Tag Archives: aid

‘No deal’ Brexit looking more likely as UK negotiator rattles his sabre at the EU

If the UK government is not “scared” of leaving the EU without a trade deal, then it is because the interests of UK government ministers will not be harmed.

Reading between the lines of the BBC’s story, perhaps they expect the taxpayer to fund any businesses in which they have an interest?

The downside is that UK negotiator David Frost is saying your Tory government couldn’t care less if your business crashes to dust as a result of high tariffs that will be imposed by the EU nations in January.

Both sides want a deal agreed next month in order to have it signed off by politicians on both sides of the Channel by the end of the transition period on 31 December.

Differences remain on issues such as fishing and the level of taxpayer support the UK will be able to provide for businesses, also referred to as state aid rules.

The EU has said it wants full access for its boats to fish in UK waters in return for giving the UK fishing industry full access to EU markets.

On state aid, the EU has expressed concern that it could give business in the UK an unfair advantage over their European competitors and Mr Barnier has previously said the EU will require “robust” guarantees in this area if it is to agree a deal.

This Writer would be inclined to suggest that the EU should keep its nose out of the UK’s businesses if we could be sure that taxpayer funding for our firms could be administered in a reasonable way – but that’s not what we’re seeing.

Look at the Covid-19 crisis: the Tories have deliberately manipulated government procurement mechanisms to give whomping great wodges of public money to private companies run by their friends. That’s not reasonable!

On balance, the EU’s insistence on interfering in the way UK businesses are run is not acceptable, though. Does Michel Barnier really think a little state aid is going to make much difference for a single country dealing with the world’s largest trading bloc?

If This Writer was running a large concern, though, I would be worried.

Whatever happens, it seems UK businesses will end up paying large tariffs to sell into the EU, while receiving no support from their own government. Am I right?

Source: Brexit: Negotiator David Frost says UK not scared of walking away – BBC News

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Coronavirus: This tax haven exclusion is just one way the UK is missing the chance to change

Registered in a tax haven? Then no tax-funded help for you: there’s no reason the UK should give tax-dodging firms a hand during the coronavirus crisis if they haven’t paid their full dues.

Here’s a good idea. Shame it’s another country that came up with it:

https://twitter.com/withorpe/status/1251925513217675264

https://twitter.com/withorpe/status/1251940269303435264

It makes perfect sense.

Companies that have withheld their profits from HM Revenue and Customs by registering themselves in tax havens have opted out of paying the full amount of tax that they could (I would say should) have been paying.

Therefore there is no reason they should benefit from aid schemes funded by those taxes, in the UK.

And do we expect the UK to impose a restriction similar to Denmark?

https://twitter.com/KateyKay3/status/1251951667450429450

So Denmark is doing the right thing, but the UK won’t because we have a Conservative government that receives donations from tax dodgers, in the opinions of the masses on Twitter.

Yet millions of people voted for the Conservative government that allows this gaming of the system.

There will be more chances, too. The simple fact is that the coronavirus lockdown, and the many deaths that Conservative government failures have directly caused, mean the Tories will need our help to get the UK running they way they want afterwards.

Alternatively, we could demand the changes we need in order to live the kind of lives they have in Denmark (for example).

Do you honestly want a few crawlers to throw that chance away?

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Chancellor’s ‘jam tomorrow’ package for the self-employed is worse than useless now

Rishi Sunak: still discriminating against the self-employed? Why not just bring in Universal Basic Income? Then we can all relax.

How kind of Rishi Sunak to announce aid for self-employed workers who are likely to lose money because of the coronavirus crisis – except he didn’t did he?

He made a vague promise that we (This Writer is self-employed) might be able to get a grant of up to 80 per cent of our profits, which is taxable, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month – but not until at least the beginning of June, more than two months from now.

Oh, but we can claim Universal Credit in the meantime – except we can’t, because thousands upon thousands of people are queuing online and on the phone and the Department for Work and Pensions simply can’t cope with the deluge. We will lose valuable time just trying to announce that we want to claim, and even more in the processing of that claim.

Employees of companies who signed up to the government’s scheme for them can get their money straight away. Why not the self-employed?

Is this some back-handed attack on people who actually contribute to the economy on their own initiative?

