Tag Archives: andrew neil

The BBC’s Andrew Neil has thrown down the gauntlet to Boris Johnson – but there’s a problem

Boris Johnson: Was this his answer to Andrew Neil?

Boris Johnson is a coward.

Having seen Andrew Neil laying into Nicola Sturgeon, Jeremy Corbyn and Jo Swinson, he has run away to take selfies with Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby rather than face the same fate.

So Mr Neil laid down a direct challenge to him, live on air.

Here it is:

Powerful stuff?

There’s just one problem – as This Writer explained in a tweet to Mr Neil:

It’s a reasonable question, I think. Did any of the other political leaders Mr Neil has interviewed have prior notice of what they would be asked?

I have had no answer.

It seems Mr Johnson isn’t the only one running away from scrutiny.

Source: General election 2019: Full text of Andrew Neil’s challenge to Johnson – BBC News

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James Delingpole: clueless Brextremist comes unstuck over ‘no deal’ and WTO rules

Rich and clueless: James Delingpole thinks Brexit is a hit worth taking – because he won’t be taking that hit.

In one of the few appearances James Delingpole has made on This Site, he is quoted as saying he smoked cannabis while listening to Supertramp with David Cameron while they were both at Oxford – and one would be forgiven for asking whether he went back on the whacky baccy before appearing on Andrew Neil’s This Week to support a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

Mr Delingpole made a short film extolling the virtues of reverting to World Trade Organisation rules on trade and tariffs between countries, and then appeared in the studio for an interview in which Mr Neil, Caroline Flint and Sam Gyimah – who quit his job as a government minister over Theresa May’s Brexit deal – exposed his attitude as nonsense. Watch:

For accuracy: The hysterical laughter at the end of the clip was added by whoever made it; in reality, Andrew Neil said, “Okay. Well, that’s honest – and on that, we’ll move on. Thank you.”

But we can’t move on.

Mr Delingpole has admitted that his claims are based on nothing but hot air.

Under WTO rules, a country like the UK would have to accept an automatic level of tariffs on all goods coming in and going out. If we chose to waive those tariffs, they would be waived on all trade, and there would be no point in trying to strike free trade deals.

For a net importer like the UK, both situations mean we lose money.

That’s why Mr Delingpole said, “We’re going to take a hit”. But is it a “hit worth taking”?

No! At least, not for ordinary working people. The privileged rich, like Mr Delingpole, may find themselves able to accommodate it.

Rod Thistledown McKie made this point on Twitter: “The thing about those “taking a hit” is they don’t include the likes of Delingpole himself. They are working class voters, for instance Airbus’s 100,000 workers estimate, and they are going to be very, very annoyed with the people who promised them the Earth.”

Airbus has slated the Conservative government’s failure to negotiate a workable Brexit deal, warning that it may leave the UK if Theresa May forces the UK to crash out of the EU with no deal. Airbus employs 14,000 people in the UK, with a further 110,000 in its supply chain.

That’s 124,000 jobs in jeopardy.

None of those jobs are held by Mr Delingpole, of course.

But he, and his Brextremist ilk – like James Dyson, who is famously scarpering to Singapore to build his latest invention which has been dubbed a “moral vacuum”, taking his company’s Corporation Tax contributions with him – did promise those people a brighter future.

And now they are walking away, leaving a huge mess behind them, in the knowledge that they won’t be taking the hit.

And people are going to be angry. This response, for example, is mild:

https://twitter.com/Wirral_In_It/status/1088745468845273089

Should we not be talking about imposing penalties on people who talked up the fictitious benefits of Brexit in order to induce the electorate to support it – when they did not have good reason to do so?

Is there no way to force them to put their money where there mouths have been?

And if not, why not? Poor people stand to lose everything – why should the clueless rich get away scot free?

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Osborne admits: Labour did NOT cause the Great Recession

George Osborne.

Took him long enough, didn’t it?

He also admits that the Tories had promised to match Labour’s spending plans, in an interview with Andrew Neil for The Spectator‘s Coffee House Shots on October 12 (they went back on that promise when they took office in 2010).

Here’s the relevant clip:

If you’d prefer the full interview, it’s here:


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Osborne admits: Labour did NOT cause the Great Recession

George Osborne.

Took him long enough, didn’t it?

