Author Archives: Mike Sivier

About Mike Sivier

When Mike Sivier started Vox Political, he had no idea that he was creating a monster. Disillusioned with the mainstream media after nearly 20 years as a newspaper reporter and editor, Mike had given it all up in 2007 to become a carer for his disabled girlfriend (affectionately named Mrs Mike, she features in many of his posts). He took on some freelance work, but this took a back seat from late 2011 onwards, when Mike started Vox Political. Born from his interest in politics - with an emphasis on people rather than the movement of money – the blog grew from humble beginnings to become one of the most well-read in the United Kingdom. Amazingly, Mike still has some free time. He uses it to perform in a band called the Dodgie Jammers, and to write comic strips including Hard-Boiled Hitler, for the small-press comic he created in 1999, entitled 'Violent!'. On Twitter, he is MidWalesMike On Facebook he has a page: ‘Mike Sivier’.

Employers are forcing staff to spread Covid-19, research finds

Rampant: the Covid-19 virus is once again on the loose across the UK because the Tories haven’t just lost control; they’ve deliberately thrown it away.

This is what wage slavery does to people; it forces us to do the wrong thing, harming not just our own health but that of everybody around us.

This Writer had to face it in one of my newspaper jobs. The company dictated that employees could only take a maximum of five sick days per year – and I suffered from cluster headaches.

The condition is now acknowledged by the NHS to cause the most extreme pain of any kind at all; when it comes on, it can last around three months, inflicting excruciating migraines on the sufferer (in my case) around four times a day.

You can see the problem. The condition could last three months but I was allowed only five days off work. Even taking all my vacation time, I could not cover the time I needed.

So this does not surprise me at all:

Thousands of workers feel pressured to return to their jobs when they still risk spreading coronavirus, and employers who breach Covid guidelines are avoiding serious punishment, according to evidence of major weaknesses in England’s lockdown measures.

One in 10 of those doing insecure work, such as zero-hours contracts and agency or gig economy jobs, said they had been to work within 10 days of a positive Covid test, according to research seen by the Observer. For workers overall the proportion is around one in 25.

These people have been coerced into endangering themselves and the people around them.

And consider the consequences. Suppose family members, friends, people on the same bus or train caught Covid-19 as a result, and some died. Who would get the blame for infecting them? The firm that forced people to work when they were sick? Or the employee?

I think we all know the answer.

And now the Tory government wants to cut back employees’ rights.

New Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has denied plans to strip us of our entitlement to paid holidays and other protections – but he is infamous for having condemned UK workers are “among the worst idlers in the world”, that the UK “rewards laziness” and “too many people in Britain prefer a lie-in to hard work”.

So what do you think he’s going to do?

Meanwhile,

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspectors have not issued any enforcement notices on companies for Covid safety breaches since the start of the latest lockdown, despite having been contacted 2,945 times between 6 and 14 January about safety issues.

Just 0.1% of about 97,000 Covid safety cases it has dealt with during the pandemic appear to have resulted in the issuing of an improvement or prohibition notice. No company has been prosecuted for a Covid-related breach.

This is just not taking Covid-19 seriously.

No wonder the virus is rampaging across the UK and our hospitals are being overwhelmed.

Source: Staff ‘pressured to go back to work’ in breach of UK Covid rules | Coronavirus | The Guardian

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Hancock cancelled contract for 8,000 private hospital beds as NHS facing overwhelming Covid-19 surge

Another smug Tory incompetent: how will Matt Hancock justify his latest catastrophic blunder?

What does it take to make an incompetent Conservative minister resign?

In Matt Hancock’s case, how many excess deaths? How many failures to order adequate equipment? How many dodgy contracts with Tory donors and friends of cabinet members?

Here’s his latest blunder – and it’s a doozy:

Desperate health chiefs have been barred from using thousands of emergency private hospital beds because Matt Hancock failed to renew vital contracts.

The astonishing blunder by the Health Secretary means the struggling NHS has been denied access to 8,000 much-needed extra beds as it faces being overwhelmed by Covid admissions.

Last night a record 37,475 people were in hospital in England with the virus – a third of total capacity.

Tonight a critical care unit nurse said: “It’s pure incompetence.”

