Friday, 23 March 2018

Brexit could mean throwing the nuclear baby out with the bureaucratic bathwater.

What were you thinking when you voted in the Referendum? (Or indeed, when you stayed away). As a remain voter and ex-NHS employee, I was thinking about nursing. You might have been thinking about sovereignty, academic collaboration, 350 million pounds on the side of the bus, or even about how much you miss having a blue (or actually black but it’s the principal that counts!) passport.

I doubt you were thinking about nuclear technology and the complex regulatory framework that might need renegotiating if we were to leave, and as I am a wise and forgiving overlord, you can be forgiven for that oversight. Most of us almost never think about nuclear tech. It might come up if you are going for an X-ray, or when watching The Simpsons, but as a country we have a massive blind spot about nuclear.

The thing most people know is the nuclear=radioactive. Radioactive=bad (except for microwaves which=delicious meals ready in under 5 minutes). Radioactive materials need to be carefully managed. We need to make sure they don’t hurt anyone, contaminate the environment, get stolen by people who have an itch to scratch that Twitter just won’t satisfy.  More importantly, we need to make sure we have enough of it, and enough of the people who know how to use it.  

Euratom is the agreement that we have with other European countries about nuclear technologies. It defines how materials are manufactured, sold and transported. They carry out research and manage plants and laboratories. However, it isn’t officially part of the EU, although it is managed by European agencies.

Given that it isn’t part of the EU, insisting that it be included in the 6-page letter defining the terms of Article 50 seems pig headed at best and deliberately contrary at worst. I’m happy to go out on a limb and say that no one who voted leave was electing to take on a tedious, complicated, highly bureaucratic process and if they did, they should have to do all the paperwork as punishment.

MPs have voted to keep Euratom until we have a better option but the very fact that it was ever in question is highly concerning. Nuclear technology includes the fuel that provides ¼ of our energy consumption and the disposal of waste products from same. It includes medical isotopes needed for chemotherapy and medical tests. Without nuclear power, we won’t come close to meeting climate change or air pollution targets.

Years of negative press followed by decades of silence has left us in a situation where we simply ignore nuclear power. Unless we start paying more attention, we could end up destroying an integral part of our medical and energy infrastructure.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Review: 47SOUL

Category: [In the eyes of the beer-holder]

(47SOUL @ PRODIGAL JUMP! 93 Feet East. If you look closely you can see me being a massive nerd. Photo credit @natalievhall)

I saw 47SOUL at the beginning and the end of their marathon five show run at Glastonbury festival; possibly earning them the title of hardest working band of the weekend and definitely adding credence to the ‘Kanye is an overrated slacker’ camp. Impressively, the only difference between their Small Worlds performance on Thursday and their Left Field performance on Sunday was a slight dip in the level of personal grooming. Any band that can inspire a tent full of hungover festival goers who wandered in primarily to avoid bright lights and loud noises on Sunday at Glastonbury are truly a force to be reckoned with.

The band have had a busy two years since forming in Amman in 2013. They crowdfunded 30k to produce their first album, amassed a large international following, attracted some serious media attention and along the way, founded a new genre of music. ‘Shamstep’ is drawn from the musical, cultural and political diaspora of the Bilad al-Sham region, the area now referred to as the Middle East. The four musicians are Palestinian, but difficulties arising from ongoing travel restrictions in occupied Palestine have necessitated that they live and work in London. 47SOUL refers to the time before the 1948 partition that legitimised the ongoing occupation by Israel of Palestinan land. 

The influence of the personal and political struggles they have faced is inextricably woven into the sound; each member of the band brings a unique set of musical influences, deftly united by the rhythms and melodies of Arabic street music. The proto-genre spans an impressive set of beguiling dualities, successfully pairing tradition with modernity, politics with celebration, cultural identity with accessible appeal. It is this bridging of divergent themes and the symbolic transcendence of philosophical and physical boundaries that give this band its singular appeal.

Messages of peace, unity and community are present at every level, from the delicate blend of musical influences to the bilingual lyrics covering everything from the plight of political prisoners to the ever-enduring and cross-cultural appeal of beautiful women. The music is structurally rooted in traditional dabke music, allowing for a flexible sound that is playfully inclusive of elements of dub, hip hop and soul, electronica and dancehall.

