Category Archives: Health

Are you reducing the risk of ingesting toxic microplastics at home?

This is a political issue – politicians could have prevented the spread of microplastics over many decades but they couldn’t be bothered. Out of sight, out of mind – right?

Well, now these almost-invisible substances are very much on people’s minds, and a study in Sydney, Australia, showed that we could be ingesting carcinogenic and mutagenic chemicals (causing cancer or harming our DNA) without knowing it.

The study found 39 per cent of deposited dust particles in participating homes were microplastics; 42 per cent were natural fibres such as cotton, hair and wool; and 18 per cent were transformed natural-based fibres such as viscose and cellophane.

The remaining one per cent were film and fragments consisting of various materials.

Between 22 and 6,169 microfibres were deposited as dust per square metre, each day.

We spend 90 per cent of our time at home – habitually. During the Covid-19 lockdowns, it is likely that we have spent even more of our time there. So it makes sense to do what we can to reduce any harm that might be lurking there – in our carpets, for example.

Most at risk of ingesting these substances are children aged under six, because they are smaller, have a lower relative body size, and breathe more quickly than adults. Kids aged five were likely to ingest microplastics equivalent to the size of a garden pea each year.

It may not seem much, but there is no established safe level of exposure.

But here’s the good news:

Having hard floors, using more natural fibres in clothing, furnishings and homewares, along with vacuuming at least weekly can reduce your exposure.

So the advice is: Get cleaning!

Source: We’re all ingesting microplastics at home, and these might be toxic for our health. Here are some tips to reduce your risk

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Every new MP receives briefing on how Tory social security reforms have harmed us – so they can’t say they don’t know

Long-term readers of This Site will remember Mo Stewart, the researcher into the harm being caused to claimants of sickness and disability benefits by successive Conservative governments’ determination to convert the social security system to a for-profit insurance scheme.

Mo spent 10 years researching and writing a book on this subject: Cash Not Care – The Planned Demolition of the UK Welfare State.

After the 2019 general election, she became concerned that the huge new influx of Conservative MPs – along with those from other political parties – were ignorant of the harm that government policies had caused.

So she wrote a briefing paper specifically addressing the issue and sent it to all of them.

Labour’s John McDonnell has apparently offered to arrange a debate on the subject, if possible.

Whether or not that happens, Mo has provided me with a copy of the document so we all have a record of what these MPs should know – and so they won’t be able to plead ignorance.

And here it is:

Social Policy Abused:
The Creation Of Preventable Harm

Executive Summary

The Preventable Harm Project (the Project) ran for ten years and closed in November 2019, with the evidence identified within the Project findings widely promoted during 2019/20. The Project identified the bipartisan political ambition to eventually remove the UK welfare state, to be replaced by private income replacement health insurance. In order to remove the welfare state, it was first necessary to remove the psychological security provided by the welfare state. This was achieved by the adoption of a flawed disability assessment model, and the manipulation of the general public aided by the tabloid press, that successfully demonised claimants of disability benefit(s). Large numbers of suicides linked to the adoption of the Work Capability Assessment are overlooked by the Department for Work and Pensions, and successive Rule 43 ‘prevention of future deaths’ Coroners’ reports, highlighting the link between the Work Capability Assessment and suicides, have also been disregarded. The Work Capability Assessment was fatally flawed by design and should be abolished, and the departmental intimidation of disability benefit claimants should be outlawed.

Introduction: The Creation of Preventable Harm

1. Introduced in 2008 to restrict access to the new Employment and Support Allowance long-term out-of-work disability benefit, the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) is a ‘non-medical functional assessment’ that disregards all clinical opinion. Since 2010, the WCA has been linked to the deaths of thousands of chronically ill and disabled benefit claimants who applied for state financial support when unable to work, yet were deemed to be ‘fit for work’ by the fatally flawed WCA.

2. Twelve years since the adoption of the WCA there is an identified and growing mental health crisis within the UK linked to claimants of disability benefit(s), and a disturbing increase in suicides directly linked to the WCA, as identified by published academic research but dismissed by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

“The worst thing, I find, is realising that I am forced into looking for a life that I want but have no chance of having. I seriously feel I may kill myself because being sick, having next to no money, no life, no future, no cure, constant pain and constant disapproval defeats me.”