Here’s a visual representation of the way Sunak and the Tories expect us to live:

It has already attracted flack.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said the delay was unacceptable: “If people cannot get access to the scheme until June it will simply be too late for millions. People need support in the coming days and fortnight. Asking people to rely on Universal Credit when more than 130,000 people are queuing online will be worrying to many people, so there is a real risk that without support until June the self-employed will feel they have to keep working, putting their own and others’ health at risk.”

Stephen Timms, chair of the Commons Work and Pensions Committee, pointed out that a wait until June simply isn’t practical: “Few will have enough in the bank to tide them over until then, so they’ll have to rely on Universal Credit in the meantime. The Committee heard yesterday that that system is already buckling under the pressure of half a million new claims. The Government must now do all it can to shore it up, so people get the money they need, and quickly. And the Advance, payable up-front to those who need it, should be made non-repayable.”

Sunak said devising a scheme had been “difficult” and it would be “operationally complicated” – but this has attracted no sympathy from anybody who knows anything at all about it.

It’s the biggest advert for implementing a Universal Basic Income scheme – in which everybody will receive enough money to support them, regardless of their circumstances – that the public could be shown.

Sunak and the other Tories have squirmed and dissembled and eventually brought forward scheme after scheme that is incredibly complicated – which means they are likely to go wrong, to the detriment of the people they are supposed to be helping.

UBI is simplicity itself – and has a lot of support:

UBI – it’s simple, it’s popular, and it’s immediate. But Sunak wants to bring in something complicated, slow (if it actually happens at all) and discriminatory. Why not get in touch with him and tell him which you would prefer?

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Tory raid on legal aid has seriously harmed justice for the disabled – as intended

Justice is blind – but there’s no justice for the blind here: Protesters argue against legal aid cuts.

This Site was among those who deplored the Tory plan to steal legal aid from poor and vulnerable people, including the disabled, from the start.

The new official figures show that I was right.

Back in 2013, I wrote:

“This vindictive government of millionaires intends to make it impossible for the poorest and most vulnerable in society to seek legal redress against cruel and unwarranted decisions that will withdraw from them the money they use to keep themselves a hairs-breadth away from destitution.

“It is a decision to attack the poor for the fun of it.”

I added: “We all thought the Tories would be left heartbroken after the Hunting Act took away their favourite extracurricular pastime. It seems they have found another blood sport to replace it.”

How right I was.

The extent to which savage government cuts have deprived disabled people of legal aid in disputes over their benefit payments is revealed today by new official figures that show a 99% decline since 2011.

The total number of disabled people granted legal aid in welfare cases has plummeted from 29,801 in 2011-12 to just 308 in 2016-17, cutting some of the most vulnerable people in society adrift without expert advice in often highly complex and distressing cases.

MPs and charities representing disabled people reacted furiously to the figures, released in a parliamentary answer, saying they bore out their worst fears at the time ministers announced the cuts several years ago.

They called on the government to speed up an ongoing review of the legal aid system and to end a Whitehall culture that, they say, too often views disabled people as easy targets for savings.

Source: Disabled people lose legal aid in 99% of benefits disputes | Society | The Guardian


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UKIP on tax: Big boost for the rich – more poverty for the poor

Speech: Nigel Farage addresses the party faithful at Doncaster racecourse. Does anyone else think he bears a striking resemblance to Adolf Hitler at Nuremberg?

Speech: Nigel Farage addresses the party faithful at Doncaster racecourse. Does anyone else think he bears a striking resemblance to Adolf Hitler at Nuremberg?

It seems the UK Independence Party has decided to lure blue-collar workers away from Labour and the Conservatives by promising to push their faces even more firmly into the dirt.

The party’s tax policies, unveiled at UKIP’s conference today (Friday) offer huge benefits to top earners while threatening fewer services to those at the bottom.

At the moment, UK citizens don’t pay tax unless they earn more than £10,000 per year, then they pay a basic rate of 20 per cent on earnings up to £41,865. From £41,866 to £150,000, 40 per cent is payable, and an ‘additional rate’ of 45 per cent is paid on anything over £150,000.

