Will Question Time’s panel do what Parliament can’t – and hold Iain Duncan Smith to account?

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Picture the scene if you can: It’s shortly after 11.35pm on Thursday (June 5) and all my inboxes are suddenly overflowing – with the same message: Iain Duncan Smith will be on Question Time next week.

The implication was that there is an opportunity here – to show the public the homicidal – if not genocidal – nature of the changes to the benefit system this man mockingly describes as “welfare reforms”.

We were given the name of only one other panellist who will be appearing in the June 12 show, broadcast from King’s Lynn: Private Eye editor Ian Hislop. He is certainly the kind of man who should relish a chance to take the politician we call RTU (Returned To Unit) down a peg or two – in fact the Eye has run articles on DWP insanity fairly regularly over the past two decades at least.

Personally I’d like to see him joined by Michael Meacher and Owen Jones, at the very least. A rematch between Smith and Jones would be terrific television (but it is unlikely that the coward IDS would ever agree to it).

All such a panel would need to get started is a question about “welfare reform”. Then they could start at the beginning with the involvement of the criminal US insurance corporation Unum, which has been advising the British government since Peter Lilley was Secretary of State for Social Security. There appears to be a moratorium on even the mention of Unum in the British press so, if this is the first you’ve heard of it, now you know why.

Unum’s version of an unproven strand of psychology known as biopsychosocial theory informs the current work capability assessment, used by the coalition government to evaluate whether a claimant of sickness benefits (Incapacity Benefit/Employment Support Allowance or Disability Living Allowance/Personal Independence Payment) should receive any money. The assessment leans heavily on the psycho part of the theory – seeking to find ways of telling claimants their illnesses are all in the mind and they are fit for work. This is how Unum wormed its way out of paying customers when their health insurance policies matured – and it is also how Unum received its criminal conviction in the States.

Here in the UK, the work capability assessment appears to have led to the deaths of 3,500 ESA claimants between January and November 2011 – 73 per week or one every two hours or so. These are the only statistics available to us as the Department for Work and Pensions stopped publicising the figures in response to a public outcry against the deaths.

Members of the public have tried to use the Freedom of Information Act to pry updated figures from the DWP. I know of one man who was told that the 2011 figures were provided in an ‘ad hoc’ release and there was no plan for a follow-up; the figures are not collected and processed routinely. The last part of this was a lie, meaning the DWP had illegally failed to respond to a legitimate FoI request.

Having seen that individual attempts to use the FoI Act to get the information had failed, I put in a request of my own and suggested others do the same, resulting in (I am told) 23 identical requests to the DWP in June last year. Apparently this is vexatious behaviour and when I took the DWP to a tribunal earlier this year, it won.

But the case brought out useful information, such as a DWP employee’s admission that “the Department does hold, and could provide within the cost limit, some of the information requested”.

Now, why would the Department, and Iain Duncan Smith himself, want to withhold these figures – and lie to the public about having them? It seems to me that the death toll must have increased, year on year. That is the only explanation that makes sense.

The DWP, and its Secretary-in-a-State, have had their attention drawn to the deaths many times, if not in interviews then in Parliament. DWP representatives (if not Mr Duncan Smith himself) have taken pains to say they have been improving the system – but still they won’t say how many deaths have taken place since November 2011.

If it can be proved that DWP ministers were aware of the problem (and we know they are) but did not change the situation enough to slow the death rate (as seems to be the case), then it seems clear that there has been an intention to ignore the fact that people have been dying unnecessarily. This runs against Human Rights legislation, and a strong case could be made for the corporate manslaughter of thousands of people.

And that’s just ESA!

When we come to PIP, there’s the issue of the thousands of claimants who have been parked – without assessment – for months at a time, waiting to find out if they’ll receive any money.

Universal Credit currently has no budget, it seems, but the DWP is clearly still wasting millions of pounds on a project that will never work as it is currently conceived.

It would be nice to think that at least one member of Thursday’s panel might read this article and consider standing up for the people, but it’s a long shot.

Possibly a million-to-one chance, in fact.

According to Terry Pratchett, that makes it an absolute certainty!

Here’s hoping…

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39 thoughts on “Will Question Time’s panel do what Parliament can’t – and hold Iain Duncan Smith to account?

  1. philipburdekin

    The squirm will wriggle away scot free, why can’t this tawt just fade away back to his rat hole and disappear for ever?

  2. Julia Smith

    It is well documented that the number of Atos deaths within 6 weeks of assessment and being found ‘fit for work’ between Jan and Nov 2011 is 10,600, not 3,500. Has there been an error ? xx

    1. Mike Sivier

      No – I just don’t count those who were put in the ‘support’ group because they were getting all the help allowed by the law.