It is.

But he remains Boris Johnson’s Health Secretary, in defiance of logic, endangering all our lives.

Of course, some might say that he should never have paid for those beds in the first place…

Agreed?

Source: Desperate medics lose 8,000 hospital beds after Matt Hancock’s NHS blunder – Mirror Online

Twitter breaks UK law; complaint made to the Information Commissioner

Identified? This person posted screenshots that appear to show they are responsible for the complaint that had Vox Political’s Mike Sivier suspended from Twitter. Mike has no idea who this person is and a Twitter search provides no evidence of any contact.

You may recall that This Writer’s Twitter account was suspended before Christmas – based, I believe, on the false claims of the owner of the account shown in the image above.

I submitted a Subject Access Request to Twitter on December 12 last year, requiring it to deliver all information about the suspension to me within one calendar month.

Twitter has failed to honour that request and is therefore in breach of UK law. Twitter is not exempt from the law.

I have therefore made a complaint about Twitter to the Information Commissioner’s Office.

I don’t know whether it will do any good; the ICO’s response when the Labour Party failed to honour a SAR was absolutely hopeless.

But every little helps – right?

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Dutch Rutte government resigns over child welfare fraud scandal – Vox Political Scrapbook

I brought this to your attention yesterday, remarking on the similarity between this and the wrong done to UK child benefit claimants by the Conservatives, with their so-called ‘rape clause’.

Now this has happened:

Mark Rutte’s government has stepped down after thousands of families were wrongly accused of child welfare fraud and told to pay money back.

Families suffered an “unparalleled wrong”, Dutch MPs decided, with tax officials, politicians, judges and civil servants leaving them powerless.

An “unparalleled wrong”.

The Dutch can recognise when their government mistreats their benefit claimants abominably.

Why can’t we show the same perception, here in the UK?

Source: Dutch Rutte government resigns over child welfare fraud scandal – BBC News

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Is Boris Johnson really facing a backbench revolt over Universal Credit cut – or is it a smokescreen?

Manipulative? Is Boris Johnson trying to distract us again with a false threat to take away the £20 Covid uplift in Universal Credit?

Is it just another distraction?

According to The Independent, Boris Johnson is facing a possible rebellion from backbench Tories over a plan to end a £20 per week uplift in Universal Credit.

The boost was granted to help people on the benefit cope during the Covid-19 crisis.

So doesn’t it seem strange that Johnson is now suggesting it should be withdrawn, before the crisis is over?

The story states that Johnson has made repeated U-turns over everything from free school meals to the immigration health surcharge, when faced with a backbench revolt.

Some of us see this as a sign of weakness but it is possible that diehard Tories think it indicates a huge streak of generosity – so a last-minute policy reversal could be exactly what Johnson needs to boost his sagging reputation.

To This Writer, there seems little reason for the plan to cut the payment at the end of March, when the current English lockdown is set to end – although experts say Covid-related restrictions are likely to continue for some time afterwards.

The only sense I can make of it is if it has been set up to give Johnson an opportunity to seem magnanimous.

Cynical. The question is, is he the cynic or am I?

And – again – a huge distraction for the public.

But from what?

A Tory revolt is threatening Boris Johnson with defeat over his controversial plans to cut up to £1,000 a year from universal credit payments.

The 50-strong Northern Research Group (NRG) of MPs is calling for the continuation “until lockdown is lifted” of the emergency increase that was brought in to help poorer families cope during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The support for maintaining the payments beyond March comes just days before Labour stages a Commons vote – putting pressure on the prime minister to rethink the cut.

It would hit 6 million families and push 200,000 more children below the breadline, the Child Poverty Action Group is warning.

Source: Tory revolt threatens Boris Johnson with defeat over £1,000 a year cut to universal credit | The Independent

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Johnson should have done this 10 months ago: he’s stopping foreign travel

Gatwick Airport: there won’t be many planes overhead there from Monday (January 18).

‘UK to close all travel corridors from Monday’ says the BBC headline. Confused?

It means travel into and out of the UK will be halted, in a bid to stop new strains of Covid-19 from infecting people here.

The UK is to close all travel corridors from Monday morning to “protect against the risk of as yet unidentified new strains” of Covid, the PM has said.