UKIP would raise the tax-free personal allowance to £13,500, with the basic rate being increased to cover earnings up to £44,000. Then the 40p rate would be cut to 35p for people earning between £44,000 and £55,000, and those earning more would pay 40p, with the ‘additional rate’ scrapped.

Huge benefits for the obscenely rich, moderate benefits for the modestly well-off, and what do the poor get?

They get a tax-receipt black hole of at least £12 billion every year.

UKIP reckons this won’t matter, because the loss would be wiped out by savings made from leaving the EU, cutting the foreign aid budget by 85 per cent and cancelling the HS2 rail link.

The trouble is, some experts reckon the changes would cost £20 billion, meaning deeper spending cuts that would impact most strongly on services for the poorest in society.

Not only that, but there is no way of knowing what effect leaving the EU will have on the economy. The European Union is the UK’s main trading partner, with contracts worth more than £400 billion a year. How many of those will remain? And what about the UK citizens currently living in the EU? There are around two million of them, if memory serves correctly. Will they lose their jobs and be sent back here? Will those who have retired be told they can’t stay any more, as they aren’t EU citizens?

What will that do to the UK?

It seems that former Treasury official James Meadway, now senior economist at the New Economics Foundation, has the right idea. He said the proposals would be a “social catastrophe” if implemented.

“What they’re proposing is a hugely expensive means to make the tax system even more unfair. The ‘blue-collar’ stuff is just so much windbaggery and spin – this is a tax proposal that will benefit the richest most, whilst slashing the amount of money available for the public services we all need,” he said.

What a good thing it’s not going to happen, as Nigel Farage and his chums are only contesting around 12 seats.

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More dodgy numbers on jobs for the disabled from the fake statistics machine

Making up the numbers: Thousands more disabled people are becoming self-employed, contributing to a huge boost in the number of private businesses - or are they?

Making up the numbers: Thousands more disabled people are becoming self-employed, contributing to a huge boost in the number of private businesses – or are they?

Someone in the Coalition government needs to watch what they’re saying – otherwise people all over the UK might come to unintended conclusions.

Take a look at this: “Over 2,000 more disabled people got the support they needed to get or keep their job, compared with this time last year, official figures released today (22 October 2013) show” – according to a Department for Work and Pensions press release.

It goes on to say that the number of people receiving support under the Access to Work programme between April and June this year increased by 10 per cent on the same period last year, to 22,760. Access to Work “provides financial help towards the extra costs faced by disabled people at work, such as support workers, specialist aids and equipment and travel to work support”.

Apparently the new stats show the highest level of new claims since 2007 – 10,390; and more people with mental health conditions than ever before have taken advantage of Access to Work.

The press release also states that young disabled people can now get Access to Work support while on Youth Contract work experience, a Supported Internship or Traineeship; and businesses with 49 employees or less no longer have to pay a contribution towards the extra costs faced by disabled people in work. It seems they used to have to pay up to £2,300 per employee who uses the fund.

Now look at this: According to a press release from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the number of private sector businesses in the UK increased by 102,000 between the beginning of 2012 and the same time in 2013.

There are now 4.9 million private businesses in the UK, with those employing fewer than 50 employees comprising nearly half of the total.

Some might think this is brilliant; that the DWP and BIS are achieving their aims of boosting private-sector business and finding work within those businesses for disabled people.

But dig a little deeper and a more sinister pattern emerges.

Doesn’t this scenario seem odd to anybody who read, earlier this year, that the DWP was having deep difficulty finding work for disabled people from the ESA work-related activity group?

Or, indeed, to anybody who read the BBC’s report that work advisors were pushing the jobless into self-employment?

Isn’t it more likely that the DWP and Work Programme providers, faced with an influx of disabled people into the programme from the ESA WRAG at the end of last year, encouraged them to set up as self-employed with their own businesses in order to get them off the claimant books?

Does it not, then, seem likely that a large proportion of the 22,760 getting help from Access to Work were offered it as part of a self-employment package that also, we are told, includes start-up money (that admittedly tapers away over time) and tax credits. The attraction for WP providers is that they would earn a commission for every claimant they clear off the books in this way.

So it seems likely that a large proportion of the 22,760 may now be self-employed in name alone and that these fake firms are included in the 102,000 new businesses lauded by BIS.

