Monday, September 30, 2013

Fury as Tory welfare police order dialysis patient back to work

HE’s one of the world’s longest surviving kidney dialysis patients and has had 33 years of renal treatment, four failed transplants and 14 heart attacks.

HE’s one of the world’s longest surviving kidney dialysis patients and has had 33 years of renal treatment, four failed transplants and 14 heart attacks.

But now, in a shameful indictment of Tory welfare cuts, Paul Mickleburgh, 53, has been deemed fit to work.

The dad of three, who was diagnosed with renal failure when he was 19, was forced to give up his job as a technician 20 years ago after his body rejected a fourth donor kidney.

He is now so ill doctors have taken him off the transplant list as he would not survive a fifth operation and will spend the rest of his life on dialysis.

The machine, which cleans his blood, is now the only thing keeping him alive.

But after more than three decades hooked up to it for five hours, three days a week, other organs, including his heart, are also failing.

The Government insists that under their new employment and support allowance scheme, which replaces incapacity benefit, “those found to be too sick or disabled to work won’t be expected to”.

But Paul, from Aberdeen, who has also battled cancer, pneumonia, 14 heart attacks in the last five years and suffers from spontaneous internal bleeding and brittle bones, has been placed in a “work-related activity group”.

This requires him to attend “work-focused interviews” and actively look for employment or his incapacity benefits will be cut.

Incredibly, the Department for Work and Pensions reached their decision without Paul even being interviewed or given a medical.

Paul said: “How ill do I need to be? Apart from being dead, I don’t know how I can get much worse. It makes me so angry.

“I was asked to tell them all my illnesses and when I had finished it was a page and a half.

“I enclosed all my medical history, medication, dialysis times and what it does to me after being on it for 33 years.

“But to my shock I have been passed fit for work and must attend work focus interviews and do everything possible to find work or lose my benefits.

“I’d liken this to what the Nazis did, working the disabled and the sick until they dropped dead and were no longer a burden.”

Paul, who has a mechanical valve fitted in his heart, a twisted bowel and suffers agonising joint pain as a result of prolonged renal treatment, has now written to his MP, Malcolm Bruce.

He needs painkillers just to get him through each dialysis session and it takes him a day to recover.

Paul wrote to the Department for Work and Pensions urging them to reconsider his position but his plea was rejected.

He was told: “You must take part in work-focused interviews with a personal adviser to continue to receive employment and support allowance in full.

“The adviser will help you take reasonable steps to move towards work.”

Paul said he believed it was “all to save money and they don’t care who they upset”.

He said: “It’s unrealistic and unreasonable to expect me to attend these meetings when there is no realistic prospect of an improvement in my health.

“I’m worried sick about these changes and I believe I took my last heart attack due to this cruel policy which makes the disabled feel they are a burden.

“My wife and children have all worked since leaving school. We’re not a family on the take.”
Paul’s wife, Joyce, who runs her own dog grooming business, said: “I understand that they’ve got to sort out the benefits, but there are better ways to go about it.

“There is just no way he can go to these meetings, let alone go to work. When he comes off the machine he goes home to bed and I don’t see him until the next day, he’s so exhausted.

“What’s he to do, kart the machine around behind him? It’s crazy.”

Aberdeen South Labour MP, Dame Anne Begg, said: “A lot of the changes being made by this Government seem to be particularly harsh on disabled people. And the people who are getting hit the hardest are those who have worked hard all their lives.”

A spokeswoman for the Department for Work and Pensions said they did not comment on individual cases.

Daily Record

How The Policy Exchange Manufactured Public Support For Workfare

Reblogged from the void:


George Osborne is pulling rank on Iain Duncan Smith and is expected to announce yet another pie in the sky mass workfare scheme this morning.  Whilst at the time of writing the current plans for forced labour are not fully clear, it is likely they will be based on two recent reports from hard right think tanks promoting unpaid work.

The first came from the Tax Payer’s Alliance (TPA) and was the kind of swivel-eyed nonsense that might be expected from a bunch of Jeremy Clarkson wannabes with too much time on their hands.  The second, from the Policy Exchange, was more nuanced, even going so far as to attack the TPA’s  workfare plans as prohibitively expensive – an embarrassing assessment of a report written by a group who pretend their main focus is on saving the tax payer money.

The arguments for the Policy Exchange’s plan – which is six months workfare for some, but not all claimants – are easily demolished, mostly by the fact that this was recently tried and failed dismally.  It is the survey on which the Policy Exchange’s report is based however that grabbed the headlines and is likely to be used justify Osborne’s plans.

“Everyone should be made to work for their benefits except mothers with young children” thundered the blurb for the report on the Policy Exchange website.  Only 22% of people say disabled people should be exempt the think-tank proclaimed.

In a truly astonishing performance, the Policy Exchange then proceeded to distance themselves from the braying mob and attempted to portray themselves as the reasonable ones.  “Did you see our public polling on this, frightening” said Policy Exchange Head of Economics Matthew Oakley on twitter, his fake liberal facade dripping with concern at the savagery of the general public.  The Policy Exchange themselves do not support workfare for sick and disabled people they re-assured us, despite the fact that sick and disabled people can already be forced to work without pay on the Work Programme they love so much.

Instead the Policy Exchange only propose six months unpaid work for some groups of mainstream unemployed claimants.  Aren’t they just Santa’s fucking little helpers.

Yet the general public’s opinions on workfare have been grossly distorted by the nature of the questions asked in this survey – of which there were only two according to Oakley who has promised to publish the full details of the poll later this week.

The first question asked whether people thought “The government should require people who are unemployed for 12 months or more to do community work in return for their state benefits.”

The truth is that only just over half agreed at 56%.  But the public were not asked if this workfare should be full time.  In fact it does not even specify that the work should be unpaid – previous workfare schemes have come with a top up payment to benefits attached.  Whilst those engrossed in welfare policy might assume workfare to mean 30 hours a week, every week, without pay, there’s no reason a survey respondent would think that.  They might think yes, they should volunteer in an old people’s home for an afternoon a week, or do a couple of days a month helping out in the local park, for reasonable expenses.  This 56% in no way gives a mandate for full time unpaid workfare, especially as the other options given to respondents were a version of Labour’s phony job guarantee scheme or maintaining the status quo, which almost no-one ever wants when it comes to Government policy.

The second question is even more dubious.  The Policy Exchange are attempting to use the answers to this question to claim that only 22% of the public support disabled people being exempt from workfare.  That incidentally is disabled people “who are capable of working” – another devious phrase as who is and isn’t capable of working is clearly open to debate as the Atos scandal has shown.  The obvious inference from the from this figure is that 78% of the public support workfare for disabled people.  Yet in question 1 only 56% of people support workfare for anyone at all.  There must be something in the going on to explain this bizarre discrepancy.

Question 2 asks respondents to imagine that compulsory workfare exists and then questions who should be exempt.  Now a disabled person completing this survey may think well if I have to do workfare then why shouldn’t a lone parent, and vice versa.  That doesn’t mean they support workfare, it means they support equality, of a sort.

There is no option available for those who think that everyone should be exempt from workfare, although it is possible to answer that every group of claimants given should undertake unpaid work.

Had the Policy Exchange been honest then they would have only asked those 56% of people who agreed with workfare who they felt should be exempt from unpaid work.  But that would not have given the results they wanted or justified the accompanying staged shock horror at the results of the survey.

It is even possible that the entire poll is bogus, although this is almost certainly down to sheer incompetence rather than any attempt to further hijack the poll.  One of the options given in Question 1 is:  “The government should maintain the status quo, whereby those who are employed for 12 months or more continue to be paid state benefits while they search for work.”