He also admits that the Tories had promised to match Labour’s spending plans, in an interview with Andrew Neil for The Spectator‘s Coffee House Shots on October 12 (they went back on that promise when they took office in 2010).

Here’s the relevant clip:

If you’d prefer the full interview, it’s here:


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Ken Livingstone appears on TV; Twitter responds idiotically

Ken Livingstone on the BBC’s Sunday Politics, December 11, 2016 [Image: BBC].

Suspended Labour grandee Ken Livingstone appeared on the BBC’s Sunday Politics today (December 11, 2016), to defend the party’s recent by-election losses under crossfire from host Andrew Neil and Chris Leslie, representing the party’s right wing.

Of course, Twitter’s collective knee was jerking spasmodically throughout, and afterwards.

First up with the stupid was Ian Austin, another Labour MP, who earned notoriety when he tried to shout down Jeremy Corbyn while the Labour leader was criticising Tony Blair in response to the Chilcot Inquiry report:

Mr Austin’s political leanings mean he helpfully voted with the Conservatives on George Osborne’s silly fiscal rules (remember them?) – a Labour MP who voted for austerity. Meanwhile, his expenses claims have been astronomical.

And Mr Livingstone, of course, didn’t mention Hitler once.

Instead he pointed out, reasonably, that Richmond and Sleaford were not Tory-Labour marginals, and where by-elections have been held in such places, the results indicate a Labour victory.

Chris Leslie was quick to support the candidates, even though both have been criticised as right-wingers who do not support Jeremy Corbyn. Could that have been a reason for their unpopularity?

Moving on to Labour’s economic credibility, Mr Livingstone said the UK economy would “limp along” for the next few years, which is pretty much the opinion of any reputable economist.

https://twitter.com/NSP55/status/807909828488261632

Yes indeed, Narinder Singh – and underemployment is at a record high as well. People have jobs, but they don’t pay well enough, and the UK’s productivity is no better for the extra members of the workforce. So the economy is limping, and Brexit will only make that worse.

On that subject, Mr Livingstone said he doubted the UK would be able to get a good deal from the European Union. Andrew Neil countered by pointing out that Jeremy Corbyn has said Labour is committed to getting the best possible deal. The two positions are not mutually exclusive; it’s simply that the best possible deal isn’t likely to be good. But Mr Livingstone allowed himself to be distracted by the line of questioning and said he did not believe that was possible – a confusing statement that may be used against him.

Mr Livingstone supported Labour’s plan for huge investment in the economy, saying it could be funded: “If we cracked down on what some believe to be £150 billion of tax avoidance… We can say to Starbucks… we’ll tax every cup of coffee you sell.”

This produced a cracking response from Zorba Eisenhower:

Yeah – there’s just one problem with that, Zorba – VAT is paid by the customer, not the vendor.

More to the point was the comment

In fairness, Andrew Neil’s flippant response generated something of a backlash as well:

https://twitter.com/decouvrir_xx/status/807912121690365952

On Labour’s current standing in public opinion – as defined by the polls which, as everybody reading This Blog knows, are not a reliable indicator – Mr Livingstone said: “If in a year’s time it was still as bad as this, we’d all be worried. I don’t think it will be.”

This was welcomed by the Twitter critics. It was as if their previous negativity towards him had never existed:

Andrew Neil, in a last-gasp bid to breach Mr Livingstone’s self-confidence, pointed out that Labour has lost Scotland, and its support in the North of England seemed to be wavering.

But he replied: “It’s in the north, in the areas that have been neglected, that Jeremy’s strategy has the most relevance.” He went on to discuss the rebuilding of British industry that is part of Labour’s current economic strategy.

In contrast, Chris Leslie hardly got a look-in. He had a few moments but they were mostly flops, despite the interest they generated on Twitter. For example:

Is he? Is he part of Labour’s leadership, despite the fact that he was suspended from the party back in the summer, on a trumped-up charge of anti-Semitism? Please. Let’s be reasonable.

Mr Leslie’s other good line was this:

See? Tom Newton Dunn (who?) agrees. And it’s true that Mr Livingstone is a divisive figure. But he spoke coherently in this interview and Mr Neil was unable to dent his logic, even if he (and, clearly, many members of the public) didn’t agree with it.