Being a massive nerd, I’ve now seen them three times and on each occasion to crowds that fall towards the tougher end of the spectrum. Newly arrived festival punters who have yet to exchange their sense of cool detachment for a coating of sweat, grime and glitter, catastrophically hungover shade-seekers and that special variety of Brick Lane crowd where the ratio of fancy-ass cameras to audience is around 1:5 and dancing is strictly ironic. Before the end of the first song, inhibitions and the stubborn British instinct to resist fun at all costs had melted away. 

Deeper reasons aside, the main reason 47SOUL are such an exciting band is very simple; they are fucking delightful. In an environment dominated by cool, where cultural influences are often worn as self-conscious tokens of integrity their raw enthusiasm and sincerity are refreshing. Their performances are framed in the form of an invitation; we’re having fun, come and join us. Their debut album ‘Shamstep’ is as much about love, sex and dancing as it is about serious politics and this ambiguity leaves space for their audience to find their own place within that spectrum.*

The band have mastered the holy grail of conscious music, the ability to raise awareness without preaching and to promote empathy via participation. They play music of the people, by the people, for the people.

To quote the show: ‘Are you ready to hear some shepherd music?!’


*NB: I do not speak Arabic, so this is an interpretation based on my experience as an English-speaking listener. 

Band Website:
Twitter: @47soulofficial

47SOUL are playing the finale of Shubbak Festival at RichMix on the 25th. Link:

(Photo credit @natalievhall. I found a nerd-friend.)

Friday, 14 March 2014

Fear of flying: Why alternative medicine makes me see red.

A question I get asked a lot is why I do get so scrappy when it comes to alternative health? Why do I care what other choose to do with their bodies? Why have I turned myself into the living, breathing embodiment of Picture this.

One day, a friend tells you they can fly. You are slightly skeptical, but willing to find out more. After all, if they can, that would be pretty cool. The friend goes on to explain how it all works and it starts sounding pretty plausible; you're no aviation expert but you can see how it might be possible. You excitedly ask them to show you. Your friend, however, comes over all coy; 'I can't SHOW you, that's not how it works. You just have to believe me!' You're a little miffed, but you go about your day. After all, it's a free country. Your friend can do as they please. It's a shame they won't share this miraculous advancement in personal transportation with massive potential for the betterment of mankind, but okay. If it's possible, surely someone else will discover it, in the fullness of time. 

Things continue as normal but suddenly this friend starts popping up everywhere, giving you unsolicited advice about flying. 'DONT EAT THAT. Eating that will prevent you from EVER being able to fly.' 'STOP THE GOVERNMENT FROM TAINTING OUR WATER SUPPLY WITH ANTI-FLYING CHEMICALS'. 'This natural, pro-flying health supplement will help make your bones lighter, so that one day, you too can FLYYYYYY-that will be £10.99-YYYYYYY!' People start claiming that it can cure cancer, diabetes and dementia

Now you are starting to get annoyed. The friend can't or won't show you that they are able to fly, but is trying to scare you into changing your lifestyle and buying stuff on the back of their claim that flying is possible. You're frustrated; you'd like nothing more than to be able to fly. You'd also quite like to be able to help your relative who is suffering from dementia. You start noticing that other people are buying into it, posting statuses about the dangers of 'weighing yourself down with wheat products' 'blocking your in-flight capacitor with sodium compounds' 'FACT: cooked food is heavier than raw food!' 'Raw food helps you build the necessary gas reserves to achieve lift off!' 

You start looking into it. Surely there will be some proof somewhere? After all, people have been trying to fly for centuries, if all these people are suddenly able to fly, surely there is a youtube video at the very least? You scour the internet. There are plenty of websites and blogs by 'flyers' but nothing has been published in any of the medical, scientific or aviation journals. This is ridiculous, if so many people can fly, why isn't it being discussed by anyone with any expertise? You ask your friend, who insists it is because they are in the pay of 'big aviation!' Aha! you think. I've never trusted EasyJet and I once flew Ryanair and those bastards are capable of ANYTHING. Plus wasn't there a case back in the 80s when PanAm were caught stomping on people's model aeroplanes? That explains it. 


