Monthly Archives: February 2013

‘Cash for access’ – Cameron revealed as a repeat offender

camdinner
Feel free to share this image anywhere you like – you can get it from the Vox Political page on Facebook!

If we can name streets after fallen servicepeople, why not those who fell to Atos/DWP?

streetsignThe Labour Party’s Shadow Defence Secretary, Jim Murphy, has proposed that local authorities consider naming streets after deceased members of the armed forces, who died on active service.

Together with Hilary Benn, the Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary, he said this would offer a lasting commemoration, showing the value we place on those who have served and been lost.

It’s a good idea, as far as it goes, and shows that Labour is following through on its ‘One Nation’ promise – here bringing us together through patriotism.

Why not take it one step further?

How about encouraging local authorities to name new streets – or rename current streets – for people who have died after the Department for Work and Pensions declared them fit for work (on the advice of Atos assessors)?

The street signs could feature an explanatory statement, showing how the named person died, what their illness was, and how the DWP/Atos had treated them.

It would be a lasting reminder, to Conservative and Liberal Democrat politicians, of the blood on their hands.

The possibility of commemorating the Atos dead, as some have named them, has been on my mind lately. I had been considering contacting the national action groups to ask if there was a wall somewhere, decorated with photos and tributes to them (newspaper reports of their deaths would be enough). If not, I thought one could be created quite quickly.

Or a mobile display, that could be taken to the Houses of Parliament for demonstrations. That would be effective.

I remember when I visited Bosnia, back in the 1990s, they had a building up in the hills that was a memorial to everybody who had died for their country during the war in the former Yugoslavia. It was maintained by a lady who knew the details of every single person whose picture was on the walls – and there were hundreds lining them. The stories were terrifying, and touching, and it was impossible not to be moved by them.

Now Messrs Murphy and Benn have raised this street-naming idea.

Wouldn’t it be meaningful to have, on street corners across the country, memorials to one of the most shameful purges in the UK’s history – the time when the government turned on the most vulnerable in society and hounded them to death?

What sort of message would that put out to Conservative and Liberal Democrat election candidates, canvassing voters on streets named after people their policies, effectively, put to death?

Should it be made to happen?

What do you think?

Your NHS will die on April 1 unless YOU act now

NHSRIPBlame it on the norovirus that’s clawing it’s way through my body if you like, but I think I’m getting cold sweats at the thought of the imminent demise of whatever’s left of the English NHS.

By stealth, of course. What can we expect from the most underhanded, base and dissembling government in living memory?

Oh, I suppose you all thought it was safe because Andrew Lansley gave his assurance that creeping privatisation would only proceed where it was in the public interest.

A Tory’s idea of public interest doesn’t coincide with the dictionary definition, you know. They’re nicknamed ‘self-servatives’ for a reason.

That’s why, last Wednesday, when you and I were discussing Workfare or the new regulations for social security benefits (which are themselves almost as scandalous as the Coalition government’s treatment of the NHS), the Department of Health quietly released regulations that open England’s health service to widespread competition. ‘NHS’ will, for all intents and purposes, become a brand name beneath which private health corporations will operate – always with an eye on their profit margin.

These regulations contradict Mr Lansley’s assurances, made while he was trying to get the then-Health and Social Care Bill passed into law. But that was when he was trying to persuade public opinion to side with him; the current Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, needs no such backing – the regulations have been introduced via a little-known Parliamentary procedure known as ‘negative resolution’, meaning the new rules will not be discussed or voted on but will automatically become law on April 1.

From then on, competition will be enforced. GPs will not have flexible powers to choose the right provision for patients, despite previous assurances.

But then, those assurances came from a Parliament in which 65 members were known to have a financial interest in private healthcare providers.

All were permitted to discuss the Health and Social Care Bill as it passed through Parliament, and all were able to vote on it – even though they had a vested interest in ensuring that it was passed into law.

Nobody with such interests should be allowed to vote on any law in this country. The automatic assumption in any other branch of government is that they would be unable to provide an unbiased view. In other words, their vote would be corrupt.

I am convinced that this is the case.

