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The 2022 Alberta budget

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 10/03/2022 - 10:46am in

I’ve written a ‘top 10’ overview of the recent Alberta budget.

My overview can be found here:

The End of Free COVID Testing Will Create a Two-Tier System of Pandemic Healthcare

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 22/02/2022 - 11:29pm in

The End of Free COVID Testing Will Create aTwo-Tier System of Pandemic Healthcare

Sam Bright and Sian Norris inspect how deprived communities will be saddled by the Government’s new testing policies


The Government yesterday announced the imminent end of most COVID-19 restrictions and safeguards in England.

Notably, free PCR and lateral flow tests will no longer be offered as standard to the public – instead reserved to the over 80s and the clinically vulnerable.

The requirement to self-isolate on testing positive will also be dropped. Although official public health advice will continue to state that people who test positive should isolate for five days, those on low incomes will no longer be able to claim £500 if they are hit by the virus and forced to stay at home.

Speaking to the House of Commons yesterday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that “it is time to move from protecting people with Government interventions to vaccines and treatment as our first line of defence”. His announcements were well-received by hard-right members of the Conservative Party, who have repeatedly called for less interventionist COVID measures from the Government, contravening public health advice.

The UK’s COVID testing operation currently costs the taxpayer £2 billion a month, with the Government previously placing heavy emphasis on the daily testing of both symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals.

Speaking in April 2021, former Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said that “regular rapid testing is going to be fundamental in helping us quickly spot positive cases and squash any outbreaks. The vaccine programme has been a shot in the arm for the whole country, but reclaiming our lost freedoms and getting back to normal hinges on us all getting tested regularly”.

There is considerable uncertainty about how the new testing system will operate. Individuals flying abroad have been forced to procure tests directly from private suppliers – a system that has been plagued by cowboy operators, profiteering and cronyism. It’s unclear how the Government will attempt to avoid similar problems with its new private system for general population testing.

However, it seems clear that the Government’s ‘living with COVID’ policy will create a two-tier system of pandemic healthcare.

On the one hand, there will be those who can afford to take regular tests – lateral flow tests are expected to cost around £20 for a pack of seven – and can afford to isolate, if they test positive. On the other, there will large groups of people who cannot afford this luxury – potentially resulting in the mass, hidden infection of people in deprived parts of the country, in marginalised and neglected communities.

Government ReleasesPrivate Messages BetweenOwen Paterson and Matt HancockOver Randox Contracts
Adam Bienkov and Sam Bright

As Government advisors have previously, repeatedly stated: a high vaccination rate and high levels of infection are ideal conditions for new variants to emerge. Poorer communities will therefore potentially be breeding grounds for more potent strains of the virus.

Indeed, we already know that COVID-19 disproportionately affects people from certain socio-economic and demographic backgrounds.

In the first year of the pandemic, COVID-19 mortality rates for people younger than 65 were nearly four times higher in the most deprived areas than the least deprived areas of England. Local areas in England with the highest death rates tended to be those with high unemployment, more overcrowded housing, and greater rates of child poverty. 

According to the Marmot Review – a report on the impact of COVID-19 commissioned by the Health Foundation – “levels of deprivation and health within an area have an enormous impact on mortality rates from COVID-19 and deteriorating conditions in more deprived local areas in England in the years up to 2020 have meant that COVID-19 mortality has been higher than would [otherwise] have been the case”.

Because areas in the post-industrial north of England are more likely to be deprived, and because black and minority ethnic people are more likely to be living in poverty, death rates were higher in these populations.

During the first wave of COVID-19 cases in the UK, from March to July 2020, 17 of the 20 worst-hit areas were in the north and the Midlands – including relatively deprived, Red Wall areas such as Bolton, Sunderland, Wigan, Hartlepool and Rotherham.

Scientific studies have linked these deaths to the higher likelihood of pre-existing health conditions in deprived communities, a higher likelihood of households with multiple occupants – thus encouraging the spread of the virus – as well as poorer working conditions, a lack of access to sick pay, and a greater volume of people working in human-facing professions.

The pandemic also exacerbated existing poverty: black and ethnic minority households in the UK are more than twice as likely to live in poverty as their white peers, leaving them disproportionately exposed to job losses and pay cuts caused by the pandemic.

It’s important to remember too that the new charges are coming in during a cost of living crisis – with 1.8 million households now living in “very deep poverty”, meaning that their income cannot cover basic necessities. These are now being asked to make the choice between food, fuel, and health. 

When asked about those on low incomes, Johnson dismissed the suggestion that they may struggle to afford to test and self-isolate by saying this was “underestimating the willingness of people to do the right thing”.


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Workers’ Rights

One of the many criticisms levelled against the Government during the pandemic has been the lack of self-isolation support, including a failure to increase levels of statutory sick pay.

As a result, throughout the pandemic many low-paid workers felt they had little choice but to keep going to work – despite potentially being infected with the virus.

The old rules however, did give workers a legal right to refuse to go into work, helping to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The scrapping of self-isolation laws in England will mean that workers are only advised to self-isolate if they test positive – assuming they can afford a test in the first place. The emphasis in Johnson’s press conference statement was for workers to take personal responsibility and to stay home if they feel ill.

Johnson said that England needed to be “more like Germany” where workers are more likely to take time off when they are sick. But in Germany, statutory sick pay is 50% of full pay for 84 weeks. Here, it’s £96.35 per week for 28 weeks.

Unfortunately, personal responsibility may not be the priority of employers – nor will it pay the bills. This means unscrupulous employers may put pressure on their staff to come into the workplace, while people in insecure or precarious work may feel less able to take time off to self-isolate, having to choose between putting bread on the table and staying at home.

COVID Hindsightand the Lockdown Parties
Sascha Lavin

The Clinically Vulnerable

The decision to charge for tests will also become a care tax for those who wish to visit vulnerable loved ones, or who are caring for family members with underlying health conditions. 

At the start of the pandemic, 2.2 million people were told to start shielding as they were considered clinically extremely vulnerable. Thanks to the vaccine rollout, more people are now protected – however, some groups were simply too vulnerable to have the vaccine, and those with severe health conditions remain vulnerable. 

Data from the autumn found that most people previously considered to be clinically extremely vulnerable were continuing to take precautions to protect themselves; 22% reported continuing to shield and 68% were no longer shielding but were taking extra precautions.

Those who wish to keep loved ones safe from the virus will now effectively have to pay a care tax whenever they visit family or friends, through private tests, to make sure they are not inadvertently bringing COVID-19 to their door. 

Considering people in deprived areas are more likely to have underlying health conditions, this again will disproportionately impact those on low incomes. 

