The Impact Of Austerity
In a landscape of increasing austerity and rising poverty, this panel will delve into how austerity harms sex workers, women of colour and families across the UK. It will ask the question: are austerity policies themselves acts of violence?
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Mercredi Addams (SWARM), Sara Callaway (Global Women’s Strike), Cari Mitchell (English Collective of Prostitutes), Kimberly McIntosh (Runnymede Trust), Dr Vickie Cooper
violence against women, domestic violence, sexual violence, austerity, labour rights, racism, violence
Mercredi Addams (CH);
Sara Callaway (SC) – Global Women’s Strike;
Cari Mitchell – English Collective of Prostitutes;
Kimberly McIntosh – Runnymede Trust;
Dr Vickie Cooper (VC).
00:00:00 CH Hi everyone. Thank you so much for coming to this panel on the impact of austerity. Yeah, I think we should get started, because we’re running a little bit late according to the clock behind me. So yeah, we’re delighted to be joined by Sara Callaway from the Global Women’s Trust, we’ve got Cari Mitchell from the English Collective of Prostitutes, we’ve got Kimberly McIntosh from the Runnymede Trust, and we’ve got Dr. Vickie Cooper who is a lecturer in social policy and criminology. And I’ll get the panelists to introduce themselves a bit more in a minute and just talk about what they do, but I guess you’re wondering who I am; so I’m Mercredi Addams, I’m a sex worker, I’m a decrim activist with SWARM, I set up Students4Decrim to get the NUS to implement decrim policy and to support student sex workers. Also a shameless plug; I’m a drag artist, I’m performing tomorrow [laughs], as a special guest for a show called Fuck You Pay Me and tomorrow’s the last day that they’re on, so if you want to come along, please do. 00:01:03 My pronouns are they/them. Yeah, so, this panel really kind of aims to address if austerity is violent. So in a landscape of increasing austerity and rising poverty, this panel will really want to kind of delve into how austerity harms sex workers, women of colour, and families across the UK, and we really want to ask the question: are austerity policies themselves acts of violence? So a bit about the structure just so everybody kind of knows what to expect; we’re going to hear from the panellists for about thirty minutes, and then if I ask you to keep all your comments, questions, et cetera to the end, and we’ll have a good ten, fifteen minutes of Q and A at the end. So yeah, can I ask each panellist to introduce themselves, tell us your pronouns, tell us your Twitter handles if you want to. Yeah, just tell us about what you do. I guess we’ll go from this way, this should be on.
00:02:02 ?? Do you want to start with Vickie?
00:02:03 CH Shall I start with Vickie? I could always start with Vickie [laughs].
00:02:07 VC Thank you [laughs]. Thank you very much, thanks everybody. Thanks for organising this; I sat in two sessions before this, really interesting, absolutely fascinating speakers, a range of discussions. So, my name’s Vickie Cooper, I work at the Open University, and a couple of years ago, we, I co-edited a book called The Violence of Austerity, and we, me and the co-editor David Whyte, were thinking about austerity as a violent political project, not just as a political project that generates inequality and generates gender inequality, but actually as a project, programme, economic programme, that generates and inflicts harm and violence on economically marginalised groups, already disenfranchised before austerity came into effect. We were thinking about this programme, or the idea of austerity as a violent political project, at the time when we had really important campaign groups still around; DPAC, Disability News Service, E15, Black Triangle, Boycott Workfare, lots of interesting campaign groups that brought the violence into the public domain, if you like. We couldn’t ignore any longer benefit-related suicides that were rising; we couldn’t ignore any longer the level at which women are disproportionately impacted by the welfare reforms, and also job losses to the public sector. So it was through those campaign groups that we thought, right, we have to do something, we have to call this political programme for what it is, and that is a violent political programme. So I’ll discuss more about that as the discussion goes on.
00:04:01 KM Hey, I’m Kimberly McIntosh, I’m senior policy officer at the Runnymede Trust, and we did a piece of work—oh, my pronouns are she/her. We did a piece of work about two years ago with the Women’s Budget Group, that had a look at, does austerity impact women of colour and people on lower incomes more harshly than it impacts the wealthiest white men? As you can imagine, the answer is yes, it does [laughs]. it hit women of colour and people on lower incomes much harder. So there were two elements to the research that we did; one part was that we got some economists to do what they do, and they made a model, and they put in all of the mass changes to the welfare state, but also cuts to public services since 2010. Did their calculations and had a look at how much, they were able to then give a number in pounds how much people on different incomes and from different backgrounds and different family structures, how much they lost compared to others. 00:05:04 And what they found was that the wealthiest white men lost about one percent of their income, and the poorest Black and Asian women lost between seventeen and twenty percent. So per year, since 2010, up until 2020, that’s about eight thousand pounds a year for Black families, and about eleven thousand for Asian families. I guess that we’ll talk a bit more in detail later, but we also did work where we partnered up with a charity in Manchester called RECLAIM, and Coventry Women’s Voices in Coventry, to get the lived experience, as well, of the impact of austerity. And we found, for example, even cuts to buses; so one woman was talking about the fact there are less bus services and she also had to wait for a really long time at the hospital. By the time she came out of the hospital, it was quite late, but there were no buses, so she had to get a taxi, but for her, that was such a huge part of her weekly income, that then she wasn’t able to make up for those cuts in public services by using private ones as easily. So those stories really came through as well, but we’ll discuss that more later.
00:06:25 CM Can I stand up, so I can keep you all in order? Thank you. Yes, I’m Ca—if you can’t see my badge, I’m Cari from the English Collective of Prostitutes, and for those who don’t know us, we are a collective, a self-help collective of sex workers working both on the street and indoors, and we are a little different from the other sex worker groups that came after us in that we not only campaigned since 1975 for decriminalisation, but we’ve also always demanded money and resources in women’s hands so that we can refuse to go into prostitution and we can get out if we want. That’s always been part of our demands. Because poverty has always been connected to sex work, or rather sex work has always, always been connected to poverty. Eighty-eight percent of sex workers are women, mostly mothers, mostly single mothers supporting families. 00:07:31 That’s how it is. And there have been many figures—in fact, on the question of mothers, you may have seen a recent programme about the Yorkshire Ripper, and we were there in those days, and we protested outside the courts, that’s the way the women who had been murdered, how their lives were dismissed in the media and by the authorities. And when women did speak, those who were on the streets in those days, they were always, they were all working-class mothers out there to support their families, and this is still the case. [Pause] Okay, we’ve collected figures ourselves, although I’m glad to hear about your research. We don’t know of any formal, like from the government, research on the impact of austerity; was your research government-led?