How would they do it? How are they paying off the hundreds of thousands of scientists, doctors and engineers? I mean, hidden fees and charges are pretty steep, but they surely can't be paying EVERYONE off on the back of excess luggage and £5 to use the toilet? And even if they are paying you or have the power to fire you, wouldn't you risk it? If you could be the person to discover the greatest scientific advance in the entire history of humanity, wouldn't you do it? This discovery could stop global warming in its tracks, save millions of lives AND think of the money you could make selling personalised super hero capes? 

And then you notice something else. In amongst the 'flyer' blogs, the 'Yoga to Promote Serenity at 50,000 feet' and the people selling 'Astral Lightness Waterat £10 per 50ml (contains hydrogen, the lightest of all the elements!) you start seeing disturbing news reports. People who jumped off buildings believing they could fly. People who starved to death because they thought that food was 'weighing them down'. Developing countries plunged into famine because a 'flyer' pressure group told them that 'heavy' staple crops were weighing down the population. Some people took it further, claiming that a lack of flying was causing autism, dementia, lupus, MS, cancer, ADHD, depression, anxiety. You see a spate of blogs from anxious mothers asking if they should have had an 'air birth' because the water birth might have caused their child's autism. You see that the government has allocated large amounts of money to fund 'fly therapy' in hospitals (people are blindfolded and placed in a wind tunnel whilst listening to 'The wind beneath my wings' and 'I believe I can fly', the theory being that mimicking the effects of true flying has a therapeutic effect. Meanwhile, the geriatric ward is outsourced to a private company who kicks them all out into the street in a bid to 'streamline'). 

You get angry. You confront your friend and demand, once and for all, for them to demonstrate their flying ability. They smile beatifically and say 'It's not like, flying, flying. It's a more a state of mind, you know? It makes me feel better, and happy people don't get sick!' You resist the urge to throw a drink in their face to see if being unhappy makes them catch a cold and present a meticulously researched and  referenced dossier proving that people can't fly. They scan it and say 'Well, it's just what I believe. I saw this guy speaking once and he was pretty convincing. It's all just opinion, isn't it? I have mine and you have yours.' 

And then you wake up, and it was all a dream...

This is obviously a convoluted and ridiculous metaphor, but not substantially more ridiculous than many health claims made in the alternative community. If you click the highlighted links, they will take you to relevant sources. While I am loathe to direct people to mercola and natural news, it is proof that I'm not just pulling this out of thin air. You can actually buy expensive water to 'detox' your body of any MSG you may have inadvertently consumed; perhaps from consuming tomatoes or breast milk. You can buy kits for removing fluoride from your drinking water, and the NHS in some areas pays for homeopathic treatments. 

And it pisses me off. I'm not annoyed at the people who believe it; I used to be one of them. Alternative medicine is wonderfully comforting. It gives you control over every single aspect of your life. Scared of getting cancer? Eat more garlic. Worried about the future? Take some clematis extract. Someone in your family has a chronic illness? Make sure they don't drink any diet drinks. Most alternative health practices are pretty harmless, but they feed into a collective ignorance and a destructive stubbornness. 

I get pissy when people post/promote/use public money to fund alternative medicine and health practices for many reasons. Some are intellectual; I don't like seeing lies packaged up and disguised as truths in the same way you'd probably get pretty annoyed if a bunch of your friends suddenly started insisting they could fly; it's obviously not true, and is therefore annoying. You'd like to dismiss it as a personal quirk, but other people are joining in. It concerns me deeply that people don't stop for thirty seconds and question what they have just read. I am a good example of this. I owe a lot to patient (most of the time), rigorous friends who taught me to fact check and analyse before posting and I hope to do the same for others. 

Another big reason is that I care about people's health. I care that people think they can cure cancer with a raw food diet. I care that mothers of children with developmental disorders suffer massive anxiety that they might be to blame. I care that people give millions of pounds a year to charlatans and snake oil salesmen for books, supplements and gizmos that often do more harm than good.