And there are care workers themselves. One of the most shocking outcomes of the pandemic was the failure of the Government and its advisers to understand that care workers – many of whom are on low-paid, zero hour contracts – move from home to home, caring for individuals. This risked spreading the Coronavirus to vulnerable populations.

Questions now need to be asked about whether care workers will be provided with free tests from those in charge of their contracts, or whether they will be expected to pay for their own. If the latter, this again will mean that the Government’s new testing regime will disproportionately impact on the lowest paid, essential workers. 




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Birth Rates, Babies and Benefits

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 22/02/2022 - 10:00pm in

Birth RatesBabies & Benefits

There’s been much talk about falling birth rates from all sides of the political spectrum – but the elephant in the nursery is the Conservatives’ record on benefit cuts


It seems you can’t open a newspaper or political magazine these days without being confronted with a panic that women in the West are not having enough babies. 

On the right, men wring their hands about women’s individualism and desire to put career before children.

On the far-right, men condemn women’s “debauched” lifestyles while trad wife influencers set “white baby challenges”. Take white nationalist Ayla Stewart, who wrote: “As a mother of six, I challenge families to have as many white babies as I have contributed.”

Meanwhile, writers on the left comment that it’s not really young people’s fault that they aren’t reproducing when the housing and jobs market is what it is. 

In contrast, climate campaigners are worried that too many people are having too many children. 

It’s true that the UK’s birth rate has declined. In 2020, for the first time since records began, half of women in England and Wales remained childless or child free by their 30th birthday. The year before, women had on average 1.65 children, when population replacement rates need to be 2.1 children. 

An ageing population is the primary concern of low birth rates – people are living longer, needing more and more complex healthcare, and claiming pensions for longer. If states aren’t going to go bankrupt supporting its elderly, they need more working-age people to fund support. 

But what has been missed in many of the conversations about declining birth rates is the impact of austerity measures – and the disincentivising of birth by the Coalition and Conservative Governments of the past 12 years. 


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The Rape Clause

Let’s start with one of the most damning legacies of the Cameron and Osborne era – the two-child tax credit limit. Proposed in the age of austerity, the limit came into law under Prime Minister Theresa May. 

The benefits cut meant that parents could only claim child tax credits – introduced by Labour’s Gordon Brown – for their first two children. Any third or subsequent child born after 2017 would not be entitled to child tax credits. 

The exception to the rule was if a mother could prove her third or subsequent child was conceived by rape and that she had left her abuser. This, apparently, was ‘compassionate Conservatism’.

Cutting the child tax credit entitlement was designed to encourage people to have the children they could afford – but not necessarily all the children they wanted. This effectively sent a message that only the wealthy were allowed to choose large families. 

According to the reproductive health charity BPAS, the child tax credit limit had a real influence on women’s abortion decisions, particularly during the Coronavirus pandemic when family budgets were squeezed.

BPAS found that more than half of the women it surveyed who had an abortion during the crisis, and who were aware of the two-child limit and likely to be affected by it, said the policy was “important in their decision-making around whether or not to continue the pregnancy”.

Women also told the charity that the limit effectively removed their choice over whether to continue a pregnancy or have a termination. 

Women from poorer backgrounds are three times more likely to have an abortion with those from the most deprived backgrounds accounting for 16.5% of all abortions, and women from the wealthiest backgrounds accounting for 5.9%. Almost two-thirds of women supported by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service cited “financial factors” as playing a part in their decision making to have a termination.

This is particularly ironic when you consider all but one of Cameron’s front bench in 2008 voted in favour of restricting abortion rights.

Every woman and pregnant person should have the right to end an unwanted pregnancy, and the choice to continue with a pregnancy knowing they and their child will get the support they need. This is the meaning of being ‘pro choice’. But instead, austerity measures have removed that decision from some low-income women. 

The Politicsof Porridge
Sian Norris

Means-Tests and Caps

Another policy impacting on finances for children was the decision in 2013 to change how child benefit was allocated.

Previously a universal benefit paid to the primary caregiver, child benefit was cut for those earning more than £50,000 via a tax charge. While some people would agree that those on high incomes should not get the same allowances as low income families, this ignored the principle of universal benefits to support families. It also had a negative impact on primary caregivers in violent and controlling relationships, who may not have access to their own money. 

People on Universal Credit are entitled to more money if they have children. But because the benefit is paid to a nominated member of the household – usually the main ‘breadwinner’ – it has been accused of facilitating domestic abuse. This is because abusers who financially control their victims can deny them the money they are entitled to from the welfare state. 

Then there was the benefit cap, which stated that a family could only receive a limited amount of benefit money per year – the cap stands at £384.62 per week for couples or single parents whose children live with them, and who live outside of London (£442.31 per week for those in the capital). Such a cap has an impact on families when it comes to choosing how many children they want to have. 

Demographic Winters

The far-right has used the decreasing birth rate to rally support behind the ‘Great Replacement’ conspiracy theory – which baselessly claims that white people in the West are being replaced by migration from the Global South, aided by feminist repressing the birth rate with abortion rights.

It’s imperative that when conversations about falling birth rates take place, the far-right conspiracies about “demographic winters” – a term used by far-right Italian leader Matteo Salvini – are robustly rebuffed. These conversations too easily shift into anti-abortion, Islamophobic and racist hate. 

Instead, the focus should be on supporting women and parents to have the children they want to have, ensuring real and informed choice when it comes to starting a family. That requires a strong welfare state, a recognition that families should be valued no matter their socio-economic background, and access to abortion and contraception to all who need it, too. 




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Vladimir Putin Holds Up a Dark Mirror to Boris Johnson

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 19/02/2022 - 12:08am in

Vladimir Putin Holds Up a Dark Mirror to Boris Johnson

Though the British Government and the Kremlin appear to be in conflict, Peter Jukes and Hardeep Matharu trace the underlying currents of oligarchy that unite them


Whether the apparent withdrawal of the biggest concentration of military forces since the Cold War by Russia is permanent or not; or whether Russian President Vladimir Putin attempts some other proxy or cyber attack to destabilise encircled Ukraine, the events of the past six months have made his long-term goals clear. 

Ever since the Maidan Revolution of 2014, when Ukrainians ejected the bloody kleptocratic regime of Viktor Yanukovich and his pro-Russian oligarchs in favour of the values of the European Union, the Kremlin has seen the pro-democracy ‘colour revolutions’ in former Soviet republics as a major threat to its oligarchic power – and sought by various covert and ingenious means to subvert both the EU and the transatlantic alliance of NATO. 

In this new clear light, the Kremlin’s financial support for far-right Eurosceptic parties in France, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands made complete sense strategically. So too, the weaponisation of refugees in 2015-16 during Putin’s intervention in the Syrian civil war, which figured so prominently in the rise of the anti-immigrant right in Europe.

