My name is Daniel Sutton-Johanson and I’m standing for TUSC in the Central Southsea ward of Portsmouth City. This is a little piece about why I’m standing and supporting TUSC at this year’s local election.
I guess you could describe me as always having been positioned to the left of what can best be described as this country’s highly profitable political industry. The fact that the term ‘political industry’ is more a fact of life than it is an ironic statement is a scary notion just in itself. I originally come from Cardiff but now live in Portsmouth & Southsea. Having grown up in South Wales and seen the effects of the Thatcher period on those around me, I guess you could say my political choices were slowly being defined without me realising. I’ve always supported what I understood to be Socialist principles, but mainly from the sidelines.
When the period of austerity began, my wife and I were severely affected. I’m a carer for my wife, who has several health concerns and therefore relies heavily upon Disabled Living Allowance (DLA) to pay her way in life and maintain her independence. At the time I was fortunate to have secured a flexible job which allowed me to care for my wife and work part time doing something I found very rewarding.
I was working as a coordinator for Sure Start, working with fathers and male carers in the city. The first wave of local authority cuts came, and severed 700 positions from the payroll. Several of my colleagues and myself were sadly caught up in the “efficiency measures”, reducing the much used and needed Sure Start service down by a third, and then again 6 months later, by another third.
Even though David Cameron was on the record, saying that the budget for Sure Start would not be cut in his government, he failed to mention that its ring fence would be removed, shifting the focus, and most of the responsibility, upon the Local Authorities, who were free to cut what they like in response to their own budgets being reduced due to cuts being imposed from Whitehall. While this was happening, the DWP were posturing about the creation of PIP (personal independent payments) and how much money they were going save by cutting out benefit fraud, privatising the work to firms such as Atos and re-assessing every disabled living allowance claimant in the process.
After 12 months of applying for work in the, then, saturated jobs market where unemployment was the highest in post war years, I finally secured a job as a manager in the voluntary sector, working with Special Educational Needs Children. This lasted only 3 months due to re-structuring and budget constraints, as funding for the sector was also affected by the trickling down of more cuts from Whitehall.
Since then I’ve struggled to find work which suits my unusual circumstances, so I’ve been caring full time for my wife while saving what I can to re-train as a counsellor / psychotherapist, a profession not recognised by the government as important enough to qualify for any type of loan or subsidy.
In the last 4 years, we both have seen people we know within the caring community affected by a string of unfair and misdirected cost saving measures such as the bedroom tax, caring allowance and council tax benefit cuts. If I’m honest, although I am kept busy volunteering up to 10hrs a week in the community, relying upon benefits for such a long time has been a big challenge practically and emotionally, especially as the insensitive and grandstanding rhetoric from George Osborne and his cabal increased to almost ubiquitous levels.
As someone who regularly uses the NHS, the covert privatisation of such services, including the selloff of the Royal Mail, were the straw that broke the camel’s back.
The fact that more cuts are still to come to those who had nothing to do with the initial financial crash of our myopic, boom and bust economic model, which is held to ransom by those who gamble with our futures for selfish short term gains, convinced me that I wanted to do what I could to help TUSC.
I hope this landmark in TUSC’s history will be the beginning of cementing a true alternative to the self-centred, populist political climate which has suffocated and failed the 99%. I’m proud to be a part of such efforts and wish you all the best on May 22nd.
TUSC Candidate, Central Southsea