Mr Leslie, on the other hand, was dismissed with a sideswipe when Mr Neil poured ridicule on his claim that his side of Labour would hold the leadership to account. Labour’s right wing had lost and was deeply unpopular with the party membership, Mr Neil reckoned, and I reckon he’s right.

Oh, and here’s just one more (intelligent) comment about the main focus of discussion on Twitter:

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‘I didn’t censor Greens from report’ – Andrew Neil

141225andrewneil1

Broadcaster Andrew Neil has protested his innocence after being accused of excluding the Green Party from BBC coverage of political opinion polls.

Blogger Tom Pride told us yesterday (Christmas Eve) that Andrew Neil had censored the Green Party – and demonstrated with a graphic showing the state of the major parties in the opinion polls.

This put UKIP in third on 15 per cent, and the Liberal Democrats fourth on seven per cent – missing out the Greens, who are currently enjoying eight per cent support.

But in a tweet today (Christmas Day), Andrew Neil told Vox Political and others that he had not tried to mislead anyone – the information had come from YouGov and had been used in good faith.

He wrote: “No censorship. Used YouGov graphic which didn’t inc. Greens. By mistake Won’t repeat mistake”.

In the spirit of the Season of Goodwill, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and take him at his word. We can resume hostilities (or at least paranoid suspicions) later.

Merry Christmas, everybody!

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Elephants in the studio: Andrew Neil interviews Iain Duncan Smith

140309sundaypolitics

Today’s Sunday Politics interview was an almost reasonable attempt at getting facts from the slippery Iain Duncan Smith.

Most of the information provided by the Work and Pensions Secretary wasn’t factually accurate, but at least Andrew Neil had the guts to ask some of the questions this blog did not expect from him.

Let’s be honest, though – he bottled the Big One. The Elephant in the Studio was the number of people who have died due to the Incapacity Benefit/ESA sanctions regime imposed by Iain Duncan Smith (never mind Labour’s early involvement; it’s a Tory baby now) and policed by Atos (although the firm has realised this is commercial suicide and is trying to get out of the contract).

Oh, you thought the reference to elephants was aimed at Messrs Neil and Duncan Smith themselves? No – they might be large, lumbering monsters but the largest pachyderms in the room were metaphorical.

The question is topical as it is still only a matter of days since we all learned that Mark Wood died of starvation after the DWP found him fit for work – despite mental problems including an eating disorder. The DWP has maintained, in the face of all the evidence, that there is no reason to relate claimant deaths to loss of benefits, but this fantasy is likely to be ruined by the verdict of Mr Wood’s inquest.

The relevant questions are: Why has he decided to cover up the number of suicides? And does he have a figure relating to the number of deaths before he accepts a policy might not be working?

Why were they not put? Did Mr… Smith impose a moratorium on them before he entered the studio?

But let’s be fair to Mr Neil. Questions from the POLITICS’ Facebook page WERE directed to the Secretary-in-a-State, starting with one from Lesley Roberts, asking why so much Universal Credit funding has been written off. The response was a rehash of the excuse given to the Work and Pensions Committee; that the money has been written DOWN (meaning, I think, that the value of the investment has been downgraded in the same way your computer is worth less now than the amount you paid for it – “the amortisation of cost over a period of time”). That’s not an acceptable answer as the money has still been spent.

“You’ve written off £140 million,” said Mr Neil.

“No no no, we haven’t,” insisted Iain Duncan Smith, starting a pattern that would continue throughout the interview.

As Vox Political commenter Shaun Gardner remarked: “It’s more than a little frightening that every set of statistics, be it ONS or Institute of Fiscal Studies, is wrong and IDS is correct. He’s a bloody madman.”

“But even your Conservative cabinet colleague Francis Maude says the implementation of Universal Credit has been, quote, ‘pretty lamentable’!” This was laughed off as a reference to a time before … Smith made changes to the project. Emergency changes, these were, that he didn’t mention to anyone until many months later, maintaining that everything was hunky-dory in the meantime.

Challenged over the fact that he was predicting a million people would be on UC by April, and only 3,000 are currently in receipt, the man we call RTU (Returned To Unit) said: “I’m not going to bandy figures around,” then immediately went back on this with, “It’s over 6,000 and rising.” He said he wanted to roll it out carefully, having made changes two years ago. That won’t wash, because he ALWAYS said he was going to go slow with this disastrous white elephant of a scheme.

