Inaccurate: This meme – and others like it – provided an inaccurate interpretation of DWP statistics that the Torygraph and the BBC have seized, using them to hide the real issue. Thousands of ESA claimants are still dying every year but the DWP refuses to say how many. Why not? As David Cameron himself has said many times, “If you’ve nothing to hide, you’ve nothing to fear.”
BBC Radio 4’s More or Less promised a feature on the long-discussed deaths of people claiming Employment and Support Allowance in its programme on Friday – and delivered five minutes of drivel that is an insult to the intelligence of anybody concerned.
As a reporter, I am staggered that the BBC has had the bare-faced cheek to patronise us in this manner.
The feature (which may be downloaded here – it’s the August 29 edition) took as its premise claims made on the social media that 10,600 people have died within six weeks of being declared ‘fit for work’ by Atos assessors.
There are several issues with this. Firstly, this claim is two years out-of-date. Many more are likely to have died since then but the figures are not available because the Department for Work and Pensions has refused to release them. Secondly, the claim is inaccurate, based on a misunderstanding of the DWP statistical release ‘Incapacity Benefits: Deaths of recipients’ published in July 2012.
We already know that the claim was inaccurate. Why is the BBC determined to rake over these old coals?
For the sake of the BBC and anyone else who is similarly hard-of-thinking, let’s go back to what the statistical release actually says.
Officially – according to the DWP – the 10,600 deaths were of people leaving ESA with a recorded date of death, between January and November 2011. The government document made it clear that “data on the number of ESA claimants who have died following a ‘fit for work’ decision is not available, as the Department does not hold information on a death if the person has already left benefit”. Efforts to persuade the DWP to change this policy and follow up ‘fit for work’ decisions by checking on claimants’ health at intervals afterwards have been refused at all times.
Therefore we may safely conclude that the number of deaths of ESA claimants is probably many times greater than official figures suggest.
In the Now and Then piece, the Daily Telegraph‘s Tom Chivers, enlisted to provide some spurious relevance to the show’s finding, said: “The DWP say they don’t keep records of the number of people who died after their benefits were cut off because that’s irrelevant to them; it’s no longer their problem. So we don’t have the full figures.” This is correct.
The trouble is, it is the DWP’s problem – and it’s certainly a problem for the rest of us – because anyone who has died in this way almost certainly did so as a consequence of the loss of their benefit! The news media has been riddled with stories of these people over the last few years, and we can be sure that the volume of known stories is a fraction of the true number of cases.
Back to the statistical release: Of the 10,600, the government said 2,200 died when their assessment had not been completed. This clearly suggests that the assessment process had failed these people – they died before they were able to access the support they needed.
A further 1,300 were in the Work Related Activity group. This suggests that they had been placed in the wrong group and should have been in the Support Group.
Finally, 7,100 were in the Support group. The statistical release states that “those in the Support Group receive unconditional support due to the nature of their illness, which can include degenerative conditions, terminal illness and severe disability”. However, just three paragraphs above, the same release states that the information it provides relates to people “whose latest WCA [work capability assessment] date (or activity towards assessment) was before the end of November 2011”.
This means that people in the Support Group do not receive “unconditional support” at all – they have to undergo periodic reassessment, at irregular intervals (due to the nature of the assessment process – you never know when they’ll get round to you again). This meant that people with degenerative conditions, terminal illness and severe disability are subjected to the stress and anxiety of having to face a flawed assessment system – rigged to find them ‘fit for work’ if at all possible – at any time. Stories in the press about people with terminal cancer (the most famous example) being forced back to work can only have increased this stress, making the possibility of early death more likely.
That is the situation. Now let us examine what the BBC had to say about it.
The More or Less feature is inaccurate from the start.
It states: “In 2011, existing Incapacity Benefit and Income Support claims were replaced with something called Employment and Support Allowance.” In fact, ESA was introduced by the previous Labour government on October 27, 2008 and while IB and IS claims were not migrated until 2011, it would be wrong to think that the deaths under discussion were of the migrated claims in isolation.
