Saturday, 19 November 2011

We Don't Have Much Time - Get Sending!

Soon enough, the Welfare Reform Bill will be out of committee in the Lords, and then on to Report and Third Reading. Report is where there is the best opportunity, such as it is, for amendments to be made. We won't have the crossbenches on our side, and Government peers ready to rebel, and mark my words we will need them, unless we tell them why they should. We have to show them how much we need them. There are many ways to do that, and you can use WriteToThem to send emails, all peers can receive messages that way. They can also all receive traditional snail mail. We think it will be a powerful message to send peers each a Christmas card, with a simple message letting them know how scared we are, and why.

We don't need to tell them which provisions should be changed, or in detail why they are bad - we have wonderful allies in the Lords who will communicate this at debate. All we're doing is encouraging peers to go to the debates, and to really consider the amendments, rather than not attending that day, or, for Government peers, just following the lead of their whips.

You can find out about the profiles of the various peers at TheyWorkForYou. All of them can be reached at:

<Title> <Name> of <Place> (the place part is not applicable to all peers)
The House of Lords,

Not only does your card need to get to the House of Lords in time, but many peers have this mail redirected, as they may not be at the House very often. The bill can't go to Report before the end of the month, as it is still supposed to be in committee until then, and it's hoped that the Government will give interested peers a couple of weeks breathing space. However, they will surely want to get it through the Lords before the Christmas break, so it will be soon. Please, get writing.

Thursday, 17 November 2011


I'm Jaime. I talk too much, if rather incoherently at times, and I've been talking about the Christmas Spirit Campaign a lot at the moment. Why am I doing this? People keep asking me that question when I tell them about it. I am normally not very good at expressing myself. I lack the ability to inspire empathy, to communicate the depth of emotion I feel. In this instance, the rage and the horror at what's happening go so deep that it's easy. This is what I've been telling people who ask that question.


In my world, there are some things that human beings just don't do.

You do not hurt someone because they cannot do what you want them to, or because they are inconvenient. You do not pick on the old, the sick, the needy, or the destitute to protect yourself and those like you. You do not, ever, hurt people because you are big and they are small, because you have power and they do not, because you are rich and they are poor, because you are healthy and able and they are sick and disabled.

You just don't. It. Is. Wrong.

If you do this anyway, against every standard of decency and morality, throwing ethics to the wind, you are not a human being any more. You are not a person. You are a bully. You are a coward, because all bullies are cowards who do not have the strength and courage to solve the problem properly, or the sense to admit it and ask for help. And you are evil. In the very truest, most basic sense, you are evil, black as night.

It is repugnant to hurt those who have no way to fight back and no protector who can stand up to you. It is wrong, deeply, intrinsically wrong. It is lazy, stupid, cowardly and vicious. It is monstrous.

Some monsters should not walk under the living sky[1]. Some things cannot be permitted to stand. And oppression, by the very nature of it, creates the rage and the commitment that will bring it down. It doesn't always happen straight away, it's not always what we thought it would be or wanted it to be like, it doesn't necessarily even mean that something better will arise in the place of what has been destroyed, and there's no guarantee it will feel like a blessing. But it will happen. Change is the only inevitable thing in the universe.

Sooner or later, vicious, monstrous regimes create the conditions that will destroy them – but that needs people to do what they can, however small. One tiny snowflake can be enough to finally cause the avalanche that sweeps away a mountainside. One final person, saying 'No. Not in my name' can be the tipping point that ends the nightmare, for those who can't defend themselves, because they are struggling just to survive.

People have tipping points, too. The final inch where no-one can push you further, where you realise that the only upside of having nothing left to lose is that you now have total freedom of conscience. When you stop caring about the consequences and the cost. When something in you rebels, and refuses to be part of the evil – even just being complicit by saying nothing. Mine was when I heard the story of what happened to Mark and Helen Mullins, and saw the video matter-of-factly discussing the terrible things that were happening to them. I cried. I sobbed. I had nightmares, because that could so very easily have been me. All the while, I knew that none of that is any use to Mark and Helen now.

That shouldn't happen. There is no time and no place, no possible set of circumstances, no point in the universe where what happened to Helen and Mark is anything but wrong. But evil. But monstrous. I will not be part of this. I will not be silent, complicit. No more.

