What was I thinking? I can only blame yesterday’s lapse of judgement on the medicine I have been taking for the cold I caught last week.
Of course badges indicating disability – hidden or overt – are a bad idea. If Transport for London thinks differently, perhaps a reminder of the infamous ‘black triangle’ badges in Nazi Germany is required?
The black triangle badge was used in Nazi concentration camps to mark out people deemed to be “asocial” or “workshy” and experience suggests that ignorant people here in the UK would consider TfL’s “Please offer me a seat” badges as sure signs that the wearers are scroungers of some kind, rather than genuinely in need.
Only today I was reminded that too many people still consider people on sickness or disability benefit to be there due to choice, rather than genuine incapacity – despite official evidence showing that benefit fraud is practically non-existent in this area.
Remember what happened when refugees in Cardiff were given armbands, or the ‘red door’ controversy in Middlesbrough,in which asylum-seekers became clearly-identifiable to the public – and were then targeted for abuse?
That’s what this policy will do to people with hidden disabilities. It will make them targets for aggression when all they want to do is sit down.
And TISA has been under negotiation while we’ve all been fussing over TTIP. How clever.
The worst part of the Independent article raising the alarm about this newly-revealed plan is the lack of detail.
Apparently, TISA will include clauses that will prevent governments taking public control of strategic services, and inhibit regulation of the banks that created the financial crash.
And there’s a threat to the UK’s sovereignty that would turn Brexit into a pointless gesture: It seems that if we sign up to TISA, our ability to control our economy – to regulate, to protect public services, to fight climate change – is massively reduced.
Big business would be making public policy – overtly, as opposed to what many people currently believe, which is that businesses make policy through MPs.
If anybody can shed more light on this matter, please get in touch.
An international trade deal being negotiated in secret is a “turbo-charged privatisation pact” that poses a threat to democratic sovereignty and “the very concept of public services”, campaigners have warned.
But this is not TTIP – the international agreement it appears campaigners in the European Union have managed to scupper over similar concerns – this is TISA, a deal backed by some of the world’s biggest corporations, such as Microsoft, Google, IBM, Walt Disney, Walmart, Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase.
Few people may have heard of the Trade In Services Agreement, but campaign group Global Justice Now warns in a new report: “Defeating TTIP may amount to a pyrrhic victory if we allow TISA to pass without challenge.”
Like the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, TISA is being negotiated in secret, even though it could have a major impact on countries which sign up.
While TTIP is only between the EU and US, those behind TISA have global ambitions as it involves most of the world’s major economies – with the notable exceptions of China and Russia – in a group they call the “Really Good Friends of Services”.
The Department for International Trade dismissed the idea that public services were at risk from TISA, adding that the UK was committed to securing an “ambitious” deal.
This is for all the commenters who come to Vox Political to tell us all that the polls say Jeremy Corbyn can’t win an election.
The polls are saying he’s certain to win the Labour Party leadership again.
YouGov – a polling company that was famously founded by Tories and is run by one of them to this day, has finally released the long-awaited results of its poll on the Labour leadership election.
Many social media commentators have speculated that the poll result was delayed because the results weren’t what its funders wanted to see. Indeed, this could be the result of a completely different poll.
The possibility that Owen Smith could ever be a “champion of disabled people” should be ludicrous to anybody who reads This Blog – for well-documented reasons.
The fact that his cronies in the Labour ‘party machine’ have just booted out the woman in his publicity photograph, for no very good reason, makes his claim doubly laughable.
But there is a serious side: This man and his supporters are making the Labour Party look ridiculous.
Owen Smith’s campaign team have been busy distributing to the media a photograph of the Labour leadership contender with a disabled woman – to push his claim he’ll be a “champion of disabled people” if he wins.
Here’s Smith in the photograph with the woman, Jae Robinson:
Unfortunately for Smith and his team of supposed PR ‘experts’, Ms Robinson has just been suspended from Labour as part of the party’s increasingly bizarre attempts to ‘purge’ the party of Corbyn supporters.