One aspect of what he said that disturbed this writer was when the Secretary of State claimed Universal Credit would make it easier for people to take short-term work while they look for long-term jobs. He said the current system penalises people for doing this, and we can see from people’s recent experiences http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2014/03/08/sanctioned-for-working-and-being-honest-about-it/ that there is truth in it. But the nature of Universal Credit means that benefits are adjusted according to the amount people have earned; if someone does a day’s work and is paid even minimum wage for it, then the UC computers (if they ever work) will dock that amount from that person’s benefit – they will be no better-off. In fact, they may be worse-off, as there may be knock-on effects on other aspects of that person’s income. How is this making work pay?

“Universal Credit IS supposed to make work pay – that is your mantra,” said Mr Neil. “Under Universal Credit, the marginal tax rate can still be 76 per cent!

“Er, no, actually,” said the interviewee, going on to say it would be 76 per cent for lone parents “in the tax bracket”. What tax bracket? Was he really saying this only counted for lone parents who found a job paying enough for them to cross the ever-higher Income Tax threshold, and he doesn’t expect these people (who would also have to pay for child care, of course) to ever cross that threshold? What does that say about the kind of work he expects people to be taking under a Tory government – the kind of pay they will receive? What does that say about his expectations for lone parents ever to find work that pays? What does it say about the Conservative Party’s expectations regarding Income Tax, if most people are only ever expected to find work that doesn’t mean they will ever earn enough to pay it?

Mr Neil’s response: “You’re going to tax poor people at the same rate that the French socialist government taxes billionaires!”

Moving on to the Work Programme, Mr Neil quoted the Commons Public Accounts Committee, who said it was “worse than doing nothing”.

Response: “No, they’re wrong, it’s actually way better than doing nothing.” Backed up with some statistics about 280,000 people getting into sustained work for more than six months. He added that a company had been sacked in the past week for poor performance as there is competition in every area and WP provider companies don’t get paid if they don’t hit targets. The last point is extremely debateable, considering the woeful lack of effort to help people, as witnessed by many people who have been through the process and then commented about it on this blog.

Mr Neil’s riposte: “‘The best-performing provider only moved five per cent of people off-benefit and into work; the worst managed just two per cent. The programme is failing young people and the hardest to help.'” Mr… Smith said this was from a National Audit Office report that referred only to the first few months of the programme. In fact (see Vox Political articles of the past) the Work Programme has been a failure for both of its first two years; it is still in its third.

Neil: “Why is long-term unemployment rising?”

Duncan Smith: “Long-term unemployment is falling.”

Neil: “Not in figures that have been announced by the ONS.”

Duncan Smith harped back to the competition among WP providers, saying it was what drives up performance. In fact, we’ve seen that this competition drives performance DOWN, as these for-profit companies scrabble to make the most money by providing the worst service.

Courageously, Mr Neil moved on to Mr… Smith’s religious beliefs. He pointed out that the Secretary of State is a practising Catholic, but the most senior Catholic in the land, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, has attacked his “reforms”, saying they are becoming “more and more punitive”.

Response: “I don’t agree… Most of the facts they put in were incorrect. Disposable income… is at its highest level that it has been for a long time.” He said the poorest 10 per cent are now spending a lower proportion of their income on food “because their disposable income has improved”.

What an interesting insight into Planet Duncan Smith THAT was! Who thinks the more likely reason is that they have less money to spend on food because they are having to spend a larger proportion of their DWINDLING income on the rent (thanks to the Bedroom Tax) and on utility bills (because the Tory-led government has allowed private electricity, gas and water firms to charge whatever they wanted, unchecked, for too long)?

Housing benefit: Mr Neil pointed out that David Cameron announced people with disabled children would be exempt from the Bedroom Tax – but only after the DWP fought a High Court battle in support of the opposite position. Iain Duncan Smith fudged the issue. He said it was usual to go to appeal, but that he had said it was reasonable to exempt this group. The fact is that he fought tooth and nail to ensure disabled children would be victimised, failed, and cut his losses.