And, of course, the transparent interference of Kremlin media outlets, and the more covert influence operations of its online troll farms and hack attacks during the 2016 Brexit Referendum and the election of Donald Trump, are all part of the same plan. 

Putin has been trolling the EU and NATO ever since he invaded eastern Ukraine and annexed the Crimean peninsula. His long-term strategic goal has been to reassert Russian priorities on former Soviet republics. 

The difference six years on is that, with no placatory and compromised Trump in the White House, both the US and the EU have been on the front foot, countering the Kremlin’s ‘alternative measures’ and information warfare with their own signalling devices – reinforcing NATO defences in the Baltic states, withdrawing embassy staff from Ukraine, cancelling flights, and releasing early intelligence assessments about the disposition of Russian forces and potential ‘false flag’ pretexts for Russian intervention.

Two can play the ‘hybrid warfare’ game, and – at least at the time of writing – this has forestalled the devastation of what Putin called his “military technical” solution: the carnage of war. 

We have not only laundered at least half the stolen assets of Russian oligarchs, we have also begun to import their values

If Putin has stepped back, it will be up to historians to determine what the turning point was. Was it his inability to drive a diplomatic wedge between France, Germany and the US? Was it the rapid armament of the Ukrainian forces with anti-tank weapons? Or was it the threat of stern economic and financial sanctions on Russia, with a particular focus on the wealth of a small number of Kremlin-connected billionaires?

Whatever the cause, one thing is certain: post-Brexit Britain has been increasingly irrelevant, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss shouting loudly from the touchlines, but not being players on the field. 

The UK is now punching well below its weight – especially given that London is the global haven for the wealth exfiltrated from the Russian people by its ruling elite, and the Conservative Party is heavily indebted to Soviet-born oligarchs for millions of pounds in donations.

Johnson’s reluctance to deal with Russian money flooding into London and into this own party’s coffers is more than just greed or opportunism: it’s an affinity, unwitting or not, of conviction and instinct – because Vladimir Putin’s billionaire-based oligarchy holds up a dark mirror to the same tendencies within the British state.

In a major intervention this month, former Conservative Prime Minister John Major exposed the dangers of British exceptionalism, with its ‘mother of Parliaments’ and democracy defined by reverence to the rule of law.

Vested interests wielding influence through party funding and the reality that there is one rule for Johnson’s Government and another for everyone else are both “politically deadly”, he said. “Our democracy is a fragile structure. It is not an impenetrable fortress. It can fall, if no one challenges what is wrong or fights for what is right.”

For a number of years, Yale professor and acclaimed historian Timothy Snyder has warned the West against complacency that its democratic nature is an inevitability. He has drawn particular attention to the post-USSR path of Putin’s Russia – an oligarchy, in which a small, elite group hold political power, with the interests of the state geared towards their personal enrichment.

The line between democracies with some oligarchical features turning into oligarchies with some democratic features is a fine one indeed, according to Snyder. That we here in Britain are now treading that line – and losing our balance as we teeter on the edge – can be witnessed under Johnson’s regime.

In recent years – and certainly accelerated under its current leader – the Conservative Party has moved away from its traditional funding base of small and medium business and become dominated by the super-rich. This shift – evident through Johnson’s lavish lifestyle alone, in which luxury foreign holidays and gold wallpaper rolls are paid for by those with the wealth to spare – is a key factor making Britain’s democracy vulnerable. Its exposure under Johnson must urgently trigger a wider debate about the power of money in democracy, and in whose interests our state is being run.

From the scandal of PPE contracts, ‘pork barrel’ funding for Tory constituencies, honours for friends, public appointments to cronies, and an utter lack of scrutiny over the executive through the exploitation of Britain’s ‘good chaps’ mode of Government, the Conservatives have repeatedly held the country’s democracy in contempt – with the Thatcherite small state giving way to Johnsonian state capture.

As the cost of living crisis now swirls in headlines, the underlying inequality that has been key to Britain’s Conservative economics has elicited little comment. While the living standards of almost all groups in society get materially worse, those of a narrow group of the already wealthy are protected.

Neither Johnson nor his Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, have addressed the core malfunction in the hard Brexit economy: it doesn’t work for most British people. That their only flagship policy to address inequalities – ‘levelling up’ – is a vague but over-ambitious plan with little in the way of investment to back it up, lends itself to the conclusion that there is nothing beyond empty promises and PR spin to improve people’s lives. 

And so, instead of levelling up, Johnson has led a race to the bottom based on supposed cultural concerns.

This politics of othering and demonisation is targeted not just at asylum seekers and refugees, but British citizens with dual heritage, those wanting to exercise their peaceful right to protest, disabled people on benefits, or those calling for a more honest appraisal of our imperial past and its impact on inequalities today. For Conservative Party Chairman Oliver Dowden – addressing the right-wing US think tank, the Heritage Foundation, this month – it is the “painful woke psychodrama” which is sapping the confidence of the UK and America.

Such attacks on civil liberties in the name of freedom are found in the playbook regularly used by the likes of Viktor Orbán, who has openly described his approach in Hungary as “illiberal democracy”. This week, the European Court of Justice ruled that the EU could deprive member states of funds when they fail to meet democratic standards, such as the rule of law.

But what has happened in Hungary is only an echo of what happened in Russia. 


The collapse of the Soviet Union 30 years ago created a laboratory for some of the more extreme ‘shock doctrine’ experiments in Thatcherite privatisation, as state-owned assets were snapped up by smart would-be oligarchs in a massive distribution away from the many to the few.

This was often via the City of London or post-colonial British overseas territories and their opaque tax havens. A decade later, Putin (a former KGB officer) either tamed or destroyed those oligarchs to create a mafia state, with himself as the boss of all bosses – capo di tutti capi – with extensive tentacles across the offshore remnants of the British Empire. 

Though Britain itself is some distance from Kremlin kleptocracy and suppression of dissent, it seems now to be travelling, under Johnson’s leadership, down the same road of unfreedom and elite rule. We have not only laundered at least half the stolen assets of Russian oligarchs, we have also begun to import their values.

We are close to the moment when, rather than being a democracy with some oligarchic features, Britain becomes an oligarchy with some democratic features. 

Snyder’s warning about Western complacency was not an abstract one. When democracies allow their societies to become grossly unequal and the state serves only the interests of a few, these are fractures ripe for exploitation and domination – by populists at home and dictators abroad. Though in the globalised world of offshore finance and dark money, it’s hard to tell where they really reside…

This article is published as the editorial of the February 2022 print edition of Byline Times




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The Biggest Intergenerational Gaps in Modern Britain

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 17/02/2022 - 8:00pm in

The Biggest Intergenerational Gaps in Modern Britain

Sascha Lavin considers the vast, unspoken inequalities that exist between young and old


There is an unwritten rule of British society that has seemingly been shattered in recent years: the ideal that you can expect to be better-off than your parents.