“Claimants were made to undergo a Work Capability Assessment to determine whether they were entitled to the new allowance and how much money they might get. Now some critics complain that these assessments are stacked against claimants. Seriously-ill people are being dismissed as malingerers by Atos Healthcare and having their claims denied. And in the middle of this argument, up pops the truly shocking finding that 10,600 people have been cut off from this vital benefit and then died within six weeks.”
Two things: Firstly – THAT IS NOT THE FINDING! See the analysis of the statistical release (above). Secondly – the claim is two years old; it was made when the statistical release was issued back in July 2012 and debunked shortly afterwards. Why is More or Less covering this old news when it could be asking relevant questions?
One has to ask why the programme enlisted help from – of all people – Daily Telegraph blogger Tom Chivers. He published a controversial piece about the Atos deaths on July 9, proceeding from the same – wrong – starting-point as More or Less. His argument is irrelevant because it does not relate to the problem.
In the broadcast, Chivers compounded the error with further inaccuracies: “In July 2012 there was a Freedom of Information request about how many people died within six weeks of their benefit claim ending,” he blithely spouted. WRONG. Here is the request, copied verbatim from the DWP’s statistical release and pasted here:
Information request: Can you please provide me with the number of ESA claimants who have died in 2011?
Can you please break down that number into the following categories:
Those who are in the assessment phase
Those who have been found fit to work
Those who have been placed in the work related activity group
Those who have been placed in the support group
Those who have an appeal pending
(This is the format I have used in both of my own, subsequent, FoI requests on this matter, and I believe Samuel Miller’s was phrased the same way. The DWP has sidestepped all three.)
There is nothing about any six-week period after the claim ended. The request is about ESA claimants who died during 2011 – no more, no less.
Chivers accurately quotes a paragraph from the response which mentions the six-week time figure. He goes on to say that he found it questionable and checked it with the DWP. What he then tells us suggests that the fault lies with the Department for Work and Pensions, for deliberately failing to directly answer the direct questions that had been put to it.
“They said no – actually there is a rather weird, obtuse meaning of it, which they mean it was six weeks either side of this thing – there was a six-week period either side of the death and that was when the claim ended.”
That has nothing to do with the original request! If they died, they died!
“A lot of these people would have died, and then the claim ended shortly afterwards because they were dead,” Chivers said, as though it excused the DWP of any wrong-doing. All he was doing was reiterating the problem – that people have been dying while claiming ESA!
Presenter Tim Harford then chimed in: “So what the DWP are doing here is, they take a snapshot, they see a certain number of people are making a benefit claim and are alive, and then six weeks later they take another snapshot and they discover that these people are no longer making a benefit claim, and these people are no longer alive?”
This would make a nonsense of the DWP’s statistical release from 2012. It covers a period from January to November 2011, inclusive. That’s 11 months, not six weeks! No ‘snapshots’ were taken – it was a running total showing all deaths during the c.48 weeks covered, not the sum of two ‘snapshots’ taken six weeks apart. In fact, the DWP should be grateful for this because 10,600 deaths within six weeks comes out at 1,767 deaths per week, rather than the 220 maximum that some of us have been suggesting.
Not content with producing a statement of utter nonsense, Harford decided to confuse the listening public with a completely different interpretation within minutes of the first: “So 10,600 claimants didn’t die six weeks after their claim ended; 10,600 claimants died within the same six-week period as their claim ended – not the same thing at all.” Correct – it’s not even the same thing you said moments previously, Tim.
And it still isn’t accurate! Look at the top of this article again. The DWP made it perfectly clear that it does not monitor what happens to people after their claim ends – these are all people who died while claiming the benefit, who should have been receiving the maximum amount of care possible, but didn’t.
That is the issue More or Less should have been investigating. That is why the show, Harford, Chivers and the BBC have failed us so appallingly.
The perpetrators of this atrocity decided to end with some unbearably smug platitudes – to show how completely they have misunderstood the situation, it seems.
