Today – November 11 – is Remembrance Day. To mark the occasion, the Conservative Party announced a series of policies for ex-servicepeople.
Here’s one of them:
We are introducing a new Veterans' Railcard, giving those who've served our country a third off their travel. We will continue to support veterans and recognise their service to our country.https://t.co/ZA7e8wTYcz
They have also announced extra childcare for military families and a law to protect veterans from “vexatious” legal action connected with their activities in the Armed Forces.
You may think that seems like a nice package.
What they do:
This is David Clapson:
He was a Lance Corporal in the Royal Signals serving in Belfast at the height of the troubles before leaving the army to work for BT. After working for the telecommunications firm for 16 years he became a carer for his elderly mother.
He suffered with Type 1 Diabetes and relied on regular insulin injections to survive.
Ordered to claim Jobseekers’ Allowance by the Tory-run Department for Work and Pensions, his payments were stopped after he missed an appointment and he died three weeks later, of diabetic shock, on July 20, 2013.
He had been unable to pay for the electricity to keep his insulin at the right temperature, meaning it had become unusable.
He had less than £4 to his name, and died with an empty stomach.
The Tories can say what they want and it won’t mean a thing.
This is what the Conservatives do to our ex-servicepeople.
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.
Contempt: Boris Johnson showed he holds our Armed Forces in contempt by laying a wreath at the Cenotaph upside-down.
Boris Johnson showed his disrespect for the UK’s Armed Forces this morning when he laid a wreath upside down at the Cenotaph during the Remembrance Day commemoration service.
This Writer doesn’t want to say it – because it has become a cliche – but, if Jeremy Corbyn had done the same, we would never hear the end of it. Remember the vilification he had at the first Remembrance Day he attended as Labour leader? He hadn’t done anything wrong!
He was known only as George, he was 82 years old and he died of bronchial pneumonia after being evicted from a squat in Manchester – along with no fewer than 12 other ex-servicemen.
This is how the Conservatives treat our Armed Forces after their usefulness as cannon fodder is over – they throw them onto the streets.
George and his comrades were just 13 among more than 13,000 ex-servicepeople who the Conservatives have thrown onto our streets.
Many veterans, war heroes from the Falklands campaign through to conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, are reduced to sleeping in doorways, bus stops and parks, begging from passers-by.
Almost all are struggling with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which often leads to other problems including addictions to drugs and alcohol.
None of them receive any help from the Conservative government. The Armed Forces Covenant – a promise to ensure that those who serve or who have served in the armed forces, and their families, are treated fairly, that was enshrined in law in 2011 – is a sick joke.
The only help they receive is from charities. Chris Barwood, chair of the Salford Armed Forces Veterans Network said, “We are turning our backs on our troops who have taken the Queen’s shilling, sworn the oath of allegiance and offered up their lives to keep us safe and yet in return we do nothing to ensure that they have a roof over their heads and food in their bellies for their remaining years.”
The crowning irony is that most members of the Armed Forces are ardent Conservatives.
I hope they reconsider that position.
Why should they vote for a party that throws them into pointless conflicts, then throws them onto the streets when they get PTSD, and whose leader shows nothing but contempt for those of their comrades who have died defending their country?
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.
Anybody catching this year’s Remembrance Day ceremony on television this year will have spotted Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn wearing an anoark rather than the black overcoat worn by many of his fellow wreath-laying political leaders – as you can see in the image above
I did. I wasn’t actually taking part in any events this year so I had a chance to sit down and watch it instead. I was pleased to see Mr Corbyn’s choice of coat because it meant he stood out from the crowd that included Vince Cable, Theresa May and John Bercow. Also I dare say it would have protected him from any rain.
So imagine my surprise when I scanned Twitter afterwards and found this:
When I voted and checked, it was clear that the majority support Mr Corbyn’s choice of outdoor wear.
So the loonies doubled down. Going back to the image, can you see that Mr Corbyn was sporting a poppy that was considerably smaller than those worn by his fellow wreath-laying political leaders?
I did. I was pleased to see Mr Corbyn’s choice of poppy because I have one very similar to it. They are metal, and cost considerably more than the normal, disposable poppies worn by most of the other bigwigs.