This is the only option available for those who oppose unpaid work other than ‘don’t know’ or ‘none of these’.  And due to what appears to be a typo, this option suggests people should be given unemployment benefits even after being in work for 12 months.  Matthew Oakley says he doesn’t know whether this error, which appears in the report, also appears in the poll.  He said he will check with yougov.  And then he went quiet on the subject.  He’s on twitter @PXEconomics if you fancy asking him about it.

The Policy Exchange report is available at:

A statement on Osborne’s workfare plans from Boycott Workfare can be found at:

Cameron's Lies Exposed!

Reblogged from Think Left:

By Gracie Samuels, previously published here
On this page I am going to try and accumulate all Cameron's lies (I know, I know it is a mammoth task and a dirty job - but someone's got to do it!) I just hope I don't run out of space! You can't leave posts on this page like on the main blog page, however, if you wish me to include a particular lie, or think I may have missed one  please email me on 

Case Studies Please! Is the Work Programme working for you?

Please circulate far and wide (Source):

Hi, I’m on ESA because of a chronic health condition and I’ve been put on the Work Programme to support me into work. The results from the first two years of this new scheme show that the Work Programme is not doing as well as the government hoped at helping disabled people into work.

I want to help policy makers understand what’s going wrong. I’m conducting research to see if other people are having the same kinds of experience with it as I’m having.

I’ll be putting a proper tick box survey online in the next few weeks with the charity Mind. But in the meantime, could you help me gather as many people’s experiences as possible to get first impressions?

If you’re on ESA and have been referred to the Work Programme, either by choice or by compulsion, please could you write in (as much or as little as you like) about whether it has worked for you? The Work Programme is separate from Jobcentre Plus and there are different organisations running it depending on where you live, with names like Ingeus, Serco, A4E etc.

Please write to me at Or of course, leave comments below

For example you could think about:

Has it helped you identify and move towards a form of work that you could manage within your health/impairment limitations?

Do you feel your support needs are being addressed? Is the programme of activities accessible to you?

Have you been able to meet the conditions laid out by your adviser to avoid sanctions?

What has been the impact on your health and wellbeing of taking part in the Work Programme so far?

You don’t have to answer everything. I want to hear all stories, good and bad.

Thank you very much. I want the government to hear it from the ground. Our lives and our aspirations are too precious to allow a multi-million pound scheme like this to go wrong.


GMOs & Glyphosate Global Impact of Devastating Consequences

‘Dr. Huber explains that GMO foods are altering the Epigenetics of the human race, and our planet in ways that we do not yet fully understand or comprehend.

He commends Kauai County Council for taking this on with bill 2491 to protect the people of Kauai, noting that in science the ‘Precautionary Principle” applies with Genetically Modified Organisms that have the capacity to swap and alter genes the the environment and humans and that Kauai needs to take precautions, to take action now.

GMO crop DNA does “Not stay where you put it,” explains Dr. Huber “It exchanges DNA with other plants, even soil microbes, bacteria, virus’s and fungus, animals and even people”. Scientists cannot ‘turn off’ the GMO DNA promiscuity, or gene swapping / mutating ability.’

Read more: Dr. Huber: GMOs & Glyphosate Global Impact of Devastating Consequences

'Knife-edge nation’ risk as protections for job losses are cut back

New rules introduced next month risk turning England into a ‘knife-edge nation’, where losing your job brings the immediate risk of losing your home, Shelter warns.

As ordinary families struggle to make ends meet, the coming month will see the removal of a vital protection measure designed to help people get back on their feet after losing their jobs. Under the coming changes, financial help available to renters during the first three months after they lose their job will be dramatically reduced.

As a Shelter and YouGov poll shows that over half of working families are already struggling or falling behind with their rent or mortgage, Shelter is warning that this could lead to an increase in homelessness.

The research carries out for the houusing and homelessness charity identifies national hotspots where the risk is especially high: Manchester, Bristol, East London, Norwich and Newcastle have been identified as areas of serious concern.

One person feeling the strain is Abi Reilly, a teacher who lives in Reading with her husband and two small children. Abi said: "If either of us lost our jobs now, I don’t know how we’d afford to keep the roof over our heads. Looking for another job while dealing with the risk of losing our current home would be unbearable."
Shelter says the changes this autumn will mean that, in over a quarter of the country, a family paying a typical rent on an average three bedroom home would need to find an extra £100 a month or more as soon as they became unemployed, or risk losing their home.

Six in ten renters surveyed said that having to find up to £100 a month would make it impossible for them to pay their rent, while nearly two in five (38 per cent) said that they could not afford to find any extra money at all.

Campbell Robb, Chief Executive of Shelter, said: "Every day, Shelter sees people worried about what would happen to their family and their home if they fell on hard times. This research highlights the frightening reality that as support continues to be cut, losing your job is increasingly likely to mean losing your home.
"We want the government to keep the support available to families who face losing their homes. Finding another job is hard enough, but without a stable place to live it’s almost impossible to get back on your feet."
Shelter is calling on the public to ask Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith to save the measure at


Conservatives get a taste of people power

50,000 protesters tell Cameron and co to get lost

If members of the Tory Party ever wondered what being in the middle of a full-on siege felt like they have found out.

Upwards of 50,000 trade unionists and activists swarmed through the streets of Manchester demanding an end to the government's brutal austerity measures.

The north-west was always a strange choice for the Tories' annual get-together and if they harboured any illusions of a warm welcome they were firmly disabused of the notion.

Two young Tories who had stopped to smirk at the demonstration from what they believed was a safe distance had not reckoned on being confronted by an elderly member of the public - who left them in absolutely no doubt about the strength of feeling their presence in the northern heartlands elicited.

A few other blue-tied types blanched visibly and kept their heads down and their conference passes out of sight as they scurried past.

The noise generated by the assembled protesters was deafening, drowning out the opening speeches from union reps from the north-west, Scotland and Northern Ireland, among others.

While much of the content of the rallying calls may have been lost the overall message could not have been clearer - "Hands off our NHS."

While the Tories were kicking off their conference with a 10-minute paean to Margaret Thatcher, safe behind the wall of steel erected by Greater Manchester Police, the streets were filled with those who knew the consequences of her devastating legacy all too well.

As the procession snaked past the conference, boos and howls of anger filled the air and imprecations rained down on those cosseted inside.

The entirely peaceful demonstration passed off with a carnival-style atmosphere although the strength of anger was palpable.

The march was led by TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady, shadow health secretary Andy Burnham, Unison general secretary Dave Prentis, NUT leader Christine Blower and, this being Manchester, Coronation Street actor Julie Hesmondhalgh.

Public servants marched side by side with peace campaigners, anti-badger cull campaigners, hunt saboteurs, socialists and communists.

All were united in sending a simple message to those in power - "You have no credibility and you are not wanted here."

Morning Star

Tens of thousands besiege Tory conference in defence of NHS

Streets of Manchester ring to sounds of defiance

They came in their tens of thousands. From the length and breadth of Britain, protesters headed for Manchester to speak with one voice in defence of the National Health Service.

And there is no doubt that the Tories heard - they were gathered in the city for their annual conference.

Not that they dared show their faces as the streets filled with union banners, protest placards and the thunder of drums, piercing sounds of whistles and angry chants.

Some estimates put the number of demonstrators at over 50,000.

They were in Manchester to protest against the destruction and privatisation of the NHS by the Tories and their Lib Dem collaborators.