From Chivers: “What this comes down to, as far as I’m concerned, is just a dreadful piece of communication by the DWP. This fairly, well, not simple but not complicated piece of information has been translated into 10,000 people dying within six weeks of being callously removed from their benefits.”
Wrong! Thanks to a few inaccurate memes, Chivers has tried to translate the DWP’s information into something it is not, diverting attention away from the real problem.
People are still dying – on a daily basis – because of the way the Department for Work and Pensions has decided to handle claims for incapacity benefits. It is a national scandal.
Remember: Those 10,600 deaths cover a period of just 11 months, ending nearly three years ago. How many have died since then? Has the number escalated or decreased? If More or Less had done its research, it could have been reporting on the biggest genocide of the British people by their own government since the Harrowing of the North.
Instead, we got this from Tim Harford: “So the moral of this story: It’s always worth asking what a statistic is really counting, rather than assuming we know.”
Really? What a shame Mr Harford did not practise what he was preaching.
This also means that an election defeat in the near future is considered to be “highly likely“, and although May said there is no evidence to suggest a change of government is imminent, senior members of the Cameron cabinet are keen to make sure the public is fully distracted in the face of a reported threat from militant Euro-sceptics on the right-wing of the Tory Party.
A day out with their minders: If you have ever sat amazed at decisions made by criminal court judges, rest easy in the knowledge that they come from deeply sheltered backgrounds and simply don’t know any better.
If you have ever wondered why you couldn’t get on in life, despite all the talent anyone should ever need… now you know the truth. It’s because you didn’t go to a private school and you didn’t go to Oxford or Cambridge University.
According to the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, 71 per cent of senior judges, 62 per cent of senior armed forces officers, 55 per cent of top civil servants, 43 per cent of newspaper columnists and 36 per cent of the Cabinet are members of a deeply elitist “cosy club” who were educated at private schools (Owen Jones, writing in The Guardian, commented: “It is quite something when the ‘cabinet of millionaires’ is one of the less unrepresentative pillars of power”).
Also privately-educated were 45 per cent of chairmen/women of public bodies, 44 per cent of the Sunday Times Rich List, and 26 per cent of BBC executives. Where are the naysayers who claim the BBC is a Leftie haven now?
When it comes to Oxbridge graduates, the situation worsens – they have a “stranglehold” on top jobs, according to The Guardian, which adds: “They comprise less than one per cent of the public as a whole, but 75 per cent of senior judges, 59 per cent of cabinet ministers, 57 per cent of permanent secretaries, 50 per cent of diplomats, 47 per cent of newspaper columnists, 44 per cent of public body chairs, 38 per cent of members of the House of Lords, 33 per cent of BBC executives, 33 per cent of shadow cabinet ministers, 24 per cent of MPs and 12 per cent of those on the Sunday Times Rich List.
My personal belief is that this should be no surprise to anybody – I’ve known it ever since the then-headteacher at my high school proudly announced that the only sixth-former on their way to Oxford, one year back in the 1980s, was his own daughter. Even then it wasn’t about what you knew but who Daddy was.
At least it is official now.
The person who should be least surprised by these findings is Commission chairman and Labour turncoat Alan Milburn. He does not come from a nobby background but has been absorbed into the group – possibly in gratitude for a series of betrayals of his own kind that began when he entered government.
Milburn was one of the Labour MPs who embraced neoliberalism in the 1990s. His reward was a place in the Cabinet as Minister of State for Health, then Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and then Health Secretary. He was also honorary president of the neoliberal thinktank Progress, which works hard to foist right-wing ideas onto the Labour Party.
It is no wonder, then, that Milburn subsequently became the darling of David Cameron’s Coalition government, being offered a role as ‘social mobility tsar’. It is in this role that he has delivered the current report on elitism.
According to that great source of knowledge Wikipedia, Milburn’s role was about “advising the government on how to break down social barriers for people from disadvantaged backgrounds, and help[ing] people who feel they are barred from top jobs on grounds of race, religion, gender or disability”.