An extract from the ‘Fulfilling Potential? ESA and the fate of the Work-Related Activity Group’ project, conducted by Catherine Hale and published by MIND and the Centre for Welfare Reform.

3. In both 2006 and 2007 the government’s own expert medical panel warned the administration not to adopt the WCA, advising that it was ‘not fit for purpose’ due to the predictable negative impact on public mental health. The expert panel’s clinical opinion was disregarded by the DWP. The removal of clinical opinion from disability assessment using the WCA guaranteed that many of those in greatest need were destined to die, as the state removed the financial and the psychological security of a guaranteed income when unfit to work.

4. There have been two official Rule 43 ‘prevention of future deaths’ Coroners’ reports linking the WCA to suicides, with other Coroners expressing concern at inquests due to the identified enforced suffering of the deceased by the DWP. Coroners’ official Rule 43 reports and identified concerns are disregarded by the DWP, whose social policy reforms since 2010 created preventable harm to those in greatest need linked to intimidation. The constant threat of sanctions, which removes all disability benefit income, leaves the chronically ill and disabled community in need of state financial support living in fear of the DWP.

5. Regardless of the Jobcentre being advised that a claimant is unable to attend an interview due to ill health, disabled claimants are routinely met with an ‘institutional reluctance’ to meet their needs, as identified in Coroner’s reports. Jobcentre staff’s decisions to sanction a claimant can cause death by starvation, in C21st UK, when all income is removed for a period of weeks or months. No-one is held to account when some of those in greatest need are starved to death by the state.

6. The WCA is used to limit access to all state disability funding including the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Universal Credit and the War Pensions for older working-age disabled veterans, which is a military medical pension not an out-of-work benefit.

7. The WCA is regularly and inappropriately referred to as a ‘medical assessment’ by the DWP, MPs, academics, policy advisers and journalists. The WCA is not a medical assessment and is totally unrelated to clinical opinion. The adoption of the WCA is identified as being attributed to psychocoercion by successive administrations, to remove what once was the psychological security of the welfare state for anyone who is unfit to work.

8. Identified in 2008 by the American Association of Justice as being the second worst insurance company in America, the corporate insurance giant Unum (Provident) Insurance have been advisers to the UK government since 1992, and were appointed as the official UK government consultants for ‘welfare claims management’ from 1994. Concerned by the increase in various conditions that could not be confirmed by blood tests or x-rays, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, Unum Insurance adopted a biopsychosocial (BPS) model of disability assessment, which disregards all clinical opinion.

9. Unum advised the UK government as to how to adopt a similar BPS assessment model in the UK, and funded an assessment centre at Cardiff University for this purpose. The DWP adopted the discredited Waddell-Aylward BPS model of assessment for the WCA, which disregards diagnosis, prognosis, past medical history and prescribed medicines. The human consequences of using the WCA is that many of those in greatest need would die, with many driven to suicide with a common perception that anyone claiming to be unfit to work, and in need of state financial support, will be persecuted by the DWP. The Waddell-Aylward BPS model of assessment failed all academic scrutiny.

Policy recommendations

• Since 2009 every clinical authority in the UK have demanded that the WCA should be abolished. This includes the British Medical Association, the Royal College of General Practitioners, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the Royal College of Nurses and the British Psychological Society. Introduced by the private health insurance industry, disregarding clinical opinion was always dangerous. The WCA is fatally flawed and should be abolished without further delay, to be replaced with a disability assessment that considers clinical opinion, with many assessments being paper-based, so that the chronically ill and disabled community are no longer intimidated by the DWP.