“The courts have upheld all of our positions on this, against much complaints,” he insisted. Let’s see… The Supreme Court has ruled that regulations governing “back to work” schemes were illegal. The Court of Appeal has rejected the government’s appeal against a ruling by the Upper Tribunal that the work capability assessment discriminates against people with mental health problems. The DWP itself admitted that Bedroom Tax regulations had ignored legislation exempting people who had occupied social housing and been in receipt of Housing Benefit since before January 1996 – but not before one such person, faced with a bill she could no longer afford to pay, walked onto a motorway where she was hit by a lorry and killed. The rules have since been amended to ensure that this group can be victimised along with everyone else.

The Work and Pensions Secretary went on to say that he hadn’t cut the rise in Housing Benefit; he had lowered it. If anyone wants to explain that distinction, please do.

He also said councils needed to use their accommodation more carefully, to improve the lot of people living in desperate overcrowding. Perhaps he is unaware that his government has been allowing (if not encouraging) councils to continue selling off their housing stock, making this increasingly less achievable – but this is doubtful. It’s his business to know.

Jobseekers’ Allowance: “A centre-right thinktank [Policy Exchange] that you’ve been associated with says 70,000 jobseekers’ benefits have been withdrawn unfairly.”

“Not correct.”

He said this was “a very small subset”, that “there is an immediate review within seven days”, and that people are “immediately able to get a hardship fund”.

Let’s ask Vox Political commenter Shaun Gardner (again) about this. He says: “Err no you can’t. It’s a never ending stream of BS and denial. IDS is bad for your mental health. He should come with a government health warning.”

Thanks for that, Shaun!

“This is not a nasty, vicious system,” claimed Iain Duncan Smith, straight-faced.

Back to Mr Neil: “Is child poverty rising?” (We know it is – Vox Political has carried figures from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, and those quoted on this show came from the Institute of Fiscal Studies, a right-wing thinktank that once boasted Margaret Thatcher as one of its members.)

“No. Child poverty is actually falling.” A flat-out lie.

Final observation from Mr Neil: “More people in poverty are now in working families… For them, work is NOT paying.”

Final gambit from Mr Duncan Smith – and it’s an oldie: “Those figures refer to the last government’s time in government.” What a shame it isn’t true. The figures we have, from the JRF (again) include the first three years of Iain Duncan Smith’s time in office (up to and including 2012). In other words, this was another bare-faced lie.

And that was it. Apparently 20 minutes was not long enough to get all of Iain Duncan Smith’s lies broadcast, so he has agreed to come back and do some more lying at a later date.

Let’s leave this with one question that was definitely not going to get anywhere near RTU. It came from Sophie Hawthorne and runs as follows: “I was wondering if the Obersturmführer might be asked whether or not he understands what will happen to quisling lackeys like himself, with a solid track record of ideological, dogmatic hatred and pathological dishonesty, when his privileged masters need a scapegoat to sacrifice in order to assuage the anger at the chaos he has created at their behest?

“I suggest he reads up on the fate of another thuggish bully-boy just like himself, during a previous regime which had a fondness for social, racial and ethnic cleansing… Nacht der langen Messer [Night of the Long Knives], Herr Duncan Schmitt, and remember the fate of Ernst Rohm?”

For those who aren’t aware, Rohm was a lieutenant of Adolf Hitler who founded the SA (forerunner of the SS). He was executed as a potential rival of Hitler’s as part of the Night of the Long Knives in 1934.

After this performance, there will be plenty of people across the UK sharpening their knives for Iain Duncan Smith.

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Our entertainers give us facts while our politicians have nothing to say

Speaking their mind: Rufus Hound and Kate Nash had the courage to speak their mind about the NHS and education - but they don't have enough influence to change government policy. What will it take?

Speaking their mind: Rufus Hound and Kate Nash had the courage to voice their opinions about the NHS and education – but they don’t have enough influence to change government policy. What will it take to make that happen?

This could have been designed to follow my rant about politics being about perception: In response to a news report that NHS doctors’ surgeries have been found to be filthy, radio listeners were treated to a lengthy monologue on why the media are running down the health service to make it easier for the government to sell it out from under us.

This lesson was delivered, not by an eminent politician, but by the comedian Rufus Hound. He was speaking on Radio 4’s The News Quiz.

And he said: “Does this not scare anyone, though?