I do not wish to be treated by any ‘doctor’ whose primary concern is his or her profit margin. I don’t want to be treated by any organisation whose concern for that profit margin might mean it cuts back on expenditure that is required for the treatment of patients.

And what will happen as time passes and these organisations embed themselves in the system? How long will it be before we start hearing doctors telling us that our illnesses are complicated and treatment may need to take some time – or would we like to go private? Will they then prolong that treatment anyway, in order to get as much cash from us as possible?

It’s a get-rich-quick scheme for those MPs who are shareholders in health corporations.

It’s also – in my opinion – the biggest betrayal of the national interest ever committed by a British government.

All is not yet lost. There’s not much hope but a procedure known as ‘laying a prayer’ allows MPs to annul the change, if it is made within the 40 days before the regulations become law. If enough MPs support the motion, it could be followed by a Commons debate and vote. You can email your MP by looking up his or her address at www.theyworkforyou.com (please try to sidestep the fact that the website title is turning into a blatant lie).

More likely to succeed is a call for Labour leader Ed Miliband and Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham to make a firm commitment that the new rules will be overturned and any and all contracts will be cancelled if Labour are elected into office in 2015. Mr Burnham has already committed himself to repealing the Health and Social Care Act, so this seems a distinct possibility. Their email addresses are [email protected] and [email protected]

It might also be a good idea to contact the National Health Action Party for support on this issue.

For further information and other ideas, please see the following:

http://skwalker1964.wordpress.com/2013/02/20/urgent-decisive-action-needed-vs-undemocratic-nhs-competition-rules/

http://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/nicola-cutcher-lucy-reynolds/nhs-as-we-know-it-needs-prayer

http://socialinvestigations.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/nhs-privatisation-compilation-of.html

This is urgent and immediate. Don’t think for a moment that it won’t affect you because it absolutely will. Even if you live in Scotland or Wales, what will you do if you have to go across the border for treatment?

Personally, if I have to have treatment in an English hospital after April 1, I shall demand to know whether my care will be provided by a private provider or the NHS. If it’s a private provider, I’ll refuse it and demand NHS treatment instead.

I wonder what will happen if we all do that?

Guest blog: So, You’d Like a Job, Then? (Final part)

David Dennis interviews American Mike Mauss on How to Survive Unemployment

Q) I take it Michael Moore’s portrayal of families being thrown out onto the streets, evicted, families destroyed is, in all reality, the truth?

A) Michael Moore is a lying bastard who uses TV techniques to twist the truth. It’s bad, but there aren’t families on the streets. Everyone works out something– kids move in with their parents, people take in boarders, whatever. There’s always that opportunity to move to somewhere cheaper. My favorite solution, however, is something called “getting a job” and that is why I wrote The Unemployed Guy’s Guide to Unemployment.

Q) That’s the primary focus of your book– getting back into employment. Correct?

A) I break the book down into three parts. Dealing with the shock of being fired; looking for work; and getting by without enough money. Most people look for work in the wrong way. They answer job ads and talk to HR people and fiddle with their resumes. I have been at the receiving end of those CV/ resume emails and I can tell you that all of that is completely useless. The only way to get a decent job is to network with everyone you’ve ever met. Someone, somewhere will see how your skills fit their needs. It’s unreal over here. I’ve seen Harvard grad students applying for internships. This is how bad it is in the States– Al Jazeera just released a list of vacancies and they had 8000 applications in the first three days.

Q)  I was told this by an acquaintance of mine– he networks heavily to get business. Is that the kind of thing you would suggest?

A) Networking is everything!  People have an idea that the world has changed, that it’s all depersonalized. It’s not. It’s all about who you know, who you’ve helped in the past and who knows you do good work. It’s funny because the only type of people who have absolutely no problem with networking are … rich people. They will use Daddy’s friends to get a job in a split second.

Q) Many people just haven’t got the networking skills to do that, Mike. How can people network if they have no idea how to network?

A) How do you know you can’t? I doubt you’ve really tried. Have you contacted the people you went to school with? How about co-workers from previous jobs? Neighbors? People at your church? Have you asked people for lists of others to contact?