The demonstration took place as firefighters, teachers, postal staff, and other public-sector workers prepare to fight in defence of their services, their jobs, pensions and working conditions in coming weeks.

The growing mood of resistance was fully in evidence. The march wound through the streets for three hours. At its head was public-service union Unison, a contingent which was itself thousands strong.

They marched off 20 abreast, filling Manchester's main thoroughfare Deansgate.

The banners showed the spread of support and of anger - from Edinburgh, Tower Hamlets, Glasgow, Northern Ireland, Kensington and Chelsea, Solihull, Leeds, Birmingham, on and on they came.

Among the marchers were Danielle and Stuart Marns-McClure with their three-year-old son Finn in a pushchair. The family had travelled over from Calder Valley in West Yorkshire.

"I am objecting to the destruction and privatisation of the health service," said Danielle. "And the Tory Party in general and everything they stand for.

"I am a student nurse. I'm working on the wards so I know what it's like - borrowing staff from one ward to cover another."

For hours the marchers filed into Whitworth Park in Manchester for a rousing rally.

Speaker after speaker tore into the coalition. The roars of approval were deafening.

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said the NHS in England faced the "gravest crisis in its history."

She said: "The government is wasting billions implementing reforms nobody wants and nobody voted for.

"Our NHS is not for sale, not today, not tomorrow, not ever."

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis predicted a return to the "bad old days when if you had money you had good health, but if you were poor you did not.

"Make no mistake, privatisation will suck money out of the NHS.

"It will suck money out of patient care. It will cut wages. It will cut corners. Patients will suffer."

When the profits weren't enough, he warned, the spectre of charges would appear.

Unite union leader Len McCluskey accused David Cameron of "lying" about the NHS.

"Our ambulance service is now under threat. Pathology services are being sold off.

"Queues in most A&E departments are amounting to 12 hours, with sick people being treated in corridors.

"Hospital after hospital are chronically understaffed, with wards shutting - as winter looms we are heading for the biggest crisis to face the NHS for a generation.

"I say to private healthcare, you had better not get too comfortable - for this is our NHS and we will take it back."

Morning Star

Tory benefit proposals are stupid and cruel

The plan to make the unemployed work for their benefits is breathtakingly wrong

IDS's claims slammed
Iain Duncan Smith should think again about his workfare proposal. 

If I were a betting woman, I'd be wondering at which point Iain Duncan Smith might be scheduling introducing public stocks for the long-term unemployed. Put the lazy feckless proles into the stocks. Not all of them, just the ones who have thus far stubbornly proved themselves "hard to help" by Duncan Smith's Work Programme (widely and scathingly described as disastrous).

Let the bone-idle coves get pelted with rotten vegetables and malodorous dung by the fine upstanding working public for larks. Pelt the poor!

But this is childish. Duncan Smith isn't planning to introduce stocks for the long-term unemployed; that would mean they might get to sit down. The plan is to make people work for their benefits.

In a move rumoured to be announced at the Conservative conference, there may be plans for a US-type workfare-style scheme whereby the long-term unemployed would be required to work for their benefits, either for communities or for companies. I would have thought that being unemployed is clear-cut – you are or you aren't. However, a recent poll places me firmly in the minority.

Of the 1,930 people polled, by the rightwing thinktank Policy Exchange, people strongly supported such schemes. While only 17% were interested in ensuring minimum waged jobs, more than half wanted people to work for their benefits; 75% thought that people with mental disabilities (judged fit) should still be made to work for their benefits, while a whopping 78% applied the same view to the physically disabled. However, 67% felt that unemployed mothers with young children should be excluded. The words "all heart" spring to mind.

The wider danger is that, once tweaked, this idea could swiftly morph into a righteous attack on the "something for nothing" culture, on those people said to lounge about on the dole for years, with no intention of getting a job, all the time laughing at the bleeding-heart state and its gullible taxpayers. There's a fair chance that the fact would get lost in the mix that the numbers of those who are very long-term unemployed (exceeding five years) are surprisingly small.

Duncan Smith may also clean forget to mention that the majority of benefits are claimed as supplements by those already working, but on low wages. All we would be left with is the "something for nothing" culture and the latest cunning scheme to stop it: get the work-shy to work for their hand-outs. A guaranteed crowd-pleaser. Just one problem: if the aim is to help the long-term unemployed back into work, it makes very little sense.

It seems not only unfair, but also impractical, to expect people to work unpaid while simultaneously seeking paid work. Job-hunting is an exhausting, complex, time-consuming affair, as has been demonstrated by the lamentable performance of the Work Programme. Moreover, the unemployed must surely be completely free to seek work, not semi-free. The term is "jobseeking", not "jobseeking, when I'm not labouring just to earn my benefits, so that I don't starve". What does this resemble if not a state-sanctioned form of moonlighting?

This "workfare" scheme is not only ripe for exploitation by big business, it also defeats the government's stated objective, indeed their responsibility – to give the long-term unemployed the best possible chance to find work. Yet more depressingly, it represents another attempt to change the national conversation about the unemployed.

Instead of being helped, encouraged and empowered back into work, they must be chided, chivvied and, above all, punished, placed on some modern-day version of chain gangs, including, it seems, even the physically and mentally disabled.

So go ahead, Mr Duncan Smith, announce your plan at conference –let's hope it will be recognised for the spiteful, grandstanding, illogical and self-defeating nonsense it really is.


Owen Jones: We can’t afford welfare for disabled people, but apparently we can afford a marriage tax break

This marriage tax allowance is nothing more than the state tutting at those who do not meet its expectations

The Tories have spent the last three years triumphantly wailing “There’s no money left!” at opponents of their slash-and-burn policies. There has always been dosh lying around for their pet projects, of course: more than three billion to privatise the NHS here, money to absorb cutting taxes for millionaires there, or an apparently limitless amount for HS2. And now it turns out they have £700m a year to throw at making state-sanctioned judgements about people’s families and how we choose to express our love for each other.

On one level, the proposed marriage tax allowance – a taxpayer-funded scrap of red meat for frothing-at-the-mouth Tory backbenchers – is an embarrassing joke. Two-thirds of married couples won’t even benefit, and those who do will have an extra £3.84 a week to play with. Given that the going rate of an average wedding these days is £18,000, it would take them just 90 years of marital bliss (or angst) before the allowance covers the big day itself. If a single couple is incentivised to marry by this naked, not-so-cheap attempt to assuage the Tory Taliban, they would make a fascinating and baffling case study. And if this is, indeed, a pre-election bribe, an extra £200 a year hardly compensates for the annual £1,500 that has been emptied from the average Briton’s pockets since Nick Clegg and David Cameron exchanged their own vows.

It is insulting on another level, too. The “bedroom tax” is surely one of the cruelest and most unjust policies inflicted by a British government on its own people since the war: an attempt to force people with almost nothing, to cough up money they don’t have, to drive people into downsized homes that don’t exist, to collectively punish families for the failure of successive governments to build council housing. And yet it allegedly saves around £470m a year, and that’s without taking into account the costly impact of driving families into the more expensive private rented sector. A pathetic gimmick that has every–thing to do with crude internal politicking will cost more than a policy, that has inflicted incalculable misery on hundreds of thousands of families – married or not – will supposedly save.

Now, I’m at that age where friends seem to be  bending on one knee to their beloved other halves every other week. I’m about to become best man for the first time, one of the greatest honours of my life. I have a bit of a soft spot for weddings, which may jar with the more radical instincts of some: they are quite a sweet way to express love, herd close friends and relatives in one place and have an almighty piss-up. I’m also uncle to two beautiful children, being raised by parents as loving and devoted as any, who have chosen not to splash out on a marriage ceremony. The idea that a marital certificate would have any impact on their family is self-evidently farcical. It is not for the state to judge that one sort of family is better than another.

