Daily Archives: October 24, 2015

‘Act for the Act’ to save your human rights

People who have successfully used the Human Rights Act to fight injustices in the United Kingdom are calling on their fellow citizens to help in the struggle to stop the Tories from repealing it – and all you have to do is sign an online letter.

Mark Neary: Mark used the Human Rights Act to bring his autistic son Steven home, after the council wrongly took him away.

Mark Neary: Mark used the Human Rights Act to bring his autistic son Steven home, after the council wrongly took him away. This is one of the posters used in Act For The Act’s nationwide campaign.

Act For The Act was formed to urge Justice Secretary (and well-known non-intellectual) Michael Gove to rethink the Tory plan to scrap the Human Rights Act and replace it with a ‘Bill of Rights’ written by Conservatives with a view towards keeping people down, rather than protecting their freedoms.

The site states: “Without the Human Rights Act, there would have been no second inquest into the 1989 Hillsborough disaster to finally uncover the truth about that dreadful day; no accountability for the family of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence; and no justice for the victims of black cab rapist John Worboys, who were so badly let down.

“As the stories in our unprecedented, nationwide poster campaign show, every day it protects ordinary people and their families, during what may be the most difficult and distressing time of their lives.

“The Human Rights Act is for people like Jan, diagnosed with MS in 1995, or bereaved mothers Martina, Catherine or Ann. Find out how the Human Rights Act helped them below.

“Any one of us might suddenly find that we need the Human Rights Act’s protections. Now we all need to act to save it by signing the letter and telling Justice Secretary Michael Gove that it is too important to be replaced.”

I have signed the letter. Will you?

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What is this nonsense from the Graun about ‘hard left’ infiltration of Labour?

Jennie Formby (pictured, right) with Jeremy Corbyn (left) and John McDonnell (centre). Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA

Yet again, The Guardian shows that it is no friend of progressive politics since it came under new management.

Have a read of this:

Labour is facing serious questions about the role of of hard-left activists within Jeremy Corbyn’s grassroots movement after the party’s decision to expel four alleged Trotskyists was challenged by Britain’s biggest trade union.

The most senior political figure in the Unite union, Jennie Formby, intervened after Labour’s national executive this week recommended that four members of the Alliance for Workers Liberty (AWL) be barred from party membership.

According to two accounts, Formby, Unite’s political director and a Labour national executive member, argued that the AWL had dissolved itself by deregistering with the Electoral Commission two days after Corbyn was elected party leader and that its members should now be entitled to join the party. Her challenge was rejected.

The four people were Vicki Morris from Nottingham East, Daniel Randall from Hampstead and Kilburn and Ed Maltby and Liam McNulty, both from Hornsey and Wood Green.

McNulty is the founder and organiser of the Haringey branch of the Momentum movement, which he says is not a separate party within Labour. The group’s stated aim is to make Labour more democratic and create a mass movement for real progressive change.

There is concern in the Parliamentary Labour Party that several hard-left groups such as Left Unity, the Socialist Workers party (SWP), the Socialist party and the AWL are trying to attach themselves to Momentum to gain entry into the party. Party moderates are fearful that Labour’s largest affiliated union is too relaxed about opening the party’s doors to the hard left.

Source: Unite challenges expulsion of alleged Trotskyists from Labour party | Politics | The Guardian

How the Graun can claim organisations like Left Unity are “hard-left groups” defies belief, but shows how far the Overton Window, the theoretical “window” that opens onto the range of ideas that the public will find acceptable, has shifted to the far right of the political spectrum.

It seems nobody in the UK can contemplate political policies that benefit the whole nation any more, without being labelled a Communist.

But what can we expect from a media organ that embraces the current definition of the word “moderate”? This Writer prefers the sentiments expressed here:

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If that is what passes for “moderate” in the Parliamentary Labour Party, then a little movement to the Left would not go amiss.

In fact, it seems downright advisable.

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Benefit sanctions: Britain’s secret penal system – Dr David Webster | Politics and Insights

Benefits claimants are subjected to an ‘amateurish, secret penal system which is more severe than the mainstream judicial system’, writes Dr David Webster of the University of Glasgow.
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Few people know that the number of financial penalties (‘sanctions’) imposed on benefit claimants by the Department of Work and Pensions now exceeds the number of fines imposed by the courts.

In Great Britain in 2013, there were 1,046,398 sanctions on Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants, 32,128 on Employment and Support Allowance claimants, and approximately 44,000 on lone parent recipients of Income Support. By contrast, Magistrates’ and Sheriff courts imposed a total of only 849,000 fines.

Sanctioned benefit claimants are treated much worse than those fined in the courts. The scale of penalties is more severe (£286.80 – £11,185.20 compared to £200 – £10,000).

Most sanctions are applied to poor people and involve total loss of benefit income.