Q) Some people swear by cold emailing. Does that work?

A) No. That’s just annoying generally. But if you get an email that says, “Joe X suggested I contact you about possibilities” no one responds badly to that. Usually, they try to think of a job or give some more suggestions of people to contact. Somewhere along the line, someone says, “Hey, that kid would be perfect for this.” There you go — you have found your “in”.

Q) This is a question that might make you cringe. You have been in some high level jobs. How many people have you hired through cold emails?

A) Well, including interns that only worked for me for a week or less, about ten. Sadly, I’m not usually in a hiring position. However, I’ve found jobs or contacts for others which developed into jobs for probably hundreds. I have done my fair share for the unemployed of the USA. It’s about time others did more to ease the problem.

Q) Mike, you’ve read my book Disregarded. What did you think about the situation in the UK?

A) It seemed a bit dismal and almost Dickensian. My advice for young people who can’t find a real job is to LEAVE. If you don’t have any debts, you don’t have kids, you don’t have a house, I would say travel the world, intern everywhere, sleep at friends’ houses and have some fun. You don’t need the grief, so why take it? If you can’t find something you love to do, then do the other things that you’ll never get a chance to do – like leave home and be on your own.

I described in UGGU walking into Las Vegas with $1.50 in my pocket and getting a job, a place to crash and a meal—all in thirty minutes. Then I decided not to go to New Orleans because there would always be another chance….

When the economy is working against you, it’s like a wave in the ocean. If you stand against it, you’ll just get rolled.

Q) Where is your book on sale, Mike?

A) Almost anywhere electronic – Amazon US, Amazon UK, Smashwords, iTunes. Also, if you are unemployed or think you’re about to get fired and feel you really can’t afford it (honor system) write me at [email protected] and I’ll send you a coupon for a free copy.

Q) Thanks for your time, Mike. I hope the book is a success for you!

A) Thank you, David! I’m so glad to see the success your book has garnered!

Guest blog: So, You’d Like a Job, Then? (Part Two)

David Dennis interviews American Mike Mauss on How to Survive Unemployment

Q) Do you feel the “middle class” is neglected, abused? Unable to sustain themselves from welfare and unable to continue their lives until they get back into unemployment? Almost in a “void”?

A) Very well put, David. It used to be that the middle class had jobs that lasted for life. They had houses at the shore and they took vacations every year. Now, they are paying insurance costs for their kids’ college, getting hammered by the collapse of the housing market and spending more and more on simply getting by. That’s all fine if you’re working at the sort of job you’ve been educated and trained for — a white collar job. However, knock a leg out from under that structure and it can all go to pieces.

Even the lower class (and no one in America will ever admit that they are in the lower class) can’t get by on welfare. Bill Clinton eliminated that back in the ‘90s. It was probably a good thing, as it was insanely destructive to the families caught in it. People took all their time to fulfil the bureaucratic demands of welfare, leaving them no time to get off welfare. It was very similar to the situation in Britain– attend work sessions and classes all the time and have no real time to find the all-important job you need in order to escape.

Q) Welfare was destructive? I would have thought the destruction of industry was more apt to the description of “destructive”.

A)  Nope. People are pretty good at finding new jobs–the industrial sector has basically either moved up to the lower-white collar jobs or into service jobs. People who need to make $30 an hour to get by can’t compete in a global economy by making shoes. If you go to the places in the Rust Belt where the big factories closed, you’ll find new businesses, mostly in information technology and services, have popped up.

The industries that are left are producing things that simply cannot be produced in a low-tech society. Things like specialty steel, the first set of computer chips, etc. No, the real squeeze on the middle class has been the insane lowering of taxes on the very rich. That, David, is where the real problems lie.

Q) Let us say, for example, the middle class guy gets fired– he needs a job– he’s offered a job making computer chips– does he take it? Or does he turn it down? He has 4 kids, a mortgage, not a quid to his name– credit cards maxed out– what does he do?