Research findings
• In order to remove the past psychological security provided by the welfare state it was necessary to discredit vast numbers of disability benefit claimants, aided by the tabloid press, which helped to manipulate the British public.
• Social policies were adopted with a fiscal priority whilst disregarding health and wellbeing, which policymakers failed to take into account when recommending policies which were harmful.
• Since 2010 the social policy reforms, and the additional austerity measures, were destined to have a catastrophic and often fatal consequence for many of those in greatest need. Thousands of chronically ill and disabled benefit claimants have died when ‘killed by the state,’ with a 2014 NHS Digital Adult Psychiatry Morbidity Survey report that identified that almost 50 percent of ESA disability benefit claimants had attempted suicide at some point.
• Prosecuted disability hate crimes, including murder, increased by 213 percent between 2010-2016, during the coalition government’s term in office.
• The relationship between physical health and mental health is well documented. The numbers of benefit claimants who have perished due to social policies since 2010 will never be known.
• Published in September 2016 ‘Cash Not Care: the planned demolition of the UK welfare state’ provides the results of the first six years of independent disability studies research for the Preventable Harm Project. The book is now recommended reading for various social policy, health and legal courses at universities in the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

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Nothing for you if you’re sick, disabled, at school or in care: reaction to the Tory budget

They all do this: but the way Rishi Sunak held the red box indicated there wasn’t much in it. And there wasn’t.

Rishi Sunak’s budget has shown he is a diehard Tory, with concessions for businesses while those of us in need can go whistle.

He has claimed his hands are tied by huge Covid-19-related debts – but we all know that he has already paid them off, by the simple means of creating the money needed to do so.

And his big plans for the future were pathetic: new ‘free ports’ that have always been a bad idea, and an investment bank to replace the one a previous Tory government sold off a few years ago.

We are ruled by intellectual pygmies – and that is being harsh on the pygmies.

I watched the budget speech and commentated on it on Twitter, so I can provide a first-hand account of the announcements – but first, I’d like to go straight to what wasn’t announced, with comments from people who were reading at the time:

So the people who did all the hard work during the Covid-19 crisis will receive no reward for their sacrifices at all – even though many of them sacrificed their lives, contracting the virus and dying because Matt Hancock couldn’t be bothered to supply proper personal protective equipment (PPE) at the right time.

However:

People with disabilities who did not receive the £20 benefit uplift because they are on so-called “legacy” benefits will still receive nothing more, even though the uplift will remain in place until September. After then, it seems people who lost their jobs because of Covid-19 will fall over a so-called “cliff edge”, with the uplift cancelled, forcing them to live on much less.

The Tories have made a major issue of education in the crisis, demanding that our children must go back to school as soon as possible in order to catch up on what they have missed – but Rishi Sunak has provided no extra facilities for this in his budget. It seems it was all talk and – in fact – the plan is to reopen a major vector for transmission of Covid and hope that the increase in infections – and deaths – won’t be noticed amid the falling numbers triggered by the vaccination programme.

And after years of promising to fix problems in the social care system – that became hugely pronounced when 30,000 people died in care homes because of Tory stupidity – Sunak is breaking that promise by offering nothing.

Meanwhile, those who profited hugely from the pandemic – either by being perfectly situated to continue selling goods to people in lockdown or by receiving government Covid-related contracts to provide services at hugely-inflated costs (many of which were not actually provided because the contractors were not qualified to do so) are to get off scot-free because Sunak has backed away from calls to impose a wealth tax.

So, what has he done?

Well, he carped on a lot about borrowing a huge amount of money to pay for Covid-19. That was a stream of lies from start to finish, as I pointed out:

So we were led to expect tax hikes a-go-go. But this didn’t happen:

The refers to income tax, National Insurance and VAT. However – and this is indeed a ‘however’:

This is the amount you earn before you start paying tax, or before you start paying it at a higher rate. Because these thresholds are frozen, it seems more people will pay at a higher rate due to wage inflation, so there will be a de facto increase in taxes. But this depends on people receiving pay rises to cover their costs and Tory policy over the last 11 years has been to discourage that – it’s the reason real take-home pay has fallen by thousands of pounds per year since 2010.

This was the only increase in taxation, and it is only on a tax on profits. So firms that pay corporation tax can avoid it by ensuring that they make no profit from 2023. The best way to do that is to invest in infrastructure and wages (by employing more people, perhaps).

It would be wrong to say that Sunak’s budget does nothing for ordinary people – but it’s all based around existing Covid-related schemes:

Sunak went on to announce plans for government investment. The main points were:

But “free ports” are not new, nor are they likely to help:

Here’s an interesting point:

Mr McDonnell himself promptly answered it:

There was also some muttering about policies that give a nod to the environment but if you blinked, you missed them – and This Writer blinked. They certainly don’t constitute a “Green Industrial Revolution”!