Is it not logical, therefore, to conclude that these are not government schemes, but government scams – designed to hoodwink the general public into thinking that the economy is improving far more than in reality, and that the government is succeeding in its aim to bring down unemployment?

The reference to jobs for people with mental health problems would be particularly useful for a government that has just appealed against the result of a judicial review that found its practices discriminate against this sector of society.

Some might say that this conclusion is crazy. Why would the government want to release information that directly indicates underhanded behaviour on its part?

The answer is, of course, that it would not. This government wants to convince an undecided electorate that it knows what it is doing and that the country’s future is safe in its hands. But its right hand doesn’t seem to know what its left is doing – with regard to press releases, at the very least.

And let’s not forget that, since the Coalition came into office, 52,701 firms have been declared insolvent and 379,968 individuals. Around 80 per cent of new self-employed businesses go to the wall within three years.

Therefore we can say that, in trying to prove that it is competent, the Coalition government has in fact proved the exact opposite.

So someone really needs to watch what they’re saying – if they don’t want people all over the UK to come to unintended conclusions!

AFTERTHOUGHT: The BIS press release adds that the government’s ‘Plan for Growth’, published with the 2011 budget, included an aim to create “the most competitive tax system in the G20”. By “competitive” the Treasury meant the system had to be more attractive to businesses that aim to keep as much of their profits away from the tax man as possible. It is a commitment to turn Britain into a tax haven and the VP post earlier this week shows that the government has been successful in this aim. What a shame that it also means the Coalition government will totally fail to meet its main policy commitment and reason for existing in the first place: It can’t cut the national deficit if the biggest businesses that operate here aren’t paying their taxes.

Syria: The right decision for the wrong reason?

A statesman emerges: Ed Miliband's decisions on Syria have revealed courage and determination to do what is right. They show he has the potential to be a great British statesman.

A statesman emerges: Ed Miliband’s decisions on Syria have revealed courage and determination to do what is right. They show he has the potential to be a great British statesman.

It looked as though we were all heading for another pointless adventure in the Middle East, but a day in politics really is a long time, isn’t it?

On Tuesday evening, there seemed to be consensus. The leaders of the main UK political parties had met to discuss the situation in Syria – in particular the evidence that an attack involving chemical weapons had taken place – and had parted in broad agreement that military action was warranted in order to discourage the use of such devices.

But then Labour’s Ed Miliband changed his mind. It seems likely he held a meeting with members of his own party who helped him devise an alternative plan.

In his blog on Tuesday, Michael Meacher laid down several reasons for delaying any new military adventure:

  • The UN weapons inspectors currently working in Syria have not had enough time to find conclusive proof of chemical weapon use. Attacking on the basis of the evidence we currently hold would be reminiscent of the attack on Iraq, where we were assured Saddam Hussein held weapons of mass destruction. We later discovered – to our shame – that he did not;
  • Where 100,000 citizens have already been killed by conventional means, it seems extremely odd to use the deaths of 1,000 by other means as an excuse to wade into the fray; and
  • What about international law? How would Russia and China react if the UN Security Council, on which they both sit, rejected military action but the UK – along with the USA and others – went ahead with it anyway? And wouldn’t this light a powder keg in the Middle East, kicking off a larger, regional conflict – the outcome of which cannot be predicted?

Mr Miliband concluded that it would be far better to wait for stronger evidence and he notified David Cameron that he would be tabling an amendment on Syria when Parliament is recalled today (Thursday). This would insist that a vote should be taken only after the weapons inspectors have delivered their report. He said Parliament should only agree criteria for action – not write a blank cheque (for those who want war).

This writer was delighted – the decision was almost exactly what I had suggested when I responded to a poll on the LabourList blog site, although I had added in my comment that the only decision open to Parliament was to offer humanitarian aid to non-combatants affected by the fighting between the different Syrian factions.

The decision indicated not only that Labour had learned its lesson from the Blair-era decisions to invade Afghanistan and Iraq, but that Mr Miliband had also paid attention to the will of the British people; those opposing another war outnumber those supporting it by around two to one.

Mr Cameron was now in a very difficult position as, without Labour’s support and with only limited backing from his own party, it was entirely possible that he would be defeated if he suggested military action in the Commons today.