Governments and large corporations do not always act in our best interest. They suppress studies, they keep promoting drugs that are useless and sometimes harmful and they undoubtedly want to make money from us. The answer is not to jump on the nearest organic, aspartame free, non GMO bandwagon. The Internet makes ignorance a deliberate rather than accidental state. If you care so deeply about aspartame, or GMO, or vaccines- look it up. If someone makes a claim about it, check it out. If someone tells you that fluoride causes autism, question where they got that information. How did they find this out? If the answer is 'there is lots of autism and lots of fluoride' that's not good enough. How? Why? Who says? If GMO worries you, read up on it. Are you worried about the technology itself or just the shady companies exploiting it? Do you know anything about the process? What safety checks does it go through?

You don't need to be a scientist or an expert to have an informed opinion, all you need is a question and a search engine. If everyone who abandoned conventional medicine put all that money and energy into changing the system instead of undermining it, we could all live in a safer, more comfortable and better informed world.The system is in no way perfect, but it's the best we have. 

When you post a link to an article about aspartame, or a status update about the dangers of GMOs, you are attempting to educate those around you in your world view. Don't act all surprised when people try and educate right backatcha. Check yo' sources before yo' sources reveal themselves to be unqualified, misinformed charlatans who subsequently wreck themselves. As Jerry would say.

Don't trust anybody? Absolutely. Just as long as that also applies to people like Joseph Mercola, who makes millions of dollars per year marketing highly dubious and sometimes illegal 'natural' health products. 

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

New Year, Old Notebooks.

Turning over a new leaf is easy. Fill one page in a crisp new notebook and you have increased its content by 100%. However, fill a second page and your relative productivity has already dropped by 50% and will decrease exponentially the more work you do. The first page is easy, exhilarating. This time, you are definitely going to write a best selling novel AT THE VERY LEAST, whilst probably inventing something brilliant to the infinite improvement of the entire human race and never again incurring a single overdraft charge because THAT'S HOW AWESOME AND IN CONTROL YOUR LIFE IS GOING TO BE. 

I am a serial purchaser of endless new notebooks and no matter how carefully and specifically I define the parameters for exactly how each notebook is to be used, they all turn out the same way: one beautifully put together title page (specifying in neat calligraphy said parameters), one neatly titled, dated and formatted entry and then five disparate pages filled with scribbled shopping lists, well-meaningly acquired postal addresses and excruciating attempts at my accounts which basically consist of me going 'nopenopenopenope' while frantically scribbling with my eyes half shut. 

So that is why I am considering a different kind of New Years resolution. Not a new leaf, or a new start, or solemn vows never to repeat x behaviour ever ever ever again, loose this, do that, learn the other. This year my resolution is more of a general philosophy; make the most of what you already have. 

This year, I will literally and figuratively fill all of my notebooks. This means not lusting after expensive leather bound moleskins, or forever chasing the lure of a fresh new page. It means completing things, even if they turn out to be flawed. Filling pages with pictures and sketches, lists, notes and stories, even if they are a bit dog eared. Not continually chasing new ideas, but sticking with old ones. Discarding an old idea once the first blush of inspiration has faded and exchanging it for a shiny new one can feel like progress, but much like buying a gym membership or an expensive juicer they are only worth the time and effort that you put in to them. 

I feel I have spent the last ten years of my life flitting from idea to idea and identity to identity (and of course, the subject of my rather laboured metaphor, notebook to notebook). I slept through most of the Doctor Who Christmas special but I did wake up just in time for the inaugural regeneration;

'But times change, and so must I...we all change. When you think about it, we are all different people, all through our lives and that's okay, that's good! You've got to keep moving, so long as you remember all the people that you used to be. I will not forget one line of this, not one day, I swear. I will always remember when The Doctor was me.'

This year I'm not aiming for a new face or a new body or a new outlook. I want to revisit all of my old faces, notebooks and ideas and find a way to make a whole that is not necessarily greater but that is tangibly the sum of many already existing parts. 

For me the danger of a New Years resolution is that they often focus on the product with very little regard for the journey. Often the product relies on an unrealistic set of parameters, handily set up to fail. I entered this year for the first time confident that I have everything I need to be happier, successful, productive and creative coupled with the knowledge that what is needed is not a fresh page, but a methodical reoganisation and, unfortunately, some moderately hard graft. 