Nearly four-and-a-half years into a five-year Parliament, Milburn came out with this report, and I’m willing to bet that, if a similar document had been compiled before Labour left office, evidence would show that the situation has worsened, not improved.
Even now, David Cameron is probably congratulating Milburn on what a great job he has done – achieving nothing.
In fairness, even a man like Milburn could not ignore such clear findings and the report describes the situation as “elitism so stark that it could be called social engineering“.
What is more interesting about the situation is the fact that it has been described as a ‘closed shop’, a term more readily-associated with those bitter opponents of privilege – the trade unions.
A closed shop is an agreement under which an employer agrees to hire union members only, and employees must remain members of the union at all times in order to remain employed. That is definitely what the report is demonstrating and, considering the elite’s antipathy to the unions, it is further demonstration of the high-handed and corrupt attitude of these types – their belief that they should be a law unto themselves.
This in fact provides us with the only positive element to come out of this report. It gives jobseekers a decent reason for being unable to secure work – all the best jobs are being hogged by overprivileged twits!
Owen Jones’s Guardian article suggests of the situation: “In the case of the media this has much to do with the decline of the local newspapers that offered a way in for the aspiring journalist with a non-gilded background; the growing importance of costly post-graduate qualifications that are beyond the bank accounts of most; and the explosion of unpaid internships, which discriminate on the basis of whether you are prosperous enough to work for free, rather than whether you are talented.”
That is not my experience.
I did my post-graduate journalism course with help from a training scheme run by the Tory government of the time – the Department of Social Security paid for my education in that respect. My recollection is that I was one of the highest-achievers on that course; considering my future career, this indicates that there is truth behind the ‘closed shop’ claim of the new report.
My experience on local newspapers is that they are more likely to offer a way in for aspiring “non-gilded” reporters now than when I entered. While I was fully-qualified when I was hired by my first employer in Bristol, here in Mid Wales the papers have seemed happy to hire people with no qualifications at all, and train them up. There are no unpaid internships here, to my knowledge.
That being said, management practices in the press are so bad that I am constantly amazed anybody bothers trying to work for these idiots at all.
My first paper was passed from one company to another in a “gentleman’s agreement” on a golf course. It meant that I took an effective pay cut, being forced to travel 30 miles further to work and receiving a lower-than-normal pay rise when I became a senior reporter.
Another paper was doing quite well when I joined, offering healthy bonuses for all employees at Christmas. I never got to benefit from this, though, because bosses foolishly took on at great cost a ‘general manager’ who managed all our profits away and then persuaded them to sell up to a much larger firm that stripped the operation to the bone and hoovered up all the profits. Quality plummeted and (after I left) so did sales.
A third paper’s solution to declining sales was a plan to cut back the number of reporters while keeping the management structure intact. That’s right – they reduced the number of people writing the stories that sold the papers. Then they attacked the remaining reporters for the continued drop in sales and absolutely refused to entertain any notion that they might have got the situation arse-backward.
That is why I agree with the UK Commission for Education and Skills, which said that “poor management hinders UK competitiveness”, and with the comment on that report in Flip Chart Fairy Tales, that “poorly managed firms drag a country’s score down and Britain has more than its fair share of them”.
The Milburn report puts the seal on the problem: Firms are poorly-managed because the people at the top are over-privileged fools who got into their position thanks to Daddy’s money rather than any talent of their own.
As the banking crisis – caused by these very people – and the subsequent, slowest economic recovery in UK history demonstrate starkly for all to see, these private-school, Oxford and Cambridge ignoramuses are worse than useless when it comes to managing an economy.
There is nothing you can do about it while a Conservative-led government is in power because that is exactly how David Cameron and his cronies like it.
(What am I saying? Of course they like it – they and their friends are the private-school, Oxford and Cambridge ignoramuses who are cocking up the system!)
You only need to read the ‘Revolving Doors’ column in Private Eye to see how these goons lurch from one failure to another – always finding a new job after each disaster because of the Old School Tie.
It is long past time we saw a few highly-prejudicial sackings but our sad, fat ‘captains of industry’ just don’t have the guts.