Defeat in a major vote is, of course, something that no government voluntarily provokes. He had no choice but to change his mind, and now Parliament is being recalled to approve humanitarian aid and agree to the course of action put forward by Mr Miliband.

So now all my wishes appear likely to be granted.

It is the correct decision. But it was not the decision Cameron wanted. He wanted war.

It is also a decision that has been clearly dictated by the actions of the Opposition leader. Let’s make no bones about it, Ed Miliband called this tune and David Cameron danced to it.

Let’s look at what Michael Meacher had to say about this. It is illuminating because it comes from a backbencher who has been outspoken in criticism of Mr Miliband in the past. He wrote in his blog: “It singles out Ed Miliband as a man of inner strength and integrity who can take the gritty decisions when they are most needed, and this is undoubtedly one of those times… The hardest thing for a Leader of the Opposition to do, bereft of any executive authority, is to challenge the prevailing structure of power and change it or even overturn it. No other Opposition Leader has succeeded in this as well as Ed Miliband.

“We have already seen him take on Murdoch over BSkyB and stop the biggest concentration of media power in UK history in its tracks, and then almost single-handedly block the press counter-attack against Leveson which would have left newspapers as unaccountable as ever.”

So it seems we will see the right decision taken, albeit for the wrong reasons – thanks to the courage, leadership and statesmanship of Mr Miliband.

There’s just one further question: If the big decision is being taken after the weapons inspectors report back, and they are unlikely to do so until Monday (we’re told)… That’s after MPs were scheduled to return to Parliament. The emergency recall is therefore an unnecessary extravagance.

I wonder how much MPs will be allowed to claim for it on expenses?

(Note: This has been written while events continue to develop. All information was accurate at the time of writing.)

You are ‘infrahuman’ and your government thinks you are ‘stock’ – even if you voted for it

130516colinbrewer

The public voted him back in: Disgraced former Cornwall councillor Colin Brewer resigned over remarks he made about the disabled – it seems he has suggested disabled children should be treated in the same way as deformed lambs. These comments are beyond the pale but the electorate in his Cornish ward voted him back into office, knowing what he had said! What does that tell us about attitudes in Britain today?

 

This is a sequel. Last October, Vox Political published Living under the threat of welfare reform, a personal account of the hardships suffered by just one disabled benefit claimant as a result of the Coalition government’s crude and unnecessary attacks on people who are unable to work and must rely on social security. The author expressed fears about her future, after the main changes to benefits that were expected in April this year. Vox Political contacted her earlier this week to find out how she was coping, and this article is the result. Please welcome Sasson Hann:

Definition of ‘welfare’: the good fortune, health, happiness prosperity, etc., of a person, group, or organisation; well-being: to look after a child’s welfare; the physical or moral welfare of society.

When I first read ‘21st Century Welfare‘ published in the summer of 2010, 10 months after I was forced to give up my professional career, I realised that those of us reliant on benefits were facing an almost insurmountable challenge to their well-being: a challenge like nothing before in recent history.

At the time, I spoke to friends about the possible consequences of welfare reform, then subsequently became distraught and angry when hearing that people had died after having benefits reduced or removed; sadly, now a weekly occurrence. So when Vox Political asked me to write a guest blog – an update of my personal circumstances – in all honesty, I felt that my situation was nothing in comparison: it’s challenging nonetheless.

The collective mindset towards people who claim benefits has definitely changed since 2010. ‘Hate crimes’ are in the news; hateful comments under articles in online newspapers. In fact a new term coined by researchers for this change – particularly toward benefit claimants – is ‘infrahumanism‘; people viewed as ‘less’ than human. Colin Brewer, the disgraced former Cornish councillor who was forced to resign after making derogatory comments about disabled children is an extreme example of this. Only yesterday he was reported as saying that society should treat disabled babies like farmers treat deformed lambs: the police are investigating. What concerns me more is why a community recently voted him back into office: what does this indicate?