      1. Phil The Folk

        Mike, I feel you should include all those put in the Support Group, because it’s the fear of constant reassessment that plays on peoples minds every day, and has been causing people to either end their lives, or die, because their illnessess have been exacerbated beyond the pale, as it was for my partner Jean. Her depression and anxiety state was made so bad, that her blood pressure rose out of control untill she had a bleed on the brain, as you know. She’s not the only one to have suffered in this way. The DWP and ATOS and her MP were fully aware of her conditions and the affect these assessments had upon her from 4 previous assessments, and she should never have been subjected to another assessment in the first place. This is why I say, that if you, or I subjected a person to a terrifying experience knowing full well that they had mental health problems, we would be up in Court on a charge of harassment at the very least!

      2. Mike Sivier

        I didn’t want to include the support group for the reasons I stated, and because I didn’t have a good enough reason to suggest that they should be a part of the count.
        This seems entirely fair and justified, though.
        Okay, so that’s 220 deaths per week or around four every three hours.

      3. Phil The Folk

        Thanks for conceeding and making the amendment Mike. These figures are mind boggling and are both a National and International scandal. If the public knew the facts, nobody in their right minds would support these evil welfare reforms. Having spoken at length on the phone to my old Labour MP, who will be standing again next year, I think the penny is beginning to drop. If she gets elected again I will be hammering this issue home with her constantly. She knew of my Jean’s plight from 2007 and was horrified to hear what had happened to her. I told her these assessments MUST be scrapped and doctors MUST be believed, and have the final say on their patients conditions. I also told her that the cat is out of the bag as regards Unum’s involvement. I have even sent her a couple of your blogs on the matter asking the question..when is this cover up going to stop???

  3. Colin M. Taylor

    you can bet the BBC will filter out any questions that are likely to bring IDS to account. I’m betting that, on the night, he will be ‘indisposed’

  4. beastrabban

    Reblogged this on Beastrabban’s Weblog and commented:
    Mike asks a very good question, but I doubt that next Thursday’s Question Time will do that. The panel may include Ian Hislop, but I doubt if the BBC will want to include anyone more radical, who could possibly prove an embarrassment for IDS. Dimblebore has a history of interrupting and cutting off speakers, who are saying something the government doesn’t want to hear, and the BBC is keen to avoid accusations by the Tories of bias against them. I hope in this case I’m wrong, and that the panel will include people of the calibre of Meacher and Jones. But I’m not optimistic.

    1. Shaqui

      I sincerely hope Ian Hislop is in his finest journalistic form, and doesn’t do anything for laughs, as would be expected on Have I Got News For You. Certainly his editorship of Private Eye shows how on the ball he usually is, but he may be known better for satire, than the nitty gritty.

      Now they should have got someone like Sonia Poulton in there, especially as he and Ester McVey have made a very visual point of avoiding her…

  5. Florence

    I reckon he will be a no-show. A minion will be dispatched to collect the cat-calls and boo-ing. He now obviously has gone completely over the edge with his narcissistic claims comparing himself with Wilberforce and the slavery abolitionists. If he does show up, it will be with the faint whiff of burning saint, to show how he suffers for his true belief.

    I think that he is now even more dangerous than ever, knowing they will be out on their ar**s in 12 months, and is going for broke The tripling of sanctions of ESA WRAG group – with the obvious deaths and suicides – is just the beginning of a vicious campaign to kill and maim, starve and throw on the streets as many as possible in the time left. There will be no time for appeals, reviews, HoC committees, HoC debates, it’s just going to be carnage. IMHO.

  6. Methusalada

    Reblogged this on Methusalada and commented:
    I am some what overjoyed by Ian Hislop being on Question Time along with IDS . I am not concerned about who the other 3 prophets of wisdom are .I look forward to a real Gladiatorial combat on Humanity V Evil bustards. I do hope I am not sounding prejudice but someone has nicked my copy of this Friday’s edition of my Private Eye. You can’t blame IDS for that can you ?

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  8. Chris K.

    I will always remember IDS’s pathetic speech when Tory leader about the “quietman turning up the volume”, what tosh. He’s quietly killed thousands with his incompetence and utter disregard for human life. Whoever is blackmailing him to do this must have some unsavory evidence. Same goes for Willie Hague another worm.
    Ian Hislop is just another gatekeeper for the British establishment and he won’t attack one of his fellows from a party full of his school chums and friends from University. Maybe Russell Brand would’ve been a better adversary to IDS , but he does not have a solo comedy show to promote at the moment? Get Owen Jones back!

    1. Mike Sivier

      Ian Hislop has been criticising members of ALL political parties for nearly 30 years. He’s good enough for it – if he’s got the strength of will to go through with it.

      I don’t think anyone is blackmailing Iain Duncan Smith. These policies are his own ideas and responsibility.