A) Well, he is going to take a big step back, that’s almost certain. The most important thing he must know is that he can’t take a job that won’t cover the ‘nut’. You have to keep looking until you find something that will pay enough to get you by. People say to me, “We can’t do that! How do we survive?” and I always say the same thing in reply. I had two kids, two mortgages, credit cards maxed out and I survived for years. You just have to hustle. The trick is to do it without becoming depressed or breaking up the family. I put two kids through good universities, have a 730 Credit Score and a house with a mortgage– I survived and so can you!

Q) Would you say the family unit becomes more important when you are unemployed?

A) Of course. It’s important because it’s important. That’s where real life is– not at work–  and because you’ll get by a lot easier with someone helping you than on your own. I’m not saying don’t go to work at crappy jobs. You get whatever you can when you can, but your primary focus has to be on getting a real job with benefits (medical costs are the real killer here).

Q) Medical costs? Of course, those aren’t taken care of under the US system of unemployment, correct?

A) No. The main causes of bankruptcy in the US are medical bills and the mortgage. I thought it was wonderful that the Mortgage Bankers Association walked away from its mortgage on a building in Washington, DC; but they tell all the rest of us how paying our mortgage is a “moral duty”. It’s getting a bit better now, but as a responsible family member, you have to seriously consider whether paying a medical bill is worth destroying your life.

A lesson in taxation for Smith and Shapps

bedroomtax

Grant Shapps and Iain Duncan Smith (Vox‘s Monster of 2012, let’s not forget) delivered woeful performances on radio and TV respectively, during the weekend – discussing the Bedroom Tax.

That’s right – the Bedroom Tax. Not the “spare-rooms subsidy”, not the “under-occupation subsidy” – the Bedroom Tax. The tax on bedrooms that is being levied on some of the poorest people in the land, who cannot move to smaller premises because a previous Conservative administration stopped them from being built.

Tweedle-Shapps and Tweedle-Smith clearly need a lesson in what taxation actually is. The sad part is that they probably think they delivered good performances.

Appearing on BBC Radio 4’s The World This Weekend, Shapps said: “Labour have very cleverly deemed this to be a tax; of course it’s exactly the opposite to a tax. It’s a spare-rooms subsidy, that’s being paid through the benefits system, on a million empty bedrooms in this country, which makes no sense.

“We’re not using the housing we have in this country in a proper way… What we can’t continue to do, and we can’t afford to do, is pay for a million empty rooms whilst we’ve got a waiting list that doubled under the previous administration and with so many people in desperate need of a house at all.”

Mr Smith, on The Andrew Marr Show said: “We have in social sector housing a very large number of people in houses where they have many more bedrooms than they actually need… Meanwhile we have over a quarter of a million people in overcrowding and a million people on the waiting list, trying to get into housing.

“The last government let house building fall to the lowest level since the 1920s… What we want is those that are under-occupying their properties, we need to help them to be able to move to property that they would occupy-”

Eddie Mair, standing in for Andrew Marr, interjected: “You mean force them?”

Smith plunged on: “What we’re saying is, ‘Look – you can stay where you are, but if you do, you have to pay more.'” (In other words, yes, he means “force them out”).

Mr Mair again: “But cough up. We know you’re very poor, but pay more.”

Smith was determined: “People… who rent in the private sector under housing benefit – they’re not allowed to have extra bedrooms. They’ve never been. So they are only paid, in the private sector, for the number of bedrooms they occupy.”

Mr Mair, an astonished inflection in his voice, spluttered: “But the point of social housing is to help-”

Now Smith fell back on the real reason for the change: Money. “Look, the taxpayer is paying about £900 per household to help people stay in social housing.”

Put these things together and we get a clear picture of what’s going on. First, a bit of history:

Back in the sunlit days before Margaret Thatcher first won an election, local councils were permitted to build and maintain social housing stock. I know this seems an alien concept now, but they were actually allowed to build houses in which poor people could live, for a rent that they could meet.

Then the Thatcher government came into office and she decided to sell off council houses at discounts of up to 70 per cent. Of course, take-up was huge. People believed they would be able to sell the properties on at a later date – for a profit – and go further up the housing ladder, and this appears to be what happened. The houses that were sold on again tended to go to professional private landlords, who then rented them at a higher price than the councils who originally owned them.

