Daily Archives: February 3, 2016

Trump gets the hump over Iowa vote

Donald Trump says Ted Cruz ‘fraud’ in Monday’s Iowa caucuses warrants ‘a new election’ [Image: Joe Raedle/Getty Images].


Donald Trump – described by the Huffington Post as a “liar” and “racist” – has called “foul” against a rival in the race to be the Republican candidate in the US presidential election.

He reckons Ted Cruz spread a false rumour that a third candidate, Ben Carson, was dropping out of the race – and this skewed the results.

The Guardian reckons this is par for the course: “To beat John McCain in South Carolina in 2000, the George W Bush campaign used a Bible professor to spread a rumor that ‘McCain chose to sire children without marriage’.

“Lee Atwater helped George HW Bush beat Michael Dukakis in 1988 by cutting a racist commercial tying Dukakis to a rape and stabbing by convicted murderer Willie Horton while on furlough.”

Would Trump have acted similarly if he’d had the chance? Will he, in the future?

Donald Trump, who finished second in the Iowa caucuses after leading in the polls for weeks, has taken to Twitter to accuse Ted Cruz, the victor, of stealing the race.

Trump’s reasoning is that the Cruz campaign spread a false rumour that Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon, was dropping out of the race (Carson returned to Florida after the vote instead of proceeding to New Hampshire) in order to snap up a share of Carson’s values voters.

Cruz issued an apology of sorts to the Carson campaign for spreading the rumor on election night that Carson was dropping out of the race, which Cruz characterized as an honest “mistake”.

Source: Trump calls for Iowa do-over after second-place finish – campaign live | US news | The Guardian

Weak Cameron hands PMQs victory to Corbyn – again


That’ll be another PMQs win for Jeremy Corbyn, then – marking a clean sweep in 2016 so far.

Cameron seemed distracted and confused – stuttering over his pre-prepared statements and reverting to his now-rather-pathetic soundbite attacks in attempts to score anything like a hit before having to sit down.

His reference to the health service in Wales missed the target by a mile. Everyone knows by now – don’t they? – that the Welsh NHS was initially hit hard by cuts to the grant from Westminster to Cardiff Bay, and the Labour Welsh Government has had to adjust its budgets over time to cope with the deficit without harming other services.

In consequence, Welsh health policy has been to prioritise life-threatening conditions, which is why cancer treatment here is ahead of the rest of the UK. Hip operations – the example quoted by Cameron – are not life-threatening issues and that is why waiting times are longer than in England. As the system re-balances, that will change.

In answering the question on ESA, Cameron fell into the same trap as he did on student grants. While the example quoted to him was of a person currently claiming ESA (or at least, who will claim under current conditions), there will undoubtedly be people with the same health problem claiming ESA in the future. His reassurance that they will be put in the support group rings hollow, as there is plenty of documented evidence to the contrary.

And why should future claimants in the work-related activity group receive less money than the current cohort? Will their living expenses be lower? Of course not. Cameron gave no reasonable explanation for the change.

All things considered, Cameron was lucky Corbyn’s allotted number of questions ran out. Cameron had mentioned the “people with the broadest shoulders” paying the most tax. If he’d had another question, Corbyn could have mentioned the amount of tax being paid by Google – now officially the world’s most profitable company but paying a ludicrously low amount of tax on its profits in the UK.

That being said, Corbyn’s earnest delivery made for a low-key confrontation that did not take advantage of Cameron’s clear weakness. He won – but he could have won more decisively.

Corbyn challenged Cameron over his government’s record on cancer treatment spending, and in particular the reduction of funding for radiologists despite the government’s own taskforce warning last year that they were essential.

Cameron hit back by claiming that the health service in Wales – run by a Labour government – was lagging behind England.

[This was] one of Cameron’s weakest PMQs performances for some time. On NHS radiologists his initial non-answer was more blatant than normal, and his jibes at Corbyn – “crazy” plans, and the reference to his “cogs” turning slowly – felt particularly inappropriate given the subject at hand and Corbyn’s earnest and sombre tone.

Cameron was better when handling the question about employment and support allowance (ESA), but it was probably “job done” for Corbyn.

