A North East woman has become a poster girl in a campaign to combat prejudice against immigrants.
Wendy Dirks is one of 15 people selected nationwide to feature in the “I am an immigrant” initiative launched by the Movement Against Xenophobia.
Their pictures, taken by Vogue magazine photographer Philip Volkers, can now be seen at 400 London tube stations, 550 national railway stations and other sites across the UK.
Explaining the thinking behind it, the group said:
“Immigrants are part of the fabric of our society. It’s time to celebrate, not vilify them.”
Wendy, 62, is originally from Chicago in the US but has lived and worked in Newcastle for nine years with her husband, Gateshead-born Dr Don Reid. She is a lecturer in Oral Biology at Newcastle University.
“When I first saw the picture of me it was absolutely surreal. This and the fact it was taken by a photographer from Vogue.
“But it’s a fantastic idea to let people know that immigrants have contributed so much to British society, particularly when the issue has become so toxic in the run up to the general election.”
More than £44,000 was raised in a crowdfunding drive to back the campaign.
It feature the likes a fire fighter from Poland, a stand up comedian from Somalia, a barrister, a teacher and a bus driver, people from all walks of life and from all corners of the world who have one thing in common. Living and working in Britain.
Wendy revealed how a run in with British immigration officials indirectly led to her involvement in the campaign.
She said her son from her first marriage and still living in the US had lost his job which resulted in health issues. As a result she and Don wanted him to come and stay with them in Newcastle for six months to recuperate.
“He was in a bad way. We looked into it and thought he could come for six months without a visa.
“But he was stopped at the airport, put into a cell and sent home the next morning because they decided as he had no job here he had no reason to go back to the US.”
As a result of the incident she was in touch with the UK-based Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, which is behind the Movement Against Xenophobia. One of its emails asking for volunteers for the ‘I am an immigrant’ campaign found its way to Wendy.
“I put my name forward straight away and was chosen.
“The campaign is definitely not saying that there should be no immigration controls. But the way people talk about immigrants, it’s as if we’re to blame for all the ills, as if we don’t make a contribution to the country, which is very wrong.
“I love it here, especially the North East. I love Newcastle and Northumberland is gorgeous.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 17 Apr 2015
A crime fiction writer who hails from Hartlepool is celebrating after the release of his latest novel.
Paul Brazill, 52, has brought out Guns of Brixton, which is inspired by a song by 70s punk band, The Clash.
Paul describes the book as Punk Fiction, and says it part of a series of books with each drawing inspiration from song titles from the punk era for the book titles and chapter titles.
Paul, who now lives in Bydgoszcz, Poland, where he teaches English, said:
“Punk was a very influential time for a lot of people of my generation.
“It was the first social network for a post 60s generation who felt let down by a country that should have been blossoming but was stagnating.
“Punk brought about social change and for a while democratised the music industry.
“It seemed as though anyone could form a band and make music that had an awaiting audience.
“A similar revolution is happening in many industries today because of the advent of digital and the internet.
“Ironically music has not really evolved as it should have, but f and other industries are seeing a broad acceptance of skilled and talented people who prior to the internet would never had had their voices heard.
“So in a way the internet is the new punk revolution that brings radical change to the masses.”
Prior to moving abroad, the former pupil of Hartlepool’s Rift House, Lynnfield and Dyke House schools lived in London for 10 years after leaving Hartlepool in the early 1990s, where he was a welfare rights worker.
His latest work is published by Caffeine Nights Publishing in paperback and eBook.
