By their own standards, Coalition ministers should be in prison


Everyone should agree that the Tory fuss over former Co-op Bank chief Paul Flowers is an attempt to distract us all from a more serious transgression that they themselves have committed.

Flowers, who is also a former Labour councillor, was arrested last week after being filmed allegedly handing over money to pay for cocaine.

The Conservatives have spent the last few days working very hard to establish a link, in the public consciousness, between the criminal allegations against Flowers, the Co-op Bank’s current financial embarrassment – believed to have been caused because Flowers knew nothing about banking, and the Labour Party, which has benefited from loans and a £50,000 donation to the office of Ed Balls.

This is unwise, considering a current Tory peer, Viscount Matt Ridley, was chairman of Northern Rock at the time it experienced the first run on a British bank in 150 years. He was as well-qualified to chair that bank as Paul Flowers was to chair the Co-op. A writer and journalist, his only claim on the role was that his father was the previous chairman (apparently the chairmanship of Northern Rock was a hereditary position).

Ridley was accepted as a Tory peer after the disaster took place (a fact which, itself, casts light on Conservative claims that they were going to be tough on bankers after the banker-engineered collapse of the western economies that started on his watch). The Conservatives are currently obsessing about what happened between Flowers and the Labour Party before the allegations of criminality were made.

Ridley is listed as having failed in his duty of care, which is not very far away from the kind of responsibility for the Co-op Bank’s collapse that is alleged of Paul Flowers. (Source: BBC Any Questions, November 22, 2013)

In addition, the Co-op Bank is not the Co-operative Party or the Co-operative Movement, and those two organisations – one of which is affiliated with the Labour Party – must not be tarred with the same brush.

The Tories are hoping that the public will accept what they are told, rather than digging a little deeper for the facts.

There’s no real basis for their venom; they ennobled a man who presided over much worse damage to the UK’s financial institutions, and attracting attention to criminal behaviour by members or supporters of political parties would be a huge own-goal.

Therefore this is a distraction. From what?

Cast about a little and we discover that Jeremy Hunt is threatening to create a new criminal offence for doctors, nurses and NHS managers if they are found to have wilfully neglected or mistreated patients – carrying a penalty of up to five years in jail.

The law was recommended in the summer by Professor Don Berwick, a former adviser to Barack Obama, who recommended criminal penalties for “leaders who have acted wilfully, recklessly, or with a ‘couldn’t care less’ attitude and whose behaviour causes avoidable death or serious harm”.

Some of you may be delighted by this move, in the wake of the Mid Staffs scandal – even though questions have been raised over the accuracy of the evidence in that case.

But let’s look at another controversial area of government – that of social security benefits for the seriously ill.

It appears the Department for Work and Pensions, under Iain Duncan Smith, is planning to remove financial support for more than half a million people who – by its own standards – are too ill to seek, or hold, employment.

Apparently Smith wants to disband the Work-Related Activity Group (WRAG) of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claimants, because they aren’t coming off-benefit fast enough to meet his targets.

The Observer‘s report makes it clear that the arguments are all about money, rather than patient care. Smith is concerned that “only half of WRAG claimants are coming off-benefit within three years, and hundreds of millions of pounds are being tied up in administration of the benefit, including work capability assessments and the appeals process”.

No mention is made of the fact, revealed more than a year ago, that many of those in the WRAG in fact belong in the Support Group for ESA (the group for people recognised to have long-term conditions that are not likely to go away within the year afforded to WRAG members). They have been put in the WRAG because targets set by Smith mean only around one-eighth of claimants are put into the Support Group.

The knock-on effect is that many claimants appeal against DWP decisions. This has not only caused deep embarrassment for Smith and his officials, but added millions of pounds to their outgoings – in benefit payments and tribunal costs.

Not only that, but – and this is the big “but” – it is known that many thousands of ESA claimants have suffered increased health problems as a result of the anxiety and stress placed on them by the oppressive process forced upon them by Iain Duncan Smith.