00:08:23 KM I’ve been looking at these subjects [inaudible 00:08:24] which is great, which is...
00:08:24 CM Okay, okay. Because some of the first figures that we found were from Doncaster, where the council there reported a sixty-one percent increase in prostitution as a result of benefit cuts and sanctions, and local charities were reporting that women were out there selling sex for a fiver, just to put money—sorry—to put food in their mouths. And also Sheffield reported, has reported a one hundred and sixty-six percent increase in prostitution. Again, over that time. So, you know, people, you know, we aren’t really surprised about, about these increases when there are, you know, a quarter of a million of us in this country who are—well, quarter of a million people in this country are destitute. Officially, four and a half million children are living in poverty. Asylum seekers are supposedly living on thirty-six pounds a week; that’s if they qualify for support, and if they don’t, there’s nothing. 00:09:28 So, it’s been, it’s got much worse since the benefit cap, the bedroom tax, and now of course Universal Credit has been rolled out too, and of course Frank Field has suddenly discovered that people are going into prostitution to survive. But we all go into prostitution—well, we all go into prostitution to survive, it’s always about survival sex. And we think that if we can establish without a shadow of doubt that mothers are going, you know, the majority of sex workers are mothers and we are going into sex work in order to support our families, then the focus of government policy has to be on, on why women are doing that, and dealing with, and stopping treating us as poor victims and trying to stop prostitution because of that. But to deal with everything that drives us into prostitution, you know; the debts, the homelessness, all those, all those issues that drive us into prostitution. 00:10:29 And it must include abolishing benefit sanctions and cuts and extortionate rents, et cetera. So, in fact the international sex worker movement, despite the government trying to hide what we’re doing, because criminalisation really does hide what asylum seekers and students and everybody is doing, but despite that, there’s been a really big international sex worker movement, and it’s very clear that the public now does—anyway in this country—support decriminalisation on the basis of safety. And the issue of poverty and associated with sex work is very much more in the news, to the point that the Work and Pensions Committee was, has been compelled to look into the connection between sex work and Universal Credit. So that at least is something. 00:11:26 And we really have to grab the moment, which we are doing. And we have—and I have it somewhere, but tucked away of course—we have a campaign called #MakeAllWomenSafe, and I’ll get the, I shall have it my hand in a minute when my colleague helps me, it’s at the back somewhere, sorry. But we have a card, we have some cards about the campaign which are on the stall outside. And it’s called #MakeAllWomenSafe—thank you very much [laughs]—and it includes, the campaign includes a little short video and a petition to the government, it’s a government petition, calling for the implementation of the Home Affairs Select Committee recommendations that prostitution be decriminalised on the street and indoors, and expunging of all prostitution records, very important, so that we can get out if we want. So if you can help us with that; we need ten thousand signatures in the next couple of months, and if you can help us in any way, pass it around, sign it, please do, that would be great. 00:12:27 Lastly, at our women’s centre there’s a campaign for a living wage for mothers and other carers. And as sex workers, we know we wouldn’t have had to go into prostitution if we’d had the money for the caring work we do, in our hands anyway. So we feel that’s a very fundamental demand, not only for sex workers but everybody, all women, particularly who are expl—you know, who are facing exploitative jobs. So we also have information about that outside. And lastly, we rely absolutely on volunteers. So if you’d like to help us, or if you’d like to sign up for our mailing list, please come to us and we can keep in touch, that would be very helpful. Thanks very much.
00:13:13 CH Great, thank you for that. And can I just ask Sara to briefly introduce yourself, thank you.
00:13:18 SC I’m Sara from the Women of Colour in the Global Women’s Strike, and we work with the English Collective of Prostitutes—sorry, I’m being forced to stand [audience laughter]. Yeah, I also work with the English Collective of Prostitutes, and just to pick up on what Vickie said, that austerity, it’s harmful, it’s violent, and it was designed to be like that. When the UN rapporteur came to investigate poverty in the UK, he said if you wanted to design a system for misogyny, the Universal Credit just does it all. And I think that’s where we’re at. For women in the Global South, obviously it’s even harder, because women are providing the food, they’re gathering the water, the fuel, and when we organise against austerity here, we always have to keep in mind the situation of those of us who are in the Third World or trying to flee the Third World. In our network, there are women asylum seekers, single mothers, women from all kinds of backgrounds. 00:14:22 I will just rattle through—we have a lot of statistics about the impact of the cuts. For example, in 2016 a study found that fifty percent of Bangladeshi households, forty percent of Pakistani and forty percent of Black African-Caribbean households were living in poverty, and we know that that’s even worse now. That’s what’s driving women into sex work, where we face violence and discrimination. Back in the ‘90s, we wrote a statement, women of colour sex workers, about the racism in the sex worker industry and how, what we were trying to do to overcome that. The justice work—people know about the police violence against Black communities, but there’s also, the police violence against sex workers is very heavy. 00:15:18 Especially if we’re immigrants, because we come up against the trafficking laws, which are basically targeting us for deportation. As Cari said, we are also, we’re organising for a living wage, and we feel like that is the way to get the money in our hands. And some things that have happened recently in terms of how movements are coming together; the school strike for the environment and also Extinction Rebellion, kind of bringing thousands of people out and shutting down the city; that shows us that a whole set of new principles are not only possible, but urgently necessary. And we can’t accept the principle of starvation and austerity. We won’t, we can’t, and we won’t. When we target, when we tackle the environment, that includes our whole movement; for change, for justice, for the resources to be in our hands. Because as long as the corporates and the multinationals and the billionaires have our resources, we are, not only deprived of the planet, but of the resources we need to rebuild a society, a caring society, and one that allows us to do the work that we want to do, and get rid of all the crap work, zero hour contracts, and all the work that we don’t want to do. So I’ll stop there, but I can [feedback]—oh! I’ll say more about our campaigning in the discussion, thanks very much. [Audience applauds]
00:16:48 CH Yeah, so thank you for that, thank you for all the panellists. I guess I just want to kind of, yeah, throw it open to all of you; so what do you think the key impacts of austerity have been so far?