Source – Hartlepool Mail, 02 Jan 2015
I’ve been reading Mike Rapport’s book, 1848 – Year of Revolution (London: Little, Brown & Co 2008). This is about the ‘year of revolutions’, which saw uprisings against the old, Conservative orders and empires break out across Europe, in Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Frankfurt, Milan, Venice, Prague, Krakow, Budapest and Galicia. Liberals and Democrats rose up in the hope of establishing more representative electoral systems, a wider franchise, or the abolition of the monarchies altogether. German and Italian Nationalists attempted to create a united Germany and Italy out of the various independent states in which their nations were separated, while Polish, Czech, Slovak, Magyar, Romanian, Serb and Croat nationalists attempted to forge their own states with a greater or lesser degree of autonomy and independence. This was also the year of the publication of Marx and Engels’ Communist Manifesto, when Europe was indeed haunted by workers’ protests and uprisings against…
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It is very hard to work out what is going on in the UK labour market because the quality of the statistics is basically junk – garbage in, garbage out describes the lack of quality of the data well. I really am not exaggerating.
Bad Labour Market Data Part 1 is that every other major country, including the euro area as a whole, is able to produce timely estimates, but not the UK.
Currently unemployment rates for February 2014 are available for Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United States. Data for April 2014 were released by the United States on Friday.
The UK stands out as the only country out of 31 that has no data available for February, March or April 2014.
Pathetic. The national statistic that pretends to be for January is actually an average of December of 2013 and January and February of 2014. The reason for this is simply because the sample sizes are too small to generate accurate monthly estimates.
The Office for National Statistics does in fact publish a single-month estimate of the unemployment rate but that jumps around all over the place.
Let me illustrate the problem. The ONS makes the supporting micro data on individuals available for researchers like me to examine. They take out identifiers so we can’t work out who anyone is. The latest micro data we have is for the three-month period October to December 2013.
In total over these three months 77,657 people between ages 16-98 were interviewed. Of these, 39,761 were employed 6,995 were self-employed and 3,347 were unemployed. The overall unemployment rate, once the data have been weighted and seasonally adjusted is 7.2 per cent, but the relatively small sample size means this estimate is measured with lots of error.
For the technically minded, the 95 per cent confidence interval for the monthly national change is ± 0.3 per cent, which means that any monthly difference smaller than that is not statistically significantly different from zero.
The unemployment rates that were calculated, for example, for East Anglia (5.7 per cent), East Midlands (6.4 per cent), Scotland (7.1 per cent), Wales (7.1 per cent), Northern Ireland (7.4 per cent) as reported by the ONS for October-December were based on ridiculously small samples of 114, 246, 281, 153 and 142 unemployed people respectively. Given the very small sizes the result is that the regional unemployment rates are measured with even more error than the national rate and bounce around like a rubber ball from month to month.
The reason why the ONS struggles to report unemployment rates by month becomes obvious rather quickly.
So the single-month estimate for December of 7.2 per cent that it reports is only based on a sample of 1,198 unemployed people, of whom 632 were male and 452 were under the age of 25.
The number of unemployed people in each of the five regions identified above in December is East Anglia (34), East Midlands (91), Scotland (105), Wales (51), Northern Ireland (55), hence why no single-month disaggregated estimates can be produced.
Bad Labour Market Data Part 2. The government has claimed recently that based on earnings growth of the national statistic called Average Weekly Earnings (AWE) for the whole economy of 1.9 per cent in February 2014 and the fact that the Consumer Price Index has been steadily falling, this means that real wages are set to rise.
If only that was true. But sadly it seems most unlikely given the fact that the Monthly Wages and Salaries Survey (MWSS) on which the estimate is derived has two major sample exclusions whose wages are likely to be growing much more slowly than that, if at all.
First, the ONS has no earnings data, as in none, on the 4.5 million self-employed workers, including large numbers who have set up in business recently. The only earnings data we have available from HMRC are over two years old.
What we do know is that the typical self-employed person earns less than the typical employee and some have zero earnings or even losses; there is every prospect earnings growth of the self-employed will be low.
Second, it also turns out that the MWSS doesn’t sample workers employed in firms with fewer than 20 employees that are the least likely to have strong earnings growth given the difficulty small firms have had in raising capital. The ONS simply makes an adjustment based on the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE), which was last available in April 2013 and which itself excludes the lowest earners below the National Insurance threshold.
The ONS computes an average over the previous three years that it imposes on the AWE monthly data. So the ONS just guesses that what happened in the past applies now. But maybe it doesn’t.