This marriage tax allowance is nothing more than the state tutting at those who do not meet its expectations. It is an attempt to bribe people into a narrow view of what constitutes a good family. Widowers and widows, single parents, women escaping abusive marriages in a country where a million face domestic abuse a year, those yet to meet The One – all will now be effectively subsidising the marriages of others. The money will then go straight into the pockets of a man – who will get a pint a week on the state, even if he repeatedly abandons his family for another. It reinforces the model of a family being promoted by the Government’s cuts: a bread-winning father and stay-at-home mother.

It is completely out of sync with the realities of the modern family. One in four children now grow up with a single parent. Nearly half of all children are born to unmarried adults. Married people are now a minority in England and Wales, the proportion having fallen from 51 per cent in 2001 to 47 per cent in 2011. These are the figures that depress those demanding that the state drag people to the altar. But the truth is a statement of the obvious. Marriage can be loving, tender, brimming with companionship. It can also be horrible, full of punching, screaming, and psychological abuse. It is not an innately good or bad thing.

Members of the marriage lobby claim that the institution is better for children. And yet, according to the Children’s Society, a child’s well-being is far more strongly influenced by the level of family conflict than by its structure. In fact, the suggestion that children do better with married parents is mixing up causation and correlation. Marriage is becoming an increasingly middle-class institution. As the Institute for Fiscal Studies points out, “cohabiting parents are typically less educated, younger, and have a lower household income than married parents, and they may also differ in their relationship quality and stability.” We already know that children from more affluent backgrounds do better – they have better housing, a better diet, are exposed to a broader vocabulary from an earlier age, and so on – and their parents are more likely to be married.

Yet, for all their preaching about the traditional family, it is the Tories who have done most to trash it. The 1980s and 1990s saw a dramatic decline in marriages and surging numbers of single parents. Recent research in the US has shown that job insecurity plays a key role in the falling marriage rate. High Thatcherism was a time of rapid de-industrialisation, leaving entire communities bereft of secure work: no wonder marriage rates collapsed.

Labour should be tackling this dogma with genuine pro-family policies. A living wage would help drag working families out of poverty: after all, they currently constitute the majority of Britain’s burgeoning poor. A house-building programme would provide security, tackle overcrowding and combat poverty, promoting the health, education and well-being of children. Creating secure work with an industrial strategy and taking on zero-hour contracts would help give families stability. Decent child care would enable more parents to work. Expanding SureStart and investing in nursery education would help narrow the yawning gap between the affluent and the impoverished child.

It is an indictment of Cameron’s Britain that cuts have left women’s refuges turning away 230 people fleeing domestic violence a day, while the state splashes out on the institution of marriage. The traditional battle cry of the right is that the state should keep out of the affairs of the individual, and yet here they are making state-sanctioned judgements about personal choice. Andy Coulson once warned Cameron that a perception the Prime Minister did not like single parents was “electoral halitosis” – at least one bit of sense from the now-disgraced spin-doctor. This is not a story of commitment, it is a story of divorce – a Tory divorce from reality. 


Five posts on why we shouldn’t leave the European Convention on Human Rights

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The Conservative Party Conference
 began today. As has been the case in past years, human rights policy will have a prominent role to play, but much of which is said will be bluster. The Prime Minister has already said that all options are on the table, including withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Expect more tomorrow when Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling and Home Secretary Theresa May step up to the podium from 2:30 pm to 4 pm.

Judging from the Prime Minister’s comments as well as Chris Grayling’s in the Spectator, it appears likely that this party conference will be similar to previous ones. Government ministers will promise that a majority Conservative government will replace “Labour’s” Human Rights Act with a Bill of Rights – a longstanding Tory policy which also featured in the party’s 2010 manifesto (at p.79). The promise was scuppered after the 2010 election due to demands from coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats. And, the Tories will continue to make vague threats that “people want to see the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom being in the United Kingdom and not in Strasbourg” (Grayling, a self-described “staunch Eurosceptic”) and that ECHR withdrawal “may be… where we end up” (Cameron).

Meanwhile, Labour will go into the election pledging to defend the Human Rights Act and ECHR. Shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan is developing interesting line on this:
It tells you a lot about the modern Tory Party – on the side of the status quo, propping up powerful elites and siding with vested interests. It’s left to Labour to take on these vested interests on behalf of all our citizens.
Clearly, Labour have decided to present human rights law as a means of challenging the powerful, and now argue – with some force – that attempts by the powerful to limit those laws are self-serving and dangerous. I agree with that view, as you might have guessed from my articles on the issue over the past few years (see e.g. this).

But human rights are also unpopular in many quarters, blamed for perverse (so say the doubters) decisions on prisoner votes and terrorist deportations. Criticising human rights is therefore a potential vote winner. The big question for the Conservatives will be how anti-human rights their stance can be before raising suspicions that their policies are more about Euro-scepticism than national interest, or – worse – that they really are trying to shut down criticism at the expense of the poor and marginalised. Leaving the ECHR may not be as popular as scrapping the HRA, so it remains to be seen how far Tort policy will go.

It is also possible that Tory opponents will join the dots between other Coalition policies – such as limiting judicial review, legal aid and introducing secret courts – and do even more damage (despite the hypocrisy of that position given Labour’s support for many of those policies).

The debate leading up to 2015 is going to be interesting, and is likely to set the tone of the human rights debate for the next few years. But the key point now is that the realities of coalition government mean that nothing will change in relation to the ECHR or Human Rights Act until at least the next election in 2015.  Even then, the Conservatives would need to win an overall majority to carry through their plans.

Having said that, there is likely to be a debate over leaving the ECHR this week as the Tories continue to test the waters and more vague threats are made. So here are five posts which explain why leaving would be a tremendously bad idea:
  1. Why we would be mad to leave our European Convention on Human Rights (Adam Wagner)
  2. A Conservative Convention (Michael Scott)
  3. Why have a European Court of Human Rights? (Dr Ed Bates)
  4. Keep calm and apply the European Convention on Human Rights (Paul Harvey)
  5. What would happe
  6. n if the UK withdrew from the European Court of Human Rights? (Adam Wagner)

Work Programme: A privatised shambles

Employment Minister Mark Hoban can manipulate his figures for as long as he wants to portray his Work Programme as a glowing success, but he's wasting his and our time.

Employment Minister Mark Hoban can manipulate his figures for as long as he wants to portray his Work Programme as a glowing success, but he's wasting his and our time.

A programme that delivers a proper job to a measly 4 per cent of participants after a year on the scheme is a failure and does not merit ministerial praise as "significantly improving."

The Work Programme has in year two of the scheme found sustained employment for just 17 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds even though the Department for Work and Pensions estimated that, left to their own devices, 30 per cent would be able to do so.

Similar negative results apply for workers aged 25 and over, those coming off employment support allowance and, worst of all, disabled workers.

The cruel, short-sighted policy of shutting down Remploy factories - imposed by both Con-Dem and new Labour governments - has prevented growing numbers of disabled people from earning their own living.

Further, the disproportionate effect of the bedroom tax on the disabled exposes the bogus claims made during last year's successful Paralympic games in London.

By any standards, the government's flagship employment policy is a failure in terms of finding people proper jobs.

But it can be adjudged a rip-roaring success for its capacity to channel public funds to the Tories and Liberal Democrats' corporate pals who are making a financial killing as private providers of a more expensive and less effective service than public jobcentres.