I will however be buying post-it notes. Without post-it notes, life is meaningless. 

Monday, 8 April 2013

We represent the Lollipop Guild, and we are pissed.

The wicked old witch at last is dead! Or at least that was the sentiment held by half of my facebook this morning. The other half were split between 'Yeah she wasn't great but don't speak ill of the dead' and 'How dare you! She was a great politician/feminist icon/saviour of this, Our Great Britain!'. Some people got quite impassioned and threatened to quit facebook/this country/the human race if people didn't stop being so mean.

Glenn Greenwald said it best in The Guardian 'That one should not speak ill of the dead is arguably appropriate when a private person dies, but it is wildly inappropriate for the death of a controversial public figure, particularly one who wielded significant influence and political power.' He hits it bang on the head, rather like a small farmhouse that has been swept up by a tornado; if you knew her her personally or particularly admired her then by all means grieve. Feel free to feel empathise with her family and friends that she left behind; death is the great equaliser. 

However, it is not your place to chastise those who want to celebrate the end of a woman who has defined our politics for nearly a third of a century. Silencing detractors in the name of 'respect' allows the last word to go only to her admirers, effectively rewriting history. I was born the year she resigned; my opinions on her come to me by word of mouth, from my parents, from journalists, from history books. Allowing her legacy to be dominated by her supporters and protegees sends the message that she has somehow become an accepted and admired figure in British politics, rather than the mother of the greatest political challenges facing our society today.

She ripped the heart out of this country, turned neighbour against neighbour, destroyed communities, created economic segregation and taught a generation the value of the individual over the needs of society. To quote the Wizard of Oz 'This is a day of independence, for all the munchkins and their descendants!'. 

Those people posting insensitive jokes all over your facebook are angry and frustrated. We are seeing a resurgence of Thatcherism in this country; had she died even five years ago I imagine the level of vitriol would have been much less and expressed mainly by hardcore lefties. Now we are seeing her policies getting into their second wind; the dismantling of the welfare state, proposed privatisation of the NHS, the demonisation of the working classes, tuition fees (yep, that was her idea, waaaay back in the sepia toned seventies) and the deregulation of financial services, leading to the recession.

She is the closest we have had in recent memory to a despot, pursuing a self-serving ideology at great expense to the people on the receiving end. The only progressive thing about Lady Thatcher was the fact that she was a powerful woman. She did nothing else for women in the eleven years she was in power; she is the exception that proves the rule.

This is a cathartic moment in current politics; when we remember the inglorious past and say: never again. This is a chance to commit to exorcising the ghost of the most proudly regressive Prime Minister of the past fifty years. A chance to recognise what is important to us in our society and start to rid ourselves of Cameron and Gove and the rest of the flying monkeys who are dragging us back to the 80s. It is time to click our ruby heels three times and take the first step towards building the kind of society we can be proud of.

And if some people want to tip-tap those ruby heels over her metaphorical grave? Let them. She trampled all over this country in hobnailed boots; as you sow, so shall ye reap. And boy, did she sow. 

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Find the Lady

So when I went to bed last night, the view count on my blog was 335; respectable but hardly something to ring my mum about. Twenty four hours later I am about to go to bed on a view count of 19,868, 2987 shares on facebook, a 5 page thread to itself on mumsnet, a hundred or so mentions on twitter and proudest of all, a tweet from the social policy editor of The Guardian. In ONE DAY.

So why this post? Previously the posts that have done best have been those that included pictures of my breasts; it seems anachronous then that a piece of political commentary should be the one to detonate and send a shockwave through the internet.

Could it be that the right wing caricature of a benefit claimant no longer holds water? Reading through all the hundreds of tweets and comments, the impression I got again and again was the sense that a lot of people had been feeling very uncomfortable with the journalistic and political rhetoric for a while, but didn't know how to express it. People were saying again and again that they were going to use my post as ammunition against people who spread ignorance and hate; a lot of the tweets were aimed at specific people; most notably, George Osbourne and Jeremy Kyle. 