Although there is a system of discretionary ‘hardship payments’, claimants are often reduced to hunger and destitution by the ban on application for the first two weeks and by lack of information about the payments and the complexity of the application process. The hardship payment system itself is designed to clean people out of resources; all savings or other sources of assistance must be used up before help is given.

Decisions on guilt are made in secret by officials who have no independent responsibility to act lawfully; since the Social Security Act 1998 they have been mere agents of the Secretary of State.

These officials are currently subject to constant management pressure to maximise penalties, and as in any secret system there is a lot of error, misconduct, dishonesty and abuse.

Source: Benefit sanctions: Britain’s secret penal system – Dr David Webster | Politics and Insights – and you are strongly encouraged to read the rest of the article and pass it on.

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Anger at David Cameron’s £100,000 trip to honour dead Saudi king

The government was criticised for its decision to fly the flag at Buckingham Palace at half mast as a mark of respect for King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in January. Photograph: John Stillwell/PA

This underlines the Conservative Party’s ideas, not only about human rights but also about austerity – they tell us we have no money and then spend a fortune – of our cash – on aeroplane tickets.

Do EasyJet or Ryanair not run flights to Saudi Arabia? If not, then Cameron shouldn’t have gone.

He needs to learn about living within our means.

Environmental and human rights groups have expressed outrage that the UK taxpayer spent more than £100,000 sending David Cameron to Saudi Arabia to pay his respects following the death of its king in January.

The huge sum, which dwarfs the amount spent sending the prime minister on other trips overseas, is revealed in new information released by the Cabinet Office showing the cost of all the prime minister’s trips overseas between July 2014 and March 2015. They confirm that on 24 January Cameron and four others took a charter flight to Saudi Arabia “to pay condolences following death of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz”. The total cost of the trip to the taxpayer was listed as £101,792. In contrast, Cameron and five others flew to Australia last November to attend the G20 meetings at a cost of £13,290.

Source: Anger at David Cameron’s £100,000 trip to honour dead Saudi king | World news | The Guardian

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Tory criticises Cameron over treatment of the young. Why?


When a former Conservative minister criticises the party leader, one has to question the intention behind it.

Is it a stage-managed move to make the Party look attractive in the long run? Or is it a genuine attack on a policy this Tory considers to be wrong?

The latter seems unlikely, when one takes into account that the Tory making the attack is David Willetts, an ineffectual ‘yes’-man for the whole of the Coalition Parliament.

The statement that he is now in charge of the Resolution Foundation means we must also, now, question the validity of its reports – and that is a shame.

The government stands accused by a leading Tory thinker of creating a “country for older generations” in which pensioners benefit from constantly rising incomes while the young, their families and children pay the price of punishing policy decisions, including cuts to their tax credits.

In a hard-hitting intervention on the eve of what is expected to be a tempestuous House of Lords debate over plans to slash the incomes of millions of low-income families, former Conservative minister and prominent party intellectual David Willetts says the current policy mix is manifestly unfair and breaks the supposed “social contract” between generations.

Willetts, a highly respected figure who left parliament at the May election and now heads the independent Resolution Foundation thinktank, says in an article for the Observer that the fruits of prosperity are not being shared across age groups but rather pumped excessively into making the lives of pensioners more comfortable.

Source: Conservatives are failing young people, leading Tory tells David Cameron | Politics | The Guardian

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‘£40bn raised from Chinese visit’ claim is by David Cameron, so it is probably a fantasy

Downing Street has insisted that the week-long Chinese state visit secured “up to £40bn” of trade and investment deals, after scrambling for much of Friday to substantiate the figure, brandished by David Cameron at a trade mission in Mansion House.

The business secretary, Sajid Javid, said earlier this week that President Xi Jinping’s visit would increase trade and investment between Britain and China by £25bn; but the figure had leapt to £40bn by the time the prime minister spoke on Wednesday.

No 10 officials remained coy throughout much of Friday about precisely how that figure had been arrived at, claiming repeatedly that full details would be published when the state visit had officially ended.

A statement was finally released after 6pm, detailing a long list of deals, including a promise from Chinese firm HNA to buy £1.4bn-worth of Rolls-Royce jet engines, to be built in Derby; and £6bn worth of investment in the Hinkley Point nuclear power plant.

But some of the agreements had a familiar ring about them. A £1bn memorandum of understanding about a “garden of ideas” – a pleasure garden to be built in China, in association with the Eden Project – appeared strikingly similar to a deal signed, in the presence of George Osborne, in 2014.

Doubts were also raised about £6bn of investment “to help fund regenerative medicine and tissue engineering research with Oxford University” – apparently the same deal announced by the university earlier this week as worth just £1.5m. No 10 said this was based on the Chinese bank behind the investment pencilling in a total of £6bn.

The decision by Chinese firm Sanpower, which owns House of Fraser, to open the department store’s first branches in China was first reported in April – and ultimately involves a Chinese investor, expanding in its own domestic market, albeit behind a British shopfront.