This means that between January and November 2011, we know 3,500 people in the WRAG died prematurely. This cannot be disputed by the DWP because its claim is that everyone in the WRAG is expected to become well enough to work within a year.

These are not the only ESA claimants to have died during that period; a further 7,100 in the Support Group also lost their lives but are not used in these figures because they had serious conditions which were acknowledged by the government and were getting the maximum benefit allowed by the law.

What about the people who were refused benefit? What about the 70 per cent of claimants who are marked “fit for work” (according to, again, the unacknowledged targets revealed more than a year ago by TV documentary crews)?

We don’t have any figures for them because the DWP does not keep them. But we do know that many of these people have died – some while awaiting appeal, others from destitution because their benefits have been stopped, and more from the added stress and insecurity of seeking work while they were too ill to do it.

Now Iain Duncan Smith (we call him ‘RTU’ or ‘Returned To Unit’, in reference to his failed Army career) wants more than half a million people – who are known to be too ill to work – to be cut off from the benefit that supports them.

Let’s draw a line between this and Jeremy Hunt’s plan to criminalise medical professionals whose wilful, reckless or ‘couldn’t care less’ attitude to patients’ needs causes avoidable death or serious harm.

Clearly, such an attitude to people with serious long-term conditions should be carried over to all government departments, and yet nobody is suggesting that the DWP (and everybody who works for it) should face the same penalties.

Why not?

By its own admission, choices by DWP decision-makers – acting on the orders of Iain Duncan Smith – have led to deaths. We no longer have accurate information on the number of these deaths because Smith himself has blocked their release and branded demands for them to be revealed as “vexatious”. No matter. We know they have led to deaths.

If doctors are to face up to five years in prison for such harm, then government ministers and those carrying out their orders should be subject to the same rules.

By his own government’s standards, Iain Duncan Smith should be in prison serving many thousands of sentences.


27 thoughts on “By their own standards, Coalition ministers should be in prison

  1. Lou

    It is difficult to believe that such awful things are happening even with a lying dolt like Iain Duncan Smith nominally in charge at the DWP. (In reality of course IDS is far too thick to have come up with this vile stuff unaided and is really only a mouthpiece for unelected right-wing, small-state think-tankers, like the Centre for Social Justice which Smith started himself.)

    Why hasn’t this madman been stopped and sacked from his post?

    Why is he allowed to prosecute his deadly schemes unchallenged and unhindered?

    As bad as the Tories are at their heart I never thought they would stoop to this.

  2. Angie

    I did wonder why they were making so much of a hoo ha over this. Someone made a mistake in employing this guy, it happens all the time, people are employed that aren’t particularly good or right for the job but no-one goes on about it like this.

  3. jaypot2012

    I feel sick! Not a day goes past that I hear more and more about this hateful “man”. Why oh why isn’t something being done about this murdering piece of scum?
    It’s worry upon worry for us disabled – I don’t know how we are going to cope with it all.
    At the moment hubby is in the Support group, but I am going to be sent for by the Jobcentre (apparently), to see why I can’t support him. I wonder what their faces will be like when they see me being pushed in in a wheelchair, with one leg, arthritis all over my body, needing a knee replacement, a hip replacement, both my wrists to be operated on to keep them in one position, whilst suffering PTSD due to an arrogant surgeon making a huge mistake on me, resulting in an amputation? They’ll probably say that I can still work!
    The people that have already died due to this constant discrimination and his hatred for us and now we have to see him kill many, many more 🙁

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  5. HomerJS

    It was quite clear the other day in Parliament that IDS and his stooges did not want to answer any questions about deaths, and Mike Penning dismissed such a question with a pathetic response about ‘scaremongering’.

    Just recently I have been watching some programmes on The Final Solution, and I was surprised that rather than making me question the comparisons to this coalition it actually provided some chilling similarities. We are not at (or perhaps even likely to reach) the actual mass killings, but the propaganda and the initial targets, and the wholesale demonization of groups of people, combined with the lack of concern for their fate, all sent a shiver down my back.