The truth is that in the current economic climate, we all know someone on benefits. They are members of our family, our friends and neighbours. We see them struggle to feed their kids, we miss them when they can't afford to come out for a pint and we feel for them when a cold snap means they once again have to choose between eating and heating.

For those who know and love people who have disabilities, it is even harder. The cuts mean that they stand to loose not just their creature comforts but often their basic dignities; some councils are considering cutting funding that pays for people with severe mobility problems to have a carer stay with them at night; in practical terms this means telling adults-I'll just repeat that-ADULTS that they have to wear nappies to sleep in. I received a heartbreaking comment from a guy with a severe, chronic illness who says he often has to skip meals because his benefit payments wont stretch.

The Tories are trying to entice us into a nationwide game of Find the Lady. The game is rigged, the deck is stacked against us but they have willing actors in the form of the media and they play the crowd so delicately that by the time we realise we bet on the wrong card, it's far too late.

Benefit claimants are not the reason you can't afford your rent this month. It is not the fault of those on disability living allowance that you have to work two jobs to make ends meet. The amount of tax owed to this country by large corporations who are happy to benefit from our infrastructure and global status would pay the welfare bill many times over. These same corporations, whilst reaping billions of pounds in profits, also refuse to pay their workers a living wage.

Now, where is the Lady?

Monday, 11 March 2013

7 Reasons Why You Should Stop Bitching About People On Benefits.

 1. One day, it could be you.

The welfare state is a safety net. It is there to catch anyone who falls on hard times, including you. Say you got hit by a car and were tragically paralyzed from the waist down; the welfare state would pay you a Mobility Allowance so that you could still leave the house. It would pay for any special equipment you needed and a personal assistant to help you go to the loo, bathe and perform household chores. If you lost your job and were unable to find a new one, the state would support you until you were able to find another one. Sounds pretty fair now, doesn’t it?

2. What do you think the other options are?

Let’s be totally selfish here; the other option is that anyone without a significant safety net is made homeless. Two summers ago I worked out that if I took my family out of the picture, I was one month away from homelessness. Two if my landlord felt like being lenient with the rent. Would you seriously prefer that millions of people had to live on the streets (your streets) if it meant that you would have to pay a couple of pence less tax? 
As attractive as it is to bluster on about how we should kick everyone off benefits and into paid employment, the jobs situation now is rather like the time my local library gave me an extension on my library books because if I were to bring them all back at once, they would not have room on the shelves. There simply are not enough jobs and due to 'austerity measures', more and more jobs are being lost. The more impoverished the area, the worse the situation. 
Job hunting is a soul destroying process. I have been unemployed twice and both times I was spending around four hours a day, five or six days a week job hunting. I had an excellent CV, a whole bunch of qualifications and lots of voluntary work but the fact was that every entry level job on the system was attracting around 150 applications; jobs at places like MacDonalds and Tesco were attracting over 500. It really isn't that simple. 

      3. Seriously, the amount of tax you pay into the welfare state is a pittance.

Every time I ‘talk’ to people having a winge about their tax going to ‘scroungers’, they seem to have run away with the idea that they, personally are paying for that flatscreen TV they have heard so much about. Your tax goes to pay for many, many things including schools, hospitals, bin collections, roads, the legal system, the royal family, streetlights, the military and right now, for massive corporations like Tesco to get free labor when they should be actually employing people who need jobs. If you earn £20,000 a year, you pay 0.00003066 pence a year to each individual person on unemployment benefit. I don’t imagine you have paid for even 1% of someone’s flatscreen.

      4. If your objection is based around a perception that people on benefits are living a life of luxury, then I’m afraid I have news for you.