“There are a lot of stories coming out at the moment about all the ways that the NHS is failing. At the same time there is privatisation by stealth. Now, if you’re a conspiracy theorist, maybe those two things just resolve themselves. If you’re a normal person, you’ve got to become a conspiracy theorist, haven’t you?

“The number of contracts being put out to private companies has gone up through the roof. All of the pre-election promises of no privatisation of the NHS, and that the budget would be ring-fenced – it was ring-fenced but not in real terms, so it is a cut in the truest sense…

“The NHS is being sold out from under us, and yet all the stories that come out from the powerful oligarchs who run the media are either about how it’s failing and how much better off we’d be if it was privatised, or why privatisation can’t happen quickly enough for any one of a number of other reasons.

“The reason those surgeries are filthy is, there’s not enough investment to keep them clean and tidy. The argument isn’t ‘privatise’; the argument is ‘invest more’.

“In the Olympics, there was that big moment where they had ‘NHS’ and everybody stood up and applauded, and I think it was Norman Lamont who said, ‘The nearest thing the British people have to a religion is the NHS’ – and we’re just letting it go.

People should be on the streets.

“And I realise that, for this to make the edit, it should have a punchline.”

He knew, you see. He knew that this great speech was in danger of being lost if it wasn’t sufficiently entertaining.

Thank goodness producer Sam Michell kept it in, but it should not be up to an entertainer like Rufus to tell us these things. Such matters are the province of politicians. The simple fact that our representatives aren’t “on the streets” with us about this says everything we need to know about them.

Here’s another example: Education. I was in the unfortunate position of having to sit through Andrew Neil’s This Week on Thursday evening. I’m not a fan of that show, but it meant I was lucky enough to see former pop starlet Kate Nash, there to talk about her film (The Powder Room) and modern manners, slip in a quick observation about education that undermines everything ever said by Michael ‘rote-learning-is-the-only-way’ Gove.

She said, “There are certain things we need to be addressing, that are being completely missed – and that’s to do with education being inspiring and interesting for young people, rather than just about purely passing tests and pressure.”

She hit the nail on the head without even looking; Gove couldn’t find it with a map and a guide.

Again, she is an entertainer; she should not be having to say these things, but we should be glad that she did. The moment was glossed over entirely in the BBC News website report of the debate. Perhaps we should be happy that they didn’t edit the comment out altogether (it starts around two minutes, 15 seconds into the video clip).

We are left with politicians who refuse to do their duty and defend our services from those who would destroy them, and celebrities who are left to pick up the slack – if, with a biased media, they can find a way to keep their words from ending up on the cutting-room floor.

What hope can we possibly have that anyone with any clout will defend our beloved, but beleaguered, taxpayer-funded services?

Worst of all is the fact that it falls to people like myself to even write about these matters, and we all have lives of our own. Rufus and Kate made their speeches on Thursday; it is now Sunday, and I could not have written this article any sooner.

We’ve all heard that a lie can travel around the world several times before the truth has got its boots on. This is because the liars own the media, and those of us who are interested in the truth have small voices, are easily ignored, or can be dismissed because “it’s only entertainment”.

At least high-profile figures have a better chance of being heard. There will be those telling Rufus and Kate and who knows who else to get back in their box and shut up, but I won’t be one of them. I think we should be “on the streets” with them.

I’m wondering if any more members of ‘The Great And The Good’ will have the bottle to speak their mind.

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Police: ‘To protect and serve’ their own interests?

Unfit to wear the helmet: How deep does corruption run within our police? Do most officers still uphold the law without prejudice? Or do they use the uniform to pursue their own personal vendettas against innocent members of the public?

Unfit to wear the helmet: How deep does corruption run within our police? Do most officers still uphold the law without prejudice? Or do they use the uniform to pursue their own personal vendettas against innocent members of the public?

When did you lose faith in the British police?

Was it after Plebgate, the subject of a considerable controversy that has resurfaced this week? Was it after Hillsborough? Do you have a personal bad experience with officers whose interpretation of their duty could best be described as “twisted”, if not totally bent?

The Independent Police Complaints Commission says that the row involving whether former Conservative Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell used offensive language against a policeman who stopped him from riding a bicycle through the gates of Downing Street should have led to disciplinary action for the officer involved, along with others who supported his story.