Philip Daves, Conservative MP for (to that constituency’s great embarrassment) Shipley: With this history, he should be the last person the Daily Mail asks to justify Coalition policy on the disabled.
Where, exactly, is the “fury” that the Daily Mail wants us to believe has been sparked by the UN’s decision to investigate breaches of human rights by the Coalition government?
Nowhere, apart from at the Daily Mail and the Coalition government!
The paper reported yesterday (correctly) that the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) has launched a formal investigation into whether the UK’s Coalition Conservative and Liberal Democrat government has committed “grave or systemic violations” of the rights of disabled people.
It then went right off the rails by adding that Conservative MPs had branded the investigation as “politically motivated”, saying this country’s record on help for disabled people was among the best in the world. Take particular note of the word “was”.
“These people at the UN are idiots,” said Mr Davies, who is an imbecile. Nobody should accept his word on anything. The people of his Shipley constituency must be bitterly embarrassed that they ever elected him.
In fact, the paper is not wrong in saying the UK’s record was very good, as long as it qualifies that remark by adding “until the general election of 2010”. After then, disability policy went pear-shaped in a big way.
Even the box-out in yesterday’s article – which, one must presume, is intended to show how well the government is treating the disabled – shot itself in the foot.
“The disability living allowance (DLA)… has now been replaced by the personal independence payment (PIP),” it states. “In 2012, there were over 3 million DLA claimants in the UK, but the Government estimates 600,000 fewer disabled people will qualify for PIP by 2018.”
Take note of the wording; the paper accepts that the people losing benefit are disabled. DLA and PIP are intended to provide support for the disabled in their daily lives (including work), so this passage is an admission that the government is cutting disabled people off from the support they need.
Discussing the Work Capability Assessment “for those claiming Incapacity Benefit, Severe Disablement Allowance and Income Support”, the box-out comes seriously unstuck in its attempt to use – shall we say – diplomatic language to disguise what is happening.
“Almost two million people were assessed by health workers” it states. These people were not doctors – they were “health workers”. In fact, it turns out that these so-called medical professionals were almost entirely unqualified to confirm or deny the conditions of the people they were examining; their job was to put simple “yes” or “no” answers in a computer-based tick-box system devised by a private insurance company called Unum, for the purpose of denying benefit to as many people as possible.
“Those ruled unfit for work were then moved onto the new Employment and Support Allowance and were given another exam, again using a points-based system, to decide how much support they qualified for,” the box-out added. This is completely inaccurate, of course. People on the old benefits received just one WCA, to determine whether the government would allow them to receive ESA. They were, however, forced to undergo reassessment at uneven intervals thereafter, in a form of government-sponsored psychological torture.
The sheer volume of error caused by the system was such that no less than 10,600 claimants died between January and November 2011. We have no data on fatalities since then because the cowards in the Coalition government have refused to release them. In addition, the volume of appeals against WCA decisions skyrocketed – even after some of those who lodged proceedings died due to the stress of going through a lengthy procedure while having to survive on nothing but fresh air and the kindness of others.
In response, the government has changed the rules in order to make it harder for people to appeal.
Is this the kind of treatment that your government wants you to think is among the “best in the world”?
The main article also sideswipes UN special rapporteur for housing Raquel Rolnik, although a paragraph rehashing the abusive nickname ‘Brazil Nut’, coined by the Mail a few months ago, appears to have been removed from the web version.
It merely states that she “sparked a furious reaction from Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith after she criticised the so-called ‘Bedroom Tax'”. He wasn’t the only one. Grant Shapps had a few things to say about it too – and both of them were slapped down hard by her response, which demonstrated very clearly that their information was wrong and hers was accurate.
This one is particularly revealing about the Tory reaction to Ms Rolnik’s visit.
Here is information that shows Ms Rolnik was right and the Tories – and the papers supporting them – were wrong.
Finally, here is an article about the Mail‘s response to the UN poverty ambassadors who said Coalition welfare changes may breach the UK’s international treaty obligations to the poor.