The ONS admitted to me that “ideally, we would sample businesses with fewer than 20 employees in the MWSS. However, we do have to pay close attention to minimising the burden on respondents, and we believe that using the adjustment factor from the ASHE strikes an appropriate balance between this and accuracy of the estimates.”
Really? So making it up as you go along is OK? It turns out that this amounts to approximately 20 per cent of all employees, or another 5.2 million workers whose wages we know zippo about.
So the national wage measure excludes 10 million out of the UK’s 30 million workers and my working assumption, for the sake of argument, is that their average pay rise over the past year is zero (it’s a maybe not-so-wild guess that the ONS can’t disprove)!
There is supporting contradictory evidence of strong earnings growth from the latest UK Job Market Report from Adzuna.co.uk, showing that average advertised salaries have slipped £1,800 in the past year down to £31,818 in March 2014, 0.6 per cent lower than in February, and 5.3 per cent lower than in March 2013.
A survey carried out by the Federation of Small Businesses at the end of 2013 reported that “after several years of wage restraint, it is encouraging that the vast majority of small firms are beginning to raise wages again”. They found that 29 per cent of firm owners said that over the next year they would raise wages for all staff, 35 per cent for some staff, 8 per cent for those on the minimum wage. 22 per cent said they would freeze wages, 2 per cent said they would lower them and the rest didn’t answer.
So the AWE is an upward-biased estimate of wage growth. Garbage in, garbage out. The UK’s labour market data are not fit for purpose.
Source – Independent, 08 May 2014
Parts of the North-East are poorer than many areas in former communist countries in Eastern Europe, new figures show.
People living in County Durham and Tees Valley have a lower income than places in Romania, Bulgaria and Poland, according to the Brussels statistics.
Large chunks of Greece also boast higher living standards than the North-East’s poorest sub-region – despite that country’s recent economic catastrophe.
And the figures also lay bare the extraordinary wealth of central London, where incomes are 4.5 times those in Tees Valley and County Durham.
Phil Wilson, the Sedgefield Labour MP, said the analysis was a stark reminder of just how far the region had to go to catch up, saying: “These are poor figures.
“There is a lot to do to raise the standard of living in the North-East. People face a cost of living crisis, which has only got worse over the last two or three years.
“However, we should remain part of the EU, because the North-East has benefited from a lot of inward investment, including from multinational companies like Nissan and Hitachi.”
The statistics, produced by Eurostat, an arm of the European Union, compare wealth across the EU using a measure known as “purchasing power standards” (PPS).
They show that, in 2011, Tees Valley and County Durham, GDP per head on the PPS measure was £14,700 – or just 71 per cent of the EU average.
That was significantly lower than Northumberland Tyne and Wear (83) and North Yorkshire (89) and the third lowest figure in the UK, after Cornwall and West Wales (both 64).
But it was also lower than the Yugozapaden sub-region of Bulgaria (78) and two areas in Poland – Mazowieckie (107) and Dolnośląskie (74).
Four sub-regions of Greece enjoy a higher income and Bucureşti-Ilfov (122) – which takes in the capital of Romania – is far, far wealthier.
Meanwhile, two other sub-regions of the UK – North Eastern Scotland (159) and Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire (143) – are among the EU’s richest.
Separate figures, yesterday, also threw fresh doubt, on the Government’s claims that the region has enjoyed a jobs recovery, despite the flatlining economy, until recently.
Since the start of the recession five years ago, the number of self-employed people has leapt by 23,000 in the North-East and by 37,000 in Yorkshire.
Meanwhile, the number of traditional employee jobs has dropped by far more – by 91,000 in the North-East and by 64,000 in Yorkshire.
> I think that says all you need to know about the job situation in the North East.
Worryingly, the average weekly income of someone in self-employment is 20 per cent lower than in 2008, earning them 40 per cent less than a typical employee.
Source – Northern Echo 07 May 2014
Defrocked UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom, a swivel-eyed loon of the first order, has come up with another one – ban the unemployed from voting.