Being unemployed is not a crime. I know that must come as a shock to you, but I’m afraid it’s true. Every citizen has the right to the same freedoms, rights and basic standard of living, regardless of their personal situation. Your perception  probably came from sensationalist newspaper headlines urging you to grab torch and pitchfork because the Daily Mail found one family who, if you add up and tweak all of the benefits they receive, seem to be receiving a pretty average wage! And the bastards spent it on some really normal things! Kill them!
Words to look out for are ‘flatscreen’ (seriously, when was the last time you saw a TV that WASN’T flatscreen outside of a school science classroom?) ‘laptop’ (how many families do you know who don’t have a computer?) and any references to irrelevant lifestyle choices such as cigarettes, obesity or alcohol. And that large number emblazoned across the top of the page? Before jumping to conclusions, ask yourself some questions:
·      How many people is that split between? Often journalists will find a large family and add up every benefit they claim to make the number a lot bigger.
·      Where are they living? The amount of housing benefit paid to each family depends hugely on what part of the country they are living in and the size of house. 
·      Is the article comparing like with like? I have seen many, many articles that compare an ‘average working wage’ for one week with a jobseekers payment which is paid fortnightly or the total yearly benefit payment for a whole family with the average monthly wage for a single earner. This is because the papers know that if they tell you that a jobseeker is typically expected to get by on around £50 a week, even in London, they don’t have a story. 
Just as the NHS has no right to refuse to treat your brain tumor because you enjoy a drink on the weekends, you have no right to dictate how benefit claimants spend their money. Benefit claimants are not being punished and if you think they should be, go away and have a good long think about why. 

5. But I work for my money and I can barely make ends meet! Why should I pay for them to sit on their arses?’ 

This is one area where you may have a serious point-not about benefit claimants, I’m afraid you are probably still being a bit of a cock-but you are right about one thing. You absolutely should be earning the same if not more a year than someone claiming benefits. Why aren’t you? Because in most parts of the country, minimum wage does not equal living wage. Particularly in the current economic climate, the cost of living is rising much faster than the minimum wage. The independently calculated living wage would put most people at around £2000 a year better off; unfortunately, very few businesses pay it.
       THAT is something to get angry about. A popular rhetoric employed by Irritable Duncan Syndrome, one of my favouritest Tories in the whole wide world is that people are not taking or looking for certain jobs because they feel they are above them. He's in the right ballpark, but he came in from the wrong dugout. 
        The reason people feel that many minimum wage jobs are beneath them is that they are hard work, dull, demoralising and generally unpleasant and then on top of that, you still have to go home and choose between putting the heating on and having three meals a day. If I could earn enough to comfortably pay my rent, utilities and food bills and put a little bit aside for emergencies  I would happily clean toilets for eight hours a day. 

6.  Benefit claimants are not criminals.

I know I already said this, but it bears repeating. There are two prejudices here; firstly that the act of claiming benefits is in itself inherently criminal and secondly that people on benefits are inherently criminal. The first one is so ridiculous I’m not even going to bother; if you seriously believe this, you are so far gone as to be beyond saving.
The second one is a bit more interesting. I read a story in The Express yesterday about a woman who had carried out a reign of terror against one of her neighbors; she was a thug and a bully and made this poor woman’s life hell. A sad story you’ll agree, but hardly something for the front page of a national newspaper. But there was one key fact that made this story particularly newsworthy and that was the fact that this woman was ON BENEFITS and the woman she was harassing was A VETERANS WIDOW.
            This was such a grossly transparent manipulation that it genuinely stopped me in my tracks. It very clearly highlighted the shorthand of prejudice; the headline may as well have read ‘SLYTHERIN WAS MEAN TO GRYFFINDOOR!’, the caricatures are so firmly entrenched in the political and journalistic canon.        
      Politicians need you to think that these people are feckless and undeserving so they can get away with slashing the welfare state; Journalists need you to believe this so they can continue printing lazy, knee-jerk puff-pieces. Screw the lot of them over by remembering that all people are just people and a percentage of all people are dicks; I’d be more worried about what the rich and powerful dicks are doing.

7.  Supporting the most vulnerable in society benefits everybody

Poverty isn’t good for anyone. (Apart from the economic elite, who need
people willing to polish the parquet for a pittance). Impoverished people are less likely to invest culturally, socially or creatively in their community. Poverty affects the health, education and prospects of the people caught in its trap. It breeds resentment and apathy. 
      It is crunch time; do you want a society where everybody is empowered to contribute, where people value their communities and incentives to commit crime and behave antisocially are greatly reduced? Or do you want to punish the poor, the disabled and the downright unlucky because, eewww poor people are so last century?