00:17:02 VC Violent ones? [laughs] Yeah, the key impacts of austerity, many of us have just discussed here, have... austerity by default is a class project, okay? Because austerity by default is a fiscal economic program, which is about, quote unquote from neoliberal economists, it’s about cutting back on expenditure on the untouchables, okay? So untouchables in our, in a UK context is essentially the welfare state, okay? So austerity is about cutting back on public expenditure and the welfare state, and that those cuts are preferred over increasing taxes for the rich, or increasing taxes for the wealthy. So by default, austerity is about targeting already disenfranchised groups, as we’ve said. And the impacts of that have been quite drastic. At the very, you know, the, as you’ve mentioned sorry, we’ve seen a number of women, for income, who have been sanctioned on benefits, who’ve been moving into sex work in order to generate income, in order to feed their families, et cetera. 00:18:09 We’ve seen a hundred and thirty-four percent rise in homelessness; that’s what we know about. Also homelessness is incredibly difficult to measure, I would say that is a vast understatement, underestimation even. Also, in terms of housing, again, an issue that is fronted by women, we’ve seen the highest level of evictions in the rented, private rented, and social rented sector. That’s women and families, and I’d like to remind everybody, when E15 campaign started, it started not because they were about to be evicted from their homes; they were about to be evicted from a homeless hostel, the very nth degree of support. So austerity is about dismantling protection, the very basic necessary protection to provide for children on the margins of the state, women on the margins of the state. 00:19:02 So we’re seeing a whole colossal damage being inflicted under austerity, and also, on the other side, what that means is wealth creation, actually. Don’t forget the probation service was privatised; that was to generate revenue for the government in this period of deficit—which we’re told is our fault; it’s not our fault. And then through those, the privatisation of probation and Royal Mail, as well, we’ve seen wealth creations of those companies, who’ve been sold very cheaply, these public assets, and generating wealth for those companies like Serco, who have been able to come into probation service, and companies who’ve gone in to function the Royal Mail, to operate the Royal Mail. So we’ve also seen a consolidation of wealth under austerity, actually. So… and the violence of austerity, we argue, that it’s not austerity; this is just a hyper model of neoliberalism, where capitalism has vastly ramped up, the speed of capitalism has vastly ramped up. 00:20:09 I think it’s important to highlight, we’re sitting with the impacts as we know them now, especially the impacts affecting children, lone parents, the two-child benefit policy, which is an absolute violation of human rights. The impacts that we’ve seen now are not the impacts we’re going to see in the next ten years or twenty years. In this context of the violence of austerity we use a concept called slow violence. And some of you’ll know, slow violence is about, well it’s primarily used in reference to the environment and environmental harms that aren’t readily visible. And we use that concept to talk about the deteriorative effects of austerity. So benefit-related suicides doesn’t happen instantly, the psychological harm of eviction doesn’t happen instantly; you know, it takes place over time. 00:21:03 And then certainly when we think about the harms on children, we have to think about the generational pace at which that will take effect. So I think when we talk about the impacts, it’s important to think about the future impacts as well.
00:21:21 KM Yeah, so we’ve seen a widening of inequality, which is kind of what you were talking about. We’ve seen child poverty has increased, and that is particularly marked for ethnic minority children, which was also referenced earlier. We’ve also seen increased sanctioning, increased use of food banks, and it’s designed in a way that—I probably can’t say that, but it’s definitely disproportionately hitting particular groups, and there’s not any, there’s not any reason to design a system in this way. So we know that Universal Credit is more, the work allowance which is part of Universal Credit is much more generous to married couples than it is to lone parents, and we also know that Black women are twice as likely to be lone parents. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that then Black women lose out most from Universal Credit. And the government know this; they know that this is the case. I mean we’ve told them. But it hasn’t stopped them from rolling out Universal Credit. And they have tried to make the work allowance slightly more generous, but it’s not generous enough. 00:22:24 Apparently austerity is coming to an end, apparently. That’s what we’ve been told in two budgets by the Chancellor, but we’ve had the lowest, like, recorded public spending ever. So I don’t see how this is coming to an end at all. But we’ve also seen impacts on younger members of the family; so we had an interview with someone who was going to university, and she was waking up in the morning and going to work, then going to her lectures and then working again in the evening, but then she’s also got to think about how’s she going to support her mother when she goes home in the summers? Some people said that they put off uni for two years because they just thought, you know, there’s not that support there anymore, in terms of you can’t get the same bursaries, you have to take loans for maintenance grants. And that had put them off, and some of them eventually did go, but they said it put off a lot of their friends as well. So we’re going to see this kind of delayed impact that you’re referring to as well, and not just to the parents that might be trying to access welfare or access services, but also for their children as well.
00:23:33 CH Thank you for that. And I guess just kind of like following on from that, do we think that, what are the panel’s kind of views on austerity. Do you think it’s just an economic policy that was kind of brought in after the last Labour government, or is there more to it than that? Cari?
00:23:53 CM Well, I’m sure Tony Blair gave them a very good lead, but yes, definitely austerity, you know, this, that next Tory government—I mean, I feel, I’m sure they just want to get rid of us. They want us to get ill, die young, particularly before they get around to getting us a pension. And they also want us to work for the lowest wages possible, which is why they, one of the reasons why sex work is criminalised is because it is some disincentive to people not working for Tesco’s for whatever, a fiver an hour, or if you’re young, younger, very, the minimum wage is very, I don’t even know, somebody will say, probably, Pippa will. The you know, the minimum wage if you’re sixteen or seventeen, it’s very, very low. And they also, I mean we’ve noticed, I mean on the question of the impact of austerity, you know, we’ve noticed, obviously refuges for people, you know women who are trying to leave domestic violence situations are, have basically been closed all down. 00:25:02 Places where people can go if they want to get off drugs; they’ve all been cut, many many have been cut. So if you want to get out of a violent situation, if you want to get off drugs, if you want to be a student and you no longer have a grant, you have to get a massive loan. I mean all these things are part of the policies that are, have really undermined people and have driven people into sex work. I mean, when I was on Income Support and raising children, I could be on Income Support until my youngest was eighteen years of age. And then they cut it back down—and that’s giving my age away—but they cut it back down and cut it back down, and now you have to be a jobseeker I think from the time your youngest is five. So, many more women are having to go out to work to do the job of caring for young children, and going out to work, and that is a lot of work, because raising children is a full-time job. And asylum seekers, obviously are in a really extraordinarily difficult situation, many living on nothing at all. So it’s just not surprising that people are having to go into sex work.