He has attacked the fact that some will still get a vote even if they have “contributed nothing to the national exchequer at all and maybe never will”.
You might well think he’s talking about corporations who pay no tax here, or rich individuals who can afford accountants to bend the rules to avoid paying their fair share, but of course no…Bloom subscribes to that weird right-wing theory that the poorest are to blame for everything, and are probably doing it just to be spiteful.
No, his solution is that the electoral system needs to give “more electoral power” to the wealthy who “create the revenue”.
In other words, a system where the vote of the richest is always worth more than that of the poorer electorate, and those at the bottom getting none at all.
Good thinking Godfrey ! When the worst off in society cant even comfort themselves with the thought of voting idiots like you out at the next election (even though that prospect is a rank outsider at the best of times) then maybe bombs not ballots will become the order of the day. Because once you’re totally disenfranchised, what have you got to lose ?
He explained his rationale further – “I do not expect to vote in a Unite ballot because I am not a member and pay no dues. I do not expect a vote at Marks and Spencer’s AGM because I am not a shareholder. We need to get to a system where the interest of the individual and the state are more compatible.”
Yes Godfrey but… you see, this is a nation, not a company or a trade union. The vast majority didn’t apply to join it, we just ended up here as an accident of birth. If the accident had been slightly different some of us might have been born with silver spoons in our mouths and would spend our days trying to dodge paying taxes rather than scraping by.
And this idea that the poorest contribute nothing. Bloom, who apparently worked as a financial economist (although it may be worth noting that in 2008 Bloom’s company,TBO, was fined £28,000 by the Financial Services Authority for ‘posing an “unacceptable risk” to customers) doesn’t seem to realise that however poor you might be you still pay taxes – Council Tax and VAT at the very least. Some unfortunates also have to pay the Bedroom Tax. So lets have less of this “contributing nothing” crap.
Of course the man’s an arse, although what that makes the people who voted for him I shudder to think (and I am almost tempted to suggest that they are the people who should have their right to vote removed).
He is a member of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, a tax-exempt libertarian organization located in Auburn, Alabama. Its website states that it is dedicated to advancing “the Misesian tradition of thought through the defense of the market economy, private property, sound money, and peaceful international relations, while opposing government intervention” and has published views critical of democracy, which authors in Institute publications have called coercive, and incompatible with wealth creation… so I think we have pretty good idea of where he’s coming from.
Bloom, who seems to hate women almost as much as the poor, confessed that has visited brothels in Hong Kong. He claimed however he never consummated the visits (even the most hard up prostitute has to draw the line somewhere …) and also claimed “terrified young women beaten into prostitution often from Eastern Europe […] is only a very small aspect of the flesh trade”, and concluded that “in short, most girls do it because they want to.”
After inviting students from the University of Cambridge Women’s Rugby Club to Brussels in 2004, he was accused of sexual assault, making “sexist and misogynistic remarks” and using offensive language during a dinner party. One student handed a formal letter of protest to the President of the European Parliament, heavily criticising Bloom’s behaviour.
Bloom who sponsored the club with £3,000 a year, admitted making misogynist comments but denied sexual harassment. Perhaps, given his Hong Kong experiences, he thought his three grand actually entitled him to act like that.
In December 2008, Bloom was carried out by an intern after making a speech in the European Parliament while drunk, the second occasion on which he was accused of being drunk in the chamber. During the speech, Bloom denied that MEPs from Poland, the Czech Republic or Latvia have the ability to understand economic relations.
On 24 November 2010, Bloom was ejected from the European Parliament after directing a Nazi slogan at German MEP Martin Schulz who was speaking in a debate on the economic crisis in Ireland. Bloom interrupted Schulz and shouted “Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer“ at him.
Bloom was filmed at the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen congratulating the French for bombing the Rainbow Warrior, a Greenpeace ship, in 1985.
In the clip, posing in front of the present Greenpeace flagship, Rainbow Warrior II, Bloom said, “Here we have one of the most truly fascist boats since 1945, well done the French for sinking (it).”
Truly a prince among men…