It is shameful that the government can find £5 billion to fund this privatised shambles that owes more to private-is-best dogma than any sober assessment of the scheme's merits.

PCS union leader Mark Serwotka's call for the Work Programme's immediate scrapping and for this vital service to be taken back in-house to the jobcentres is incontrovertible.

The unemployed, especially our million jobless young people, deserve better than to be hapless pawns on a privateer's balance sheet.

Morning Star

Conservative Party Horror Show

The Conservative Party Conference was opened with a ten-minute horror video tribute to Baroness Thatcher.

The Iron Baby is not for gurgling: How Tory conference celebrates Thatcher Day with baby grows, bibs and tea towels paying bizarre tribute to the former Prime Minister

• Official Conservative shop opens selling Our Maggie merchandise
• Delegates in Manchester snap up array of coasters, cuff links and mugs
• Conference opens with 10-minute tribute to the ex-PM who died in April
• But ironing board cover homage to Iron Lady has been withdrawn

Daily Mail

UK becomes first state to admit to offensive cyber attack capability

A declaration by Britain that it is developing the capability to carry out offensive cyber attacks against other nations has triggered criticism and astonishment among security experts.

Philip Hammond, defence secretary, said ahead of the Conservative party conference in Manchester that the UK was “developing a full spectrum military cyber capability, including a strike capability”. It was the first time any country has made such a sensitive statement in public.

In recent years, defence officials and experts across the globe have assumed that a number of advanced military powers – most notably the US, Israel, Russia, China and the UK – have developed the ability to destroy or sabotage other nations’ internet infrastructure as part of military planning and covert operations.

But while the US has hinted in off-the-record briefings that it possesses such capability, no state has declared up front that it is developing the power to strike at national foes in cyber space.

“Why make plans for a cyber-strike force public now?” said Thomas Rid, reader in the department of war studies at King’s College London. “Such aggressive statements can be counter-productive. Other actors will want to react in kind, making everybody less secure.”

Mr Hammond’s plans include employing hundreds of computer experts as reservists in the armed forces. He believes it is no longer sufficient just to build defences against cyber attacks, and that an offensive capability is needed to strike back against enemies and put cyber alongside land, sea, air and space as a mainstream military activity.

Although the US is widely known to have launched the “Stuxnet worm” that attempted to sabotage the Iranian nuclear programme several years ago, US officials have been careful not to state on the record that they carried out the attack.

Defence experts warned the UK’s public declaration could make it harder to argue against the use by China and Russia of cyber offensive capabilities to carry out espionage against western states.

Shashank Joshi of the Royal United Services Institute, a think-tank, thought Mr Hammond’s declaration a “highly unusual step” and meant “the UK may risk losing the moral high ground,” but it needed to be viewed in context.

“It is coming on the eve of a political conference, so it may be a kind of political dog whistle,” he said. “It says to the party: I may be gutting our army but I’m spending a lot of money on this other area that is the future of warfare.”

But another leading analyst said the timing of the declaration – against the background of controversy over leaks by Edward Snowden, the former US National Security Agency contractor – was strange.
“We’re living through a period where the security services and GCHQ [the government listening post] are under huge pressure regarding allegations of their surveillance of citizens in the US and Europe,” said the analyst.

“That has given China a chance to defend itself against arguments that Beijing is conducting massive cyber espionage against the west. It doesn’t really make sense for the British [Ministry of Defence] to come out and make a statement like this and give the Chinese yet more ammunition. I wonder how GCHQ and the Foreign Office view this.”

Financial Times

Charles Dickens on the Brutality and Rapacity of the Tories

Reblogged from Beastrabban\'s Weblog:


Charles Dickens is one of the great titans of modern English literature. His works have been prized, celebrated and imitated since the publication of The Pickwick Papers . The book’s appearance prompted a horde of copies lower down the press hierarchy in the penny journals. The copyright laws were much less rigorous then, and so these, lesser novels all had titles similar, but not identical to those of Dickens himself. His book, Sketches by Boz, was taken and copied by one of the 19th century popular journalists, as ‘Sketchbook by’, followed by a name very similar to Dickens’ ‘Boz’. His books have been adapted into stage plays, films and musicals, most famously A Christmas Carol, which has twice been filmed as a cartoon, and Oliver Twist, which became Lionel Bart’s musical, Oliver! His novels have also been frequently adapted for television. In the 1970s, for example, many of the Beeb’s period costume dramas broadcast on Sunday evening were adaptations of Dickens. I particularly remember Nicholas Nickleby and David Copperfield.

Despite his deserved popularity and immense respect, I suspect Dickens’ status as one of the Great Men of English Literature has probably done much to put people off him. People have a tendency to distrust automatically anything that becomes official, established art. One way to guarantee that people refuse to read a particular willingly is to put it on the school syllabus. Moreover, modern audiences are also likely to be left alienated by some of the characteristics of much 19th century writing, such as verbosity and their sentimentality. Boys in particular are likely to be put off him because of his novels’ period character, which associates them with the great 19th century lady novelists Jane Austen and the Brontes. In Superman II, for example, Clarke Kent’s identity as a wimpish square is firmly established, when Superman’s alter ego announces he wasn’t around to cover one incident as he was at home that evening reading Dickens. One suspects that its the kind of literature that such narrow-minded upholders of bourgeois respectability as Mary Whitehouse liked. For those younger readers suspicious of Dickens, I strongly recommend his short story, The Railwayman. It’s one of the classic British ghost stories, and completely amazed me when I read it as a teenager with its complete absence of all the dullness, verbosity and sentimentality I’d expected to come across in his works. Today one of Dickens’ great champions is the thesp Simon Cowell, who has toured in a one man play about the great writer and his life, and even appeared as his hero in a episode of Dr. Who, with Christopher Ecclestone playing the Time Lord. The video below comes from the Guardian, and is on Youtube. In it, Simon Callow takes the viewer around Dickens’ London.
Dickens is partly celebrated for his work defending the poor and describing the hardship and poverty of the lives of ordinary people in 19th century Britain. Indeed, his surname has become a byword for conditions of grinding poverty and squalor in the word ‘Dickensian’. Dickens himself consciously wrote some of his novels both as works of social criticism, but also actively to improve the conditions of the poor. Horrified at the respectable middle classes’ indifference to the suffering of the labouring poor, he wrote A Christmas Carol. This transformed Christmas from a relatively minor holy day into the massive festival that it is today. As a socially engaged writer, Dickens could and did write bitter pieces sharply attacking the Conservatives. In 1841 the Liberal magazine, The Examiner, published his ballad, The Fine Old English Gentleman: New Version. It was a parody of a traditional ballad celebrating the virtues of the gentry. The hero of the traditional ballad shared his good fortune with his social inferiors, in the line ‘while he feasted all the great, he never forgot the small’.

Dickens wrote his satirical versions after the reforming Whigs had lost office and been replaced by Peel’s Conservatives, and the country was in the middle of a depression. The poem attacks the Tories for their corruption, brutal and oppressive laws, and their savage oppression of the poor to enrich themselves and the other members of the aristocracy. Cheekily, Dickens states as a direction for the poem’s performance that it should be said or sung at all Conservative dinners. It shows that what could be described as agit-prop literature long preceded the Communist party. The blackly humorous suggestion of performance venue and the bitter satire of the poem itself very much reminds me of the same mixture of humour and bitter social criticism in much contemporary radical, popular protests following 1960′s Situationism. This leads to the question of whether Dickens, if he were alive today, would be marching with the demonstrators, neatly attired in top hat and tail coat, and wearing a Guy Fawkes mask. Here’s the poem:

‘I’ll sing you a new ballad, and I’ll warrant it first rate,
Of the days of that old gentleman who had that old estate;
When they spent the public money at a bountiful old rate
On ev’ry mistress, pimp and scamp, at ev’ry noble gate,
In the fine old English Tory times;
Soon may they come again!