Anyone flying into the country from overseas will have to show proof of a negative Covid test before setting off.

It comes as a ban on travellers from South America and Portugal came into force on Friday over concerns about a new variant identified in Brazil.

Boris Johnson said the new rules would be in place until at least 15 February.

The science has been telling Johnson to do this since before March last year.

But he kept ports and airports open throughout the Covid-19 crisis, only restricting travel to and from specific countries and regions.

Now – at long last – he has finally given in to overwhelming evidence and done the right thing.

But will he ever admit he was wrong to delay for so long?

Source: Covid: UK to close all travel corridors from Monday – BBC News

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In London’s mayoral race, UKIP pins its hopes on Gammons

Once again, the UK Independence Party has made itself the butt of the joke.

You’ll be familiar with the expression “gammon”, meaning “a middle-aged or older white man with conservative, traditionalist views, stereotypically characterized as having a red or flushed complexion”. It has been linked with supporters of UKIP for many years.

Today (January 15) we all discovered the name of the party’s candidate in the London mayoral election… and the fun began:

We all had a few giggles about the coincidence:

But the real punchline is the fact that this is not the first time UKIP has been ham-strung (sorry) by an unfortunately-resonating name:

This Writer, for one, is grateful to Mr Gammons.

He has brightened up an otherwise miserable day.

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Johnson says he’s not planning to scrap workers’ rights. Do you believe him?

Boris Johnson has insisted he is not planning a post-Brexit bonfire of UK workers’ rights, after the Financial Times reported on a meeting between him and business chiefs.

The report states that worker protections the Tories repeatedly promised to protect after the UK left the EU will be “ripped up”.

The paper claims the Tories are planning laws to slash holiday pay entitlements, bin rest breaks, and allow bosses to force you to work longer hours, among others.

Analysis by Evolve Politics states that

The secretive plans are also predicted to benefit wealthy bosses to the tune of billions whilst severely impacting the take-home pay of many ordinary workers.

Shadow Business Secretary Ed Miliband, on Twitter, got straight to the point:

What a relief to see that someone on Labour’s front bench seems to remember what his job is supposed to be. But what a shame that it comes after Miliband voted in favour of the Brexit deal that makes the alleged Tory plans possible.

Labour owns Brexit as much as the Tories do – with the exception of those who defied Keir Starmer’s whip and voted against it.

Johnson has denied everything – as might be expected.

According to the BBC,

A government spokesperson said: “We have absolutely no intention of lowering the standards of workers’ rights.

“The UK has one of the best workers’ rights records in the world, and it is well known that the UK goes further than the EU in many areas.

“Leaving the EU allows us to continue to be a standard setter and protect and enhance UK workers’ rights.”

But the report adds:

When the UK left the EU it retained many of its laws, but it is now able to change them.

In the 2019 Queen’s Speech outlining the government’s agenda for the coming parliamentary session, changes in employment law were promised.

A new Employment Bill is expected to be published in 2021.

It goes on to say that the Bill is expected to cover issues including the distribution of tips.

Considering the Johnson government’s track record, the best advice This Writer can give is that of Peter Stefanovic in the tweet below:

Source: Brexit: No plans to dilute workers’ rights, minister says – BBC News

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After another SERIES of ‘free school meals’ scandals, Rashford demands overhaul of the whole system

Marcus Rashford: he wins campaigns against Boris Johnson’s government (unlike Keir Starmer’s Labour Party) so it is welcome that he is spearheading this call for an all-encompassing review of government policy on child food poverty.

After the second ‘Free School Meals’ scandal in three days, This Writer feels sure I was among many people who wondered why Marcus Rashford – now generally accepted as the Opposition to the Tory government in such matters – had not spoken up.

Now we know.

Rashford, who was instrumental in forcing the government to provide free school meals during Covid-19 lockdowns and during holidays – including Christmas – when the Tories wanted children to starve, has not confined himself to a single FSM-related issue.

Instead he has joined with celebrity chefs and campaigners to demand a full review of Tory policy on child food poverty which they rightly say is not fit for purpose.