IPCC deputy chairwoman Deborah Glass questioned the “honesty and integrity” of the officers involved and said that West Mercia Police, who investigated the affair, were wrong to say there was no case of misconduct for them to answer.

Now, there is plenty of evidence that this police complaints commission is anything but independent, and that it provides verdicts as required by its superiors – either within the force or politically. But the weight of the evidence that we have seen so far suggests that, in this instance, the conclusion is correct.

The Plebgate affair began less than a month after serious failings were identified in the police handling of the Hillsborough disaster in 1989. It was revealed – after a 23-year wait – that serious mistakes had been made in the policing of the infamous FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, during which events took place that killed 96 people and injured a further 766.

In addition, post-mortem reports on the deceased were falsified and the police tried to blame Liverpool fans for the disaster.

These were both events that received national news coverage – but what about the local incidents that take place all around the country?

Sir Hugh Orde, chairman of the Association of Chief Police Officers said, “130,000 police officers are delivering a good service” – but are they really?

This blog has already mentioned the experiences of several people here in Mid Wales who have had unsatisfactory experiences with the police, including victims of serious physical, psychological and sexual abuse who were told to go back and suffer more of this personal hell by policemen and women who either couldn’t care less or were complicit in the crimes. Years later, attempts to get justice fell on the equally deaf ears of officers who didn’t want to know.

And this week the front paper of my local newspaper (the one I used to edit) carried the headline ‘Hello, hello, what’s going on here then?’ over a story about two local police officers who, while on duty, seemed more interested in having sex than upholding the law.

One was an inspector; the other a (married) constable. The inspector, prior to her promotion, had been instrumental in sending a friend of mine to prison on a particularly unsavoury child sex charge. There was no concrete evidence and the case hinged on the opinion of a doctor that was hotly disputed by other expert testimony. But my friend’s path had crossed this policewoman’s before and she had failed to gain a conviction on the previous occasion. It seems clear that she had not forgotten him.

I have always believed that the jury convicted my friend because its members were worried that he might be guilty – despite the lack of evidence – simply because he had been accused. “There’s no smoke without fire,” as the saying goes. It seems likely now that this conviction reflects the policewoman’s preoccupations with sex, rather than any criminal activity on the part of my friend.

It also seems to be proof of the fear raised by Andrew Neil on the BBC’s This Week – that police have been sending innocent people to jail and letting the guilty go free.

My friend is still inside, by the way. He has maintained his innocence throughout the affair but, having been released on parole and then dragged back to jail for a breach that was more the fault of the authorities for failing to give adequate warning against it, he is now determined to serve his full sentence rather than face the heartbreak of having his freedom stolen with another excuse.

Who can blame him?

“Unfair, incompetent and completely out of touch” – the chance(llo)r’s autumn statement

(Please note: This is a first-glance appraisal; it may contain inaccuracies, gloss over parts that you find important or miss things out entirely. Feel free to mention anything you feel important in the ‘Comments’ column)

In May 2010, the Conservatives asked us to judge them by two yardsticks. The first was that they would cut the deficit – completely – by the 2015 election. The second was that they would protect the National Health Service.

We all know what they did to the National Health Service, and everybody living in England who must now rely on a now-corrupted and degenerate system has my complete and utter sympathy.

Now we know that they have completely failed with the other measure as well. The deficit will not be eliminated by 2015 and the national debt is unlikely to be falling.

That was the main message from Gideon George Osborne in his Autumn Statement as Chancellor of the Exchequer. The announcement adds validity to predictions that the UK will soon lose its AAA credit rating.

Estimates for government borrowing over the course of this Parliament have – of course – risen and it is now estimated that the Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition will borrow £212 billion more than stated after the 2010 general election.

Austerity is therefore likely to continue until 2018 and the deficit in 2015 – when it was supposed to reach zero – is now expected to be £73 billion. The message here is that the government will eliminate the deficit in five years’ time.

Wait a minute! Isn’t that what Gideon said in 2010? Have we been taking welfare cut after welfare cut, pay cut after pay cut, attacks on public sector pensions and cuts to economic investment for two and a half years, only to be told that we have been standing still?

This is not just incompetence; it is endangerment. This government is harmful to the UK economy. International readers should note that this entails a knock-on effect, dragging the world backwards as well. You are all endangered by this disaster.

