Category Archives: Veterans

Why did ex-Gurkhas have to go on HUNGER STRIKE in DOWNING STREET over unequal pensions?

Hunger striker: the government agreed to talks after Dhan Gurung (pictured) returned to the hunger strike outside Downing Street. He had been admitted to hospital after his heart slowed.

The answer to that is simple: racism, ingrained into the way British governments treat people.

Allow me to tell you the story:

Once upon a time (1814), the British East India Company, then in control of India, declared war on neighbouring Nepal because of Gurkha incursions that had taken place.

The war was extremely civilised, with both sides controlling looting and respecting non-combatants.

The war ended in 1816 and both sides decided to build a friendship in which 10 Gurkha regiments were recruited into the East India Company’s Army.

After the partition of India in 1947, a tripartite treaty between Nepal, India and the UK meant four Gurkha regiments were transferred to the British Army.

Here’s the problem, though: the terms on which the Gurkhas joined the British Army were not the same as those for any UK-born soldier.

Those who retired before 1997, like Mr Gurung, currently receive a fraction of the pension the rest of the British Army receive because the Gurkha Pension Scheme (GPS) was based on Indian Army rates.

The Not New Labour government of Tony Blair tried to paper over this racist injustice in 2007, when it eliminated the differences between Gurkhas’ terms and conditions of service and those of their British counterparts.

The change was backdated to July 1, 1997, because that was the date when the UK became the home base for the Brigade of Gurkhas (it had previously been based in Hong Kong, which itself transferred to Chinese rule on that date) and changes in immigration rules meant retiring Gurkhas may settle in the UK after discharge.

The difference between pension rates pre- and post-1997 has long been a subject for grievance because it seems to be impossible to live comfortably on pre-1997 rates, either in the UK or in Nepal. Former Gurkhas who had served the UK as some of our most effective service personnel were therefore consigned to lives of poverty and misery because they weren’t British.

That is why Dhan Gurung, Pushpa Rana Ghale and Gyanraj Rai went on hunger strike on August 7.

Challenged to meet the hunger strikers and discuss their case, current UK prime minister Boris Johnson did what he always does when offer the chance to be a statesman: he ran away.

Previously, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace had said he would be happy to meet  protesters, but argued no government “of any colour” had ever made retrospective changes to pensions of the kind they were demanding.

We can see from the actions of the Blair government in 2007 that this was a lie of the kind for which the Boris Johnson government is now justifiably infamous.

It seems the politicians’ position only softened when it seemed likely that one of the hunger strikers may suffer serious harm to their health on the prime minister’s doorstep.

Dhan Gurung was hospitalised after his heartbeat slowed, after refusing food for 12 days. It was initially believed that the diabetic veteran was having a heart attack.

He returned to the protest yesterday but shortly afterwards the government announced that it will hold talks with the group, and with the Nepalese government, and the hunger strike has now ended.

Further information on the situation is available in this House of Commons Library briefing.

I think it is important also to note that a petition, calling for Gurkhas to have equal pensions as other British veterans of the same rank and service, has reached the 100,000 signature threshold for a debate in Parliament.

How would any such debate run, if one or more of the protesters had suffered significant harm to their health because they had to go on hunger strike even to have their demands noticed?

And the discussion with Nepal seems dishonest, too. The four Gurkha regiments suffering the pension prejudice at the heart of the protest have been employees of the British Army since 1947; their pay and conditions are really nobody else’s business.

Whatever happens, this is another opportunity for Boris Johnson to drape himself in disgrace. He has already fled from dealing with this matter and his Defence Secretary has lied about it.

Who can doubt that they’ll concoct an excuse to short-change – once again – some of the bravest soldiers the UK was ever lucky enough to have?

Mercer sacked over unequal treatment in prosecutions of armed forces veterans

Mercer: it’s right that he should leave the government – but it’s for the wrong reason.

The Minister for Armed Forces Veterans has reported that he has been “relieved of my responsibilities in government” because he disagrees with Tory policy on prosecutions for historic crimes.

This is extremely dodgy ground. It seems clear to This Writer that, if a serving member of the forces has committed a crime while on active duty – but the evidence only comes to light later – they should still face prosecution for it.

The Tory government sees the matter differently and has included in its Overseas Operations Bill measures to protect veterans from prosecution if the alleged crimes were committed more than five years before any allegations are made…

… except for those who served in Northern Ireland. They have been excluded from this measure, meaning long-retired personnel could face imprisonment for alleged crimes committed decades ago.

Nobody deserves to face the extreme distress of court proceedings and possible imprisonment over false allegations, of course.

But nor should anybody receive an automatic free pass if they did commit crimes, no matter how long ago they happened. Think of paedophiles whose abominable practices with children only come to light decades after they took place.