  6. John Keen

    Could be useful… since the WCA is administered by a medical professional then THEY would be held to the same law, thus false reports (as they are fond of doing at this time) would leave them liable to prosecution…:) It would mean that Atos (or who ever is to run the system) would be themselves guilty of corruption of justice if they insist on “adjusting” the reports.

  7. jed goodright

    Admirable extrapolation Mike, well done – unfortunatey the standards the tory fascists set for others are not those that they set for themselves – they are, by their own admission ‘true believers’ in the processes they embark on – arbeit macht frei – they are always right!

  8. Gracie

    Why is this man in post? If the government are making such a noise about Paul Flowers, then they urgently need to look at Iain Duncan Smith. They may have had no control over the board of directors hiring Paul Flowers, but Cameron has direct control over IDS still being in his post, how does Cameron and IDS explain the “unnecessary deaths” on their watch? Surely this merits a full and independent judge led public inquiry? Meanwhile this ‘corporate manslaughter’ continues unchecked and unabated and all because Cameron is too scared to sack IDS for fear of sparking a revolt in his right wing back benches.

    Something stinks and it stinks right at the heart of this Tory Coalition, who sad to say the Liberal Democrats are still defending and enabling to the hilt.

    1. anon

      It is high time that LABOUR COMMITS TO SUCH AN INQUIRY as well as the criminal prosecution of any individual (including ‘health’ and admin workers) whose negligence or other failure can be linked to any WRAG death.

  9. Mike Sivier

    Jim Butler-Daulby on Facebook says he tried to post the following here but was unable to do so. I’m doing it for him:

    “Making political capital out of one individual who slipped the vet-net sounds to me like desperation! They’ve got nothing and they’re running scared. Plus, blaming medical staff for poor care, given the level of NHS cuts and sell-offs to companies (many declared ‘unfit for purpose’ by the CQC) adding sometimes unbearable pressure to NHS staff, is a pretty thin smokescreen! Coupled with their attempts to hide their historic promises – WHO would put a cross in a Tory/LibDem box?”

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  12. thelovelywibblywobblyoldlady

    Excellent post Mike.
    I watched Grant Shapps on Sunday Politics, with Andew Neil trying in vain, to pin him down as to what evidence the tories held to substansiate their claim that Milliband and Balls knew about Flowers. Of course, Shapps had no evidence; it was all piss and wind, designed as you say, to deflect the heat from their monumental cock ups!

    1. Lou

      Yep. And Shapps traipsed out the sound bites and buzzwords, e.g., “hard-working families who want to get on”, which are about to be used to death up to the next general election. Pathetic is as pathetic does and Shapps was truly pathetic. How can a monkey like him ever have become chairman of the Conservative Party? Only under David Cameron, eh?

  13. Ted Duggan

    This lot are the lowest form of life that has ever been in government and they are making sure that everything will be sold off to private companies by the time of the next election.

    The public should look at the headline about George Osborne and the hooker ?
    …… Nice picture of them together and theres a line of cocaine on the table ……and this man runs the economy

    Just do a search for George Osborne and cocaine …. ?

  14. Thomas

    This government is a malignant cancer and we can’t get it treated before 2015. So far I have been left mainly unbothered by it, but I assume that it just doesn’t have the time to bother me quite yet. I do know this-if someone offers me a job that person will be a scammer.

  15. elle

    I’m one of those in the WRAG, I have various ills and have been in it for over 4 years, at one point the were assessing me every 6 months until I discovered I was allowed to send a doctors letter in with the ESA 50.
    I did so and was granted an extra 2 years without assessment and was still kept in the WRAG..

    That’s 6 years in total, I have arthritis, Fibro and spinal issues, these are all permanant health issues, and isn’t recoverable in a year, that’s madness.

    I’m certain IDS thinks he’s some sort of god, to make the unwell well again.

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  17. terry dawe

    In any other euromember country IDS would be behind bars,in the middle east or further ……………..dead
    They hung Saddam,this tw** should suffer the same

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