  9. bad putty tat

    I wish they could have; Micheal Meacher; Owen jones, Sonia Poulton, Shami Chakrabarti and George Galloway, The Taxi driver, Max Keiser, Dennis Skinner on the programme, but that’s not gonna happen, the BBC is rank Tory especially David Dimbleby, so NO I doubt very much he’ll get what’s coming to him!

  10. Steven Durrant

    We know from experience that he is a psychopath who doesn’t give a f***, and as such he’s quite popular with tory membership.

    The avenue for attack is the disaster of implementing Universal Credit, he has his dismal excuses but they can all be shot down. The dogs in the street know this flaghip policy is in chaos and that he is responsible. But it’s Cameron that’s kept him there, so attack him in passing, attack Cameron for even having him in the job in the first place.

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  12. tommaz jayTommaz Jay

    I don’t wish to negate the terrible loss of life that this unelected, unmandated and despot government is responsible for. Beside theses fallen heroes are an equal if not a sadder statistic that is the number who have tried unsuccessful to end their lives. I speak from my own experience.

    After taking twenty seven of the thirty days allowed to fill in my ESA50 and agonised over every word, syllable, full stop, comma and dash that took over my whole existence for the twenty seven days and nights the form was sent off to ATOS the purveyors of death, despondency and utter total misery.
    I won’t go into the details of my disability save to say that it precludes any type of work on the ground that I am a danger to myself because of long recent mental illnesses.

    The day that the death warrant arrived from ATOS I read the letter once, then again and again, not comprehending why they were accusing me of being a lying, skiving scumbag not worth of help from a benefit that I had paid into for over forty years.
    With my brain boiling inside I took the only course of action open to my torched mind and took every single medication that I possessed.

    Three days and two cardiac arrests latter I woke to a feeling of utter shame and despondence not for the hurt I had inflicted on my family, but for the fact that I had failed in my attempt to end the torment that the whole process was and still is inflicting upon me. I am after a paper reconsideration in the support group with little or up to now no contact with the DWP.

    You would think that I should be grateful for my miserly £105 a week that I traded for £85,000 a year. I still wake every morning angry that I have not died in my sleep. I wish that I could die every waking moments and why. The truth is that the whole system has let me down badly. I feel attract at every turn of a right wing newspaper or television newscast. Sensible friends and relatives make assumptions about my ability to work based upon media disinformation.The most recent from my own son, that as I can type and use a mouse then I should be capable of working in a call center or helping older people at a DIY outlet..

    The one thing the governmental propaganda machine has done and is still doing well is the brain washing of the public at large. Demonizing would be a more apt word for it as we see young people, the ill and disabled and now the old having their futures sacrificed on the governments alter of pure dogmatic ideological greed.

    Forgive me if you think I am wrong or for the ramblings of a sick burned out old man with nothing more to bring to the table

    Tommaz Jay
    Frightened, very frightened for all of our futures

    1. Guy Ropes

      From one burned out old man to another Tommaz: – Power to your elbow, eloquently put.

    2. Florence

      You’re not burned out – your spirit is in every word & line you write. I can sympathise as I was happy working in a very well paid job before disability struck, and know that every word you say is true. You have great soul, and should not deprive us of your light & company.

      I banned my in-laws (DM readers) after they said “all disabled need a kicking”. Me too? Silence, with a slight sneer. Family are the worst to deal with, but they don’t have the burden of waking up every day, despairing, knowing exactly how the next 24 hours are going to be. I my case it’s chronic pain. Very few can empathise with what it’s like – the physical & mental torture of every move. Standing on broken feet, walking on broken glass, sitting on spikes, sobbing with pain to butter a slice, trivial, corrosive, and invisible. Mental anguish is the same – the hidden pain. Just know that you’re living proof that we are here and we all have worth. The one’s without worth are those in charge of the government without compassion, and with an ugly, vicious, deviant ideology that has already been condemned by the world through the UNHRC, and the EUHRC.

    3. Norma Roberts

      You said you have nothing more to bring to the table – Tommaz, you have brought a veritable feast to the table!

      I, for one, implore you to stay with us so I may “dine” some more!

      I wish YOU were going to be on Question Time with ID(B)S.

  13. A6er

    Reblogged this on Britain Isn't Eating and commented:
    At last, Iain Duncan Smith raises his head again and agrees to be on next weeks Question Time panel. Hopefully he’ll be shot down like the Nazi b*****d he is.
    Please watch the show

  14. Lee

    The BBC are scared to tackle the the Government the days of hostile questioning are a distant memory! IDS will squirm his way out as he usually does when in fact his whole department is crumbling around him wrong man wrong job A danger to the vulnerable in society!!!

  15. Lynn Dye

    Mike
    I find it very wrong that the DWP can win a court case when no one bothers to even turn up to represent them. What a corrupt country we have become!
    Sincerely hoping IDS is put on the spot on Thursday…

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