The fortunes of young people now seem to have reversed, while well-heeled commentators suggest that we are feckless and wasteful; that our problems could simply be resolved by giving up on Netflix and avocados.

The reality of this situation is experienced intimately by the young and the old, as the prosperity of the next generation is reserved to those who can inherit it from their predecessors. Yet, with the senior ranks of the media still dominated by veterans of the profession, this broken British dream is rarely remarked upon.

To shed some light on this crisis, here are eight of the greatest intergenerational gaps in modern Britain.

Stagnating Wages; Soaring Property Prices

Between 1997 and 2020, the median cost of a property in England more than tripled, from £59,995 to £249,000. During the same period, average employee earnings lagged behind, increasing by 87%.

From 2010 to 2020, house prices increased across the UK by 33% (led by London, where property prices increased by 66%), while average real weekly wages were just £1 higher in December 2020 than in March 2008.

Therefore, in 1997, the average property was 3.54 times that of the average salary. By 2020, however, buyers were expected to fork-out 7.84 times their salary to buy a house.

Younger generations are more likely to acquire their first home in much the same way Kirstie Allsopp did when she was 21 – with help from the ‘bank of mum and dad’.

An increasing proportion of young people are receiving financial support from relatives – with the older generation contributing to 316,000 of the properties purchased in 2018, and 60% of first-time buyers now expected to be helped by family members. 

On the flip side of the wealth spectrum, of the 20 to 35 year olds who don’t yet own a home, nearly half have parents who also aren’t property owners. More than ever, your ability to vault onto the property ladder – especially in affluent, expensive areas of the country – is decided by the wealth of your parents.

A Portrait of Broken Britain
Sam Bright

Home Ownership

Perhaps unsurprisingly, therefore, half of all housing wealth has been accrued by baby boomers (46%), with the over-65s owning £1.7 trillion-worth of residential property. Meanwhile, millennials have 39% less property wealth than those born 10 years before them at the age of 30.

Home ownership is concentrated in the hands of the oldest generations: almost three-quarters of adults over the age of 65 own their own homes outright, while one-in-three millennials are expected to never own their own home. 

Food Poverty

Households headed by a person aged between 16 and 24 are the most likely to struggle to eat regularly because of a lack of money: nine out of 100 of these households have very low food security, where people are forced to eat less, skip meals or even go an entire day without eating because they don’t have enough money to buy food. 

On the other hand, in part protected by their pension, only 1% of households headed by a person aged between 65 and 74 years old have very low food security. This is reflected in food bank usage: the Trussell Trust reports that just 2% of people referred to their food banks were from pensioner households in 2019. 


Older families, households headed by someone aged 65 or older, held 35% of the total household wealth before the pandemic and accrued 42% (£378 billion) of the total increase in British household wealth between February 2020 and May 2021.  

This trend is not new: between 2010/2012 and 2016/2018, the median individual wealth gap between the oldest and youngest age groups increased by 43%, from £208,000 to £298,000. 

Analysis of debt also shows a significant intergenerational gap, with three-quarters of people accruing debt by the time of their 22nd birthday, while only a-quarter of retirees owe money.

The Politicsof Porridge
Sian Norris

The Safety Net

For more than a decade, successive Conservative governments have slashed benefits for children and working-age adults, while protecting pensioner incomes. Children are £520 a year worse-off and working-age adults £260 a year worse-off as a result of Conservative changes to the benefits system, while pensioners’ incomes have been boosted with an extra £520 annually. 

As of 2019, the rate of the guaranteed pension income was more than double that of the main unemployment benefit.  

Pensioners in 2022 are also better-off compared to pensioners from previous generations. The average weekly pensioner benefit income of baby boomers aged 70 is 42% higher in real terms than that received by the Greatest generation – people born in the first 20 years of the 20th Century – at the same age. 


The proportion of workers in part-time or temporary jobs has reduced since 2017 in all age groups apart from 18 to 29 year olds. 

A recent survey by the Royal Society of Arts think tank found that almost half of 16 to 24 year olds were unable or just managing to make ends meet each month, or had an income that varied significantly from pay-check to pay-check because they were on zero-hour contracts or working in the gig economy.  

Younger generations are also more likely to be overqualified for their jobs: in 2017, 22% of those who graduated before 1992 were overeducated, while 34% of graduates from the class of 2006 onwards possessed more education than required for their job.  

Child Poverty

Children born between 2016 and 2020 are facing the highest rates of child poverty since the 1960s, with more than 35% of children estimated to be living in poverty by the time they turn two.

The number of children living below the breadline – classed as below 60% of the median household income after housing costs have been paid – has surged in recent years: 100,000 more children lived in relative poverty from 2018/19 to 2019/20. 

Pandemic Aftershocks

Elderly people have been most at risk of dying from COVID-19 throughout the pandemic, with more than seven in 10 registered deaths among those aged 75 and older.

Both young adults and pensioners experienced the greatest decline in their mental health during the crisis. The share of adults with mental health problems increased by 80% among 18 to 29 year olds, and by 68% for 65 to 79 year olds. 

Additionally, according to a 2020 Age UK survey, a third of people aged 60 and over reported feeling more anxious since the start of the pandemic. 

Unemployment also increased for both the youngest and oldest working-age adults. In the first 15 months of the pandemic, more than half of those aged 18 to 24 and over 65 had either been furloughed or had lost their jobs.

However, younger workers have bounced back better than their older counterparts: the employment rate rose fastest among 16 to 24 year olds than any other age group between the winter 2020/21 lockdown and July 2021, although a third of these new roles are atypical and insecure – including zero-hours contracts and agency work. 

This article was produced by the Byline Intelligence Team – a collaborative investigative project formed by Byline Times with The Citizens. If you would like to find out more about the Intelligence Team and how to fund its work, click on the button below.





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Creating high-quality research collaborations across academia and civil society is rare, what does this tell us about how we value impact?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 12/02/2022 - 12:00am in

For researchers in Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) publishing and collaborating with academics on mutually beneficial projects is uncommon. Drawing on their experience of a major collaborative international research project on public attitudes towards inequality that resulted in a flagship report for Oxfam and a series of academic papers, Franziska Mager, discusses the barriers and benefits … Continued

‘Levelling Up’ Will Fail – Because Inequality is the Conservative Business Model

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 11/02/2022 - 11:02pm in

‘Levelling Up’ Will FailBecause Inequality Is the Conservative Business Model

Rebalancing the circumstances of the richest and poorest is not in Boris Johnson’s DNA, says TJ Coles


The Government’s much-anticipated ‘levelling up’ white paper has finally arrived. The programme promises to invest billions of pounds in neglected and deprived areas across the UK, supposedly taking advantage of post-Brexit deregulation in the process.

