Our upstart politicians have an important lesson to learn: Respect.


Sometimes events coincide to create a coherent pattern, apparently by accident.

So it seemed today, with publicity surrounding the legalised corporate theft of all our images on the Internet, the part-privatisation of the government unit that has been carrying out illegal psychometric experiments on jobseekers… and the publication of my letter to the local newspapers, deploring a previous missive from a Conservative politician who was determined to parrot disproved assertions from his superiors in London, rather than treat us like intelligent creatures and try to connect on an equal footing.

We’ll start with the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013, which received Royal Assent last week. Under this act, any image that does not contain information identifying the owner (or has had that information stripped away) will become available for exploitation by commercial organisations.

These so-called “orphan works” are placed into “extended collective licensing” schemes. Any user wishing to, say, put that silly photograph you uploaded to Facebook onto a T-shirt, only has to perform a “diligent search” for the owner which, when it comes up with a blank, will allow them to proceed with impunity. And they won’t have to pay you a single penny for the use of your work.

What can you do about it? Nothing, unless you can afford costly and cumbersome legal action – despite the fact that, previously, ownership of your creation has been automatic, enshrined in the Berne Convention and other international treaties where it is still considered to be a basic human right.

Would you like to know how the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills describes the changes? Like this: “For the first time orphan works will be licensed for use; these are copyrighted works for which the owner of the copyright is unknown or can’t be found.”

That makes it seem like a good thing; in fact, it’s quite the opposite – as you’ll soon find out.

Meanwhile, we see that the government’s Behavioural Insights Team – otherwise known as the Cabinet Office’s ‘Nudge Unit’ – is being part-privatised after causing immense embarrassment to the government when it was revealed that a psychometric test it had devised for the Department for Work and Pensions to use on jobseekers was not only fake but, in fact, illegal.

The team was established after the 2010 election to – according to the government – find ways of getting people to make better choices themselves, rather than through state intervention.

But the psych test foisted on jobseekers by Iain Duncan Smith’s Department for Work and Pensions was the exact opposite of this. Firstly, workless people have been forced to take the test or lose their benefits. Next, the results have been proven to be a sham – it seems you get the same set of personality results, no matter what answers you enter – so there is no possibility of personal choice. Finally, it turns out that the whole exercise is illegal according to both UK and EU law, as “informed consent” is required before anyone takes part in a test of this kind. This is because the test has been presented as research – a “randomised control trial” (see that use of the word ‘control’? Dodgy!) according to a Cabinet Office blog.

As fellow blogger Steve Walker stated in his Skwawkbox blog on the subject earlier today (which I have reblogged), “the test itself is not the point – what is being trialled here is the supposed effect of going through it on the subjects of the trials – the unemployed people being made to participate”.

Informed consent must be given before people take part in such trials, according to the law. A person cannot be pressganged into it; they must freely make a decision to take part – written, dated and signed – after being informed of its nature, significance, implications and risks.

There is also a data protection issue.

Apparently a competition is to be held to find a business partner for the Nudge Unit. It might be hard to envisage many reputable firms seeking to collaborate with an organisation that is known to have been acting illegally, but even worse is the possibility that this will be the first of many instances where parts of the publicly-owned, operating for the benefit of everybody in the country, civil service will be hived off into private, profit-making ownership by a government of privateers who can’t wait to get their hands on all that lovely moolah – that should belong to the people, not them.

Finally, the letter I wrote last week, in answer to one from the local Conservative Parliamentary candidate, was published today in the local newspaper. It responded, with evidence-based information, to a series of groundless assertions about the bedroom tax, the benefit cap and Employment and Support Allowance, that had clearly been handed down to him from Conservative Central Office. Particularly incendiary was the parroted claim that 900,000 people dropped their claim for ESA rather than take the work capability assessment. This had been disproved and ridiculed on the same day Grant Shapps originally came out with it!

It takes a special kind of contempt for your intelligence to repeat, as fact, a claim that we all know is false. The Coalition government seems to be trying to make a living out of it.

The attitude that we see, time and time again, is “oh, they’ll take what they’re given. As long as we put a nice spin on it, they won’t even notice what’s happening to them”.

What’s happening is, of course, that our freedoms are being stolen from us, and all we’re getting in return is meaningless soundbites.

There is an election tomorrow (as I write this). You can see that certain politicians, currently in office, have no respect whatsoever for you, your opinions or your freedoms. You can’t shift them out yet.

But you can – those of you who are voting tomorrow – send a message to them and, if you have any self-respect, you will.

I hope you get the representatives – and the respect – you deserve.

12 thoughts on “Our upstart politicians have an important lesson to learn: Respect.

  1. murray

    Grant Shapps should be in jail, he is a fraudster,if he was in the US he would have been prosecuted,and serving time,as he should be in this country.