There are probably people thinking, 'a Christmas card campaign? Really?' when they read this, and see the rage and the horror I'm feeling. It doesn't sound like a lot. It doesn't sound like changing the world, I know. But I'm disabled, I am sick, I am shattered and I am in huge amounts of pain. I struggle with everything. I'm poor (not destitute, for which I am utterly grateful, but still poor). I'm overwhelmed just trying (and failing) to deal with everything that needs doing in my own life. I do not have enough resources to cope as it is. I am completely mad to take anything else on, anything at all. I know it.

At the same time, I cannot stand by and watch this. I will not. They can make this happen to me, and to other people, and I might not be able to stop that. I might not be able to stop them hurting me, and I might not be able to stop them hurting other people, just because they can. All I can do is try. Because if I don't even try, I definitely won't be able to stop it.

The other thing I can do is refuse to let them do this. Refuse to just agree, to stay silent, to let them say they're doing this in my name, for my benefit. They can do bad things. They might even be able to force me to do bad things. What they can't do, what they will never be able to do, is to make me willingly, knowingly, openly choose to be like them. They might be able to force me. They can't make me want to be like them.

The choice is mine. I choose to stand for right. For compassion, for mercy, for equality, for helping others when I can. I choose to do something, even a small thing, in the hope that it will help. I won't willingly be part of this.

You have a choice, too. Remaining silent is just another way of choosing.

Where's your tipping point?

[1] Quote from Terry Pratchett's excellent Feet of Clay, part of the Discworld series. Go, read, laugh, ponder. 

[2] This is my own, personal opinion. It's nothing to do with the way the Christmas Spirit Campaign works, or the other people involved in it. I've just been asked that question a lot now, so I thought I'd explain.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Some message ideas

You may have seen some of my suggestions on Twitter (hashtag #ChristmasSpiritCampaign), but I'm collecting them here for quick reference. Hopefully I will later add some longer ideas. Check back, as I will update this post as I come up with more.

The first few are ideal for people who are disabled and/or receive benefits:
  • All I get for Christmas is a £10 bonus from DWP. This year I also get to fear for my future.
  • Our lives are already tough, even at Christmas. Please help stop the Welfare Reform Bill making things even tougher
  • I hope you look forward to a prosperous New Year. For the sick and disabled, it seems like we may not even get by
 Here are some that are best suited to people who aren't on benefits, and want to include that point:
  • I do not support the persecution and victimisation of the disadvantaged in the Welfare Reform Bill. Do you? 
  • I'm lucky enough not to need benefits, but I don't support the stigmatisation of those that do. Please protect them
Finally, here are a few that work for anyone, and don't say or imply anything either way:
  • Winter is a time you have to keep warm. Many will be choosing between that and presents for their family
  •  My disabled friends are terrified. Give them a fantastic gift - oppose the replacement of DLA with PIP
  • How many more people will be struggling to survive by Chistmas 2013 if the Welfare Reform Bill passes?
  • We've seen the disaster of a tick-box assessment for ESA. How can we hope that one for PIP will be any better?
  • Disabled people are terrified of the changes in the Welfare Reform Bill. Please consider every amendment. 
  • Is the security of thousands really worth threatening by following your Whips on the Welfare Reform Bill?
  • I know peers won't rebel without good reason - so please listen to reasons to change the Welfare Reform Bill 
  • Please show seasonal generosity to those less fortunate, consider all amendments to the Welfare Remove Bill 
  • In a bill with so much left to regulations, more of the regulations should face the affirmative procedure 
  • Give a wonderful gift this Christmas, protect the interests of the vulnerable in the Welfare Reform Bill

    Thursday, 10 November 2011

    Card writing suggestions

    A few suggestions for writing your cards:

    I sound like my mother, but be nice, it's Christmas, and if you're unpleasant you'll likely just get ignored or worse, get a negative reaction.

    Wish them a merry Christmas, and sign it as you would any other Christmas card. The fact they *are* looking forward to a happy, comfortable Christmas without dread is the point we're trying to make - a lot of people aren't able to this year, and they can help with that.

    Include your Tweet or message underneath, along with an invite to join us on twitter with the hashtags #ChristmasSpiritCampaign and #wrb, to talk to the people affected by the WRB.

    You can make the message as personal or general as you feel comfortable with. We'll be posting suggested messages here and on Twitter with the #ChristmasSpiritCampaign hashtag.

    If you're writing your own message, sticking to the Twitter 140-character format is not essential, but embrace brevity! Lords get a lot of mail - the challenge is to write something that's short enough for them to read and absord, but that will stick with them and make them think.