Imagine my surprise when, still scanning Twitter, I found this:
I hope all decent Labour people out there are clocking #Corbyn showing total disrespect at the cenotaph just now
Scruffy anorak, tiny, tiny poppy almost as if he is embarrassed
You have to scroll down quite a way to see all the responses to this one.
Rachael Swindon (again) drew the logical conclusion:
So they realise there’s very little mileage in attacking Corbyn for his choice of coat and swiftly move on to the size of his poppy. Coincidentally, quite a few of these critics have a few size issues of their own, but that’s best left aside for another day.
I also liked Cllr Cassi Perry’s rejoinder: “As a veteran I say wind your neck in. Ensuring it never happens again is the best way to honour our service and Corbyn is the one fighting hardest for that. And no we don’t care about the size of a bloody poppy. How old are you?!”
How about this from Sandy S? “Guess what, my 96 yr old Dad who flew Lancs in the war has just been to a rememberence parade, wearing the same poppy JC was wearing. Now stick that up your kite and smoke it. PS, he was wearing a raincoat too. You’re a disgrace.
And Clare Hepworth OBE was glowing in her indignation: “Oh for goodness sake! What a puerile , infantile – just plain STUPID comment to make on a day like this! Do you honestly believe that sensible people will take your comment seriously?”
Some focused on the fact that Mr Corbyn’s critics were focusing on the wrong thing. Remembrance Day is about commemorating our war dead and pledging to put an end to wars. Owen Jones tackled the first matter:
If you're screaming at a coat worn by a politician you don't like rather than remembering people slaughtered and maimed by war, you are so utterly irredeemably pathetic that I'm genuinely embarrassed for you.
And genuine war veteran Harry Leslie Smith made an excellent point that the person standing next to Mr Corbyn in the image (above) is actually making it possible for wars to take place:
Make no mistake the greatest disrespect to our veterans doesn't come from the size of the poppy warn on the lapel but by those who enable arms to be sold into war zones not for our protection but for the greed of the 1%. #JeremyCorbyn#RemembranceDay2018
They criticise Jeremy Corbyn for wearing an anorak, apparently he is disrespecting the dead. But they stay silent when Theresa May causes death and misery, not just on foreign soil, but in Britain, today. How many tears will they cry for the children of Yemen? Hypocrites.
Pretty telling how right-wingers are more concerned with the colour of a man’s coat than they are about the party they support selling billions of pounds of weapons to a regime who brutally slaughter kids on a daily basis.
And Aleesha related it all to a very specific incident taking place as I type this:
While people are busy talking about Jeremy Corbyn’s coat & poppy, just a reminder that the fighting in Hodeidah (Yemen) is making the world’s largest humanitarian crisis even …worse. The port of Hodeidah is where 80% of Yemen’s imports & aid comes through. Civilians will die.
But it seems there is another reason right-wingers were trying to distract us with nonsense about Mr Corbyn’s choice of clothing. Here’s Richard O’Neill:
Before you idiots start banging on about Jeremy Corbyn's coat. I'm a 79 year old ex Army, "War pensioner" And I don't give a flying toss what he wears. He is the only politician I know who would actively protect ex service personnel, unlike the Tories who create their problems!
Only the day before the Remembrance parade, Mr Corbyn pledged to put an end to the “scourge” of homelessness among armed forces veterans.
Here‘s the Independent: “Jeremy Corbyn has pledged to end the “scourge” of rough sleeping among armed forces veterans as he calls on Theresa May to officially register the number of homeless ex-servicemen and women.
“The Labour leader will mark the historic occasion by outlining his party’s “social contract” for veterans, including provisions for free education and treating mental health issues as “seriously as physical health issues”.
“He will also call on ministers to use the government’s “long overdue” Veterans Strategy – due to be published later this month – to officially record the number of homeless veterans in the UK, including statistics on those who take their own lives.
“Mr Corbyn said: “The next Labour government will guarantee armed forces personnel the opportunity to have a home, to heal and to retrain when they complete their time in service.
““We will do the right thing by ending the scourge of rough sleeping and helping veterans embark on new careers.””
And this help is desperately needed – under the Tory government, war veterans are more likely to lose their homes than be given one.