The policy raised more than £20 billion for the Conservative government, but it never allowed that money to be ploughed back into council house-building. That money has disappeared; we don’t know what was done with it (in fact, if anybody does know where it is, please write in and let us know)!

My understanding is that councils had expected to be able to use the receipts for a new house-building programme but then, by one of those “coincidences” – and I put that word in quotation marks for a very good reason; I don’t think they are coincidences at all – for which the Tory Party should be infamous, another policy was introduced – the Rate Cap.

Local taxation at the time was done by a method known as the Rates. We’ve had Poll Tax and Council Tax since then (and will soon have the Poll Tax back, thanks to Eric Pickles and his evil, misnamed little ‘Council Tax Reduction Scheme’) so many readers may not remember them.

The idea was to stop councils from spending more than the Tory government thought they should, by limiting the amount of money they could spend every year, and creating a blacklist of councils that transgressed, with associated penalties.

Result: any new council house-building was stopped dead.

It’s a situation that has continued to this day. During the New Labour years, there was a push for new social housing with a condition on planning permission for new estates, that a certain proportion of the new build had to be “affordable” housing.

Result: We now have a huge amount of land with planning permission for estates that have never been built, as developers are reluctant to create housing for which they won’t be able to screw maximum profit from the buyers.

So, successive governments have created a situation where the queue for social housing is very large. Even though the plan during New Labour’s time had the best intentions, my opinion is that it was scuppered by the greed of developers.

Now we have the Nasty Party in office again, and of course they want to screw as much money out of the poor as possible.

They don’t want to build any new social housing; they want people to rent from the private sector, who will try to screw the highest amount out of them.

In order to push them out, they have invented this new term, “spare-rooms subsidy”, or “under-occupation subsidy” – that never existed before. They have declared that people – who are only occupying the houses that were available to them when they went into social occupancy – are now receiving that subsidy for any spare bedrooms they may have (no matter whether there was a reason for having those rooms in the past, or may be one in the future). And in April they will remove an arbitrary amount – nobody knows how they arrived at the figure – from tenants’ housing benefit.

Result: As Eddie Mair said, these people will be forced out – into the arms of private landlords, who will charge more while they will receive less help from the government.

The money saved will, we’re told, be used to help balance the national finances, which is a policy of this government.

So, getting back to the point – the removal of this recently-dreamed-up “subsidy” is taxation, because the money removed from UK citizens will be used to finance government expenditure. That is the definition of tax.

Mr Shapps, Mr… Smith: Look it up.

Guest Blog: So, You’d Like a Job, Then? (Part One)

David Dennis interviews American Mike Mauss on How to Survive Unemployment

Mike Mauss was once a successful American. Through fate, recession and bad breaks, he became unemployed. He managed to survive unemployment, however, and kept putting one foot in front of the other as he put his kids through college, paid his mortgage and continued to live his own life to the max. He wrote a great book, filled with practical advice, called The Unemployed Guy’s Guide to Unemployment. In it, he explains where and how to look for work in this dismal economy; what works and what doesn’t; and very practical advice about how to manage with less while you strive for more. I am the author of Disregarded: The True Story of the Failure of the UK’s Work Programme about the unemployment situation in Britain. I wanted to interview Mike about his American-centric book and see if he had any tips that would help the British unemployed.

Q) Hi, Mike. I wanted to meet you to talk about your new book: The Unemployed Guy’s Guide to Unemployment. Can you tell me why you wrote this book?

A) That’s easy. I became unemployed. For the fifth time in my career, I ended up out of work. I was hoping that a book like this would help others deal with the shock of getting fired, the stress of living without money, and the difficulty of finding a new job. That, and I thought I could make a bit of change with the book, too.

A new study just came out from Pew that said that one out of four people in the US has been out of work at some point in the past four years and over half know of a family member or close friend who’s been unemployed. There are too many people out there who need solid advice and need it now.