  2. michaelbooth59

    I fought today to get my brother in laws job seeker sanction lifted … the bastards blackmailed us into accepting a two wek only sanction …i had threatened to shop in TESCO …walk out with full trolley loads after first informing press /police what we were doing and why …During my visit to job center i mingled with many visitors and was shocked to find 2 out of 3 persons either were there becuse of being sanctioned or had been sanctioned …ALL WITH NO REASONABLE EXPLANATION FROM DWP …. its totally disgusting to us paying tax ………. AS DWP want to keep it

    Date: Wed, 1 May 2013 20:41:25 +0000 To: [email protected]

  3. Jane Canning

    There are laws to enable seizure of criminal assets. Shame they can’t be used to reverse privatisation, but what politician hasn’t benefited from them?

  4. sparaszczukster

    As usual, Mike, your analysis is spot on. What really disgusts me about the ridiculous ‘Nudge’ unit is their ideological construction of worklessness being the fault of the individual.This idea has a very long history but was more recently revived back in Thatcher’s day and reinforced by the 2006 Welfare Reform Bill which relied on a publication called The Scientific & Conceptual Basis of Incapacity Benefits (TSO, 2005) written by Mansel Aylward( then the government’s chief medic) and his colleague Gordon Waddell, an orthopaedic surgeon.
    It came out of very dodgy research done at the £1.6m Unum Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research at Cardiff University. One of the pearls of wisdom to emerge from this was the claim that worklessness is a serious risk to life and is “one of the greatest known risks to public health: the risk is equivalent to smoking 10 packets of cigarettes per day” (p17). On this basis they effectively set out to convince gullible ministers that illness is a (undesirable) behaviour and disability is often a state of mind thus giving the government plausible deniability of incapacity benefits.

    However… you could easily turn this argument against the government.

    Given that there is tons of high quality research available, that shows (surprise, surprise!) that worklessness is predominantly due to the lack of availability of jobs (you know, the sort of research that gets informed consent from participants and passes through Ethics Committees?), then IF worklessness is a serious risk to public health it should be the PUBLIC DUTY of any evidence-based government to do all it can to create JOBS,and not cut people’s benefits and further undermine the morale of a whole class of people on the backs of whom the rich have benefited for centuries.

    I rest my case.

    1. Mike Sivier

      Yes, there are one or two articles about Mr Aylward and Unum on this blog.

      He is on the record as having gone back on what he said in his original research after hearing what the current government has done with it but I’d like to have a word with him sometime… and he only lives a couple of dozen miles down the road.

  5. guy fawkes

    Nice bit of research there yourself sparasczukster, it seems the tories always overlook the obvious when applying their social policies, preferring instead some convoluted crap that is to the detriment of the recipient and of greatest benefit to themselves.

    1. sparaszczukster

      Thanks, guy fawkes. Its not hard to find the good, solid research. Much of it is available on Google Scholar. Like you say, the toadies only listen to what they want to hear. For instance,I tried to post a critical comment on their Nudge Unit Cabinet Office page where they were bragging about the ‘randomised trial’ of the fake test. They’d allowed a lot of gushing commentators to post but mine was blocked by some spam blocking software they indicate they use on the page. It said that over 2 thousand spam comments had been blocked before mine so I guess a lot of other people were also trying to criticise their bogus ‘research’. As Jonesy on Dad’s Army would say, “they don’t like it up ’em!”

  6. j henry

    we need to make these people responsible for their actions…it is criminal what is happening…over 70 people a week have died or are dying who have been deemed fit for work…this is being allowed to happen in front of us…when a goverment turns against its own people then its time to get rid of fast…also we need to insure that any future goverment will not have the power to destroy our public services that were set up to protect the sick and disabled..to insure that unemployed people would not be labelled benefit scroungers..to insure that our children would not starve…to stop this march back to dickensian times with soup kitchens and food banks..i am sure that if criminal charges could be brought against these goverment low lifes..then they would think twice about their actions and the consequences they are having on the weakest in our society..

  7. Joan

    I can’t quite get to grips with this Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act and what it would cover. What do companies need to search to find the “owner”. If it was a photograph on Facebook, as used as an example, who is the owner? I would like to think it was the Facebook poster but, knowing Facebook, it is probably them. Either way, the owner would be pretty obvious without having to do a search. If an image is on a web site, I would have thought the owner would automatically be the web site owner, unless of course they had stolen someone else’s image, as is often the case. I know that I don’t like the idea since it has originated from the ConDems, not recognised for doing anything for the good of us lesser mortals, but still wonder where the worst of the problems will lie. More examples will be gratefully received since I like to know what I’m talking about before imparting information to other people I know will be interested.

Comments are closed.