According to Mirror Online: “At least 13,000 of our war heroes are homeless after leaving the military, a Sunday People probe reveals.
“Military charities said the shameful figure is a record high and the Government is failing those who risk their lives for Queen and country.
“They also issued a stark warning that the crisis deepens every month.
“Charity bosses say the problem has been made worse by cuts to the armed forces, which has led to almost 30,000 troops losing their jobs since 2010.
“Homeless numbers have soared, despite the Government outlining its duty to serving and former personnel by enshrining the Armed Forces Covenant in law in 2011.
“The covenant says veterans “should have priority status in applying for Government-sponsored affordable housing schemes, and service leavers should retain this status for a period of discharge”.”
It seems all this fuss about Mr Corbyn’s coat is meant to distract us from his commitment to help service veterans who have been failed by the Conservatives.
Things have come to a pretty pass when the US military – who, let’s face it, aren’t known for their squeamishness, are ready to quit because they think their new president is likely to go too far.
Officials in the US military and intelligence services are debating resigning following Donald Trump’s election, it has been reported.
Mr Trump has previously spoken of his plans to introduce an authoritarian approach to national security. His most controversial suggestions include reviving the use of torture, banning Muslims from entering the US, targeting the families of terrorism suspects and detaining terror suspects indefinitely.
Sources in the military, intelligence services, diplomatic corps and federal law enforcement have reportedly told The Guardian they now face a moral dilemma over whether to continue in their jobs under a Trump presidency.
David Cameron loves selling weaponry to foreign countries. What a shame he doesn’t want to look after his own country’s disabled war veterans.
At any given opportunity when in front of TV cameras, David Cameron waxes lyrically about what this nation owes to British Military Forces, with special consideration given to disabled veterans, writes Mo Stewart.
But it seems that he means modern disabled veterans who, since 2005, have benefited from the more generous Armed Forces Compensation Scheme.
Until April 2005, members of the armed forces who suffered a permanent disablement due to service life were awarded a War Pension, with many awarded access to Disability Living Allowance (DLA), for life, to help to fund the additional costs of disability.
Without warning, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has sent letters to working-age War Pensioners advising that access to DLA is about to be stopped and that disabled veterans may, if they wish, apply for the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP) – with no guarantee that it will be awarded.
DLA for care at the highest rate is the monitor used by local authorities to provide home care services that permit disabled people to enjoy independent living in the community. Without DLA, or its equivalent replacement, the care services will be removed.
Older War Pensioners, over 65 years of age, are permitted to retain access to DLA for life. Modern disabled British forces have access to the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme and are unaffected by this unacceptable change as they have access to the new Armed Forces Independence Payment, introduced in 2013.
However, an estimated 80,000 disabled working-age War Pensioners, disabled when in service to the nation before April 2005, are about to have their DLA removed with a guarantee that many will not be awarded PIP, which continues to cause concern with less than 13,000 decisions from more than 220,300 applicants as of May 2014. PIP has a 12 month waiting list for assessments.
This is yet another cost cutting measure by the Prime Minister and the DWP, without consideration for the unacceptable price in human suffering, leaving 80,000 working-age disabled War Pensioners at risk of imminent destitution if PIP is not awarded.
All War Pensioners should be permitted to retain access to DLA to acknowledge their much proclaimed “service to the nation” as constantly mentioned by the Prime Minister – but only when in front of the TV cameras.
Remembrance: Former servicemen and women took part in the formal Remembrance Day parades across the UK earlier this month – but many of them, and many more of their colleagues, are being threatened with the loss of the benefits the country owes to them, thanks to the heartlessness of an ungrateful government [Image: Associated Press].
The following article by disability researcher Mo Stewart was intended for publication in tandem with a story on the same subject in a national newspaper, to coincide with Remembrance Day – but the newspaper concerned got cold feet at the last minute. Don’t all leap up and shout “What else can we expect from the right-wing media?” at once.
Mo has agreed to let Vox Political publish it here. Over to her:
The hypocrisy is breath-taking…
At the annual Conservative Party Conference in October, the Prime Minister offered a very warm and welcome salute to the British Armed Forces.(1) This included the veterans from both WW1 and WW2, an acknowledgement of outstanding efforts 70 years ago when they had fought on the Normandy beaches on D-Day, and a tribute to modern British forces who fought in the Gulf.