Q) In England, we currently have an epidemic of unemployment. I, myself, wrote the inside story of unemployment centres here in the UK. The training system is based around the concept of free labour. Would you have taken part in “shelf stocking” schemes for your benefits?

A) Probably not. I wrote in the book that working at minimum wage is wonderful from an “I will dig ditches to support my family” point of view, but it doesn’t really work. A middle class family cannot survive on minimum wage in the US – hell, a poor family can’t survive on the minimum wage these days. So every day spent working for less than your “Nut” – the basic amount you need to make to keep your family going – is a day wasted. You don’t have time to look for work that actually pays the mortgage and you’re just falling behind a bit less quickly.

Q) The problem with that method is pretty clear. So, how do you support your family whilst you search for work?

A) Well, I didn’t direct my book at the real poor. That’s a very different life and a very different set of realities. I was looking at the middle-class family where you have a mortgage, school, car loans, credit rating, maybe private schools, etc. Unemployment Insurance is pretty irrelevant in this case – it would take five weeks of UI to pay four weeks of mortgage ALONE. And that’s without the government taking taxes out, which they do. I basically assume that a middle-class family can get by on savings, credit cards, home equity loans and freelance work.

Q) I would say that, in fact, your book is a guide for those who don’t “really” need a job. It’s for those who have independent means and just want to bleat about their unemployment?

A) No. David, no one in the US middle class can survive without a job and most families have less than four or five months’ worth of savings. But they still become unemployed so the question is, what do you do when that happens? These people aren’t independently wealthy. They have been squeezed for decades by the very rich – the One Per Cent. If they get fired, it’s a race between getting a new job that pays enough to keep going and the day that all their money runs out. I just give people the tricks to keep going.

I don’t pretend to understand the problems of those under the poverty line. It would be a bit presumptuous to lecture them. I’ve been freelancing or basically without a “real job” for nine of the past twenty years. I don’t know about poverty – but I do know about the very real problems of being middle class and without work.

To be continued…

As above, so below: Right-wing attacks on free speech and protest

facebookWouldn’t it be nice to live in a country that revered free speech, and where nobody could walk over our right to protest against unjust laws?

Some of you may think you do live in such a country; if so, you are mistaken.

Our ability to discuss such matters freely, from the courts of justice all the way down to the social media, is constantly under attack by the forces of Tory-led right-wing tyranny. They don’t want anything we say to get out. It might disturb the sleeping plebs.

Thank goodness these attacks are starting to receive the attention they deserve – such as the comments made by Baron Bach in the House of Lords last Wednesday (February 13), when he angrily voiced his concerns over changes to legal aid for social security cases.

He said the regulations passed that day (see the previous Vox Political article on the subject) made it “a day of shame for our country and its reputation as a civilised and just place to live and work“.

He said: “After 1 April, for those who do not have the means to pay – the vast majority, I would suggest, including many disabled people – where will they get the legal advice they need? They can get it now, but they will not be able to get it after 1 April. How will they receive advice on whether to start or not to start an appeal process? Who will advise them on the intricacies of the social security system?

Legal aid for welfare benefit advice will be abolished. However difficult the case, however much it may rely on points of law, there will be no legal aid either before or at a First-tier Tribunal, let alone an application to the Secretary of State for reconsideration.

“I hope that [the minister, Lord Freud] will not suggest that somehow welfare benefit law is so easy and unlegal that legal advice is never justified. He knows better than that, as does the House.

“Nor, I hope, will he use the argument that it will save some precious public money. Everyone agrees that abolishing social welfare law will cost the state, and particularly his department, much more money when early advice is not available.

“People’s legal problems, whether they are to do with welfare benefits, debts or employment, will get worse until one day, of course, the state will have to pick up the pieces from the broken lives that follow.

Does it not make a farce of our reputation as a country with equal access to justice as a major part of our legal system that no such equal access to justice is available to millions of our fellow citizens who are in receipt of social security in one form or another?”

He developed the point to its logical conclusion – that this is part of a government conspiracy to gag the poor: “It is too much of a coincidence that these legal aid cuts come at exactly the same time as radical welfare reform.