    If it's a personal message, and you're happy to do so, include a return address or Twitter username, either on the back of the card or the back of the envelope - hopefully we'll be capturing some interest, and it would be nice to get the people who are making the decisions talking and listening to the people who are affected by them.

    Remember to spread the word - this will work best if we can get it going as soon as possible!

    We'll be posting a list of Lords to send your cards to soon, just to make it that bit easier. In the meantime, TheyWorkForYou (link opens in a new window) have a complete list of peers. We think that the crossbench peers are most likely to listen to our concerns, but do send a card to any peer you'd like to - one who you've written to or spoken to before might be especially effective to remind them you're still concerned and still need their help. Alternatively, you could write to someone associated with your area, with a cause or charity you support, or whose voting record (also available through TheyWorkForYou (link opens in new window) you agree with or think might incline them to support us.

    To address your card, include the title, name and (if they have one) place of your peer, and then the address, so it looks like:

    [Title] [Name] of [Place] OR [Title] [Name]

    House of Lords,
    SW1A 0PW

    The address is the same for each peer. You'll need to put a stamp on it (sorry!) - a second class stamp is currently 36p. Drop it in the mail, and then tell everyone you know about it!

    Try charity Christmas cards, and help two good causes at the same time, or print one of ours (some more designs are coming shortly). If you've got little ones, or if you're a creative type, try making your own this year (it really is good fun, if nothing else you can play with glue and paper and glitter!).

    Thank you - and don't forget to spread the word!

    Cards to print and send!

    We've had our first card designs in, in no time flat, from the lovely and generous @allbigideas on Twitter, who is happy for you to use and add to them, although we think she deserves all the credit!

    Available from here:

    Cut-off 'Happy Christmas'
    Gappy 'Happy Christmas'

    Christmas Spirit Campaign Intro

    This Christmas, the Welfare Reform Bill is still in the Lords. A lot of people have made an effort to write to a peer, telling them what the effects of the bill will be, expressing fears and concerns, and pleading for help.

    Christmas, regardless of faith, is traditionally a time for thinking of your fellows, for generosity of action and spirit, for kindness, happiness and cheer. For people who are dependent on welfare benefits, the WRB is looming like the ghost at the banquet, sapping the enjoyment with fear, uncertainty and insecurity.

    We're going to be sending Christmas cards to peers, wishing them a wonderful Christmas, and including a short message (limited to Twitter's 140 characters), along with the Twitter hashtag #ChristmasSpiritCampaign, reminding them that we need their help, and asking them to show empathy and the benevolence which characterises both Christmas and the original aspirations of the generation who, impoverished by war, nonetheless managed to build a welfare state for the good of all.

    We hope this will keep the issue in the forefront of their minds, confirming just how much opposition there is to this Bill, and how much we need their help. We'll be sharing some Christmas card designs for you to print if you wish, hopefully keeping the cost down a little. You're welcome to use and adapt them for this, or for personal use. We'll also be sharing a list of Lords who may help us. Names and House of Lords addresses are also available at TheyWorkForYou – send as many as you want, or can, to whoever you think might listen. We're also going to be on Twitter, with the #ChristmasSpiritCampaign and #wrb tags, suggesting messages and talking about the impact of the Bill.

    We hope you'll join us – a second-class stamp is 36p. How much is our welfare state worth? Just one card, from each of us, could make a difference. We can get their attention, we can make them understand what this means to us, and we can change their minds.

    We're also hoping that you'll tell friends, family, charities, campaigners, and anyone else who might be interested, and even random strangers on the bus if you're feeling brave (and it's safe!). The more people we can get to send just one card, the more impact we can have. The more awareness there is of what the Welfare Reform Bill is trying to do, the better chance we have of stopping it. Tell everyone you can, and ask them to spread the word as well.

    Let's make a difference this Christmas.

    The last day that the Welfare Reform Bill is in grand committee is 28th November, and after that the Bill moves to the Report stage. The Lords finish sitting for Christmas on 21st December. Obviously, the sooner they hear about this the better, but don't think that it's too late. Every person that tells a Lord how concerned they are will help. That 'one more person' could be the one that finally sways opinions on the Bill - it only takes one last snowflake to set off an avalanche.

    We're asking people to send just one card, to just one Lord. If you're on a roll and want to send more than one card, that is fantastic and please do - we're just aware that a lot of people concerned by this have very little money, so we're trying to keep it affordable as best we can. If you have any other ideas how we can do this, get in touch!