Attitudes have certainly altered towards me, though not as drastically. Strangers think that they have the right to walk up to me and demand: ”What’s wrong with your legs then?’  People think it’s fair that the government should force me from my home of 27 years. Others cast doubt on my integrity, not believing that I’m too disabled to work. Some repeatedly ask me to explain why I receive certain levels of care and benefits, even why I should need a wheelchair outside: not indicative of ‘infrahumanism’ exactly, but definitely insensitive. Of all the pressures a disabled person faces, frequently having to justify your disability is one of the hardest challenges.

As for financial matters, my income has dropped drastically since 2010. I receive DLA and I’m in the ESA support group; a half decent income. That was until 2 years ago when my local authority started charging me for my care – some £3,000 per annum – despite me having no assets or savings. Nevertheless, I adjusted, and figured that unlike some, at least I had a ‘personalised’ care package.

Then I had a care reassessment last year. The assessor informed me that most of what my carers do was ‘no longer funded’. Basically, the new packages focus on eating and keeping a person clean: we do more for pets. I fought and gained a hollow victory: whilst I retained 75 per cent of the hours, social services dictated their use; I would also have to pay extra for private care. Ironically, in 2011, the government published a document about personalisation, but implemented the exact opposite. The reassessment commences again in July – another six months of stress compounded by the additional yearly financial and disability reassessments. I tell myself this is the ‘new normal’: I must rise to these challenges; not so easy when chronic illness dominates your life.

Beginning in April, I had the extra cost of a £100 per month bedroom tax (my housing association has nowhere for me to move to); along with the extra care costs, this totals £5,900 per annum. As a result, I can rarely socialise now, and it will take much longer to save to replace things. I reasoned that at least I have a home, enough money to pay bills, buy food, and the occasional treat. It’s unnerving though not having a financial buffer if my benefits are removed: a sobering thought. I have a good network of family and friends to help me, but ultimately, like others, they can’t afford to keep me financially long term; is it any wonder that some feel they cannot carry on, that there is no way out?

Multiply what I’ve lost by thousands of households in my area and country-wide, and imagine just how much money is being taken out of the local/national economy; how damaging this will become. In Wales for instance, due to historical poverty, the cuts to benefits have affected one in three people, such that the Welsh Assembly have recently appointed the first ‘Poverty Minister‘, claiming that austerity will cause hardship not known since the 1930’s.

When the Conservatives were last in power in the 80s, they scrapped housing benefit for the low-paid, water was privatised, and the Poll Tax was introduced. It had a dire affect on my family: we couldn’t afford heating so we suffered painful chilblains and contracted continual chest infections; without heating, the flat developed inch thick black mould on the walls; we couldn’t dry our clothes properly so they smelled of mildew; we were lucky if we could afford one meal a day; after a number of years our clothes and shoes wore out; we regularly had to go without soap, washing powder, loo roll, personal hygiene products and the like. It was a dark and miserable time for us.

I cannot begin to describe what it is like to have your dignity stripped away like this; I never thought I would see such hard times again: I was sadly mistaken. The current cuts to services and benefits go much further than this, leaving people with no safety net and no access to legal services. Incredulously, it isn’t even saving the government much money.

The government say we can’t afford the welfare bill, but regular readers of Vox Political will know there is in fact plenty of money sloshing around. The moving of public money into private hands, and also into the pockets of MPs and Lords: money that should be used to stimulate growth and improve the lives of all. If the post war government had enough money to set up the NHS, the welfare state, and embark on a massive building programme – when they were in a far worse financial situation – then our government can do the same. Yet laughably, MPs were this week lambasting the BBC because of the ‘excessive’ £24,000 average payment made to staff who moved to Salford, when MPs claim far more in expenses every year. On the other end of the scale, the ‘stock’ – as the government like to call us – who suffer and die for the sake of a few pounds a week are collateral damage; acceptable losses like deformed lambs. And if those who are left cannot afford a home and food, so what? A nightmarish ‘survival of the fittest’ scenario.

I can’t do much to oppose this; I’m too ill to attend protests. Occasionally I help people claim benefits and appeal, apply to charities, look up information and advise them, write and print a CV, and I’ve even negotiated with bailiffs! I tell everyone I meet about how welfare reform is affecting people, and I write as much as I’m able. This is all some of us can do; facing each challenge and fighting each battle, one by one. Notwithstanding this human catastrophe, I remain sanguine: I love life and I will not despair.