“It must be a deliberate government policy to bring in radical and damaging welfare reforms at the same time as making it impossible for the vast majority to appeal against the decisions that affect their daily lives.

It is a disgrace and a scandal.”

As above, so below: On Facebook, Vox Political tries to post links to its articles on groups where like-minded readers may benefit – with considerable success.

Until an incident a couple of weeks ago.

It seems Tory-supporting right-wingers have started to appear on these groups, where they have then been – I believe the term is – ‘gaming’ the Facebook complaints procedure to silence users like myself. They complain to Facebook that we are ‘spamming’ those groups. The authorities at Facebook – as any user knows – have never investigated such complaints. They act immediately to suspend the rights of the suspected offender to post on other groups.

So the right-wingers get their way, and – with the collusion of this vast social media provider – free speech is lost.

It’s now nearly two weeks since these Netbullies turned their attention to Vox Political. Despite frequent complaints to Facebook, this site’s ability to post to other groups has not been reinstated.

Every day, this site receives queries from administrators of those groups, asking what has happened and why Vox isn’t posting any more. It is clear that they did not want this interference in the operation of their group. And yet the authorities at Facebook not only allow it to continue, but enforce it.

This is as great an attack on free speech as the forthcoming restriction of Legal Aid. Perhaps greater – as discussions on Facebook help form public opinion. The right-wing Netbullies know that; they want to silence us.

Are you happy to let them?

Conspiracy of self-interest: Gove attacks public services to boost Tory (and private) coffers

epetitiongoveHow blatant do you want your corruption today?

Education secretary Michael Gove has appointed a partner in a global management consultancy that could bid for government contracts to sit alongside two Conservative Party donors on a committee that will oversee the progress of cuts in his department.

Paul Rogers is a managing partner at Bain & Company, a US firm that could bid for contracts that are outsourced on his recommendation – creating a serious potential conflict of interest.

John Nash and his wife have given nearly £300,000 to the Conservative Party since 2006. The private equity firm he co-founded, Sovereign Capital, once owned British private schools firm Alpha Plus and special needs school operator Senad. Although no longer directly linked to Sovereign, Nash has also invested in academies, private healthcare and care homes. He has already been rewarded for his contribution, with a peerage and a job as an education minister.

Theodore Agnew is a trustee of the New Schools Network, a group run by some of Mr Gove’s closest aides, that helped start his ‘free schools’ project.

The appointments appear to be a clear indication that UK government decisions are now made on the basis of financial gain, rather than the interests of the nation.

The committee they will join is to oversee cuts that will halve the DfE’s administration, with 1,000 job losses and the closure of six regional offices. Almost one-third of remaining staff will switch between teams working on time-limited projects.

The changes have created an atmosphere of disillusionment across Whitehall, with two-thirds of Britain’s most senior civil servants now so demoralised that they are considering quitting public service, according to a survey by the FDA union.

In other words, Gove is attacking our public services on several different fronts.

He is inflicting heavy damage on his own department’s ability to operate properly – does anyone really think expertise can be nurtured in people when they have to hop from one project to another, with deadlines hanging over them all the while?

His attack on civil service morale could create a vacuum where there is currently a large pool of expertise. How will our public services function if everybody who knows how they work has walked away in despair?

And his appointment of people with a clear financial interest in the outsourcing of Education Department responsibilities to the committee responsible for cutting it down to size makes it clear that he is trying to turn our children’s future into a fat little earner for his friends.

It is exactly what my #CleanHouseOfCommons e-petition is about. There should be a law against this.

Gove should not be allowed to give government jobs to Conservative Party donors. The decision seems clearly motivated by financial gain.

Gove should not be allowed to give a government job to a member of a firm that could benefit from his decisions. This is practically an incitement to make corrupt decisions for financial gain.

And he should not be allowed to make decisions that could weaken the British civil service. This could lead to mass outsourcing into the private sector – at huge expense – where no such move should be necessary.

The man is a disgrace to Parliament and an embarrassment to the UK.

But he’ll carry on doing exactly what he wants until YOU tell him to stop.

http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/44971

Sign.

Spread the word.

Raise awareness.

Before it’s too late.