They have written a letter to Boris Johnson and his trained-ape-serving-as-Education-Secretary, Gavin Williamson, here:

It deserves to be reproduced in full:

 We are writing to you to express our concern that the issue of Free School Meals risks once again becoming divisive, and to encourage the Government to undertake an urgent comprehensive review of Free School Meal policy to reform the system for the longer term. We are ready and willing to support your Government in whatever way we can to make this review a reality and to help develop a set of recommendations that everyone can support. It is only by working together that we end child food poverty.

We know that all political parties agree on the outcome that we are aiming for – ensuring that all children have access to enough health, good-quality food to fulfil their potential. Last Autumn, the Government announced several very positive new measures to help combat child hunger, and we strongly welcomed those announcements. This week, we were heartened to see the Department for Education’s swift response to reports of inadequate Free School Meal food parcels being provided by private companies. The robustness of the message from you and the Secretary of State on this issue was very welcome.

I can only assume the last two sentences of this paragraph were included to butter Johnson up, as most of the nation was horrified that Johnson had contracted out responsibility to provide £30 food parcels to private, profit-making firms who did what came naturally – skimmed off five-sixths of the cash in profit and provided £5 worth of food to cover children’s meals for 10 days.

Some Tories even went on the record to say they couldn’t understand the fuss as this was only supposed to provide for a single meal in the day – without realising that their right-wing policies have stamped on families so hard that this may be the only food those children see in a day.

Despite these positive commitments, we strongly feel that now (following the series of problems which have arisen over school food vouchers, holiday provision and food parcels since the start of the pandemic) is the right moment for you to step back and review the policy in more depth. The signatories to this letter urge the Government to conduct an urgent comprehensive review into Free School Meal policy across the UK to provide recommendations for the next Spending Review.

This would allow the Government to provide strong national leadership on children’s food so that our nation’s most disadvantaged children and their families, already disproportionately impacted by Covid-19, don’t continue to bear the brunt. In the first lockdown (March-August), 2.3 million children experienced food insecurity and during the 2020 summer holidays 850,000 children reported that they or their families visited a food bank. Free School Meals are a very important part of the safety net that protects children from impoverished families from hunger and poor nutrition.

We believe the review should be debated in Parliament and published before the 2021 summer holidays. The process will require collaboration from politicians in all the devolved nations with responsibility for school food in their regions, and must involve close consultation with children and young people, as well as teachers, charities, NGOs, frontline catering staff and school meals service providers. It should draw on evidence of food insecurity and health inequalities. We stand ready to provide our full support to the review process.

And experience tells us that the only people Boris Johnson’s government likes to consult are those who are likely to agree with what he wants to do; dissenting voices are ignored. This will make it very difficult for the Tories to devise a strategy that works for any group wider than the Conservative government of Boris Johnson.

We recommend that its scope include:

1. The current eligibility thresholds for Free School Meals. The Government should seek to ensure disadvantaged children are not excluded from Free School Meal eligibility (in line with National Food Strategy recommendations) and to work with the Devolved Administrations to eliminate disparities between the nations. Current estimates show 2 in 5 UK children under the poverty line are missing out. The ongoing eligibility for children from No Recourse to Public Funds should be address explicitly.

2. How funding for Free School Meals can deliver the biggest nutritional and educational impact, supporting children’s learning and well-being throughout the school day and during the school holidays (including breakfast provision and the School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme). This should include whether the current allowance for Free School Meals is adequate and whether funding for national breakfasts adequately covers all who would benefit from access to provision.

3. How schools can be supported to deliver the best quality school meals which adhere to school food standards and which ensure the poorest children receive the best possible offer. This should include introducing mandatory monitoring and evaluation on an ongoing basis of Free School Meal take-up, the quality/nutritional adequacy of meals, and examining how the financial transparency of the current system can be improved.

4. What we have learned from Covid-19 and its impact on children in low-income families and the implications of this for school food policy for the next 5 years, as the country recovers.

5. Ensuring that existing school food programmes (such as Free School Meals, holiday provision and breakfast provision) eliminate experiences of stigma for the poorest students. Review the impact that Universal Infant Free School Meals has had on stigma, health, and education.

6. The role of family income (wages and benefits) in enabling families to afford quality food in and outside of school time and during the holidays with choice and dignity.