Martin Luther King Jr said: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge.” The government’s answer to that ‘challenge’ is to make the poorest destitute, the opposite to the definition of ‘welfare’: in this we perceive their ‘measure’. Consequently, we ‘infrahumans’ are facing a challenge so great that it will be remembered in history: are you up to this challenge? For all of the people who aren’t; for the many families who have lost loved ones: those of us left have to be.

Sasson Hann May 13, 2013.

ConDem government launches all-out attack on your freedoms (who’ll get your vote next week?)

Snouts in the trough: The Conservative-led government is so shameless it thinks it can get away with brutal cuts to our standard of living - the week before an election.

Snouts in the trough: The Conservative-led government is so shameless it thinks it can get away with brutal cuts to our standard of living – the week before an election.

It’s all been about freedom this week – or the lack of it.

A couple of days ago, Mark McGowan took an unconventional journey to Downing Street. Mr McGowan, who has bowel cancer, decided to highlight the government’s privatisation of the NHS by pushing a toy pig, with his nose, the 4.1 miles from Kings College Hospital, in Camberwell Green, to 10 Downing Street in protest against regulations being discussed that day in the House of Lords. The new rules force commissioning groups to open all services to commercial competition, unless only one provider is available, in direct contradiction of the government’s own assurances.

Speaking before the event, Mr McGowan said a few words that were particularly illuminating. “Without a mandate, having concealed their health policy, this government is giving away NHS contracts to the highest bidder,” he said.

“Under the cloak of austerity, the primary purpose of this government is to move public money into private pockets, as fast as humanly possible. They are like pigs at the trough of public money.

These people in government are liars, criminals and thieves and should be arrested for embezzlement of public funds. A staggering 206 parliamentarians have recent or present financial private healthcare connections; amazingly all of them were allowed to vote on the Health and Social Care Act.

“This is not a democracy.”

You’d have expected this expression of free speech to have received a huge amount of coverage in the free press, wouldn’t you? Well, think again because I just checked: An article in the Metro and a video on something called London24. That’s all.

Ah, but there’s always Facebook, where bloggers such as myself can freely direct readers such as yourselves to our work and highlight the subjects not covered in the so-called popular press, isn’t there?

Well, this was a story that Facebook was doing its damnedest to make sure didn’t get out.

It seems one of the earliest articles – the Scriptonite Daily blog was unilaterally declared to be spam by Facebook, with references removed from the site, after the post received more than 1,000 shares.

Facebook then seemed to get a taste for censorship: The Pride’s Purge blog by Tom Pride received similar treatment after it posted links to an openly-satirical article (It was plainly marked ‘Satire’) about the Department for Work and Pensions and Atos.

Tom claimed in a later post that a JobCentre Plus worker “openly bragged” to him that JCP had complained to Facebook about him, and this had led to the censorship of his work.

Even this blog, which only posted links to other articles about these issues, was targeted for attack. As readers who link here from Facebook will know – you alerted me to it – we had a couple of days when visits here were accompanied by this stern warning: “Facebook thinks this site may be unsafe. If you’re not familiar with it, please provide feedback by marking it as spam (you’ll be brought back to Facebook).” As site statistics show, this was enough to put many readers off.

I wasn’t having it. I have written to Facebook, pointing out that the unfounded allegation is defamatory and demanding that reparations must be made – to charity, and to the Labour Party (of which I am a member), since this site is not for profit and the attacks seemed to be centred on left-leaning bloggers. They’ve got three weeks to respond, then I start adding noughts to the amount that I suggested.

Facebook has said the mass censorship was a mistake made by its automated systems – but you’d have to be gullible in the extreme to believe that.

So much for freedom of speech; so much for freedom of the press; so much for freedom on the Internet.

Yesterday it emerged that a man had been held in prison for two weeks after claims were made that he made a “threat to kill” during an Atos work capability assessment.

Steve Topley, a 49-year-old Hucknall father with multiple health conditions including Reynard’s syndrome, who has a heart replacement valve and lost one of his kidneys to cancer, and is on a strict medication regime including treatment to stabilise his blood levels and maintain safe blood pressure, was whisked away after he made comments about a person who was not present at the assessment.

