhelming majority of the book’s readership. The impression I am left with is that it is boring. This is little enough incentive to this lover of books; add in the subject matter and my continued avoidance is almost guaranteed. However, rather like the cat, my curiosity invariably trumps all.

It is a book about sex. Sex, and domination. Oh, and money. And a fine honed athletic male physique. Written by a woman. I have been told it is also juvenile, and debauched.

I have not tackled erotica. Not even D. H. Lawrence or Vladimir Nabokov. Well, not Lady Chatterley’s Lover or Lolita, anyway.

From what I have gathered though it is pretty clear that 50 Shades of Grey deals with a pretty dark subject. In of itself that is fine – I read a fair bit of crime fiction and this can be quite disturbing. What is different here, though, is that the male protagonist is becoming a hero, an ideal, almost a role model. In the novel he is abusive, and I wonder how this can be positive.

I know little about BDSM. My view has always been that what two consenting adults do is none of my business. The key word is consent; and this is where it gets troubling.

I have to defer to those who know their stuff: 50 Shades is Domestic Abuse pretty much self-describes itself – it is no fan page.

I would never want the novels banned, but I do wonder whether those who are chasing quick and easy big bucks have examined what they are selling – commercialising abusive behaviour cannot be acceptable, even to the most libertarian of souls.

At the risk of a terrible pun, very little in this world is black and white. However, woman all over do suffer, and if these novels at all trivialise or normalise that then it is very wrong.

Lead us not into temptation

Cllr Anne Jones, Roz Hardie, Natalie Collins, Cllr Julian Ware-Lane

Cllr Anne Jones, Roz Hardie, Natalie Collins, Cllr Julian Ware-Lane

It was a reasonably well attended meeting, although not huge number to be fair; on a bitterly cold evening I would not expected otherwise. But it was a very good meeting.

I refer to the Stripping The Illusion meeting in Clarence Road last night.

The main speaker was Roz Hardie from Object. She spoke about the process of objecting to licensing applications and how people power works best.

The issue is not about nudity being wrong (it isn’t). Feminist are not anti-sex or against erotic imagery. It is all about exploitation.

Lap dancing is not a career; the short shelf life and uncertain employment status guarantee that. Lap dancers (and pole dancers, and the like) usually have to pay for their pitch in the clubs, they are frequently fined, are self-employed, are encouraged to push the limits of what they are prepared to do, and have to psychologically distance themselves from what they are engaged in – putting on a mask of indifference, so to speak. Many suffer from post traumatic stress disorder.

The need to earn leads to incremental coercion, and girls end up going beyond what the initially wanted to do when becoming thus employed.

It is an ugly picture, and one that local authorities can help put an end to. I will be looking at our licensing policy.

Roz was followed by Natalie Collins who runs a social media campaign highlighting the abuse that is pervasive, and legitimised, in the Fifty Shades of Grey book series (and now a film).

I was joined by fellow Labour councillors Anne Jones and Cheryl Nevin, and we had some great chatter after the speeches. The meeting was organised by the Essex Feminist Collective, and I am grateful to them for a couple of hours well spent.

Stripping the illusion

StrippingTheIllusion

Labour Candidate Julian Ware-Lane demands action from Business Secretary on Equal Pay

Julian Ware-Lane Labour Candidate for Southend West today wrote to Business Secretary Vince Cable demanding to know why the Government continue to block action on equal pay.ware_lane_julian-2(3)

On the 16th December MPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of measures for pay transparency that would see big companies (with over 250 staff) publish their gender pay gap. However the Government has so-far refused to implement it.

The measure is supported by leading employers including PwC who are one of just 5 companies known to voluntarily publish the information.

Conservatives and Liberal Democrats will next have an opportunity to support pay transparency on February 27th when the Government have another chance to support the proposal.

Julian Ware-Lane, Labour’s candidate in Southend West, said:

“Throughout Southend West women and their families will be wondering why this Government won’t take action on equal pay.

Today I’ve written to the Business Secretary calling on him to support Equal Pay and get on with implementing pay transparency.

Women across Britain are still earning on average 81p for every pound a man earns, leaving themselves and their families poorer. Pay transparency will encourage action on the pay gap. If this Government refuses to implement it a Labour Government will.”

Notes:

• Despite the Government refusing to back the measure, Labour won the vote meaning the Bill will move further towards becoming law when it is next heard in Parliament on February 27th. However one dissenting MP will mean the entire Bill is killed.
• The campaign for pay transparency is being led by Labour in Parliament, and supported by leading employers including PricewaterhouseCoopers who are one of just 5 companies known to voluntarily publish their pay gap.
• Pay transparency for large employers was originally included by Labour in the Equality Act (2010) (section 78) but ditched by the Conservatives and Lib Dems on entering Government. The measure is widely viewed as a way to stimulate action on the causes of the gender pay gap.
• Women in the UK still earn on average just 81p for every pound a man earns. The UK Gender Pay Gap in the UK is still higher than in most other EU countries.

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