It’s also a breach of a Conservative manifesto promise from 2010 – thanks to the BBC’s Paul Mason for this snippet.

Let’s have a look at the growth forecast from the Office of Budget Irresponsibility. You may recall that in 2012 the economy was initially expected to grow by 2.8 per cent. Don’t laugh! Now the OBR has downgraded that, by a massive 2.9 per cent, to show a contraction of 0.1 per cent. We’re expected to go back into recession for a TRIPLE-dip.

It’s supposed to be the economy, Gideon! Not a rollercoaster ride!

He blames the woes of the Eurozone countries, even though I am reliably informed that it has been comprehensively proven that our economic woes are NOT in major part due to the Eurozone.

So what’s going to happen? Well, millionaires are going to get a tax cut. That’ll help, won’t it? £3 billion, going to the people who need it the least, as Ed Balls said in his response to the Statement.

It’s worth bearing in mind that the 1,000 richest people in the UK are now worth a total of £414 billion – up £155 billion in the last three years. If you were wondering where the money that could stabilise our economy has gone, wonder no more.

What about taxing businesses? We know that the biggest corporations have been hiding their cash in tax havens – is Osborne doing anything about that?

Apparently he is. He’s planning to close tax loopholes and he’s bringing in 2,000 more HM Revenue and Customs staff to do it. Let’s just remind ourselves that he cut HMRC by 15,000 a little while ago.

In the meantime, we have Corporation Tax – is he increasing it? No. He’s cutting it by a further 1 per cent. This means that this tax has been cut by a quarter – 25 per cent – since the Coalition came into power in 2010. And he still can’t get firms to pay up!

Incidentally, Osborne would like us to believe Corporation Tax is keeping the economy weak. However, the US rate is 40 per cent and the economy there is growing.

Where’s the business investment bank we were promised?

Oh! Here’s something: tax relief on pensions slashed for the very high earners. £1 billion expected revenue. Be still, my beating heart.

So: tax cuts for the rich. What do the poor get?

The rise in working-age benefits will be frozen to 1 per cent for the next three years. RPI inflation is currently 3.2 per cent. This means the poor will get six per cent poorer over that period. The Liberal Democrats were crowing about defending inflation-related increases to benefits last year; I notice they have nothing to say today.

The majority of people losing from cuts to tax credits will be people in work.

Disabled people were no doubt completely unsurprised when Osborne wheeled out his tired old line about working people looking at their neighbours’ closed curtains during the ‘scrounger-bashing’ segment of the speech. Let’s all bear in mind that sickness benefit fraud is 0.4 per cent while the government is eliminating 20 per cent of claimants from the welfare bill. That’s 19.6 per cent of claimants who deserve the cash, even if the fraudsters are caught and weeded out (and they probably won’t be).

Disability benefits will be exempt from the freeze, he said, trying to make it seem that the disabled won’t take a hit. This was a lie. Employment and Support Allowance will be affected, and since two-thirds of those who claim ESA long-term are also on the disability benefit, DLA, those most disabled will be hit the hardest.

Scrapping the worse-than-useless Work Programme and Universal Credit would save more than £10 billion, but apparently this won’t happen for fear of upsetting Iain Duncan Smith. As Ed Balls pointed out, though, “You can’t have a successful Welfare to Work programme without work!”

Child benefit remains frozen at the moment, but will increase from 2014. We all know why, I hope. Electioneering. Osborne is hoping that families with (two or fewer) children will support the Tories in the 2015 elections, because of this increase. Pathetic. And anyone who falls for it will be even worse.

Hardly any new infrastructure projects were announced; no new road schemes, no new housing schemes. There’s no repeat of the bankers’ bonus tax.

I could go on and on. You’ll probably hear more about the Statement than Kate’s baby over the next day or so, though; therefore I’ll stop.

One last point: Osborne’s 1.2 million figure for new private sector jobs is a complete fiddle. He is including jobs that have been reclassified from the public to the private sector, also part time jobs and people on the work programme/Workfare, who are working for no pay other than Jobseekers’ Allowance.

Oh, and the government’s borrowing figures may have been fiddled as well; according to Andrew Neil on the BBC it could be £56 billion higher than claimed, by 2017-18.

In March, we had Pasty-gate the day after the Budget Statement. I wonder what we’ll have tomorrow?