He was arrested, subjected to a mental health assessment which offered no reason to detain him, so was re-arrested and taken to Nottingham police station where he was charged and kept in custody. He was refused bail twice in closed courts which, his family said, they were refused permission to attend.

Today (Friday) he was taken to another secret court, where he was charged, admitted the crime, and bailed – with the likelihood of a community sentence waiting for him at his next appearance.

Johnny Void, writing about this in his blog, made some particularly apposite comments on the subject, as follows: “This incident happened in the middle of an Atos assessment which are notoriously stressful and frightening for claimants. If he hadn’t been put through that, it is unlikely he would have said whatever he said, which it seems was not a very credible threat, at least as far as the Judge was concerned.

“It can make people react irrationally or angrily and they end up doing things they wouldn’t ordinarily do.  The context these events take place in is often ignored by ‘professionals’, because to them it is all just a job and they can’t understand why people are not being reasonable. The stark terror felt by some people facing courts, benefit assessments, arrests, bailiffs, prisons or even more seemingly benign institutions such as social services, Jobcentres and community mental health teams can often cause people to destroy themselves. This can happen even if ‘professionals’ concerned do their jobs properly within the constrain of the system and no-one is really personally culpable.”

So much for personal freedom – but wait. The situation here is actually worse than even this story makes out. I am indebted to Vox Political commenter vince032013, who tells us the following, about so-called ‘reforms’ to Legal Aid (italics mine):

“Things might be about to get a lot worse. The government are now planning on reforming the criminal justice system. Highlights are 1. Suspects in the police station will not be able to choose a solicitor. They will be appointed one. 2. The number of solicitors’ firms is to be reduced by 75 per cent (that’s not a typo – 75 per cent). 3. The reduction in the number of solicitors is to be achieved by putting criminal work out to tender. 4. The bidders are not allowed to bid at over 82.5 per cent of the current cost of running a criminal case. 5. The consultation which has introduced this idea states in terms that it does not want solicitors to offer any more than an “acceptable” level of service to suspects. 6. Once charged, defendants may be represented in court by someone with no Crown Court trial experience (and will not be able to exercise a choice to change that representative). If you’re interested read the consultation here

https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/transforming-legal-aid

“and if you don’t like it sign this petition

http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/48628

In other words, this Conservative/Liberal Democrat government is determined to rig the justice system against anybody who becomes caught up in it. The conditions described by the commenter are utterly corrupt and offer nobody in this country any chance at justice – unless they can afford it. So the really serious criminals and gangsters have nothing at all to fear.

Meanwhile…

Today we also discovered that the so-called “big four” accountancy firms – Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers – who were brought into the Treasury to help the government draw up tax laws, have been using the ‘insider’ knowledge they have gained to help wealthy clients avoid paying taxes. They have been telling multinational corporations and wealthy individuals how to exploit loopholes in the legislation they have helped to write – according to the House of Commons’ public accounts committee.

This represents a staggering betrayal of the working- and middle-class citizens of this country, who have no choice but to pay all the tax that the government demands from them or face imprisonment – and an appalling display of hypocrisy on the part of David Cameron, the British Prime Minister who, only yesterday, said he planned to use the UK’s chairmanship of the G8 nations to tackle what he himself described as “staggering” worldwide levels of tax evasion and avoidance – levels that he, himself, is helping to boost.

Now, I’m not voting in the elections next week. There isn’t a poll in my part of the country. But if you are planning to vote…

Considering the way the government has pushed through its plans to sell the NHS to the highest bidders (without a mandate, having concealed its health policy); considering the way it has been implicated in attempts to stop the public from finding out about the plans and what they mean (in conjunction with Facebook); considering how its servants take it upon themselves to subject very-ill individuals to extreme pressure and then imprison them on the basis of what they say in those circumstances; considering the plan to deny justice to the poor and make high-quality legal advice available only to the extremely rich people, including rich criminals, who can afford it; and considering the fact that it has opened the door for those who should be paying the most tax in this country to avoid doing so altogether – while claiming it is doing the exact opposite…

Taking all those issues into consideration, if you are a working-class or middle-class person planning to vote Conservative or Liberal Democrat next Thursday, then for your own safety, submit yourself for medical assessment because you must be barking mad.