The good old laws were garnished well with gibbets, whips, and chains,
With fine old English penalties, and fine old English pains,
With rebel heads, and seas of blood once in hot in rebel veins;
For all these things were requisite to guard the rich old gains
Of the fine old English Tory timnes;
Soon may the come again!

The brave old code, like Argus, had a hundred watchful eyes,
And ev’ry English peasant had his good old English spies,
To tempt his starving discontent with fine old English lies,
Then call the good old Yeomany to stop his peevish cries,
In the fine old English Tory times;
Soon may they come again!

The good old times for cutting throats that cried out in their need,
The good old times for hunting men who held their fathers’ creed.
The good old times when William Pitt, as all good men agreed,
Came down direct from Paradise at more than railroad speed …
Oh the fine old English Tory times;
When will they come again!

In those rare days, the press was seldom known to snarl or bark,
But sweetly sang of men in pow’r, like any tuneful lark;
Grave judges, too, to all their evil deeds were in the dark;
And not a man in twenty score knew how to make his mark.
Oh the fine old English Tory times;
Soon may they come again!

Those were the days for taxes, and for war’s infernal din;
For scarcity of bread, that fine old dowagers might win;
For shutting men of letters up, through iron bars to grin,
because they didn’t think the Prince was altogether thin,
In the fine old English Tory times;
Soon may they come again!

But Tolerance, though slow in flight, is strong-wing’d in the main;
That night must come on these fine days, in course of time was plain;
The pure old spirit struggled, but its struggles were in vain;
A nation’s grip was on it, and it died in choking pain,
With the fine old English Tory days,
All of the olden time.

The bright old day now dawns again; the cry runs through the land,
In England there shall be deear breat – in Ireland, sword and brand;
And poverty, and ignorance, shall swell the rich and grand,
So, raly round the rulers with the gentle iron hand,
Of the fine old English ~Tory days; Hail to the coming time!

Great literature transcends the ages, and speaks eternal truths about human nature, politics and society. What is shocking reading this is just how much is true today. The line about the silence of the press in the face of horrific oppression and abuse just about sums up much of the modern press under Murdoch, Dacre, the Barclay twins and the rest.


Colin Firth and Anthony Arnove with David Horspool, The People Speak: Democracy Is Not A Spectator Sport (Edinburgh: Canongate 2013).

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Big Flaw in Capitalism- and why they won't tell you


After 200 years plus of capitalism, I am surprised the ordinary worker doesn’t see it; I am surprised that capitalism lasted more than 50 years. See what; why this broad statement? Easy; capitalism doesn’t work. Here’s the reason.

As we all know, no matter how hard politicians try to reign in capitalism, however hard they try to control it or, on the other side how hard they try to allow it to do as it pleases, capitalism inevitably results in boom and bust.

Whatever the capitalists tell you, the people who suffer most during the ‘bust’ periods are the poor, the employee and the disenfranchised. The people who suffer least are the speculators, factory owners and entrepreneurs who have amassed great wealth by underpaying the proletariat for their labour and overcharging that same proletariat for goods and services.

Conversely, during the ‘boom’ years the people who benefit most are the same speculators, factory owners and entrepreneurs while those that benefit least are the same poor, employee and disenfranchised.

This is why capitalists must underpay for labour and overcharge for goods and services. Because they know the good times won’t last forever and they need to amass their personal fortunes at your expense to survive them in the luxury to which they have become accustomed. Meanwhile, the proletariat can struggle on in the filth they so love.

The wealthy capitalist knows and understands all this. They do not want you to know, much less understand it. (Which is why they so love to tinker with your state education system, while their public school system has stood the test of time and barely changed since its inception.)

Capitalism continues as the worlds favoured economic policy because these same capitalists have convinced the proletariat that through capitalism, you can have the same slice of the cake if you work hard enough.
Tell that to the cleaning lady, the road sweeper and the shoe-shine boy, and try to do it without a wry

Union leader accuses Cameron of lying about NHS

Len McCluskey_web

David Cameron lied to the electorate in 2010 about his privatisation plans for the NHS, Unite’s general secretary Len McCluskey will tell the Save our NHS rally in Manchester today.

The Unite leader will tell protesters that the prime minister continues ‘to hoodwink’ the public about the scale and speed of NHS privatisation – and the true nature of the links between the private healthcare companies benefiting from the sell off and the Tory party.

Len McCluskey will say: “David Cameron has lied about the NHS and continues to hoodwink us about the scale and pace of NHS privatisation. In 2010, he told the people of Britain that the NHS was safe in the Tories’ hands.

“But since then, he has forced through a £3bn upheaval – without a peep about this is his manifesto, nor a shred of evidence that it would deliver better care. In the first two years of his government alone, we lost more than 5,000 nurses.

“Big business has taken billions in new private contracts – and now we have the spectre of NHS funds used to fund shareholder profits – and not treating patients.

“In addition to the £20bn of savings demanded from the NHS during the course of this parliament, there was  £2.5bn worth of private contracts dished out in the four months from April this year – this figure is set to explode in the coming months.

“Our ambulance service is now under threat. Pathology services are being sold off. Queues in most A&E departments are amounting to 12 hours, with sick people being treated in corridors.

“Hospitals after hospital are chronically under-staffed, with wards shutting – as winter looms we are heading for the biggest crisis to face the NHS for a generation.

“Sixty-five years ago, people had the courage to fight for a new and radical alternative. It was the bravest, most humane vision a nation could have for itself.

“We must make certain that the NHS is at the top of the political agenda at the next general election. Maintaining the NHS will always be a difficult task; there will always be new challenges.

“Its survival depends on one thing, and one thing alone: if there are people with the political will to fight for it. And I say to private healthcare, you had better not get too comfortable – for this is our NHS and we will take it back.”


Rising tide of protest marks start of Tory conference

Reblogged from Vox Political:

Falling on deaf ears: The chorus of protest against the bedroom tax is unlikely to be heard at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, where delegates will be discussing how to bribe the electorate into supporting them in 2015. [Picture: Matthew Pover in the Sunday People]

Falling on deaf ears: The chorus of protest against the bedroom tax is unlikely to be heard at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, where delegates will be discussing how to bribe the electorate into supporting them in 2015. [Picture: Matthew Pover in the Sunday People]

Does David Cameron have any new policies that are big enough to silence the rising clamour of discontent against him?

He’ll need something big – Coalition partners the Liberal Democrats managed only a tax on plastic bags (an idea stolen from the Labour Welsh government) and a few weak cries of “Please let us stay in government after 2015″.

The married couples’ tax allowance isn’t it. It seems this is how the Tories plan to spend any money saved by imposing the bedroom tax, and people are already naming it as an election bribe – albeit a poor one at £3.85 a week.

He has set aside £700 million for the scheme, which is more than the government would have spent if it had not imposed the bedroom tax.

A brand-new ComRes poll is showing that 60 per cent of voters agree with Labour’s plan to abolish the bedroom tax – which hits 660,000 households. And one in five Liberal Democrats could vote Labour in protest at the tax.

The issue has prompted shadow Work and Pensions secretary Liam Byrne to say something with which this blog can actually – for once – agree! He said: “It is the worst possible combination of incompetence and cruelty, a mean-spirited shambles. It’s got to go.”