The seriousness of the proposals can perhaps be assessed from the fact that parts of the paper appear to have been lifted from Wikipedia.

Putting this aside, the document calls for a new era of infrastructure and investment, but heavy emphasis is placed on attracting new equity market investment outside London. For instance, one passage reads: “Equity gaps are largest in the East Midlands, Yorkshire and the Humber, and the West Midlands, where demand is more than six times the flow of equity finance”.

In 2019, Bloomberg ran the headline: ‘Everything Is Private Equity Now’. The article explains that “the heart of their craft is using debt to acquire companies and sell them later”. Last August, the New York Times ran with: ‘Private Equity Firms All Want the Same Thing: British Companies’. ASDA, the AA, Bourne Leisure (owner of Butlin’s), and Debenhams are just some of the big UK brands bought out recently by private equity and asset managers.

Will this new dominant economic force help Britain to “level up”? An article by the US Securities and Exchange Commission praises private equity while unwittingly admitting these firms’ contributions to lowering worker standards. They have “changed the infrastructure of the nation’s [labour] force, ushering in the so-called ‘gig’ worker”, the article reads.

Private equity companies see investment opportunities in the real estate, transport modernisation, and construction plans promised in the Government’s white paper.

Hollow MonumentsThe Reality of Boris Johnson’sLevelling Up Plan
Sam Bright

Standard Life Aberdeen is owned by the Phoenix Group, which has over £300 billion-worth of assets under management. In September 2020, the company submitted evidence to Parliament on the supposed benefits of “levelling up” in relation to productivity.

Legal and General (L&G) has over £1 trillion-worth of assets under management in the UK. It too has kept a close eye on the “levelling up” agenda, even creating a ‘Rebuilding Britain Index’. Last year’s report, for example, said: “Investment is required across the whole of the UK, but how that investment is made requires a local lens working on local priorities”.

Sumit Mehta, head of investment solutions at L&G, cheers on the “very nice fit between what these [infrastructure] assets offer and what they require in terms of the capital backing them”.

More recently, Roger Pim, a senior investment manager at the multi-billion-pound abrdn, said of infrastructure: “We’re looking to find very stable businesses with predictable, long-term cash flows that generate an attractive, sensible return”.

Lower, steady returns from building projects, he said, are “perfect for pension funds”.

The Inequality Agenda

The business agenda of dominant financial institutions is implemented politically via an ideology that runs deep in the Conservative Party: inequality. Another reason for the likely failure of the levelling up agenda is that over the last decade, as hedge funds and private equity firms became major financial players and Conservative donors, the belief in the inherent merits of inequality became engrained in the party.

In 2012, Baronet Sir Humphry Wakefield, father-in-law of Dominic Cummings, said: “to be elitist, I think [that] quality climbs up the tree of life”. He added that, “in general, high things in the tree of life have quality, have skills, they get wonderful degrees at university, and if they marry each other that gets even better”. Wakefield concluded: “There are very few first-generation geniuses [among the poor]”.

A year later, Cummings, then a Department for Education advisor in the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, wrote: “Most of those who now dominate discussions of issues such as ‘social mobility’ entirely ignore genetics and therefore their arguments are at best misleading and often worthless”.

During his 2013 Centre for Policy Studies Thatcher speech, Boris Johnson himself said: “I stress: I don’t believe that economic equality is possible; indeed, some measure of inequality is essential for the spirit of envy and keeping up with the Joneses that is, like greed, a valuable spur to economic activity”.

He carried on: “Whatever you may think of the value of IQ tests, it is surely relevant to a conversation about equality that as many as 16% of our species have an IQ below 85, while about 2% have an IQ above 130. The harder you shake the pack, the easier it will be for some cornflakes to get to the top”.

A New Era of Austerity Beckons
Maheen Behrana

Wholesale privatisation is one way of “shaking the pack”, as working class people are forced to compete with their richer peers and as institutions – from schools and hospitals to councils and transport services – are flogged to private entities.

Reducing structural inequality would require taking a little of the elite’s privilege and sharing it with the disadvantaged. It is therefore convenient for the financially well-endowed to argue that their superior cultural capital is the product of good genes rather than good fortune.

Thus, in their worldview, public assets should not be deployed to level the scales – but rather should endeavour to let the brightest succeed, regardless of their background.

Levelling up, if it is delivered by private equity companies and their asset managers, will therefore fail on its own terms. It will be another way that Johnson has attempted to shake the pack – allowing the wealthiest to flourish, along with a few fortunate interlopers from the lower classes, while the vast majority are tied to the circumstances in which they were born.

There is of course an alternative. For the last decade, Preston Council has offered public contracts to local firms rather than outsourcing giants or hedge fund capitalists. This localist approach – the ‘Preston Model’ – has been widely praised, delivering good services for people in the area and boosting the local economy.

Practical solutions are out there. The equity ownership model is not desirable or inevitable – and nor is rampant inequality.




Byline Times is funded by its subscribers. Receive our monthly print edition and help to support fearless, independent journalism.




The Rent Trap: Britain’s Broken Housing Market

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 08/02/2022 - 9:42pm in

The Rent TrapBritain’s Broken Housing Market

Rachel Morris delves into one of the major causes of poverty, inequality and insecurity in modern Britain


“I love them, I do, but they were going to be here for a month, tops, and it’s getting on for a year”.

Annie has shared her two-bedroom home in south-west England with her daughter and two grandchildren since they were forced to leave their rented home through a ‘no fault’ eviction.

The landlord claimed that he needed to move back in, but Annie claims that a couple with no kids live there now, paying more rent. Annie’s daughter is desperate to move, but can’t compete for a suitable property.

The website makes transactions in the private rented sector (PRS) appear clear-cut. As a tenant, you have rights such as knowing who your landlord is; living undisturbed in a property that’s safe, energy-efficient, and in a good state of repair; seeing your deposit returned fairly when you move on. In return, you must allow your landlord reasonable access to the property, take good care of it, and pay your rent on time.

The reality for many, however, is more complex and unpleasant.

Housing support organisations say that the Coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing issues. Given that people were confined at home for long periods, systemic housing problems were thrown into stark relief.

The Thatcher Government’s ‘Right to Buy’ sale of public housing stock is said to have shifted 100,000 properties from public to private ownership. Successive governments since have implemented measures to increase home ownership. Yet, the PRS has doubled in size over the past 30 years – now accommodating more than 11 million people, including around a quarter of families with children.