As with others who have been ‘purged’ by the party, Ms Robinson has not been told the reason for her suspension.
The six-week trial is believed to be the first of its kind in Europe [Image: Transport for London].
Here’s an excellent idea being piloted by Transport for London: badges for people with hidden disabilities, allowing them to claim a seat on the Tube.
Is it possible that the architects of this scheme have visited one of the Asda superstores that have signs to show that people with hidden disabilities are entitled to use toilet facilities for the disabled?
This Writer’s only doubt refers to the company “recruiting” people to start wearing the badges from a particular date.
That smacks of “tokenism” – doing something for people with disabilities in order to be able to say something is being done.
There are plenty of people with disabilities living in London who read This Blog, so I’d like to appeal for them to let me know how well the scheme works.
People with hidden health conditions are being offered “Please offer me a seat” badges in a bid to help ease their suffering on London transport.
The Transport for London (TfL) trial follows the success of its “Baby on board” badge for pregnant women.
TfL is recruiting 1,000 people to start wearing the blue badges from 12 September.
Theresa May “is keen to show that social reform remains a priority”, according to the now-Tory Guardian. By “social reform” it means “killing the welfare state and giving the money to the already-rich”. [Image: Hannah McKay/PA].
There is only one surprise about John Godfrey’s proposal to scrap publicly-funded state benefits and replace them with compulsory ‘insurance’ – that it has taken the Tories six years to get around to it.
For the people earning the least, it would be a financial disaster.
It’s all very well saying someone earning £27,000 a year could pay in £11 per month and claim 40 per cent of their earnings (£10,800) from an insurer over a 12-month period. Most people don’t earn £27,000.
If you’re on £13,000 or thereabouts, paying in the same percentage would bring you £5,200 over a year – less than the current level of Employment and Support Allowance (is this why it is being cut for those in the Work-Related Activity Group?), and an amount on which it is much harder to survive.
Not only that, but there is no guarantee that an insurer will pay out the money when it is needed. Consider the case of Unum, the giant US-based insurer that now has a criminal record for devising a system – a bastardisation of the “biopsychosocial” method – that does not rely on medical evidence as proof of illness but worked on a computerised ‘tick-box’ system and the opinion of a company assessor.
The system was devised in order to provide the firm with an excuse not to pay out on all those expensive American sickness insurance claims, and is why the firm now has a criminal record in its home country.
That didn’t stop the UK government – run at the time by Labour, to that party’s eternal shame – from adopting the same system to assess claims from Employment and Support Allowance and Personal Independence Payment, causing enormous controversy, huge cost when people started appealing against refusals, and – tragically – many avoidable deaths.
And Mr Godfrey, it seems, wants to make such homicidal rip-offs compulsory!
Are you going to sit there and let him have his way?
Get involved. Start or join a group ready to protest against this and get organised. And don’t forget to ask what the Tories would do with the tax they’re planning to save.
Theresa May is being urged to consider reviving the principle of social insurance to help struggling low-paid workers, as she prepares to flesh out her vision of “a country that works for everyone”.
May will chair the first meeting of her social reform cabinet committee this week – a gathering of relevant ministers – in a bid to show that improving the lives of those she described in her first speech in Downing Street as “just managing” is high on her agenda.
One option thought to be under consideration is to shift the focus of welfare policy from the cost-cutting approach of George Osborne, which many Conservatives believe reached its limit when reductions to tax credits and disability payments were rejected by his own backbenchers during a public outcry, to a self-help system.
May’s new director of policy, John Godfrey, is a keen advocate of what in his last job, at financial services giant Legal and General, he called “Beveridge 2.0”: using technology to introduce new forms of social insurance.
Godfrey told a campaigning group, the Financial Inclusion Commission, last year that the systems used to deliver auto-enrolment, the scheme that ensures all low-income workers have a pension, could also be used to help the public insure themselves against unexpected events.