So Mercer is right to go – but he’s going for the wrong reason.

He should be leaving because personnel who served elsewhere are being let off – not because those who served in Northern Ireland are still on the hook.

He should also be leaving because the government hasn’t bothered to devise ways of weeding out unfounded, frivolous or malicious attempts to prosecute veterans, but has instead opted to offer (potentially) amnesty to criminals.

But nobody can say his views weren’t known. He offered to resign from Theresa May’s government in 2019 over the same issue. So it is perhaps unsurprising that he has now left Boris Johnson’s government after it refused to pay attention to his concerns about the same issue.

Of course, we don’t know the exact circumstances yet. First we were told Mercer was on the point of resigning, then we were told he had been sacked, then that he had actually resigned, and then in his resignation letter he said he had been “relieved” of his responsibilities.

Still, this is another departure over government policy, following that of Samuel Kasumu – who actually quit after Boris Johnson’s cronies rewrote a report on institutional racism in order to pretend that it no longer exists in the UK.

We may conclude that the Johnson government is highly prejudiced. Not only is it deeply racist, but it also discriminates against forces personnel depending on where they served.

That’s not a good look for a government that desperately wants to appear friendly to those in the services after years of scandal over veterans who were left homeless after their discharge.

Mercer himself won’t be short of cash after losing this job – if he’s still got his £85,000-a-year job as ‘non-executive director’ of a cyber-security firm.

So don’t worry about him. Worry about people who have been wronged by our armed forces who won’t get justice – and about veterans who are being wronged by a government that is still allowing vexatious prosecutions against them.

Source: Johnny Mercer: Tory MP resigns as defence minister – BBC News

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New Bill is ‘lost opportunity’ to put the Armed Forces Covenant into law

No respect: Boris Johnson showed contempt for our Armed Forces by laying his wreath face-down at a Remembrance Day ceremony. Now his government will show contempt by failing to enshrine the Armed Forces Covenant into law.

How many times must the Tories let servicepeople down before military personnel (and former members of the services) realize the Tories are not their friends and don’t deserve their vote?

People in the military tend to have Toryism drummed into them from early training days onwards. It was no surprise when military personnel were found to have been using images of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for target practice a few years ago.

But it is bizarre, when the Tories take every opportunity to let our squaddies down.

Case in point: the new Armed Forces Bill. The Tories are saying it will enshrine the Armed Forces Covenant in law, to ensure that armed forces personnel, veterans and their families are not disadvantaged by their service when accessing key public services like health care, education and housing, but are treated fairly.

Sadly, the Tories can’t even treat them fairly in discussing this law about them.

You see:

The Bill will not enshrine the covenant in law at all.

Instead, the Bill introduces

a legal duty for relevant UK public bodies to have due regard to the principles of the Covenant

– which means very little in real terms.

Labour’s John Healey has it right:

“As it stands, this bill is a missed opportunity. It does not put the Armed Forces Covenant properly into law to ensure Forces personnel and veterans suffer no disadvantage in access to services, nor will it put right the long-term failings in the military justice system.”

No doubt our forces personnel won’t know they’ve been hoodwinked until they are back in civilian life and try to access the services they’ve been promised.

Source: New legislation to help ensure fair treatment for armed forces – GOV.UK

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What is the point of Remembrance Day when the government lets down our veterans so badly?

Contempt: at the national Remembrance Day commemoration service in 2019, Boris Johnson showed contempt for our Armed Forces by laying his wreath face-down. Is this merely symptomatic of the Tory government’s attitude to veterans generally?

I pass this on without comment. Do I need to amplify it further?

Disabled ex-armed forces personnel are being let down by the welfare system, with many experiencing stress and anxiety brought on by the struggle to access social security benefits, according to the Royal British Legion.

The charity said frontline Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) staff were insufficiently aware of their obligations under the armed forces covenant, which requires public services to give special consideration to injured ex-service personnel.

Among the difficulties reported by veterans to a Royal British Legion survey was the failure of benefits officials to understand post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) when carrying out and scoring health assessments for disability benefits.

study by a Salford University academic published last year found many armed forces veterans with complex needs reported overwhelmingly negative experiences of universal credit, disability benefits assessments and benefit sanctions.

Source: Disabled veterans being let down by benefits system – Royal British Legion | Benefits | The Guardian

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DWP leaves navy amputee with £16 a month and tells him: get a job

Kevin Barnes: This former Navy amputee is hospital-bound but must use his pension to pay for a flat he can no longer occupy. Meanwhile the DWP has given him only £16/month in Universal Credit because of that pension.

Is anybody else thinking of Norman Tebbit, a Tory minister back in the 1980s, telling people to get “on your bike”?