00:26:16 SC I thought maybe I could say a bit about how people are organising against austerity, because, you know, while on one hand, we’re getting blows at every turn, but people are really fighting back. For example, some of the trade unions like Unison has called days of action, local people have been out in our area, there have been direct actions outside JobCentres. Some of the people that work inside JobCentres have been speaking out against Universal Credit and saying that they, you know, they don’t want to implement it. And a Law Centre in Manchester, they were asked to facilitate and give advice to people and they refused the contract, because they said, we can’t, there’s no way that we can make this, there’s no way that we can in any way soften the blow. And it’s very rare that, you know, professional and voluntary organisations refuse to take government money to help, you know, fuel and oil their projects, and I think that’s something that’s urgent that needs to change. 00:27:17 Those voluntary sector groups, professionals and NGOs, need to be with the movement and not taking government contracts. It’s worth mentioning Windrush, because people know that, people who were from the Caribbean and other parts of the Commonwealth were thrown out of their jobs, denied healthcare, thrown out of their housing, and these were people that had every right to be here, and had worked here for, often for decades. And that happened because before that, asylum seekers were taken out of the benefit system and only given something like, thirty percent of what other people on benefit get. And once that happened, that laid the groundwork for a kind of apartheid system. So I think that whatever they do to one sector of us, they extend to others, and I think that’s an important fact to hold onto; that we have to support each other across, what looks like across sectors, but we have so much in common, and they’re really coming for all of us. 00:28:21 I think it’s worth mentioning the, some of you may remember they were the McStrikers who took action outside McDonald’s against low wages, that that’s our movement too. Because often, you know, some of us who’ve been sex workers have moved from fast food, from all parts of the industry, and when you see how low the wages are, you know, sex work is a better option. So I think all those sectors we have a lot in common, and I think it’s important that we spell out the different ways that we are in it together and have to support each other. And every sector needs the support of the others, I think that’s fundamental.
00:29:07 CH Thank you for that. So I guess, just kind of following on from what Sara said, you know, austerity, it really hits the marginalised people the most, like trans people, disabled people, women, people of colour, you know and the list kind of goes on, and sex workers. And, you know, it’s hitting us a lot and it’s hitting us the most, and I think there isn’t really much kind of research out there to say that, you know, if it’s worked as an economic policy, and apparently it’s over, and all of these types of things, but we’re still really feeling it. And I think following on from what Dr. Vickie Cooper said, that a lot of the impacts of austerity, they’re going to keep kind of carrying on for a number of years from now. And I guess, I guess the question is that, given that there’s a lot of different groups that are really harshly affected by austerity policies, how do we build solidarity between these communities, and how do we really kind of, how do we resist austerity and how do we fight it?
00:30:10 VC That’s a really good question, and a really important question. Obviously, for us, in thinking about the book, you know, it was through those really amazing campaign groups that we visited, we spoke to, that really helped to spawn these ideas about austerity as a, and elicited the reality that austerity is a violent political project. We wouldn’t have gotten that from politicians, MPs, even the radical ones, we wouldn’t really have got that. So the campaign groups were absolutely imperative for us, let alone, you know, for helping people in the community. For building solidarity, certainly I’ve seen in the bedroom tax anti-state housing organisations, campaign groups sorry, I’m seeing a number of people, visitors who go for support and then end up working and campaigning on behalf of those groups. So there’s a revolving door, a really healthy, really supported revolving door. 00:31:14 And certainly, you know, there has to be, obviously there has to be some impetus and agreement about political alliances in those groups. I know certainly some organisations like Pa 00:31:29, I don’t know if you’ve heard about Pa in Spain, they have a mandate whereby, you, you can’t be affiliated to a political party, if you want to work for that activist organisation that’s you, and that’s you in the activist organisation. If you then want to be affiliated to a political party after that—which is perfectly normal, and you know, I know Momentum is galvanising a lot of activist support, pre—a number of activists who are campaigning since the financial crash, since austerity, who weren’t necessarily part of the Labour party, pre-financial crash. So there has to be some sort of agreement about, you know, where those individuals sit within the activist campaign groups and where those individuals sit within political alliances as well, because I think that’s something that is definitely going to evolve. 00:32:17 I think it’s important to point out that I am also seeing with the campaign groups I’m working with, is burnout. You know, and I think that was mentioned in the first panel this morning, and I think it’s really important to. As we’re seeing a loss of services, third sector services, especially social care services, state-led social care services being pulled out, we’re seeing a lot of community members who are doing that work for free. So we always, I think it’s really important to always be aware and have support in place for burnout, and to ensure that that level of exploitation doesn’t go so far that it’s going to impact on a person’s health and impact on a person’s well-being, as they’re actually trying to provide some element of support that, you know, where previously the state supplied that support. So that’s my quid’s worth.
00:33:07 KM So as someone whose job is to kind of work, try and influence MPs, I probably shouldn’t say this, but I think we have [laughs], I think there’s limits to that kind of work. Particularly on austerity where, the government aren’t going to move on it, and so I think it has to come from building solidarity outside of that kind of structure. From trying to get Tories to show up to things which have the word austerity in it, that they’re never going to come [laughs]. I managed to get one, once. But I do—and they found any excuse to try and undermine the data that we had, and try and make it seem as if it’s not valid. Even the Treasury Select Committee was like, they said they couldn’t make the calculations, and they were—it’s like a really boring technical thing, but it’s the only thing that they could think of to try and undermine the work that we had done, which shows clearly the impact of their policies. 00:34:07 Unless we have a change in government, I don’t see the shift coming from there. But even, there was some YouGov polling, and austerity is deeply unpopular now, and I think that shift in opinion is the result of people working together and pushing out that message. And even films like I, Daniel Blake and just, all of that like consistent message over and over and over again is, this is how it impacts people and this is their lived experience, has worked. So I find that encouraging. And even governments saying they’re going to bring austerity to an end, even though that’s not, they’ve not done that, even that change in language, I see as a win and a shift. So the building solidarity between different groups—and events like this, as well, where you actually see the links between people campaigning on different issues for different groups, and us just trying to meet as much as possible, using the same messages, and hopefully we’ll have some success.
00:35:09 CM Yes, oh, it’s on, yes. From them, for them to say they’re going to bring austerity to an end, I think is very different from them bringing in, raising benefits and cuts. Anyway, apparently the Tories are on nine percent only, so [intake of breath], and I think that we just have to drop the racism, drop the sexism, drop all the isms, and the movement has to get itself together and prevent them from continuing with austerity. Because it will just continue until we stop them, I think. And at the same time, be demanding all the services that we need. I mean, it’s just got to be a concerted effort from everybody.