As Tory budgets go, this is not the disaster for working-class people that it could have been – although the main hits have been offset, so it may be a few months or years until we can know the effects for sure.

The lack of any hard taxes or austerity measures suggests a tacit admission that Covid-19 really is bought and paid-for, and there won’t be any real need to pay for it again.

So This Writer is left with a huge sense of anticlimax. I was expecting to be fearful after today; instead I feel let down.

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Boris Johnson’s ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown ignores the science YET AGAIN and the death toll could be huge

Mess: Johnson’s plan to ease lockdown is as muddled as his hair. Even with 80 per cent vaccine efficacy, half the population will still be vulnerable to infection.

Scientists have warned that Boris Johnson’s plan to end lockdown restrictions will cause a huge increase in Covid-19 hospitalisations – even in the most optimistic scenarios.

So much for “following the science”, eh?

It seems that

The government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) [said] tens of thousands more people can be expected to die from Covid because vaccines will not provide complete protection against the disease, and not everyone will have the jabs.

All scenarios led to a resurgence of cases because so many vulnerable people remained unprotected, even with high vaccine coverage.

Johnson’s plan is a bespoke model that does not correspond with any of the SAGE scenarios – but its closest equivalent, scenario three, predicts a resurgence of Covid-19 in the UK around September.

At yesterday’s press briefing on the government’s plans, chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, who is said to have shares in a pharmaceutical company that was working on a vaccine, warned that even with 80 per cent efficacy, half the population would still be at risk from the disease.

He said a cautious step-by-step process, with pauses of four or five weeks between each to monitor the impact, was the right way to go.

It seems strange, then, that the Johnson plan will reopen all English schools on March 8.

Scientific modellers predict that this will drive the infection rate up by between 10 and 50 per cent – negating the reductions of the current lockdown and vaccinations.

They said a limited reopening, possibly starting with primary schools, was a far better option and would allow scientists to assess the impact on infections within the community.

Johnson has ignored this good advice and intends to steamroll his easements through – as he did last year.

We all know how that turned out. Why are you letting him do it to you again?

Source: Demand from Tory MPs to scrap Covid rules ‘could bring huge death toll’ | Politics | The Guardian

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Hurley snow pic puts Coffey’s ‘old and fat’ nonsense in perspective. But there’s just one thing…

Older and not fat: Liz Hurley (left) is six years older then Therese Coffey (49), who said people are dying of Covid-19 because they are elderly and obese. It seems the agism is all in the Work and Pensions Secretary’s mind. But there is another problem with the photo on the left.

Liz Hurley’s Instagram snow image puts Therese Coffey’s claim, that people die of Covid-19 because they are old and fat, well and truly in perspective.

Coffee is 49; Hurley 55. As the comparison image above shows, health is a matter of individual responsibility (unless there are underlying issues, I should concede for the sake of completeness. I don’t think Coffey has any underlying issues).

Before Coffey criticises other people, it seems clear she should try to set an example herself.

However, there is one problem with the Hurley image:

Put more directly:

Ultimately, the only conclusion we can draw from the behaviour of both of these people is that being over-rich and over-privileged makes people strange.

Their attitudes are not normal but they get away with their behaviour because of their elite status.

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Lives at risk over mental health crisis as hospitals break urgent bed rule | Mirror Online

Despair: a lack of emergency hospital beds – due to Covid-19? – has had a knock-on effect on people who are mentally-ill, leading to deaths.

This is information I found before having to work on the Riley lawsuit.

The underlying story is clear: people with mental illnesses are being indirectly threatened by government/health service policy during the Covid-19 crisis; they are considered expendable – or they are not considered at all.

The Conservatives in government have known that the NHS was not prepared for a pandemic illness like Covid-19 since Operation Cygnus reported that such an event would overwhelm the health service. That was in 2016/17. They did nothing.

Now the consequences are making themselves felt. And it seems the Tories aren’t bothered. Why should they be?

They aren’t suffering.

A lack of emergency hospital beds for the mentally ill has led to one killing and a spate of suicides, an investigation reveals.