“There is a clear lesson from auto-enrolment that if you have a plumbing network or an infrastructure that works, that auto-enrolment infrastructure could be used for other things which would encourage financial inclusion: things like, for example, life cover, income protection and effective and very genuine personal contributory benefits for things like unemployment and sickness,” he said. “They can be delivered at good value if there is mass participation through either soft compulsion or good behavioural economics.”
As an example he suggested that a worker earning £27,000, who paid in 0.5% of their earnings, or £11 a month, could then be entitled to claim 40% of their income for 12 months if they fell sick – perhaps two to three times what they might get on the existing contributory employment support allowance.
A sign against the TTIP free trade agreement in Frankfurt, Germany [Image: Ralph Orlowski/Reuters].
Isn’t it interesting that a French minister has joined Germany’s Vice-Chancellor in calling for negotiations on the so-called Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership to be called off, so soon after the UK voted to leave the EU?
We know that David Cameron was very much in favour of the planned agreement between the United States and the European Union, that would have driven down the quality of products, harmed working conditions, and sealed privatisation into the UK’s National Health Service.
But the UK has voted itself out of this issue and now it seems the EU will disengage.
The question now is, with the UK steering a separate course from the rest of Europe once again, will Theresa May demand an individual agreement between our country and the States?
That could be disastrous for the British quality of life.
France’s trade minister has increased the pressure on the proposed EU-US trade deal by calling for the talks to be called off.
Matthias Fekl, the French minister for foreign trade, tweeted that his government demanded negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) should cease.
France has been sceptical about TTIP from the start and has threatened to block the deal, arguing the US has offered little in return for concessions made by Europe. All 28 EU member states and the European parliament will have to ratify TTIP before it comes into force.
Fekl’s statement follows similarly gloomy comments from the German economy minister, Sigmar Gabriel. He said on Sunday: “The negotiations with the United States have de facto failed, even though nobody is really admitting it.”
Corbyn’s 2015 leadership win was aided in part by the use of a phone canvassing app, with such innovations likened to tactics used by Bernie Sanders in the US [Composite: Rex/PA].
Any plan to bypass a biased mainstream press is a good idea, in This Writer’s opinion.
I made the point to a Wales-based Labour MP at the start of the Assembly election campaign earlier this year and it seems to have been taken seriously (although that’s not to suggest I’m taking credit for this in any way).
Left-wing commentators like Vox Political, The Canary, Another Angry Voice and many more have a huge amount of influence because we are very good at supporting any arguments we put forward with factual information.
It means readers can see exactly why we support particular political policy platforms – and why we oppose others.
Some might argue that Bernie Sanders lost the Democratic Presidential nomination to Hillary Clinton – so why should Mr Corbyn follow such a route?
The answer lies in the difference between the US and UK electoral systems. Mrs Clinton had used her insider knowledge to secure a huge number of nominations from the Democrat electoral college before campaigning had even begun (and the validity of that approach is up for debate). It is hugely to Mr Sanders’s credit that he ran as close a race as he did.
Here, of course, we simply vote for the candidate we want to be our MP, so the kind of pre-arranging that Mrs Clinton managed won’t – or shouldn’t happen.
And digital campaigning has worked for Mr Corbyn so far.
To be honest, This Writer was wondering why Labour didn’t harness it in the 2015 general election; it would certainly have meant fears about the reaction of the right-wing media could have been bypassed. Know what I mean, Owen Smith?
Jeremy Corbyn plans to make Labour’s next general election campaign a digital affair, modelled in part on the social media techniques used by Bernie Sanders during his run for the Democratic nomination in the US.
The promise is part of a wider announcement of the Labour leader’s digital policies, including a commitment to universal high-speed broadband and mobile connectivity across the UK, and to new online learning resources.