Prior to the PM’s conference speech, contact had been made with approximately 80,000 disabled older veterans, advising the annual increase in their monthly Disability Living Allowance (DLA) but warning that this vital benefit was about to be withdrawn. Yet there is no information about this unexpected threat to British War Pensioners on the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) website, or on the MOD or Veterans-UK websites. The DWP’s threat to the financial survival of these older disabled veterans included a suggestion that working age War Pensioners may wish to apply for the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP) that has replaced DLA. This suggestion was accompanied with a stark warning that the award of PIP is not guaranteed, regardless of previous payments of DLA awarded to British military forces who were disabled for life in the service of the nation with a permanent disability that can’t possibly improve.
PIP has a 10-12 month waiting list for new applicants (2) and the government’s own figures predict that 600,000 people with permanent disabilities will lose their entitlement to financial support when they lose DLA and attempt to make a claim for PIP.(3) Many experts have already identified the risk to disabled people as the new PIP benefit is rolled out and DLA claimants are reassessed. Richard Hawkes, the Chief Executive for the charity SCOPE remains concerned:
For months now we have been saying the Government’s assessment
for the new Personal Independence Payment is deeply flawed. It looks set to repeat the mistakes of the Work Capability Assessment.(4)
The removal of DLA guarantees that thousands of War Pensioners, permanently disabled whilst in military service, risk the possible loss of their homes and access to their home carers. This significant risk to older disabled veterans is also in breach of the principles of the much-hallowed Armed Forces Covenant.(5) Working age War Pensioners will now live in fear of the loss of this essential benefit, originally guaranteed for life, as their personal sacrifices when serving this nation are totally disregarded by the DWP, despite the PM’s constant public claim of admiration for British forces and disabled veterans.(6)(7)(8)
The unconditional support for British disabled veterans was exclusively reported by The Sun in May 2012 when Political Editor Tom Newton Dunn ran with the headline: Wounded heroes beat MOD in benefits battle. His strong piece expressed concern that disabled veterans had been expected to subject themselves to the same [bogus] assessments as civilians: (6)
Wounded war heroes are to keep their disability benefits for life after the PM stepped in to halt a bid to cut them… Incredibly, MOD bureaucrats were insisting that wounded heroes get the same grilling as suspected cheats and scroungers – because they feared their cash-strapped department would be left to pick up the bill for administering the pay-outs. (6)
When visiting Camp Bastion in July 2012 the PM made a very public promise, as reported by the BBC News and the national press (7)(8). David Cameron claimed that ‘disabled veterans’ would not be adversely affected by the welfare reforms and could retain access to DLA for life, without the need for any reassessment, in recognition of their ‘service to the nation.’ Yet, the PM forgot to mention that this decision only applied to modern disabled veterans (9) and the DWP have now covertly threatened the financial survival of a minimum of 80,000 disabled older British veterans by the planned removal of DLA from this nation’s working-age War Pensioners.(10)
This disturbing threat to the welfare of older disabled veterans is despite the fact that this researcher received a personal telecom from the Cabinet Office last year, as witnessed by care staff, confirming that ‘…the Cabinet has just agreed that all War Pensioners can retain access to DLA and will not be reassessed as an acknowledgement of their service to the nation’. During the same conversation, the caller asked what this decision would mean for the research.