The tragedies happened after patients were turned away because NHS bosses failed to follow legislation to admit urgent cases immediately.

The British Medical Association probe found some had to wait up to a month for hospital admission – and many of the Clinical Commissioning Groups responsible for carrying out the Mental Health Act rule did not record the long waiting times.

In one case, paranoid schizophrenia sufferer Kierran Fletcher, 29, killed a grandad in a frenzied attack.

It was 24 hours after Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Trust put him in a queue with 23 others.

Coroners linked 11 deaths in a year, including suicides, to pressures on the Trust’s mental health services.

Source: Lives at risk over mental health crisis as hospitals break urgent bed rule – Mirror Online

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Yes, but what does Covid-19 do to people who DON’T die?

Spotted on Facebook:

Some other stats were discussed based on the question “if we let the virus rip through the population on an assumed 1% mortality rate, how could this shut down the U.K.?”
Here was the answer:
There are two problems with this question.
1. It neglects the law of large numbers; and
2. It assumes that one of two things happen: you die or you’re 100% fine.
The UK has a population of 66,650,000. If one percent of the population dies, that’s
666,500 people dead.
Six hundred thousand people dead would monkey wrench the economy no matter what.
That more than doubles the number of annual deaths all at once.
The second bit is people keep talking about deaths. Deaths, deaths, deaths. Only one percent die! Just one percent! One is a small number! No big deal, right?
What about the people who survive?
For every one person who dies:
– 19 more require hospitalisation.
– 18 of those will have permanent heart damage for the rest of their lives.
– 10 will have permanent lung damage.
– 3 will have strokes.
– 2 will have neurological damage that leads to chronic weakness and loss of
coordination.
– 2 will have neurological damage that leads to loss of cognitive function.
So now all of a sudden, that “but it’s only 1% fatal!” becomes:
– 666,500 people dead.
– 12,471,600 hospitalized.
– 11,815,200 people with permanent heart damage.
– 6,564,000 people with permanent lung darnage.
– 1,969,200 people with strokes.
– 1,312,800 people with muscle weakness.
– 1,312,800 people with loss of cognitive function.
That’s the thing that the folks who keep going on about “only 1% dead, what’s the big deal?”
don’t get.
The choice is not “ruin the economy to save 1%”.If we reopen the economy, it will be
destroyed anyway. The UK economy cannot survive everyone getting COVID-19.
Here’s more information on ‘Long Covid’ from the British Medical Journal.

We’re not at one per cent deaths yet, but even the official figures (which are probably false) show 0.1 per cent deaths.

So we can assume current figures are one-tenth of those listed above.

That’s 1.25 million people hospitalised.

1.2 million with permanent heart damage.

656,000 with permanent lung damage.

200,000 with strokes.

131,000 with muscle weakness.

131,000 with loss of cognitive function.

Now.

How many of those are – or rather, were – contributing to the economy before catching the disease? How many will be able to continue doing so?

By failing to prepare properly; by selling off our PPE and failing to stock up on ventilators; by delaying positive action; by keeping the borders open (a contradiction of Tory policy, surely?); by using the emergency procurement procedure as a subsidy system for their spoilt friends; and by fooling around with the distribution of the new vaccines for the sake of a false public-relations coup, Boris Johnson and his Tories have crippled the UK’s population for years – possibly decades – to come.

And you know what’s going to happen?

It will be the people who can no longer work who will get the blame (and who won’t get any benefits).

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More gay and bisexual men can give blood – after wait of more than six years (at least!)

It is more than six years since I tore metaphorical shreds off of Michael Fabricant for suggesting the ban on all gay men giving blood should be lifted – and this announcement proves I was right.

At the time, Fabricant reckoned the ban on sexually promiscuous gay men should be lifted as straight men who behave in the same manner do not suffer the same discrimination.

I stated that this was insane – partly because it misrepresented the issue.

The problem, I said, was that the ban did not only affect sexually promiscuous gay men, but any man who had had sex with another man, with or without a condom.

This clearly discriminated against gay men who were in a monogamous relationship in which both partners were free of infection. They should not be covered by the ban, I said.