The public wants politicians to clean up their act; will we fail?

The petition is up and taking signatures. Please sign and share.

The petition is up and taking signatures. Please sign and share.

Two things happened yesterday evening to convince me that the fight to root corruption out of the House of Commons is not only necessary but urgent.

First, the inaugural ‘mass tweet’ by supporters of my #CleanHouseOfCommons petition – I know it’s a mouthful but clarity was required – took place between 9 and 10pm and was a modest success. We got 45 extra signatures and put it back into the top 10 trending petitions on the government’s website. Another 30, or thereabouts, have signed since then (at the time of writing).

That might not seem many to the casual reader, but it’s a good start. This is a petition that has no mass-media support, nor is it boosted by an endorsement from anyone who could be described as a celebrity. It is gathering signatures by word of mouth (or rather, in this internet age, via Facebook shares, Twitter re-tweets, other social media and possibly email as well).

This is why I keep having to emphasise the importance of spreading the word. It isn’t enough to sign a petition like this and expect everyone else to publicise it. If you believe in the cause it puts forward, please, tell the people you know. Say, “I’ve just signed a petition to stop MPs lining their pockets with private, corrupt side deals while they’re supposed to be serving the public – and I think you might want to do the same”. It takes a few seconds and the effect could be enormous.

Secondly, there was an exchange of views on the BBC’s Question Time, which started less than an hour after the mass tweet ended.

Questioner Elliott Hill asked: “With public scepticism towards MPs, similarities between the major parties and a decrease in party membership, is party politics dying?”

This was an opportunity to explore the reasons people are turning away from politicians – and corruption, the fact that politicians are using their positions to make decisions that people don’t want (but that are profitable for them personally), had to be high on the list.

George Galloway made the point about corruption by drawing attention to Parliamentary expenses: “We have a Parliament full of expenses frauds. We have a Parliament that’s almost always on holiday. Since I was elected 11 months ago, Parliament has been on holiday almost 50 per cent of the time – and the rest of the time, they’re filling in their expenses forms.”

Fraser Nelson (and I’m not a fan) made a good point about party funding: “Politicians go on about constitutional reform, but only the type that favours their own party. If you think the situation is bad now, then wait until they get state funding for political parties… It should never happen because they should be forced – all of them… to go and find ideas that people think are worth supporting. Either do that or go bust.”

In other words, once their funding is coming direct from the taxpayer, individual opinions won’t matter at all. They won’t listen to you if they don’t need to – and then they really will be rigging the system to make as much out of it for themselves as they possibly can.

These were views that the audience wholeheartedly supported. Look at this response from one audience member: “If you say you’re all fighting for the people, when do you listen to the people that you are there for? You’ve got to listen to the people – what they want.”

Or this one: “Isn’t it our democratic system that is broken? I go to a polling booth and have to vote for the best of a bad bunch… It’s not who I want to vote for, but who’s going to stop a different party getting in.”

Or this one: “Politicians are playing their own game – ‘If it’s in their favour, we’ll vote against it’. That’s playing against what the public need.”

Another audience member said: “Before an election, all parties promise this, that and the other, so they vote them in, and then after, they renege on what they promised.”

A perfect example of of this – politicians pandering to the public in order to gain popularity – then followed when the panel was asked where Richard III should be bured – Leicester (where the recording was taking place), York or London.

Every representative of the three major parties – Mary Creagh, Maria Miller and Susan Kramer – said Leicester, and received huge applause from the audience in return.

It was a prime example of the current political system in action (or inaction): Say what people want to hear – then do whatever suits you personally. In this case, the decision won’t even be up to them, so it was a conscience-free response.

The message was clear: Your MPs are not in Parliament to represent your interests. Your MPs are there to represent themselves and, where it suits them, their party.

The only way to make them do their job – as it has always been described to you – is to make it impossible for them to line their own pockets.

That’s the debate I’m trying to open up with the e-petition. It’s at http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/44971 – if you agree with the Question Time audience, then please do something about it. You can’t make a difference by doing nothing.

And would you want to be responsible for allowing the corruption to continue?