He added that the bedroom tax was likely to cost more than it saved – a point made by this blog many months ago.

Another hopelessly unpopular Tory policy to come from Iain Duncan Smith’s Department for Work and Pensions has been the work capability assessment for sick and disabled claimants of Employment and Support Allowance. It seems one of the first things the Tories did was alter this test so that it became almost impossible to accumulate enough points to be found in need of the benefit.

The result has been three years of carnage behind closed doors, where people with serious conditions have been forced into destitution that has either caused their death by worsening their condition, or caused the kind of mental health problems that lead to suicide. Thousands – perhaps tens of thousands – have died.

Now, the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral has written to Cameron, urging him to end the assessments which, he wrote, can “cut short their lives”.

The Very Reverend Dr David Ison, who presided over Margaret Thatcher’s funeral, signed a campaign letter entitled ‘The Downing Street Demand’, which claims Government policies force some of the most deprived members of society to “shoulder the heaviest burden of national debt created by the super-rich”.

Some might say this is typical of broad Conservative policy: Taking from the poor to give to the rich.

The harshness of such a policy, as outlined in the letter, is appalling: “In 2010 you said, ‘I’m going to make sure no-one is left behind; that we protect the poorest and most vulnerable in our society’.

“The reality of the austerity programme is the opposite.

“Since your Government came to power, cuts have meant that disabled people are paying back nine times more than non-disabled people and those with the highest support needs are paying back nineteen times more.”

Dr Ison said: “It’s right to stand in solidarity with people from many different organisations to draw attention to the needs of some of the most deprived members of our society.

“Many disabled people feel desperate facing possible cuts in support, the bedroom tax, and in particular an inflexible and failing Work Capability Assessment scheme which can blight and even cut short their lives.

“The Government needs to respond by enabling disabled people to live with dignity and security.”

Against this background, what is Cameron doing to make his party more attractive?

He’s bringing forward the second phase of his government’s Help to Buy scheme, that helps people in England to get 95 per cent mortgages on properties worth up to £600,000 – a scheme that has been widely criticised for setting up another debt-related housing bubble.

Cameron denies this. Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show this morning (Sunday), he said that outside London and the South East the average price of homes has only risen 0.8 per cent.

But the BBC reported that, during September, house prices rose at their fastest rate in more than six years – and a report from Nationwide Building Society showed the rise was “increasingly broad-based”.

Adam Marshall, of the British Chambers of Commerce (which is normally supportive to the Conservatives), said: “With all the concern expressed about Help to Buy – rushing into it seems less than responsible on part of government.”

It is, therefore, under a barrage of scorn that the Conservative conference begins today. How is Cameron planning to rally his troops?

He would be ill-advised to use the economy – as seems likely from a BBC report today.

He wants the country to believe that “We have had to make very difficult decisions… These difficult decisions are beginning to pay off and the country’s coming through it.”

Even here, the evidence is against him. George Osborne’s economic theory was based on a very silly spreadsheet error, as was proved several months ago by an American student. Attempts by this blog to ascertain whether he had anything more solid on which to base his policy proved fruitless – all the evidence he provided was underpinned by the same discredited document.

No – we can all see what George Osborne’s policies did to the British economy: They stalled it.

We spent three years bumping along the bottom with no growth worth mentioning, which Osborne, Cameron and their cronies used as an excuse to impose policies that have hammered those of us on the lowest incomes while protecting the rich corporate bosses, bankers and hedge fund investors who caused the economic crash.

Now, it seems more likely that the economy is picking up because it was always likely to. Commerce is cyclical and, when conditions merit it, business will pick up after a slump. That is what is happening now, and this is why growth figures are “stronger than expected”.

It has nothing to do with Conservative economic policies at all.

That won’t stop Cameron trying to capitalise on it. Ever the opportunist, he is already trying to pretend that this was the plan all along, and it just took a little longer than expected. We would all be fools to believe him.

And he has rushed to attack Labour plans for economic revival, claiming these would involve “crazy plans to tax business out of existence”.

In fact, Labour’s plans will close tax avoidance loopholes that have allowed businesses to avoid paying their due to the Treasury.

Besides, Conservative policy – to reduce Corporation Tax massively – has been proved to do nothing to make the UK more attractive for multinational businesses; the USA kept its taxes high and has not lost any of its own corporate taxpayers.

That country, along with Germany, adopted a policy of investment alongside a tighter tax regime and has reaped the benefits with much greater growth than the UK, which has suffered from a lack of investment and a tax policy full of holes (because it is written by the architects of the biggest tax avoidance schemes).

So what’s left?

Historically, at this time in the electoral cycle, Tory policy is to offer Middle Britain a massive bribe.

If they try it now, they’ll risk wiping out any savings they might have made over the last three years, rendering this entire Parliament pointless.

This blog stated last week that the Tories seem to want to rewrite an old saying to include the line: “You can fool most of the people, enough of the time.”

We know that millions of people were fooled by them at the last election.

Will we be fooled again?

Cameron jokes about “mental health lobby” after describing Miliband’s plans as “nuts”

PM digs himself a deeper hole on The Andrew Marr Show

The PM digs himself a deeper hole on The Andrew Marr Show.
David Cameron answers a question during a joint news conference with Italy's Prime Minister Enrico Letta in 10 Downing Street on July 17, 2013. Photograph: Getty Images.

After rather unwisely describing Ed Miliband's plan to raise corporation tax from 20% to 21% as "nuts" in his interview in the Sunday Telegraph, David Cameron dug himself a deeper hole on The Andrew Marr Show this morning.

After again referring to the policy as "nuts" ("Land Rover makes money around the world. Miliband want to put up their taxes. That's nuts."), while carefully omitting to note that Miliband has pledged to use the revenue to cut tax rates for small businesses, Cameron quipped:
I don't want to get into a huge argument with the mental health lobby.
It seems, then, that the PM regards those mental health sufferers who may rightly be offended by his comments as just another "lobby". And, ironically, by stating that he doesn't want to get into "a huge argument" he has almost certainly guaranteed that there will now be one.

Elsewhere today, the Independent on Sunday reports that Eric Pickles told a survivor of alleged child abuse to "adjust your medication" when she accused him of ignoring her. Pickles has defended himself on the basis that "It was never my intention to insult Teresa Cooper. I was giving her a frank piece of advice in private." But as Alastair Campbell commented this morning, "Cameron calls opponents 'nuts', Pickles tells abuse victim to 'adjust your medication.' And they wonder why people think they don't get it."

New Statesman

Shouldn't "Policy Exchange" be honest? "Propaganda Exchange" is more Accurate

Reblogged from Diary of a Benefit Scrounger:

We hear that Iain Duncan-Smith may announce a scheme whereby jobseekers will be forced to work 30 hours a week in exchange for their benefits. Quite when they are expected to look for work is another matter, one that appears not to trouble IDS.

And hark! What’s this I hear? Is it the sound of right wing think tank hooves clattering in to save the day? A perfectly timed “study” that should be ashamed to use the name, released and heavily trailed by the Daily Mail to convince an unsuspecting public yet again that an army of feckless scroungers deserve all they get?

Hail the all distorted Policy Exchange and a howler of a “study”assuring us the public are all in favour and the divide and rule rhetoric of the last few years is paying dividends. But let’s take a closer look shall we?

In the opening words we are assured

“if any government is serious about both tackling the issues of long-term unemployment and concentrated benefit dependency and improving living standards for millions of workless individuals and households, further reforms will be needed.”

Who says? This conflates relatively small number of long term unemployed with wider jobless figures.