Fast forward to the new announcement:

Men who have sex with men in a long-term relationship will now be able to donate blood at any time.

The new criteria [focus] on individual behaviours, lifting a blanket ban for any men who have had sex with men in the last three months.

All blood donors who have had one sexual partner and who have been with their sexual partner for more than three months, will now be eligible to donate regardless of their gender, the gender of their partner, or the type of sex they have.

Under previous rules, all men who have sex with men had to abstain from sex for three months in order to donate.

It is as though the authorities had (belatedly) read my article.

There was more to it than is being stated by the BBC, though. Here’s what I wrote, back in 2014:

The ban was put in place – unless the memory cheats – because blood supplies donated by gay men were discovered to be infected with HIV. Anybody can see that a ban on anything that could spread HIV is entirely sensible and should only be lifted if technology has moved on enough for doctors to spot infected blood immediately or screen out the infection in blood that has been donated.

The issue then was that people who had been in a monogamous relationship for a long period of time, and who did not have HIV when they started it, were not going to have it when they applied to give blood either, and it was discriminatory to ban them from doing so.

The new change rectifies that. I welcome it.

Source: Blood donation: Rule change means more gay and bisexual men can give blood – BBC News

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DWP disabled sanctions extension shows great tragedy is due to timing, too

Habitual cruelty: if you thought the Tories stopped persecuting people with long-term illnesses and disabilities during the Covid-19 crisis, think again.

The Department for Work and Pensions has employed its usual subtlety and tact – and has extended benefit sanctions against people with disabilities in time for the new English lockdown.

People with long-term illnesses and/or disabilities who fail to take part in telephone work capability assessments are now to be sanctioned. The change was brought in on November 2, days before the new lockdown began.

The change has been attacked by mental health charity Mind as an “abandonment of their responsibility to keep people safe”.

Mind’s Ayaz Manji said:

We need to see a compassionate response to this pandemic.

That has to mean removing benefit sanctions and cancelling reassessments for disability benefits so that people with mental health problems don’t face the prospect of going without income this winter.

Sadly, we are not going to see any compassion from the Department for Work and Pensions while it is under Tory control.

The Department has said nobody will be sanctioned without being contacted first – which raises interesting questions if assessors can’t even phone up a claimant properly:

People will be contacted to ask them to explain why they did not, or could not attend or participate in the assessment and where good cause is provided and accepted, support will continue.

We don’t want to sanction anyone and our absolute priority is to ensure people continue to receive the support they are entitled to.

We will contact anyone who hasn’t engaged in a telephone appointment and their support will absolutely continue if they have a good reason for not attending or participating.

We’ve heard it all before. Expect a slew of articles about the DWP failing to follow this simple routine.

Source: DWP extends benefit sanctions against disabled people just as new lockdown begins – Mirror Online

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Arrogant Dorries rejects cross-party talks to help mental health of NHS & care staff – EIGHT TIMES

Nadine Dorries: Wrong again.

The health minister who is so stupid she said the November lockdown in England could only have been predicted with a crystal ball has struck again.

There’s a reason we call Nadine Dorries “Mad Nad”.

Over the weekend, the woman widely considered to be the stupidist Tory MP – against stiff competition! – admitted that she did not understand the information being received and used by her own department of government; SAGE had demanded a lockdown in September.

Now she has demonstrated that she does not understand that her government’s failure to get to grips with the Covid crisis in any meaningful way over a period of nearly a year is having a devastating effect on the mental health of people working in the NHS and in the care sector.

Labour MP Doctor Rosena Allin-Khan does – and appealed to Dorries no fewer than eight times to join with her in devising a mental health package that has cross-party support. Dorries rejected it in a manner that belittled not only herself but her entire miserable government:

Condemnation has rained down on Dorries from all sides:

It won’t have any effect, though.

I say that not because the Johnson government has a huge Parliamentary majority – granted to it by a population that was desperate to resolve the Brexit crisis that the Tories had created and gulled by rabidly right-wing mass media into thinking the Tories were the only party that could provide a solution (which is lunacy, if you think about it for just one moment).

The reason condemnation won’t work on Tories like Dorries can be summed up in a simple, well-known saying:

No sense, no feeling.

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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