Put it all together and there’s no reason at all to pay any attention to the Daily Mail or its coterie of Tory rent-a-quotes.
Samuel Miller should be known to all those of you who have followed the plight of the sick and disabled under the Coalition government.
He has written the following comment, which Wordpress seems keen to deny with an ‘Invalid security token’ warning:
“The Daily Mail’s fury at the UN’s inquiry into disability rights violations is predictable and frankly feigned. An initial analysis of its published news stories reveals that the tabloid has, for the most part, willfully ignored the welfare crisis for Britain’s sick and disabled people and has paid scant attention to the deaths associated with the draconian welfare reforms.
“As an experiment, take the names from this video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&amp;v=LmTI3NETGGs) and insert them into the site search of the Daily Mail, filtering by ‘most recent’, ‘oldest’, and ‘relevance’. You’ll easily find Stephanie Bottrill (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/search.html?sel=site&searchPhrase=stephanie+bottrill ), but be hard-pressed to locate other deceased individuals, such as Craig Monk (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2117718/British-people-committing-suicide-escape-poverty-Is-State-wants.html; thanks largely to the concern of journalist Sonia Poulton).
“Other welfare deaths covered by the Daily Mail include only Jacqueline Harris (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2513284/Half-blind-woman-crippled-pain-killed-benefits-bosses-stopped-disability-payments–following-TWO-MINUTE-assessment.html), and Mark Wood (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2570144/Aspergers-sufferer-phobia-food-dead-judged-fit-work-benefits-cut.html)—the death of David Clapson, a diabetic former soldier, recently received coverage by both The Mirror and The Guardian, but was ignored by the Daily Mail.
“I wish to commend you for your tireless efforts and support, Mike.”
Thank you for the kind words, Samuel.
I’m looking at the state of my country and the state of the world. I’m enduring political-social-economic breakdown, war and general meltdown; I’m witnessing agendas that require the deliberate construction of societal divisions and the fabrication of conflicts – even mass murder by sovereign nations and marauding fascist hordes, writes Juli in the Juxtaposed blog.
I’m seeing that when action is taken, it’s either simplistically eager and over the top or it’s reluctant and insultingly piecemeal. Nuance and subtlety; the simple and straightforward are in a right old jumbled-up mess. Priorities are twisted; evidence is skewed; manipulation of emotion and mind is rife in the pursuit of dubious outcomes. We are going everywhere at once and nowhere, really fast.
I’m feeling embarrassment, contempt and despondency for the political climate; for the calibre of leadership; for the level of debate among all peers and within all spheres. It is little wonder that we are deaf and blind to alternatives for, all too often, we believe our minds and hearts are open but, in fact, we are merely open to that which confirms what we already think and feel. I’m feeling the crushing despair of seeming and real disempowerment and righteous, horrified rage, not only in the millions of people in my own land but the world’s billions. I feel the confusion and the sense of overwhelm about which battle to fight first and where on earth to start the clearing up and renewal. It’s easy to knee-jerk with such thoughts as ‘wipe ‘em out’ and ‘jail them all’ but serious application of ethical and sustainable change will require a little more than the reactionary generalisations that got us here. We have to understand that everything is connected to everything else; that one thing always leads to another; that very few events and problems can be isolated from others and be successfully resolved. We can say it’s the economy, stupid all we like and, of course, it is but, in our present domestic-global economy, it is neoliberal ideology and obscenely powerful, greedy, selfish, shortsighted fools and their dumb appeasers with which we must battle for it is they, with their bankrupt notions, who have turned finance into a weapon of such mass destruction that its continuance in present form threatens all else. ‘Minimum wage’ and ‘predistribution’ just don’t cut it; chasing the last drop of oil doesn’t cut it; growing by production of disposable crap doesn’t cut it; stealing resources doesn’t cut it; serfdom and subjugation doesn’t cut it. And yet, here we all are: dying by a thousand cuts. Who is Democracy for, if not for us? What is the Economy for, if not to serve us? What is Society, if not us? What is Life for if 90-odd% of us are merely surviving by relative degrees?