Despite the claims of Kirstie Allsopp, people are private tenants for many reasons: because they can’t get into social housing due to its scarcity or not meeting its conditions, because they don’t want to buy a property, or aren’t financially able to. Many are locked out of buying despite good incomes because they have no family support, can’t save a deposit, are single, or don’t have a great credit score.

Ruth Ehrlich, policy manager of leading renters’ rights campaigns at the housing charity Shelter, notes that 60% of PRS tenants have no savings to speak of.

Moreover, barriers to ownership exist simply because people rent. Private tenants pay an average of 40% of net pay in rent, compared to 19% for mortgagees. Yet, renters are glibly told to shop at value supermarkets, buy fewer or cheaper clothes and devices, take no holidays, and make their own coffee at home, to save for deposits. They are told to throw pebbles at a tidal wave.

The reality often goes something like this:

Bank: We have no way of knowing whether you can keep up mortgage payments of £650 a month.

Buyer: But I’ve been paying my landlord £950 a month for three years.

Bank: Save up and pay us a £30,000 deposit, so we know you’re good for the £650.

Buyer: I can’t, because I’m paying my landlord £950 a month.

It is common to see ‘inspirational’ stories of people in their 20s becoming homeowners, only for it to be revealed that they lived at home rent-free while saving, and/or received a substantial boost from the bank of mum and dad.

As a result, also thanks to Government policies, the situation continues to worsen. According to Halifax, in 2021 house prices rose at the fastest rate since 2004, up by 9.8%. Indeed, sales soared during the pandemic, due in part to a stamp duty holiday from July 2020 to September 2021.

Doris and Pierce sold their house in the south-east of England during that period, and moved into rented property while they bought their next home.

“You have a better chance if you can pay upfront, so you bank proceeds, then you pounce when you see a house you can afford,” says Doris.

Indeed, the rental market is bloated by landlords – second home owners, holiday property investors, and professional home owners – increasing demand and reducing supply.

Buy-to-let doesn’t meet rental needs, it creates them. In November 2021, property market website Home said that the rental supply crunch had worsened in every region of England, 46% down on the previous year – and down by 70% in some places.

London Zoopla listings doubled during COVID restrictions, but have now halved. This engenders rent rises, so finding ‘affordable’ rents – defined as not more than 30% of income – is challenging. People able to work remotely have also escaped to less expensive cities, pushing rents up elsewhere.

A Portrait of Broken Britain
Sam Bright

Moreover, application processes can be stringent and intrusive. Dan Wilson Craw, deputy director of the campaign organisation Generation Rent, describes the credit scoring system as “bafflingly opaque, a ‘computer says no’ situation”. Freelancers, people on zero hours contracts, and those claiming state benefits may face extra barriers.

Discriminating against benefits claimants is unlawful for landlords, but it remains an issue.

Setting an income multiplier, asking for six months of rent up front, or conducting the sort of bidding wars seen in house sales – such tactics are used by some landlords to rule out would-be tenants. Meanwhile, women are 1.5 times more likely to be on Universal Credit, while disabled people are three times more likely.

In short, millions of people pay more in rent than they would on a mortgage – to live less securely in smaller properties, too often in unsafe conditions.

They are vulnerable to deposit theft, may not be allowed to have pets, may face intrusive and controlling landlord behaviour with a low tolerance for the smallest misstep. Section 21 possession notices allow most landlords to recover a property quickly without formalities, as happened to Annie’s daughter.

A Ladder to Nowhere

Yet these aren’t just arbitrary facts – they fundamentally affect life prospects. The 2010 Marmot Review noted that housing is a “social determinant of health” that shapes health inequalities throughout our lifetimes.

One estimate puts the cost of poor housing to the NHS at £1.4 billion annually in England alone. The 2019 English Housing Survey stated that PRS homes were more likely to have at least one ‘category 1’ hazard under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System, and that 23% of PRS homes didn’t meet the ‘decent home standard’, compared with 12% of social housing and 18% of owner-occupied homes.

In a renters’ market, you can shop around for more satisfactory accommodation. But, when supply is down, urgency and competition can lead you to lower your standards and to take whatever you can get.

115 MPs across all parties, including 90 Conservative MPs (a quarter of their number), were landlords as of July 2021, according to openDemocracy. The property sector made 20% of all donations to the Conservative Party in the decade to March 2020.

The JackpotHow London Became aConcierge for Kleptocrats
Cory Doctorow

The 2019 Conservative Manifesto pledged a ‘Better Deal for Renters’, proposing the welcome abolition of section 21 no fault evictions and other strategies for a fairer market, while a Renters’ Reform Bill has since been promised. However, perhaps not coincidentally, the white paper has repeatedly been delayed, said to be due to the pandemic, and its publication is now promised for sometime this year.

So, still, renters are cash cows, in a for-profit sector that has somehow become the last line of defence against homelessness.

As Chloe Timperley says in her book Generation Rent: “Payment is obligatory, but service is optional.” Buy-to-let landlords don’t need licenses, qualifications, or references. They may be absent from the area, even from the country. There are arguably lower consumer protections for privately rented housing than for a pair of trainers.

With the pandemic ongoing, the impacts of Brexit yet to fully kick in, climate change, and domestic and global insecurity abounding, the future of the PRS is hard to predict.

A freeze on local housing allowance from the beginning of austerity in 2011 until it was lifted for the pandemic, notes Shelter’s Ruth Ehrlich, meant that it was no longer pegged to rent rates. And now, with the Government’s generosity waning, it is once again, says Ehrlich, “frozen in cash terms, so we’re going to see that gulf starting to increase again, which is just unsustainable for people”.

And while people criticise older generations for having pulled the ladder up behind them, unknown numbers of people like Annie have taken in their children and grandchildren, to prevent yet more cases of homelessness due to unavailable or unaffordable homes.

Renting used to be a rung on the property ladder. Now it’s a wobbly ladder of its own, propped against a crumbling wall, leading to nowhere.

Shelter offers free expert advice on this issue. Join its campaign for better renting here




Byline Times is funded by its subscribers. Receive our monthly print edition and help to support fearless, independent journalism.




Microagressions anyone? On the thermonuclear expressions turning up in our in-tray

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 04/02/2022 - 6:43pm in

For over a year I’ve had something in my ‘draft articles’ file. It consisted of little more than a table like the one you see below. I’d love to enlighten you with an article that I’d slaved over for a few days trying to get to the bottom of things on this subtle and tantalising subject. Perhaps one day I will. But right now I’m basically going to do a quick tidy up of the table and pop it up here. I sent it to the fellow you see above with whom I’ve been recording weekly conversations for a while and we used it as a prompt for our discussions.