Corbyn [was] expected to say in a speech in east London that his efforts to see off Owen Smith, the leadership challenger, were “leading the way in harnessing the advances of new technology to organise political campaigning like we’ve never seen before”.
Corbyn supporters say his regular presence on social media, along with the use of other technological innovations, helps him bypass a suspicious mainstream news media and could see a general election message delivered more effectively than polls suggest.
His initial election as Labour leader was credited in part to his team’s bespoke phone canvassing app, which helped volunteers contact potential voters. In his speech, Corbyn [was] expected to liken such innovations to tactics used by Sanders, the Vermont senator who ran Hillary Clinton surprisingly close for the Democrat presidential nomination.
Mr Corbyn announced plans to bring high speed broadband and mobile connectivity to every household [Image: Jane Barlow/PA].
A vocal Owen Smith supporter had a sharp knockback – from another Smith supporter – when she criticised Mr Corbyn’s plan.
She said it was like the technology sector in the late 1970s; he responded by pointing out that this would put current Labour Party policy somewhere in the 1960s.
And we all laughed. I’ll leave you to work out the identities of the disputants.
Here are the details of Mr Corbyn’s digital manifesto. Decide for yourself if either of them are right, or if he has devised something worthwhile, going forward:
Jeremy Corbyn will pledge to introduce a “digital bill of rights” as part of a range of commitments on new technology, in a speech that will explain how Labour can “democratise the internet” to get back into government.
Mr Corbyn will announce plans for high-speed broadband and mobile connectivity for every household, company and organisation in Britain if he is re-elected Labour leader.
He will also launch a public consultation to draw up a digital bill of rights, and develop a digital citizen passport – a voluntary scheme that will provide Britons with a secure and portable identity for their online lives.
He will say that a Corbyn government would utilise the internet to promote popular participation in politics, building on the lesson learned in his leadership campaign.
Shadow minister Jon Ashworth says the Conservatives are trying to ‘gerrymander the electoral system and to stack it against Labour’ [Image: Josh Kearns/Rex/Shutterstock].
Silly question; of course they are.
They did it before the 1983 election, precisely in order to make it easier for them to win.
They tried to do it whilst in coalition with the Liberal Democrats – but the plan was postponed after disagreements between the two governing parties. It seems the plans would have meant the LDs losing a quarter of their seats.
Now the plans are back on the political agenda. The Liberal Democrats can no longer get in the way because their support for the Conservatives ensured that they lost far more than a quarter of their seats in the 2015 election.
So it seems the way is clear for the number of seats in the House of Commons to be cut from 650 to 600 from the 2020 election – with a Parliamentary vote planned to take place in 2018.
It occurs to This Writer that there remains at least one way for the plan to be blocked.
The investigations into alleged electoral fraud in the 2015 general election are still ongoing, but should be completed by mid-2017. If they reveal a significant number of current Conservative MPs committed crimes, then the Tories may lose their Parliamentary majority.
Protestations like Mr Ashworth’s – while accurate – will achieve nothing other than raising public awareness of a situation voters could have prevented.
Labour has urged Theresa May to drop plans for a radical redrawing of the electoral map after analysis … showed that boundary changes could affect up to 200 of the party’s seats.
Jon Ashworth, a shadow minister, accused the Conservatives of abuse of power and gerrymandering after the research, carried out by the Tory peer and psephologist Lord Hayward, suggested Labour would be disproportionately hit by the planned reduction in seats from 650 to 600.
The changes, initiated by David Cameron, aim to ensure that each person’s vote is of similar value by equalising the number of registered voters in each constituency to within 5% of 74,769.
But a higher proportion of existing Conservative seats are currently within the range, so only between 10 and 15 are expected to disappear, while Labour could see up to 30 of its seats abolished.
“This is about deliberately damaging Labour’s prospects at the next general election, and that’s why it’s shoddy,” Ashworth said. “Theresa May should drop these plans.”
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