00:35:59 SC I think, just to underline the point that, every time any section of the movement advances, then we can all, you know, use the power of that movement to advance as well. And I think that’s a crucial thing. And to work insi—outside the movement in our grassroots organisations, but also, we also have to put pressure inside. Whether it’s the Labour Party, the Tory Party, we have to put a fire under them and hold them to account for things like Universal Credit. And also we need professionals to be with us at the grassroots. Because too often, professionals just seem to want, they want to get on with their paid job, or position, and not taking the demands from the grassroots. And also we’ve seen the same with like NGOs and the voluntary sector, where the demands from the grassroots get watered down to the degree that we don’t recognise our own demands. 00:37:00 So I think that’s something we—you know, this is a moment where, in a way, we have to rethink our principles and really go back to square one, and be really determined. I think we have to call out where there’s a problem in the movement, we have to call that out and not stand by silently. And I think for women of colour, for people of colour, there are all kinds of movements going on at the grassroots. For example, we’ve been working with the families who are victims of so-called knife crime. And what’s happening is the police are trying to put the blame back on mothers, and say, oh well, you need a dad, it’s absent fathers, blah blah blah. But we know that it’s poverty, it’s racism, it’s school exclusions. And so we need that to be called out, so that the police don’t have the upper hand and set the agenda. That’s just one example. But I think there’s so many, and I’m sure all of you have so many experiences that we can look at ways to put together, so that we’re all stronger in everything we do. 00:38:07 And we just have to get rid of the racism and the discrimination of all kinds, because that’s always what throws us back and makes us weaker.
00:38:17 CM Sorry, can I just say one thing; it all, it just means more work, that’s one of the problems. I mean, we have to work harder. I remember that, in the days of Greenham Common, you know, people were able to be at, live at Greenham Common and protest that situation, because they were able to claim benefits. You know, because they, as, using Greenham Common as an address. And now, it’s, you know, they have really gone out of their way to cut benefits, because people were using benefits to, you know, to make a life and to organise. So it’s actually more work for us now, because we’re all having to work longer hours. You know, including, and that movement work is part of that.
00:39:04 CH I guess just following on from that, I think it would be good if we just touched on kind of, like, welfare spending and benefits a little bit, because there’s been obviously a few panellists have touched on Universal Credit, but I think the real impact of it, is, unless you’re on it, and I am on it, and I have been on it since like August, it’s, you don’t understand it until you kind of go through the system. So when I kind of applied for it, you have to wait six weeks to, for anything to kind of happen. And now I think they’ve made it so that you can get an advanced payment, but then that obviously gets taken off of your first benefits payment. And you know, they did it because, you know, their so-called, it’s making it easier to apply for benefits because they’ve rolled out, sorry, they put six or seven different kinds of benefits into this Universal Credit package. But what it means is that you end up getting less money every month, and you’re actually having to repeat yourself. So if you’re disabled like me, you have to kind of fill out a form and kind of go to your work capability assessment. 00:40:11 And that form is pretty much identical to the form that you’ve got to do for your disability benefits, your PIP, personal independence payments. And so it’s like two different departments of the same government in the DWP who are not communicating with each other, and so it’s more work on the person, who’s often having to rely on, you know, Citizens Advice Bureau or their friends or family to help them actually fill out these long forms. Because with PIP, you have to phone up, get the, you know, do a series of questions, and then once the form gets sent to you, you’ve got three weeks to send it off, and it’s a whole kind of thick booklet. And you know, you better have your medical evidence ready before you kind of even make that phone call, because if you then try to get that from your GP, that’s going to take another, you know, kind of, few weeks and what not. And all of this is kind of, you know, in the name of, you know, making it easier for the users and it, and it just really really isn’t. And, you know, like I said, you end up with less money at the end of the month. Yeah, I guess just, I want to kind of talk about how horrible that is really. And so yeah, let’s talk about benefits and austerity.
00:41:21 VC Don’t forget that austerity is about—according to the government, and going back to your point, what’s the point of austerity—it was about addressing the problem of deficit, right? That George Osborne said that we created, right? But it wasn’t; it was Gordon Brown, it was Alistair Darling and the whole financial sector, the unregulated financial sector, and the bank bailout that was offered to them undemocratically, behind closed doors. Them tapping into the pot of public money to the sum of five hundred billion pounds. That’s how we’re in the problem of deficit. And austerity’s supposed to save government expenditure to help the deficit problem, but austerity’s massively expensive. The welfare reforms? The amount of money it took the government to implement the welfare reforms, change an entire welfare system, and then deal with all the appeals, the legal appeals, the amount of money that they’re spending on lawyers in local authorities right now because people like us are trying to appeal for our actual entitlement to welfare benefits is massively expensive on the government. 00:42:27 And it’s an institutional barrier, right? The welfare reforms, I argue, is an institutional barrier first and foremost, to prevent people from applying for benefits. And that’s how they’re trying to make savings. Not through the cost of actually implementing the welfare reforms, they were massively expensive. It’s that it’s supposed to operate as an institutional barrier, and it’s more than Kafkaesque. It’s, I argue it’s a form of bureaucratised and organised violence, because it’s preventing people who are in desperate need of welfare benefits, of Disability Living Allowance, from actually assessing their Disability Living Allowance. They’re not training staff, so staff are actually saying that they’re fit to work; they’re not fit to work. And then subsequently people are dying. Not because they’re committing suicide, because they can’t afford to refrigerate their, their insulin. So, you know, there’s, the actual welfare system right now is an institutional barrier. 00:43:23 Okay, people say, these are the outcomes of austerity and the welfare reforms are unintended consequences, but they’re not. They know exactly who they’re targeting by these welfare reforms, and they’re targeting the people that need it the most. So they’re actually, this programme is designed to target a specific class group and a specific, specific social groups, such as disabled people, such as women, such as children. And the welfare reforms are a massive part of that, and you’ve just described those technical details at which people have to go through when they want to get couple of hundred quid a week, couple of hundred quid a month, and to pay for their housing benefit, which is their rent, which is increased. And it’s, and it remains unregulated.