It’s fascinating to me that our culture has been hard at work over the last decade adding a particular class of expression to the popular lexicon which reflects the new terms of ideological engagement — and polarisation. I’ve called them ‘thermonuclear expressions’. They’re terms such as ‘gaslighting’, ‘virtue signalling’ and ‘microaggressions’. And I think they mark a real cultural event. They are terms of weaponisation predicated on the idea that we miss out on a lot of what matters in various acts and speech acts if we don’t attend to what might be intended beyond what is explicitly conveyed. Further, the expressions presume that even if certain meanings were not consciously intended, there might nevertheless be lots more to say — and to object to — based on how they might be received.

Many of those terms are a wonderful asset to the language. (I’d include ‘gaslighting’ and ‘mansplaining’.) But they’re explosively tendentious. They are typically framing expressions and they frame the other as the bad guy. So they’re used as weapons. But at the same time they turn on subtle cues. Further those cues can be read differently and even if they’re not read differently one can still disagree on whether they are socially acceptable or not. These terms connote the kinds of things you think when an argument goes ‘meta’. Then you feel gaslit. But so, unless they’re in simple bad faith, does the other side.

Now let these terms out into the wild where kids are having their first experiences with arguments that go ‘meta’ with their friends and family, or onto Twitter or a mainstream media outlet which is hungry for clicks and you have a heady cocktail. So I hope if you listen to it you enjoy our discussion, I welcome your comments below and here is the mp3 file if you’re like me and don’t like watching conversations that you could listen to.

Below the fold is the table of terms. (Apologies for the table’s formatting which is the best I can do in WordPress). I welcome contributions to the table or commentary on it or anything I’ve written in comments below: 

New term
Old terms
My comment on new term

New terms and practices from wokestan


Great term. Unalloyed plus for our language. But not for its usage. It’s a totalising and framing term — the playing of a trump card and a thermonuclear one at that. Effectively it claims that the other person is, either deliberately or through lack of self-awareness occupying a different reality to the speaker and that it’s the speaker who represents actual reality. 

Being patronising, probably unintendedly insulting
I hate the term and think it’s mostly desctructive, but I can see how it could capture the infuriated fatigue of people who are endlessly patronised. It also picks up the way in which being patronising can be used deliberately or pretty close to deliberately as a power move. Even there however I’d rather any claim that this was being done be unpacked. If it’s just labelled as a ‘micro-aggression’ the term will have a double meaning which won’t get through to its targets. 


Good (identifies something) and bad (infantilising)

Cultural appropriation

Good (points something out) and bad (tries to ban it which I expect is usually on balance bad.)

These two terms used to refer to profoundly — if subtly — different things. Alas the older meaning of misogyny which is hating women is now dormant. Alan Jones is a misogynist in this sense. This is to be opposed to the cluster of sins comprising sexism that second wave feminism launched its ‘consciousness raising’ and then public campaigns against. 

Safe space
Handle with kid gloves


Good term.* 

Being patronising
Great term.*

Politically correct
Freddie deBoer on the subject. 

‘The basic stance of the social justice set, for a long time now, has been that they are 100% exempt from ordinary politics. BlackLivesMatter proponents have spent a year and a half acting as though their demand for justice is so transcendently, obviously correct that they don’t have to care about politics. When someone like David Shor gently says that they in fact do have to care about politics, and points out that they’ve accomplished nothing, they attack him rather than do the work of making their positions popular. Well, sooner or later, guys, you have to actually give a shit about what people who aren’t a part of your movement think. Sorry. That’s life. The universe is indifferent to your demand for justice, and will remain so until you bother to try to change minds. Nobody gives you what you want. That’s not how it works. Do politics. Think and speak strategically. Be disciplined. Work harder. And for fuck’s sake, give me a simple term to use to address you. Please? Because right now it sure looks like you don’t want to be named because you don’t want to be criticized.

Edit: I might not have underlined this point enough – I sincerely am asking for a better term and would happily use one if offered. If woke, political correctness, identity politics, etc, are inflammatory terms, I’d be happy to substitute something that’s not. But surely something is happening in our politics, and we have to be able to talk about it. So I’m asking for a name.’

Acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, their elders past, present and emerging 

Nice idea, but, in becoming de rigueur it somehow slips the moorings of meaning and becomes a new piety. Here’s Freddie deBoer again.

‘21st century racial politics always takes place in the shadow of our inability to do anything about our racial problems. We are forever creating weird rituals to center and honor and elevate Black people, in lieu of feeding poor Black children or freeing Black prisoners. The deal we’ve made, essentially, is to say “Sorry about all the oppression, Black people. Can’t do anything about it! But tell you what, white liberals will be very weird around you for the rest of your lives, out of a very sincere desire not to offend or oppress you. We can’t do anything about Black poverty or violence against Black people, but we’ll act like racial injustice is, like, double plus bad in polite society. Also Wells Fargo will send out a very respectful Kwanzaa email every holiday season. So that’s nice.”

Personally, I would like better options.’ 


New terms from the anti-woke resistance

Virtue signalling 
Moral vanity (Edmund Burke)
Good term identifying a powerful force. The downside is that signalling is a major vector through which social morality works.  



Conversion Therapy: Co-opting the Language of Liberation

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 03/02/2022 - 11:50pm in

Conversion TherapyCo-opting the Language of Liberation

With the UK Government consultation into ending conversion therapy closest tomorrow, Byline Times investigates the tactics of those seeking to frustrate a ban


Carolyn Mercer knew her gender presentation didn’t match her gender identity when she was a young child in the 1950s. “At the time there was no internet, it wasn’t on TV, I had no idea that anyone else in the world felt the same way I did,” she told Byline Times.

As a teenager, she confided in her vicar. He sympathised and wanted to help her. But at that time, the type of help available was what we would now call ‘conversion therapy.’

“I was strapped into a chair,” she explained. “And I was shown pictures of women. Then I would receive an electric shock. My hands shot in the air, but my arms were strapped down. It went on like that. More pictures and more pain.”

Mercer told Byline Times that she prefers the term “conversion practice” to “therapy, as it’s not therapy. What that practice involved was an aversion type of conversion practice. What it can do is change behaviour. But it can’t change you. It didn’t change my innermost feelings and how I saw myself,” she said. 

Around 20 years later, Mercer sought support again. “As many difficulties as possible were put in my way,” she explained. After months of delays, she “took the decision to continue in the male role”. It would be another six years before Mercer finally got the support she needed “to be me.” 

This week marks the start of LGBT History Month and the end of the Government’s consultation on a ban on conversion therapy – a practice it calls “coercive and abhorrent”. It has signalled that it plans to balance a ban with “people’s personal freedoms” and its policy approach “will not impact everyday religious practice”. This has led to concern that “spiritual counselling” will be exempt from the ban – a term LGBTIQ-rights campaigner Matthew Hyndman has called “Evangelical speech for conversion therapy.”