The Tory response to this should be interesting. Tories habitually say families should be able to provide for their own children, despite the fact that their own policies have squeezed family incomes beyond breaking-point. It’s no good saying people should be able to afford things when you are responsible for ensuring that they can’t!

This review would provide the Government with the opportunity to future-proof its policy on school food, and to carefully consider how best to support low-income children and families in the aftermath of the pandemic. It would also demonstrate the Government’s commitment to tackling child food poverty in the longer term and be a significant step towards a comprehensive long-term plan.

I foresee difficulties.

Already the Welsh Government – which is run by the Labour Party – has taken to Twitter to let people in Wales know that the problems created by the Tories in England do not affect them:

The Tories are hardly going to want to work with organisations that are merrily scoring points off them.

School food is essential in supporting the health and learning of our most disadvantaged children. Now, at a time when children have missed months of in-school learning and the pandemic has reminded us of the importance of our health, this is a vital next step.

The letter is signed by Rashford, Jamie Oliver, Emma Thompson, Tom Kerridge and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, and by representatives of Food Foundation, School Food Matters, Chefs in Schools, the Children Society, Children’s Food Campaign, Children’s First Alliance, Feeding Britain, Soil Association, The Bread and Butter Thing, Mayor’s Fund for London, The School Food People, Meals & More, Poverty and Inequality Commission, Independent Food Aid Network UK, Impact on Urban Health, The Fair Education Alliance, the WI, ASSIST FM, Magic Breakfast, Turn2Us, Buttle UK, Greater Manchester Poverty Action, End Child Poverty Coalition, TACT, Scottish Qut of School Care Network, Khulisa UK, The Mighty Creatives, The Equality Trust, One Parent Families Scotland, End Furniture Poverty, Family Action, USDAW, Child Poverty Action Group, Biteback 2030, Just Fair, Rose Hill & Donnington Advice Centre, Oxford, Co-Op Retail, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, The British Psychological Society, British Association of Social Workers, Association of School and College Leaders, King’s Cross Academy, Academies Enterprise Trust, Cabot Learning Federation, Co-op Academies Trust, The Shared Learning Trust, The Eden Academy Trust, LDBS Academies Trusts, National Governance Association, Centre for Literacy in Primary Education and Teach First.

I include the whole list because I think it is important for us to understand the sheer number of organisations that now exist to address children’s food poverty – or have to address it as part of their wider activities.

This has only become such a major issue because the Conservatives have forced so many families into food poverty.

So it seems worthwhile to raise the issue of whether we should stop allowing Conservative Party members to form governments that inflict such misery, such starvation, on so many millions of us, just so a tiny minority can live in the kind of luxury that most of us cannot even imagine.

There’s only one question left to ask:

Why is Rashford doing the Labour Party’s job? If Jeremy Corbyn was still party leader, Labour would be all over this.

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

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UK Jews feel safer post-Corbyn – because the anti-Corbyn media told them to

Jeremy Corbyn is a friend to Jewish people but right-wingers who publish fake news traduced him – made him look like the exact opposite. Sadly, too few readers fact-checked the false claims and his reputation suffered huge damage.

One would have thought an ethnic group that was once brutally attacked by propagandists would be immune to their influence; apparently not.

Right-wing newspapers intended for a UK Jewish readership are sporting headlines claiming that Jews in this country now feel safer, and that they have a future here, knowing that Jeremy Corbyn will not be prime minister.

What they aren’t saying is that this is because they have stopped filling their pages with anti-Corbyn propaganda – falsehoods that were designed to provoke fear in their fellow Jews.

Fake news.

And they’re still pushing it – it’s no coincidence that these headlines are appearing right after we learned Corbyn is launching a court action against the Labour Party over his suspension.

Those of us who know the facts of this matter have given them short shrift:

This sarcastic comment is highly informative:

That’s what they would have had.

While their newspapers threatened them with institutional anti-Semitism on a national level, if Jeremy Corbyn had actually become prime minister he would have removed prescription charges from the English NHS.

If you call that cruelty, there’s something wrong with you.

And if you support, read and believe the periodicals that put out this propaganda, you’re not only harming yourself but helping to harm those around you.

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/mike-sivier-libel-fight/


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