00:44:07 KM Yeah, they haven’t increased working age benefits with the cost of living, and they know that. So, like, in 2010, between 2010 and 2015, Child Benefit was increased by two percent, but the cost of living went up by thirty-five percent in that time, which is staggering. So you have like this basket of goods that people need to buy to survive for their family that they can no longer afford. And these are also people who are in work, as well. So we’ve seen this increase in in-work poverty, and I think there’s a confusion around, people are like, no—the working age benefits also includes tax credits, which are meant to top up people’s wages, but none of that has increased with the cost of living. Whereas each year we’re seeing an increase in the personal tax allowance, which is the amount that you can earn before you start being taxed, which does not benefit people on a low income or in part-time work because they’re already not making enough to then start being like, “Oh great, like, now I can earn ten thousand pounds before I get—” some people aren’t making ten thousand pounds a year, so it doesn’t affect them, it’s not helping them. And I can’t see any argument for why that makes any sense, if it’s not an ideological project, it’s not a political project. There’s, there’s no, I don’t think there’s a debate there. It is a political project, it’s an ideological project, and it doesn’t work, and people are suffering for it.
00:45:25 CH Yeah, just following on from your point about austerity is expensive, like in terms of disability benefits, I think it’s like, it’s over seventy percent of disabled people who apply for disability benefits have to then take it to tribunal, which is like a small kind of court, essentially. And you’re literally just fighting just to get, like you said, just a few kind of hundred pound a month, which you’re entitled to, because the people who you initially, kind of see from the DWP who you have to have, like, an assessment with, so that’s either at the assessment centre or at your home: they’re trained to lie. They’re trained to lie, and they, they write down absolute—can I swear—bullshit in your report, and they did that with me. And it was just like, you know, there’s no evidence of this or this or this or whatever, and they are trained. And there’s stats on how much, how many people they have to kind of reject and not give the money to, and they want to see, if you, I guess, you’ve got the fight within you to carry that on and fight for what you’re entitled to. And, you know, I feel really lucky that I was, I managed to overturn that decision on what you call the first appeal, which is called your mandatory reconsideration. But that doesn’t happen to a lot of disabled people. And it is, yeah, it is really expensive. It’s costing them a lot of money, because you’re literally having to take the government to court; but they want you to do that, because for them, I guess, it’s kind of like, you know, we’d rather not shell out this money for a disabled person who needs it, and we’ll, we’ll take them to a tribunal because they think that, you know, you’re not going to put up the fight and do that. Which is just, yeah, it’s just ridiculous.
00:47:03 CM Yeah, just one other point about Universal Credit, and then I was just wondering if people from the floor, I’d like, I’d be interested to know what other people have to say. But the other thing about Universal Credit, other issue that we’ve had women coming to us to, who have had to go on their game, is that you don’t get any money for the third and subsequent children, unless, outrageously, you can prove to them that those children are the product of rape, which is absolutely outrageous. An absolute outrage. Well, the whole thing is an absolute outrage, that’s just one absolute outrage, and it’s an indication of the—you can hardly begin to understand the minds of the people who put this together. As you say, a bunch of misogynists. But I just wonder what, do you mind, what other people, I’d be interested to know what other people think.
00:47:54 SC [inaudible 00:47:54] No, that’s fine. Just, I don’t know if you wanted to, I know that people with disabilities won a challenge against Universal Credit last week, which may be good to say about. And I think also mothers brough a challenge. So there’s been constant challenges to Universal Credit, the government has not had an easy time with it. Might be good to say a bit more about that.
00:48:20 CH Okay, I think we’re going to open it to the floor. There will be mics coming round, I believe. So yeah, if you want to pop your hands up, whether it’s a question, comment, whatever, if it’s for a specific panellist please say so, but yeah.
00:48:39 Q1 Hey, so I was on DLA from—I, I have a personality disorder and other mental health problems, and I was on DLA from 2010, and, and last year got moved, sorry the year before I got moved over to PIP and then they reviewed it. And I just want to say, I relate to what you’re saying. It’s like, a psychological warfare. And I was lucky in both my DLA and first PIP, application, that I didn’t have to go for work capacity assessment. But this time, I did. Now, my, my assessment happened in February in Cumbria, and like, that’s relevant because the assessor felt it necessary to write down that I clearly wasn’t in psychological distress because I wasn’t sweating. Now like, I wasn’t sweating because it was snowing outside, and like… and, and it’s just, they cut my benefits down to fifty pounds a week from, from a hundred and fifty pounds, and like, you know, I’m going for therapy, and, and this therapist is like, “Well, you know.” She’s like a white middle class person, like, “Well why don’t you write to them and say, hey, you’re in therapy now.” Because I tell you what love, what they’ll do, is say, “Well, if you’re well enough to go to therapy, you’re well enough to come off of benefits, get a job.” Well, you know, I’m a sex worker, but get a proper job, in their minds. So I guess like, a question from that is how do you deal with that endless psychological, like, you’re not worthy. I sat and, and told this woman, like, there isn’t a week goes by where I don’t think about killing myself. And she looked like I’d just told her I really liked toast for breakfast. Like, how do you just deal with like, people just not valuing your life?
00:50:38 CH Oh, we’ll take it one by one. Do you want to?
00:50:45 Q2 Two things. I know Kim, I’m a policy officer. Thank you for sharing your story, I’m so sorry you had that experience. I have done research in Job Centres, and they are so dehumanised, and your experience, you’re not alone. It’s such an experience across so many young people I have been working with. Young people and going in, into JobCentres and there are a few good members of staff, but it’s come down from the top, and they are so desensitised to the stories that they’re hearing. The advice to go back to them and expect them to treat you like a human is, it’s just not good enough advice. And it makes me think of we need to be in the room, we need to stop trying to engage with these people. I was, my boss was in a meeting with Amber Rudd on Wednesday, in which he said, about the two-child policy, “They’re not prepared to budge on it.” She said, “Oh, well these poor people, if they can’t afford it, they shouldn’t be having these children.” These people do not come from a real lived experience. 00:51:46 They cannot relate to us. They have no idea. I’m a single mother, I’ve been living in poverty. They’ve got no idea what we’re living with and what we’re dealing with. We need to stop thinking, and we need this cross-sector. I work in a trade union, we need this cross-sector alliance, but we need to stop thinking that by engaging with policy makers, with white middle-class policy makers, who are privileged, who have no bloody idea what they’re doing, that we’re going to get anywhere. We need to tear them down, and we need to make our seats at those tables. Because until we have representation and voices in those rooms of power, we will not get anywhere, and people like you will have the most disgusting dehumanising experience. And we all stand with you, because it’s wrong, and we know it’s wrong. And we need, I would like to hear some solutions for how we can get in that bloody room and make those people, not only listen but get out the way. Because we need to make the policies that work for all of us, not just them. Sorry, sorry to— [Audience applause]
00:52:44 CM Sorry, can I just ask you something? What happened to your research?