Part of the balance with personal freedoms is the decision to allow adults to consent to this type of counselling, something which concerns Mercer. “You’re not allowed to agree to torture,” she said. Conversion therapy is recognised as a form of torture by the United Nations.“I agreed to what was done with me, but at that time I was mentally confused, I would have accepted anything.”

“Any Bill must outlaw all forms of conversion therapies in every setting without loopholes which permit LGBTQIA+ people to consent to conversion therapy, because no one can consent to abuse,” Sasha Misra, Associate Director of Communications and Campaigns at Stonewall, told Byline Times. “It’s been over three years since the UK Government committed to banning conversion therapy, it must act now to protect our communities and outlaw this abhorrent practice once and for all.”

The focus on freedoms and consent demonstrates how those opposing the ban have co-opted the language of LGBTIQ rights in order to push their agenda. 

This strategy has led to social media companies are struggling to remove conversion therapy content from their platforms, as the so-called “ex-gay” movement uses human rights, consent and liberation rhetoric to circumvent restrictions on their videos and posts, a new report has found. 

A new report published by The Global Project Against Hate and Extremism (GPAHE), found that, as a result, harmful conversion therapy disinformation is “thriving online.”

“They are absolutely co-opting the language of those that pursue LGBTIQ rights,” report co-author Wendy Via told Byline Times



Help to expose the big scandals of our era.

Getting Around the Hate Speech Ban

The research by GPAHE found that the ban on ads for, and promotion of, conversion therapy put in place by Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube are largely inadequate. Instead, conversion therapy is “thriving on these networks”. This is, in part, because those promoting the practice have found new terms to describe their offering.

Byline Times conducted its own research on YouTube, using euphemistic terms to generate results on conversion therapy. Those terms included “unwanted same sex attraction”; “SAFE-T and same sex attraction”; and “re-integrative therapy”. SAFE-T is an acronym that stands for “Sexual Attraction Fluidity Exploration in Therapy” and is pronounced “safety.” 

This term shows how the conversion therapy movement is co-opting the language of gay liberation. The notion of sexual fluidity first came to prominence in the work of Alfred Kinsey, himself bisexual, who said that sexuality existed on a sliding scale. While there is debate around Kinsey’s conclusions, his work was a landmark moment in the fight for LGBTIQ rights. 

Now, those ideas have been adopted by a movement that wants to suggest people who wish to explore their “sexual fluidity” by “rejecting the gay lifestyle” are being discriminated against.

“They say that banning conversion therapy is a form of torture itself,” said Via. “That people who don’t want to be gay will have nowhere to turn to. We dismiss this entirely.”

Reintegrative therapy is the main term used to circumvent social media bans and claims that “same-sex attraction” is the result of childhood traumas often rooted in issues of attachment. Devised by the late Joseph Nicolosi, it claims to offer “corrective emotional experiences to resolve the shame that resulted from attachment trauma and emotional neglect”.

“The claim that same-sex sexual orientation is the result of ‘attachment trauma and emotional neglect’ is not scientifically supported nor widely accepted,” explained Dr Adam Jowett, Chair of the British Psychological Society’s Psychology of Sexualities Section and lead author of the research on conversion therapy commissioned by the Government Equalities Office. 

Byline Times discovered that disinformation about reintegrative therapy were alarmingly easy to find on YouTube, including in videos published by the IFTCC, an international organisation that “supports people who want to take a different path.”

Similar messages claiming that being LGBTIQ is “caused” by trauma could be found on the X-Outloud YouTube channel, which shares personnel with IFTCC.

This is the youthful face of the so-called “ex-LGBT” movement with brightly coloured videos from self-identified “ex-homosexuals”. The videos share testimony about how “sexual abuse can trigger homosexuality”, for example. Such a statement links back to the disinformation shared by those pushing reintegrative therapy, that claims childhood trauma can cause someone to become LGBTIQ. Other videos shared “the dark side of homosexuality” and “how events can set you up for homosexuality.” 

“The exact causes of sexual orientation have not been fully established and claims that addressing trauma can change a person’s sexual orientation is misleading,” Jowett added. “Psychologists widely understand diversity in sexual orientation to be part of normal human variation and same-sex sexual orientation is not indicative of psychological disturbance.”

One video featuring “ex-gay” testimony is sub-titled “Leaving LGBT, Challenging Censorship & Discrimination | X-Out-Loud” – a clear example of how activists are using the language of freedom and liberation to position themselves as under attack.

Undercover in the Anti-LGBTIQ MovementConspiracy, Conversion Therapy and Links to a Westminster MP
Sian Norris

Natural Law

Proponents of reintegrative therapy use the term “natural law” to describe heterosexuality, where women and men “complement” one another. Nicolosi himself referred to LGBTIQ people as thinking they could “go against nature.”

These are key concepts for the religious-right in Europe and the US. In the 2010s, the Agenda Europe network published a manifesto titled Restoring the Natural Order which attacked “homosexualism” for “going against nature”. Its concept of “natural law” dictates that heterosexual, married family model “is the only option that is morally acceptable”. Its stated aim is to “repeal of all existing laws on same-sex partnerships.”

The manifesto provided a strategy for rolling back progress on LGBTIQ rights. The strategy included using “the weapons of our opponents and turn[ing] them against them”.

These tactics are employed by groups like X-Out-Loud and the IFTCC, as they use the language of freedom of choice, sexual fluidity and discrimination to promote their cause and present themselves as the next frontier in sexual liberation movements. At this year’s IFTCC conference, representatives from Christian Concern used the framing of human rights law to protest the Government’s proposed ban.

“They’re hiding behind religion,” said Via. “That gives them a lot of leeway in a lot of places, especially the United States. In the UK, these groups and these lobbyists have got in there, and now there’s this consultation and they want to bring in the religion exemption. But in Germany, Canada and France where it’s banned, there’s no religious exemption. And that’s critical.”

Now in her 70s, Mercer’s gender presentation now matches her gender identity. “I demand respect as a human and I request respect as a woman,” she told Byline Times. “This is a natural part of me.”

She was once asked how her life would have been different if she had transitioned earlier on in life. “I replied: I could have been happy.”

“Conversion therapy is a repulsive practice which devastates lives,” said Misra. “The UK Government’s own National LGBT Survey shows that 7& of LGBTQIA+ respondents have been offered or undergone conversion therapy – a figure that represents thousands of LGBTQIA+ people whose lives have been torn apart by this barbaric practice. We urgently need comprehensive legislation.”




Byline Times is funded by its subscribers. Receive our monthly print edition and help to support fearless, independent journalism.