“Evidence from both fully implemented schemes and pilots has shown that they can be effective in moving people off benefits.”

What evidence? Citations please? As far as I’m aware there is no evidence that sanctions work long term. The author goes on to cite a handful of American and European schemes entirely selectively  to “prove” his point. Oddly, he doesn’t mention the astonishing failure of the UK Work Programme anywhere...

“For instance, in some trials between a third and a half of eligible claimants move off benefit rather than turning up for the placement”

Why? Implication is they were cheats – did they find work? Did they feel unable to comply with the sanction? Did their health stop them? Unless we have that information it’s a totally pointless sentence. But one that sneaks in a nice little value judgement.

“Workfare schemes are also popular with the public.”

Where are the actual YouGov tables please? Where are ALL of the questions actually asked? How were they framed? Was any background information given (ie relatively low numbers of long term unemployed, poor performance of work programme for sick/disabled etc?)

“Up to 10% (65,000) of individuals leaving the Work Programme without finding work after at least two years of support should be moved onto a workfare scheme”

Define this 10% please – why was it not defined in the headlines? Figures of “80%” “52%” etc, imply it is for all claimants.

“A further 10% of those with the most significant barriers to work should be moved onto a separate scheme, Route2Work, which would provide support through expert third sector providers, social enterprise and social finance.”

Should we not be asking why the Work Programme is failing people in those first two years, rather than introducing yet ANOTHER scheme to pick up the pieces?

“Workfare schemes should also be considered as a sanctioning option for benefit claimants who are not undertaking the jobseeking activities that they should be”

EXTENSIVE evidence shows that in many cases they cannot. To qualify for Employment and Support Allowance, a claimant must score 15 points. This denotes a very considerable degree of ill health or disability. As an example, someone with bowel disease may only qualify for long term unconditional support if they are FULLY incontinent (not partially) or are fed intravenously. Anyone else, no matter how sick, how much surgery they need, will be found fit for work if the qualifying descriptors are adhered to faithfully.

This leaves an army of people with long term conditions or significant disabilities, scoring between 1 and 14 points, with very significant barriers to the labour market, being treated as jobseekers. Often the JCP contact who sees them first disagrees with the assessment of fitness for work, leaving the claimant in a kind of limbo, bouncing backwards and forwards between a sickness system that will not support them and a labour system that won’t engage with them.

If they ARE placed in the Work Programme, both anecdotal and statistical evidence shows that they will be the most poorly served. Contractors “cherry pick” the easiest to help and “park” harder to help claimants with very little interaction. It is commonplace for claimants to receive just two phonecalls during the entire time they are on the “Work” Programme. Steven Lloyd, disabled MP, recently said he would like to “chuck someone out of a window” following the utter failure of Work Programme to help these people in any way.

All the while we have a system failing sick and disabled people so utterly, further sanctions are self-defeating and cruel.

Mr Holmes refers to “the generosity of, the existing benefit system”

Nonsense. The UK has one of the most punitive overall social security settlements in the developed world.

Youth unemployment has been on an upward trajectory since in the early 2000s, rising from 248,000 in 2001 to 369,000. Over 68,000 have been claiming for more than a year.

Oh, selective reporting eh!! Youth unemployment fell from 1997 until the global financial crisis, down almost 90% over that period. The global financial crisis in 2008 hit the young hardest leading to sharp increases. If we take figures from only 1997 – 2013, it is possible to paint a picture of systemic rises. This is misleading and has no place in a rigourous study.

“child poverty based on a relative income measure remained stubbornly high and millions of children were assessed as living materially deprived lives.”

Oh dear lord, the FRAMING! This is true, child poverty is “stubbornly” high, but it FELL by 900,00 – 900,000 under the last government is set to RISE by 300,000 under this one.

But you know, I’ve lost the will to live.

I’m SICK of right wing think tanks releasing “research” set to prove exactly what Iain Duncan Smith demands. SICK of “evidence” with no citations – nowhere in the study could I find the actual data tables from the YouGov “survey” that apparently found the public want everyone unfortunate enough to have no job to work for free indefinitely. Just a few cherry picked results with no qualifiers at all. Respondents are simply asked if those out of work for 12 months or more should be made to work for their benefits. Absolutely no information to make that decision. A “research” paper that quotes “surveys” with no link or data tables for goodness sake!!!

I’m SICK of half truths and misleading sentences. Sick of cherry picked data that uses random figures to paint false pictures. Sick of assumptions about the Labour market and fraud that just aren’t true. Sick of  assumptions that sanctions work better than incentives when all the evidence points to the contrary.

And most of all I’m SICK of “studies” that suggest that because “the public” support their point of view it must be OK. We are told to believe that because a public fed false information at every turn now believe what they have been told to believe, however untrue, it is justification for going even further, destroying even more lives.

The “research” was written by an Ed Holmes who is apparently Senior Research Fellow for Economics and Social Policy!!!!! What a grand title for someone so willing to twist and stretch data like elastic!! 

Disability tests opposed by Dean of St Paul's Cathedral

Wheelchair user in an office
The tests assess entitlement to employment and support allowance

A letter urging Prime Minister David Cameron to get rid of work assessments for the disabled has been signed by the dean of St Paul's Cathedral.

The Very Rev Dr David Ison was among campaigners to claim the tests could "cut short" disabled people's lives.

The letter also called on ministers to address the "shameful offences" of austerity measures.

The government said the assessments had been improved and could help disabled people get into employment.

'Heaviest burden'

The letter, titled The Downing Street Demand, called for an end to work capability assessments (WCA) which "demean and distress" disabled people.

It stated that government policies forced some of the most deprived members of society to "shoulder the heaviest burden of national debt created by the super-rich".

Very Rev Dr David Ison
Dr Ison says disabled people need to be helped to live with dignity and security

The letter to the prime minister said:

"In 2010 you said 'I'm going to make sure no-one is left behind; that we protect the poorest and most vulnerable in our society'. 
"The reality of the austerity programme is the opposite. 
"Since your government came to power, cuts have meant that disabled people are paying back nine times more than non-disabled people and those with the highest support needs are paying back 19 times more."

'Dignity and security'

The campaigners were particularly critical of work capability assessments, changes to housing benefit - the so-called bedroom tax - and benefits changes including the disability living allowance (DLA) and personal independence payment (PIP).

Work capability assessments were introduced in 2008 to assess entitlement to employment and support allowance (ESA).

"The support needs of complex disabilities and mental health issues cannot be assessed by a tick-box system," the letter continued.

It suggested WCA should be replaced with a "rigorous and safe system that does not cause unavoidable harm".

Dr Ison, who presided over the funeral of Baroness Thatcher, said: "It's right to stand in solidarity with people from many different organisations to draw attention to the needs of some of the most deprived members of our society.

"Many disabled people feel desperate facing possible cuts in support, the bedroom tax, and in particular an inflexible and failing work capability assessment scheme which can blight and even cut short their lives.

"The government needs to respond by enabling disabled people to live with dignity and security."

'Fairer process'

Campaigners said 56,000 people had signed a petition supporting an end to the "degrading" assessments.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: "It is important we don't simply write-off people who have a health condition or disability.

"The old incapacity benefits system condemned too many people to a life on benefits with little hope of moving back to work.

"Now people who can work will be given help to find a job while those who need unconditional support will get it.

"Through a series of independent reviews and by working with medical experts and charities, we have considerably improved the WCA process since 2010 to make it fairer and more accurate.

"The percentage of people entitled to employment and support allowance is now at its highest level with over half of people completing a WCA eligible for the benefit."

BBC News