That comment, inappropriate at the time, would be even more so in the case of 62-year-old Kevin Barnes, whose leg was amputated by surgeons because of circulatory problems.

The DWP assessed him for Universal Credit and decided to offer just £16 a month – while also demanding evidence that Mr Barnes was serious about returning to work.

It seems the assessment was carried out before his leg was removed, so he is now struggling to cope because of an out-of-date decision.

Mr Barnes is entitled to a military pension which pays £500 a month – most of which must now service his rent of £410 a month.

But his flat is now unsuitable for his needs as he is now bound to a wheelchair. In real terms, he is homeless – but must still pay for his flat because it contains all his possessions. Housing officials are trying to find him a new home.

Mr Barnes also draws £81.90 Personal Independence Payment, which is meant to be used to help him cope with extra financial pressures he faces because of his new disability.

He fears it will be cut in the near future because people are not eligible for PIP if they are in hospital for longer than 28 days and Mr Barnes has been hospitalised for two and a half weeks so far.

According to the Mirror:

Kevin said: “I’m supposed to be looking for work in the future, enhancing my CV, this that and the other.

“But I cannot plan for work at the moment. I now have to prepare myself for being in a wheelchair all the time and get used to that.

“Then there’s the prosthetics – I have my first meeting for that as well.

“I had been working and I expect … to work,” Kevin said. “I just thought I would be working and my naval pension would be a bit of a bonus, but it’s turned out to be my main source of income.

Source: Royal Navy amputee stranded with £16 Universal Credit told ‘get a job’ by DWP – Mirror Online

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The brutal difference between what Tories say and what they do

What Tories say:

Today – November 11 – is Remembrance Day. To mark the occasion, the Conservative Party announced a series of policies for ex-servicepeople.

Here’s one of them:

They have also announced extra childcare for military families and a law to protect veterans from “vexatious” legal action connected with their activities in the Armed Forces.

You may think that seems like a nice package.

What they do:

This is David Clapson:

He was a Lance Corporal in the Royal Signals serving in Belfast at the height of the troubles before leaving the army to work for BT. After working for the telecommunications firm for 16 years he became a carer for his elderly mother.

He suffered with Type 1 Diabetes and relied on regular insulin injections to survive.

Ordered to claim Jobseekers’ Allowance by the Tory-run Department for Work and Pensions, his payments were stopped after he missed an appointment and he died three weeks later, of diabetic shock, on July 20, 2013.

He had been unable to pay for the electricity to keep his insulin at the right temperature, meaning it had become unusable.

He had less than £4 to his name, and died with an empty stomach.

The Tories can say what they want and it won’t mean a thing.

This is what the Conservatives do to our ex-servicepeople. 

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Boris Johnson’s contempt for the Forces goes much further than laying a wreath wrongly

Yes, this is bad:

Contempt: Boris Johnson showed he holds our Armed Forces in contempt by laying a wreath at the Cenotaph upside-down.

Boris Johnson showed his disrespect for the UK’s Armed Forces this morning when he laid a wreath upside down at the Cenotaph during the Remembrance Day commemoration service.

This Writer doesn’t want to say it – because it has become a cliche – but, if Jeremy Corbyn had done the same, we would never hear the end of it. Remember the vilification he had at the first Remembrance Day he attended as Labour leader? He hadn’t done anything wrong!

This is much worse, though:

He was known only as George, he was 82 years old and he died of bronchial pneumonia after being evicted from a squat in Manchester – along with no fewer than 12 other ex-servicemen.

This is how the Conservatives treat our Armed Forces after their usefulness as cannon fodder is over – they throw them onto the streets.

George and his comrades were just 13 among more than 13,000 ex-servicepeople who the Conservatives have thrown onto our streets.

Many veterans, war heroes from the Falklands campaign through to conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, are reduced to sleeping in doorways, bus stops and parks, begging from passers-by.

Almost all are struggling with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which often leads to other problems including addictions to drugs and alcohol.

None of them receive any help from the Conservative government. The Armed Forces Covenant – a promise to ensure that those who serve or who have served in the armed forces, and their families, are treated fairly, that was enshrined in law in 2011 – is a sick joke.

The only help they receive is from charities. Chris Barwood, chair of the Salford Armed Forces Veterans Network said, “We are turning our backs on our troops who have taken the Queen’s shilling, sworn the oath of allegiance and offered up their lives to keep us safe and yet in return we do nothing to ensure that they have a roof over their heads and food in their bellies for their remaining years.”

The crowning irony is that most members of the Armed Forces are ardent Conservatives.

I hope they reconsider that position.