“There will be abuses of power and miscarriages of justice if people do not have access to legal advice and representation. That is already happening.” – Shami Chakrabarti (on the video).
The video by Justice Alliance UK (above), featuring Stephen Fry, Jo Brand, Tamsin Greig and the aforementioned Shami Chakrabarti discusses the real effect of Chris Grayling’s restriction of Legal Aid. Vox Political has published articles on this matter and you are strongly urged to read them, if you don’t understand why this is important.
As revealed yesterday, Love Productions is currently filming the second series of the controversial Channel Four show in Kingston Road on the Tilery Estate in Stockton.
Middlesbrough Evening Gazette published a detailed interview with the company in which one of its directors explained why Teesside had been chosen for the second series.
And that prompted proud Stocktonian Mike – who had previously contacted the Daily Mail over its coverage of the town – to write this open letter to Love Productions.
“I understand you have decided to come to our town and make a television series about it.
“As far as I can see, your justification comprises of:
“1. There are unemployed people there;
“2. You will be giving them ‘a voice’.
“I find your statement ‘In Stockton and the Kingston Road area there are a large number of people on benefits’ at best lazy and at worst, unscientific.
“If this is the level of research Love Productions proudly use to back up their choices, the academics of Oxford, Cambridge and the world must be quaking in their boots!
“I then note you want to ‘give a voice to a community that don’t really have a voice.’
“How wonderfully philanthropic and not in the least bit patronising of you.
“But you see, the thing is, we Stocktonians already have a timeless voice we are deeply proud of.
“It could be heard consistently during the summer through our massive carnival, in festivals, sunflower commemorations and in our schools, workplaces and community hubs.
“If you would like to truly give us a voice, then why did your production crews not film these and choose to work so secretively?
“Why have you not consulted properly with local support services and – if and when you did talk to them – ignore what they advised?
“Why do you preach fair representation but then exclude the majority of residents?
“Do you really doubt our integrity so much to think we believe that television editing can provide a fair, honest and truthfully representative platform from which people can be heard?
“And so while we can’t stop your ironically named ‘Love Productions’ team coming to Stockton, what I – and more people than you may wish to think about – can also not be stopped from is making our own ‘productions‘ whilst you try to film.
“If we disrupt your lives over the coming months, think about how you are disrupting ours.
“Don’t expect demonstrations, conflict or confrontation.
“But do expect to witness a community that already has an identity, a spirit and a very much bigger voice than you perhaps anticipated – to be heard, to be seen and to shine.
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 27 Aug 2014
In typical cowardly Conservative manner, Boris Johnson has decided to apply to be that party’s candidate in the stronghold seat of Uxbridge and South Ruislip at next year’s general election.
The seat is currently held by Sir John Randall with a majority of 11,216. He will be retiring at the next election, making room for Johnson, who is currently Mayor of London.
Johnson will have to go through a selection procedure but there can be no doubt about the result. The decision encourages us to draw two conclusions:
Firstly, Boris is not as popular as the public is being led to believe. If he was, the Tories would be setting him up to take a seat from another party.
Secondly, the Conservatives believe the electorate of Uxbridge and South Ruislip are easily-manipulated ‘sheeple’ who will do whatever they ask. If you live in that constituency, don’t you find that assumption insulting?
It also means the next MP for that constituency will be decided, not by its electorate, but by a selection committee of around five or six Conservative Association grandees. Is that democracy?
According to a BBC Newsreport, Johnson said he hoped to “make his case” that he was the best person to represent the constituency – to the Conservative selection committee, as the following comment clarifies.
He added: “I’m sure there will be plenty of excellent candidates, and I hope very much to make my case to the association.” [Italics mine]
To the association. Not to the constituency. It’s a mockery of democracy. A “demockery” – as a Vox Political correspondent in Mid Wales wrote in a letter recently.
If Johnson really wanted to prove himself, he’d go and fight Nigel Farage in Thanet South.
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