Other items referred to Chinese cash “unlocking” investment, before apparently listing the total value of the project in question, for example: “Hualing’s investment will unlock three major regeneration projects in Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield with a combined gross development value of £1.2bn.”

The government also trumpteted an announcement by BP that it would sell China’s Huadian Corporation up to 1m tonnes of liquid natural gas each year, valued at £6.5bn; but the income from it will be spread over two decades.

Source: David Cameron’s ‘£40bn raised from Chinese visit’ claim under scrutiny | Business | The Guardian

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More than £13bn in benefits is going unclaimed

Vulnerable people are missing out on an astonishing £13.23 billion of benefits. The total includes over £2 billion in unclaimed benefits for jobseekers, and more than £3 billion for pensioners.

The figures were revealed in an answer that employment minister Priti Patel (pictured) gave to a question in Parliament – which highlighted that 45 per cent of people who are currently out of work aren’t claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance – so more than £2.5 billion is going unclaimed.

The largest unclaimed benefit is Housing Benefit – of which £4 billion isn’t taken up by people who qualify – followed by Pension Credit and Income Support. At the moment slightly more than one-third of people who are entitled to Pension Credit are not claiming it.

These figures do not include unclaimed tax credits, or Council Tax benefit – so the total will actually be even higher.

The enormous complexity of the system is playing a part. Someone who has lost their job doesn’t automatically receive the help they are entitled to: they need to know which of the complex web of benefits they could get – and how to apply for them.

The second issue is pride. This is particularly common among pensioners, many of whom have never claimed a penny in benefits throughout their working lives, and don’t want to start now.

Third is embarrassment. The demononisation of benefits claimants in Parliament and the media means people are too ashamed to claim the help they need – and to which they are perfectly entitled.

Source: Over £13bn in benefits goes unclaimed – AOL Money UK

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Another fake-Labour Lord quits – good riddance


This one reckons he has nothing in common with Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn became Labour leader because he has reconnected with people who share his traditional Labour values. So this one can’t hold Labour values and the Party is better-off without him.

His claim that Labour is no longer a credible opposition says everything you need to know; Labour is far more credible now than it has been since Tony Blair’s time.

Much has been made of claims that Corbyn followers want to launch a ‘purge’ of the Party, to rid it of right-wingers. It seems all they really have to do is wait – and they’ll leave of their own accord.

Lord Grabiner [who?] has become the second peer to abandon Labour’s benches in the House of Lords because of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the party, saying “I can’t square [staying] with my conscience”.

His decision comes five days after former junior health minister Lord Warner resigned the Labour whip, saying it was no longer “a credible party of government-in-waiting”.

Explaining his decision, he said: “I have nothing in common whatever with Mr Corbyn – and I don’t believe we are ever going to win an election.”

Source: Second peer abandons Labour benches in Lords over Corbyn’s leadership | Politics | The Guardian

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I’m a Celebrity attempts to lure anti-Corbyn MP into jungle

Jamie Reed: He resigned immediately after Jeremy Corbyn was named as the new leader of the Labour Party.

So the producers of I’m a Celebrity think anti-Corbyn Labour MPs should eat kangaroo testicles and crocodile penis, and be buried alive? And we all thought the show wasn’t political…

The producers of I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here! are trying to persuade an anti-Corbyn Labour MP to appear on the jungle-survival reality TV show.

Jamie Reed, MP for Copeland in Cumbria, a former shadow health minister, said he was approached shortly after handing in his resignation from the shadow cabinet within minutes of Jeremy Corbyn’s victory. He turned down the offer.

But Simon Danczuk, the outspoken MP for Rochdale, who has called the Labour party under Corbyn a “deluded, bullying cult”, said he could not comment on whether he had also been asked to take part, fuelling speculation he could be considering a trip to the Australian jungle with Ant and Dec.

Source: I’m a Celebrity attempts to lure anti-Corbyn MP into jungle | UK news | The Guardian

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George Osborne’s dad could be £50,000 better off thanks to his son’s tax cuts

George Osborne’s tax cuts for the rich may have made his businessman father £50,000 better off.

It comes as the Tory Chancellor of the Exchequer is pressing ahead with controversial plans to slash tax credits for the poorest workers.

These are set to hit 3.2m hard-working households, costing them £1,300 a year each.

The top-paid boss of wallpaper and fabric firm Osborne and Little – understood to be founder and controlling shareholder Sir Peter Osborne – earned nearly £1.2m in the past two years.

The Tory Chancellor’s 5% cut in the top tax rate to 45% in 2013 would have saved him £48,000 over two years.

Sir Peter also earned £115,000 in dividends last year, on which he will pay almost £6,000 less tax.

The Chancellor is also likely to benefit from the tax cut for those earning £150,000 and more a year.

Source: George Osborne’s dad could be £50,000 better off thanks to his son’s tax cuts – Mirror Online

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