00:52:48 Q2 It’s been published. I don’t want to [inaudible 00:52:51] tell you about afterwards.
00:52:56 CM How was it used to expose what you found?
00:52:59 Q2 We went to Frank Field’s Work and Pension Select Committee and gave evidence. So I was specifically going in there looking at the Youth Obligation Scheme, but I’ve got a very, I used to work at Runnymede Trust. So while I was there, I deliberately was asking very subtle questions about racist stereotyping, sexist stereotyping, and it was absolutely evident, coming through to us, that JobCentre staff aren’t trained. They have no kind of reflection about their conscious and—I don’t even believe in unconscious biases. They have no reflection on their racism and sexism and the attitudes that they’ve internalised from external—I’m trying to use it but we, the charity that I worked at, there were two of us. So we are spread so thin, we have burnout, it’s incredibly hard to keep pushing it out there. It’s why I don’t always think doing research is always enough. Because it just, and I’ve used Kimberly’s amazing research lots, but it only goes so far, and it’s why I just—we need that power. Because we can keep researching, but we all know, it’s our lived bloody experience. We know it, we know austerity is violence. It’s killing people. We need to stop talking about it and actually get in that room and do something. But how do we get in the room? Because the Labour Party have already said, they’re going to keep Universal Credit. Labour are not going to reverse Universal Credit. It’s too expensive. So we can’t look to the political systems to do something for us. Yeah, Labour aren’t—
00:54:28 CM Did you go public, in the, in the public sphere, in the media? Did you go public?
00:54:34 Q2 We tried to. We tried to. Somebody made a comment earlier about journalists; it’s, it’s what sells, isn’t it? And I’ve got good contacts in the media and nobody wanted it. They’re just like, ugh.
00:54:48 CH Yeah, I just wanted to go back to the original comment, because I don’t want to kind of glaze over it. Because like yeah, we definitely, we all kind of stand with you in solidarity. The only way that—I mean, I’ve definitely been there, I’m still there. The only way that I was kind of able to really get through it and to kind of carry on fighting was, there’s a lot of support on social media and Facebook groups and stuff like that, in terms of what things—because essentially it’s a system. And you have to present in a certain way. And you, so when I went for my assessment, I was just, I kind of dealt with it as if, like, this is a performance. Like, and you have to say certain things and do certain things, just so that you can get that money. And it is really really shit. But that’s the only way that I’ve kind of found to kind of get round it. And, you know, as lots of people have mentioned; austerity is, is a really violent policy, and in a way, I guess it’s like, it’s a form of social cleansing. You know, they want to kill us; they want us to die. And I guess if I have one thing to say to you, it’s don’t let them kill you. Like stay here, stay fighting, your life is worth it, yeah. Okay. Any more questions, comments?
00:55:59 Q3 I guess it’s another one about, like, what do we do, or how do we respond to this, or something. But like, an aspect of it that I’ve been thinking about a lot recently, is that if austerity is kind of part of a process of dismantling the welfare state, is it trying to get a welfare state back, is that what the project is? Because, you know, thinking about the conditions that enabled the welfare state to exist, it was like a period of massive economic expansion after World War Two, and in Britain it was specifically British Empire, you know? It wasn’t that there was like, yeah. Like a lot of this was about imperial extraction and empire’s gone now, and also that, that period of massive global economic expansion, that’s also gone, for various different complicated reasons. And welfare programs, they need revenue, you know. Like, not, not to sound like a Conservative pundit or whatever, but like, they do. And so, given that, and given the fact that like, for example, the global financial crisis like, that, that was like a deferred expression of another crisis. Like with the crisis of the ‘60s, when the British Empire kind of disaggregated and there was the issues with global expansion or whatever. As a result of that, like it was less profitable to invest in like productive industries, and so like there was more financialization happening. And this just kind of kept on going and going, until eventually like this crash came later as a result of that. And so if we kind of find ourselves in this situation where it seems really unlikely that the kind of conditions that enabled a massive welfare state that was going to provide to people existed, like, how do we survive while still struggling? You know, like, what, what does that mean for, for how we organise?
00:57:40 CH I’ll just go to Sara.
00:57:41 SC Yeah, can I comment on.... The money is there. I mean, and one thing that we always say is, you know, that often, you know, as sex workers, we see the money. They have plenty of money. You know, they’ve set aside something like four billion to fix the nuclear subs, what are they called…. Anyway, they have money for planes to go and bomb, you know, Iraq, Syria. And that’s what we, that’s where we have to say, look, the money is there, and we want it in our hands, for women, for our communities, for children. That has to be the starting point. But you’re right, you know, the robbery and the rip-off of the Global South, of Africa, India; that money is here, it’s right here. And they, but they have it in their hands, it’s not in our hands. And that seems to be the first step, is to demand that that money, to put a finger on that money and say that money is ours, you’ve stolen it. That’s not you—that, you’ve looted. And that’s where, you know, the connections with the Global South come in. Because in, you know, in Africa, in India, in Latin America, there are massive grassroots struggles going on. 00:58:48 And, but we have to connect that up with what’s happening here, and we have to always—because the wealth is here, and the media’s here, there’s a way that we can put a spotlight and give support, for example, to women, the women in Thailand and Latin America. But I think the starting point is that the money is here. They say they have no money, but they’re lying. And, and I, just to go back to your point; you know, they do know exactly what they’re doing. They want a certain number of us, they, we can just die. If we won’t be slaves for them, we can die. Or they want our children to be available to rape. I mean, they, these people are monsters. And that is, you know, this is what time it is. We have to wake up and really deal with the horrendous situation in front of us.