Why should they vote for a party that throws them into pointless conflicts, then throws them onto the streets when they get PTSD, and whose leader shows nothing but contempt for those of their comrades who have died defending their country?

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Forces veterans aren’t getting pensions in another sign of discrimination against them

Homeless: This could be an armed forces pensioner. There are plenty of stories of them dying homeless and alone on the UK’s streets.

It seems the government has been making it hard for ex-servicepeople to claim the pensions that should be theirs by right.

If you’re not surprised by this, it could be because we have been seeing reports of former forces personnel being made to sleep on the streets because they cannot afford a place to live.

So much for the government’s gratitude to those who have offered to lay down their lives for Queen and country.

Here’s the BBC:

Many veterans in Wales aged over 60 are not receiving armed forces pensions, according to a leading charity.

Age Cymru’s Steve Boswell said the money could make the difference between a life of “making do” and “activities and opportunities”.

Armed forces personnel who served from 1975 were automatically enrolled in the Armed Forces Pension Scheme (AFPS).

But they must contact the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to be able to claim the cash.

The system is complex and eligibility is linked to factors such as amount of time served and the end of service, as well as retirement age.

Age Cymru said evidence from a Wales-wide project suggested many over-60s were not claiming what they are entitled to.

Why is the system so complex? Why is the government so keen to insult the people who have guaranteed our safety over recent decades?

We can only conclude that this is deliberate persecution – for which we should all be ashamed.

Source: Armed forces veterans missing out on pensions, says charity – BBC News

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Comedian drops truth bomb on Tory policies for war veterans, disabled and elderly people

Emotional: Francesca Martinez.

If, like This Writer, you have switched off Question Time in disgust during the last few years of Conservative government and BBC/Establishment propagandism, then you missed a treat last night (June 13).

Answering a question on whether broken promises, gaffes and hanging from a zip-wire are the criteria for becoming the next UK prime minister – a clear reference to Boris Johnson’s commanding lead in the Conservative leadership election, she made the point that it doesn’t matter who gets in; every single Tory MP has the blood of more than 100,000 people on their hands:

I found it heartbreaking to watch this because like Ms Martinez (and many others), I have been campaigning for an end to Conservative persecution of the sick, disabled, elderly and vulnerable since their policies first started wrecking – and ending – lives.

Yet still this – let’s call it what it is – slaughter goes on. See this article for some further information on people who have died recently.

Boris Johnson won’t stop it. Jeremy Hunt won’t. Nor will Michael Gove. Raab? Javid? Hancock? Stewart? Don’t make me laugh.

They don’t care about it. Or if they do, it is This Writer’s sincere belief that they enjoy it. Otherwise they would have put a stop to it.

Ms Martinez said these deaths were caused by austerity. The Tories will say it was a financial necessity and that argument is a paper tiger because there is no financial necessity that justifies causing the death of a single person, let alone more than 100,000 – and remember, these are just the deaths we have been allowed to count.

The only answer is a general election and a Labour government. Once that is achieved, then the Conservative Party’s MPs must be brought to account for this ongoing atrocity.

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Divided nation: Reaction to video of soldiers shooting Corbyn poster shows danger to democracy

This is a media-led scandal; if the Tory-dominated mass media had not spent the last four years demonising Jeremy Corbyn, members of our armed forces would not have used an image of him as target practice.

And supporters of the armed forces would not have voiced their own hatred of Mr Corbyn. Consider the comments of Trevor Coult, founder of ‘For Our Veterans’ – and the organisation’s own comments in support of him:

It does say much about both the organisation and the man.

But with 13,000 veterans homeless thanks to Conservative government policies, and Jeremy Corbyn the only political leader likely to change that…

… these servicepeople are going to feel like a proper bunch of patsies if they actively oppose him becoming the UK’s democratically-elected leader – as some are predicting:

Senior voices in the Army are playing the incident down as an “error of judgement”:

“Apolitical”, is it? Here’s one ex-serviceman’s response to that:

Meanwhile, members of the public have been making up their own minds – and they’re not impressed:

(Robert Peston, below, is one of those best-placed to answer his own question, as a member of the mass-media representatives who have been so instrumental in demonising Mr Corbyn, in accordance with the wishes of the Conservatives.)

https://twitter.com/MattTurner4L/status/1113461221574029312

https://twitter.com/Aman_Sez/status/1113360112096358400

Whatever the facts of the matter really are, this incident has undermined trust in the UK’s armed forces – to a devastating extent.

People no longer believe they can trust the services to defend our nation, its laws and the way of life that we, as citizens of the United Kingdom, hold dear.

Instead, it seems the forces have been perverted until they exist only to defend the ruling class – meaning the Conservatives and representatives of the political far-right.

What will their leaders do to repair the damage – and will they even bother?


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