Cameron’s repeated references to Wales and Scotland also felt rather off-topic although, as an insight into how the Tories will campaign between now and May, his repeated attack on Labour’s tax-raising agenda in Scotland was very revealing.

Corbyn called out Tory backbenchers who have taken to heckling his citing of constituents’ letters in his questions. Referring to Martin, a constituent struggling to help a friend with cancer, Corbyn said: “He doesn’t think it’s very funny.”

Source: PMQs verdict: one of Cameron’s weakest performances for some time | Politics | The Guardian

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Ministers wined-and-dined by arms trade hours after MPs demand ban on selling weapons to Saudi Arabia

'Fallon the Foul': This defence secretary is more interested in selling arms to Saudi Arabia for humanitarian abuses, it seems.

‘Fallon the Foul’: This ‘defence’ secretary is more interested in selling arms to Saudi Arabia for humanitarian abuses, it seems.

That’s right. You paid £450 for Michael Fallon to attend a banquet in support of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, hours after MPs demanded an end to them.

Not only that, but the organisation involved subsequently said Fallon had provided “tremendous support” at the dinner.

Then he came back to Parliament and sat on the front bench during Prime Minister’s Questions, as though he was perfectly innocent.

It’s time we had a full account of the UK’s involvement in this brutal affair, and ‘Fallon the Foul’ should provide it.

Ministers were wined-and-dined by the arms trade at a £450-a-head banquet on Tuesday night just hours after MPs called for a halt to weapons sales to autocratic Saudi Arabia.

Parliament’s International Development Committee yesterday said the UK should suspend all arms sales to Saudi, which has been accused by the UN of targeting civilians and contributing to a “humanitarian disaster” in Yemen.

The same day MPs released their report calling for action against Saudi, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon and other ministers attended the ADS trade association dinner at the Hilton.

The ADS Group, a trade body for the defence industry, said in a statement posted on social media that Mr Fallon had provided “tremendous support” for its operations at the dinner.

Source: Ministers wined-and-dined by arms trade hours after MPs demand ban on selling weapons to Saudi Arabia | UK Politics | News | The Independent

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DWP welcomes report showing people will lose money on Universal Credit

Universal Credit may discourage single parents from working, claims the IFS [Image: Getty Images].

The Department for Work and Pensions has welcomed a report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, showing that more people will be worse-off under Universal Credit than the previous benefit system.

The Conservative Government has claimed that no individual would lose money as a result of its changes. But the IFS study shows:

  • Single parents have less incentive to work under UC than the old system.
  • With couples, UC encourage just one to work, rather than both.
  • And single parents under UC will keep eight per cent less of their earnings than previously.

Here are some more details:

The introduction of Universal Credit (UC) will leave working families worse off on average, the Institute for Fiscal Studies has said.

UC, which combines six benefits into one monthly payment, was intended to be more generous than the current system but the IFS said cuts to the programme meant this would not be the case.

According to the IFS research, an estimated 2.1 million families will face an average loss of £1,600 a year, while 1.8 million will gain an average of £1,500.

Its figures suggest 1.1 million homes with no-one in paid work will lose out by about £2,300 a year, while 500,000 are expected to gain £1,000. Working single parents are said to face an annual loss of £1,000.

Source: Universal Credit leaves working families worse off, IFS says – BBC News

The DWP, it seems, is delighted by this outturn:

We welcome the IFS analysis which shows that UC will make work pay and increase financial incentives for people to work more, while also bringing the welfare bill under control.”

Source: DWP being evasive over universal credit delays, MPs claim | Politics | The Guardian

In fairness, the DWP made another statement, in response to the BBC report, as follows:

“Universal Credit also includes a wide range of additional benefits – including increased childcare and more support from a dedicated work coach both things that were ignored in the IFS’s analysis.”

So it seems the Department is trying to have it both ways – both welcoming the IFS report and trashing it at the same time.

Logical conclusion? The IFS is right and the DWP is trying to hide the downside.

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More delay, more cost, more embarrassment for Duncan Smith over Universal Credit

IBelieve-IDS

Iain Duncan Smith faces an eloquent comment on his effectiveness.

Let’s just reiterate the fact the Universal Credit was originally predicted to cost £2.2 billion in administration costs, and that figure has now risen to £15.8 billion – more than seven times the original estimate.