00:59:43 CM Yes, I mean, I just want to say, yes, we must have the welfare state back, and we will have the welfare state back, but not because we don’t have colonies any longer. That is not—as Sara says, the money is here anyway, and we’re going to have to get that welfare state back. But one of the examples, you were saying, the brutality, was, I think I mentioned what’s happening in the family courts, where the fam—the secrecy of the family courts are allowing judges and social workers to take children away from their mothers, and put them with, with fathers essentially, violent fathers. So that many children have died at the hands of those fathers. And social workers are actually allowing children to be taken away by judges, when they themselves have said, “I would not be in the presence of that man because he’s so violent.” But they allow the child to be put in the hands of that father. So that is the, I mean that is one example of the extent of the brutality that is going on, including in the family courts. And we have, we’re working with, you know, the campaign, which is working what is to oppose what is going on in the family courts, and we have information about that outside, as I said. But that’s just one example, that’s all.
01:01:03 KM Yeah, I mean there is, there is money. They’ve found billions to help prepare us for a no-deal Brexit, the magic money tree just appears depending on ideologically whether it’s in favour or not. I’d say to the question about, using formal means and having to move past that; I agree. I feel, I feel the same, I don’t feel like we can reason with the government that we have anymore. Look, we’ve found all the evidence, the evidence is all there, we’re presented it to them, we’ve been on BBC, we’ve had it in the media; it’s there. I don’t know what more we can say to them, and I just don’t, I don’t believe that they’re acting in good faith, and I actually think we have to think of alternative methods. We still have to carry on doing that work, because, we, yeah, if we’ve learned anything, it’s that everything seems really uncertain and we don’t know what’s next. So just in case, maybe Labour will improve, maybe the Greens will win a general election, who knows? 01:02:05 So I think it’s important that we continue with the work that we’re doing, but I agree, I don’t think on its own it’s enough anymore, and I have started to lose a bit of the faith that I had that you can present evidence, and that people will reflect and change in response. I think the government responds to public shaming. That’s definitely what I learnt from working on the Windrush campaign, is that public shaming can work if the conditions are right. But that also relies on a fickle media that only cares about stories when they’re new and exciting, and also have someone with lived experience who are willing to go out there and share their story publicly, but then no support for them after they’ve gone and exposed themselves in that way. So, I don’t really know what the answers are, but hopefully we’ll come up with them together. But I do, I feel like it’s a—yeah, I’ve had to revaluate a lot of the things that I believed, over the last five years, put it that way.
01:03:00 VC Just quickly; we need to go for the financial system. Financialization is the new colonialism, and we need to go for it. We need to go for the City of London, we need to dismantle it, we need to—not even regulate it, just dismantle it. We need to find other ways in which to generate revenue. And when we’re talking about the welfare state, because austerity isn’t about a period; this is austerity, this is it. The end of austerity means, okay, there might not be any more cuts, but there’s not going to be any more investment. And that investment is our money. That’s, that’s our income support, that’s, that’s the money that’s raised from the population. So there needs to be another form of reinvestment into the welfare state for it to be what it was, not even, you know, nineteen—2000’s, 1990’s, 1980’s, 1970’s, 1960’s. We need to have another welfare state project, another reimagining of what we want the welfare state to look like. But the money is there, the money is there. But the current system of financialization keeps on draining our system, and for the longer it remains unregulated, and it still is, we’re contending with this crisis and contending with this austerity period.
01:04:14 SC Can I just say one point about—
01:04:15 CH Yeah, of course.
01:04:17 SC Just, I should have said, about the Labour party, that we can’t—you know, the Labour party and the new leadership of it, they’ve come in and they’ve said that they’re against austerity. So we cannot let them keep Universal Credit in place. I mean, if we’re in Momentum or we’re in a local Labour party, we have to put a fire under them and say we’re absolutely, we will not have this. And that welfare—I mean, you know, welfare is really, it’s part of the wages due to us. And we want a lot more than what they’re giving us, you know, we, in fact, we want it all. We’re just starting with the welfare and then we’re going from there.
01:04:57 CH I’ve just got one word: reparations [laughter]. Any more questions, comments, anything from the floor? No? Yes? Get a mic.
01:05:09 Q4 I probably don’t need it. I’m [inaudible 01:05:10].
01:05:11 CH Just in case, because of access issues.
01:05:14 Q4 So I was just, I just kind of wanted to return on the, what we were talking about earlier on solidarity and building solidarity across sectors, and also I suppose how we can get to the point of, of getting that money back. And I was thinking, you mentioned Extinction Rebellion Sara, and I was been quite interested in why it’s been so successful, so I’ve been reading about it, and just kind of talking to people. And it seems like one of the things that they’ve done really successfully is actually mobilise people from the middle classes, mobilise people who are not just poor people. So I was wondering if, and how we can make the project of fighting austerity also a middle-class issue, because unless we kind of get them on our side, we, we are going to be put as enemies against each other; so we are taking their money that they’ve earned, which is the kind of current government discourse since we are the benefits scroungers, or whatever. So unless we get them somehow on our side and build solidarity, I really don’t see how we can be successfully fighting this on a larger scale. Thank you.
01:06:24 CM That’s an important question, because I think with—I mean a lot of people have commented how Extinction Rebellion, I mean obviously there were lots of white people, and you never see that many white people in London, but there they were. And at some point, the crowds were chanting, “We love the police!” You know, obviously a lot of us were not happy with that. So it’s like, we have to, on one hand, we have to welcome and energise and get strength from the movement, but we also have to somehow… yeah, give it leadership and critique it where it’s not, you know, doing what we think it should be doing. And in a sense, we have to be in, in our, working our own corner, which may be austerity or it may be sex workers’ rights, or it may be families facing violence from the police. But at the same time paying attention to what others are doing, and seeing how we can bring what we know from our corner of the movement across to the other. 01:07:30 Because the interesting thing and the hopeful thing about the, this climate movement is that, I think it says to middle-class people that we’re all, we’re done for, unless we deal with this. The whole planet is really, imminently in face of a disaster, and none of us will survive. So I think that that’s something we can bring to the floor with middle-class people, and I think middle-class people are seeing the point. And I would go back to the, you know, the question of what happened to the Windrush families; these were people who had lived here for years, had every right to be here, and were being put in detention, thrown out of their jobs. And that, that can, that can happen to anyone now. That sets a standard for everybody else. You know, white people can be treated the same way. And they’re already targeting, for example, you know, European nationals who live here are being told, “Oh, fill out the forty-page form if you want to stay.” So I think the more we underline those connections, we really are in it together. But also together we can overturn it, we can win it. But we have to be together.
01:08:54 CH Anything else from the crowd? No? Okay, I think we’ll finish it there. Yeah, thank you all for coming, and can we give a round of applause to our lovely panellists, thank you.
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