A DWP spokesperson is quoted in the Guardian article as saying Universal Credit is on schedule. That is a lie. The original plan was for it to be rolled out nationally in October 2013 for new claimants, with full implementation by 2017. Now the public accounts committee has revealed it will not be fully implemented until 2021 – a delay of four years from the predicted date – and eight years after its initial – botched – introduction.

With the DWP predicting a financial benefit of £6.7 billion per year (for whom?), we can see that it will have a lot of catching-up to do, when it finally arrives… if it finally arrives. Also, it will need to recoup the massive overspend on its development.

Will it ever achieve the financial benefit predicted for it? Doubtful.

It is more likely to be replaced before it is fully implemented.

What a waste of public time and money – but then, that’s all we should expect of Iain ‘Blank Cheque’ Smith and his DWP.

MPs have accused the Department for Work and Pensions of using “evasive” measures to prevent parliament from finding out why there have been yet more delays to the universal credit scheme.

The government’s flagship welfare programme will not be implemented before the autumn of 2021, four years after its completion date, a report by the committee has disclosed.

But Iain Duncan Smith’s department has been accused of blocking MPs as they tried to discover the cause of the delays, how many people they will affect, and how long they will persist.

Meg Hillier, chair of the public accounts committee (PAC), condemned the department for evading MPs’ queries. “The lack of transparency surrounding a programme with such wide-reaching implications for so many people is completely unacceptable,” he said.

Source: DWP being evasive over universal credit delays, MPs claim | Politics | The Guardian

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French finance minister blasts UK’s £130m Google tax deal

Michel Sapin said the agreement seemed ‘more the product of a negotiation than the application of the law’ [Image: SIPA/Rex/Shutterstock].


It may be true that Google’s UK operation only supports its companies in Ireland and the US, but this is entirely to avoid paying tax on the money the firm makes from the UK.

Like all such multinationals, it should be taxed on the money it takes from business transactions with UK citizens – but that isn’t even the issue here.

The fact is that Google’s business, here in the UK, should pay far more tax than George Osborne is charging, even under the current rules.

M. Sapin is quite correct to question Osborne’s decision. Let us look forward to a full investigation by the European Commission.

Michel Sapin said HMRC’s settlement, which allows Google to continue booking £5bn of UK sales via Ireland, “seems more the product of a negotiation than the application of the law”.

His intervention on Tuesday will add force to widespread accusations that Britain’s tax settlement amounts to a sweetheart deal for Google.

According to the Financial Times, Sapin told a conference in Paris: “The French tax administration does not negotiate the amount of taxes owed. It applies the rules.”

Google’s parent company, Alphabet, became the world’s most valuable company after the US markets opened on Tuesday. Shares rose after it was announced overnight that 2015 revenues grew by 13% to $75bn (£52bn), while the group’s global tax rate fell to just 17%.

Google’s UK company, which the search group insists only provides support services to companies in Ireland and the US, paid £21m in tax in 2013, according to its latest published accounts.

Source: French finance minister blasts UK’s £130m Google tax deal | Politics | The Guardian

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MPs call for immediate halt of UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia

A child leans on the wreckage of car after the Saudi-led coalition carried out airstrikes in Sana’a, Yemen [Image: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images].


It is beyond credibility that the Conservative Government can claim to have taken no part in breaches of humanitarian law by Saudi Arabia in its war with Yemen, while increasing grants for arms sales to Saudi Arabia from £9 million to £1 billion over two three-month periods.

The £10 million increase in aid to Yemen, in this context, seems to be a sop for ministers’ consciences.

Not only that, but the UK government’s interference in calls for an independent inquiry indicates the Tories have something to hide. This is the government that is always telling benefit claimants that, if they have nothing to fear, they have nothing to hide, yet it seems once again that Tories think they can make one rule for everyone else and another for themselves.

Perhaps the rest of us should try following their example, and see how far we get.

An all-party group of MPs has called for an immediate suspension of UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia and an international independent inquiry into the kingdom’s military campaign in Yemen.

The call from the international development select committee follows evidence from aid agencies to MPs warning that Saudi [Arabia was] involved in indiscriminate bombing of its neighbour.

The UK government has supplied export licences for close to £3bn worth of arms to Saudi in the last year, the committee said, and has also been accused of being involved in the conduct and administration of the Saudi campaign in Yemen.

In [its] letter to the international development secretary, Justine Greening, it urged the UK to withdraw opposition to an independent international inquiry into alleged abuses of humanitarian law in Yemen.

A leaked UN report last week found Saudi Arabia involved in breaches of humanitarian law, and in response the Saudis set up an internal inquiry, a move welcomed by the Foreign Office.

The committee said it was astonished to hear the extent to which the government had watered down calls for an independent inquiry proposed by the Netherlands last September at the UN.

Source: MPs call for immediate halt of UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia | World news | The Guardian

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RMT chief’s demand for execution of Tories for ‘murdering’ sparks anger – against him


Here’s a classic example of why This Blog does not tolerate comments calling for violence in response to the Conservative Government’s policies of hate.

Many of you may consider Steve Hedley to be justified in his claim that Conservative policies are killing the disabled. This Writer certainly does – and I’ve seen the figures (or at least, the few that are available).

But look what happened when he said the Tories should be “taken out and shot”. The story ceased to be “The Conservatives are killing the disabled” and became “Union rep incites violence against Tories”.

The message Mr Hedley was trying to communicate was lost.

Shelagh Fogarty isn’t to blame. This Writer has been interviewed by her and she seems entirely reasonable; she was only doing what I would have done in her place.

So that’s why I won’t let anybody make such suggestions in the comment columns of Vox Political. It would give the Uptight Right an excuse to attack and belittle This Blog.

And that would never do.

The boss of one of Britain’s biggest trade unions has claimed Conservative ministers are “murdering” people and called for them to be “taken out and shot”.

Steve Hedley, the RMT’s senior assistant general secretary, also branded senior cabinet figures an “absolute disgrace” for cuts to disability benefits in a fiery outburst on LBC.

Phone-in presenter Shelagh Fogarty told Hedley, “It is not a part of adult, mature negotiation to speak the way you just spoke.” However, the 45-year-old continued his line of attack.

“This government are killing three disabled people a week because of the cuts – you never hear that discussed on your programme,” he lamented.

Why don’t we have more conversations about what’s actually going on in this country?” asked the RMT boss. “The cuts are affecting people’s health and killing people every week.”

“What is it with people – they can’t get down to the nitty gritty and say that this government are actually murdering people.”

Source: RMT Chief Steve Hedley Accuses Tory Government Of ‘Murdering’ People And Calls For Their Execution

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Disabled woman’s ‘invalid car’ is vandalised because it is ‘devaluing our flats’

Valerie Burke [Image: Adrian Imms/The Argus].


What kind of person does £6,000 worth of damage to a disabled person’s mobility vehicle and thinks that is a reasonable thing to do?

A criminal.

Let us hope that the culprit is detected in short order and is made to pay for the offence.

But let’s also remember that the Conservative Government and the media are also to blame for Valerie Burke’s ordeal.

Here‘s an article demonstrating the way the Conservatives have demonised benefit claimants.

And here‘s an example of that language being taken up by a representative of the mass media (albeit not one that is highly reputable).

Can you think of any other political organisation that worked hard to set its citizens against a minority of the population?

I can: The Nazis.

Perhaps people should think about that before vandalising property because of what someone told them on the telly or in the paper.

A DISABLED woman has told how she had notes pushed through her front door branding her mobility scooter an “invalid car” and claiming it is devaluing surrounding flats.
Valerie Burke parks her scooter on the pavement outside her flat in Norfolk Square, Brighton, but said since moving in last summer it has been pushed down the road, trashed and had paint thrown on it by vandals.

The 64-year-old said she has also been subjected to handwritten notes demanding she move it.

One … reads: “Please move your vehicle. It is blocking the pathway and devaluing our flats!”

Another says: “Please move this invalid car so it does not block pathway.”

Despite the notes, Mrs Burke is allowed to park her scooter on the pavement, according to the council.

Source: Disabled woman’s ‘invalid car’ is vandalised because it is ‘devaluing our flats’ #From The Argus#

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