Evidence from the self-funded independent research, demonstrating American corporate influence with the UK government’s welfare reforms (11), has been used in every welfare reform debate in the House of Lords and the House of Commons since 2011. The research exposed the fact that the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), as conducted by Atos Healthcare and used by the DWP to remove vulnerable people from long-term sickness benefit was a totally bogus assessment using a manipulated bio-psychosocial model.(11)(12) The research further exposed the enforced welfare reforms as being totally unrelated to the banking crash that had created the need for austerity measures, yet the national press refused to publish the research findings. In reality, the eventual demolition of the welfare state is the long-ago planned Thatcher legacy, inherited by her devoted disciple David Cameron. The PM waited for a plausible excuse to introduce welfare reforms as this nation moves ever closer to the removal of the welfare state with welfare and health care, eventually, to be funded by private insurance (12) as the national press help to undermine the welfare state with increasing numbers of adverts by private health insurance companies…
The same research evidence was accepted by the United Nations (UN) and it is widely believed that the UN are to investigate the UK government for the abuses of the human rights of sick and disabled people.(13) The many victims, survivors and bereaved relatives of claimants of long-term sickness benefit, who didn’t survive this government-funded medical tyranny masquerading as welfare reforms, are waiting to learn when the Coalition government will eventually be investigated for crimes against humanity.(14) Meanwhile, Lord Freud, the Minister for Welfare Reform, continues to refuse to publish the annual death totals of sick and disabled people, removed from long-term sickness benefit and forced to apply for jobs their health will not permit them to tolerate as the DWP finally admit to reinvestigating 60 suspicious deaths following the WCA.… (15)
At the time of the phone call from the Cabinet Office, the caller was advised that DLA for War Pensioners was totally unrelated to the research, which would continue. However, with this recent reality that removes DLA and threatens the welfare of 80,000 working age War Pensioners, it seems that the call was an attempt to incentivise this veteran to end the research. It was an attempt to prevent more detailed research that had already exposed the authority of a notorious American healthcare insurance corporate giant, whose representatives happily boast of their influence with successive UK governments regarding the UK welfare reforms.(16)
The recent justification for the shocking and unexpected threat to this nation’s working age War Pensioners, as provided by the poorly-briefed Defence Personnel Secretariat, is that disabled War Pensioners have access to the more generous constant care allowance, which is a supplement added to the basic war pension that replaces DLA for care. This statement is not only misleading but totally incorrect. It is disregarding the fact that War Pensioners need to demonstrate an 80 per cent disability or higher to access the constant care allowance; whilst disabled veterans with less than an 80 per cent permanent disability were awarded DLA for life because they would be disabled for the rest of their life – something that the PM, Iain Duncan Smith and DWP Ministers still fail to grasp.
This latest DWP decision is a betrayal of working age disabled War Pensioners by the Coalition government as David Cameron continues to make supportive speeches and to lay a wreath at the Cenotaph, knowing his government has jeopardised the future survival of 80,000 disabled veterans who willingly risked their lives for the nation in years gone by.
Many War Pensioners have the additional unemployability supplement added to the basic pension, which identifies a profound disability and confirms that they were not expected to work again, so why are they being threatened with destitution, or worse, at the same time as the Prime Minister pays tribute to the British Armed Forces in this the 100th anniversary year of WW1 and the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings?
It is unprecedented for any UK government to threaten the welfare of one generation of disabled veterans over another, yet members of the Coalition appear to do it with ease. They are no doubt confident that there is no authority in place to prevent this unacceptable reality. It remains unclear as to how many politicians are aware of this decision that will negatively impact on their constituents who were disabled when serving this nation when in uniform in years gone by. Once again the DWP has taken a decision based on costs alone, without any apparent consideration of the inevitable dire human consequences. Of greatest concern, the loss of DLA for care at the highest level will remove access to funded carers in the home as supplied by the local authorities. The award of DLA for care at the highest level is the tag used by local authorities to justify the costs of providing home carers to disabled people in the community. Without it, the care will be removed and there is no guarantee that those now in receipt of DLA for care at the highest level will be awarded the equivalent level of PIP or, indeed, any award of PIP at all. (17)
The Defence Personnel Secretariat don’t like being challenged and claim even more justification as approximately 50 per cent of the 166,000 surviving War Pensioners are now over the age of 70 years old, will retain access to DLA and, happily, this callous decision will not affect them. Modern British forces already have the Prime Minister’s guarantee of permanent access to DLA so someone, somewhere, should be asking why approximately 80,000 working age disabled War Pensioners are now being targeted by the DWP when all other disabled veterans are permitted to retain access to DLA with all the financial security attached to it.
Are they really being punished because my integrity is not for sale?
vhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jgs4UjwWtow – video
A day out with their minders: If you have ever sat amazed at decisions made by criminal court judges, rest easy in the knowledge that they come from deeply sheltered backgrounds and simply don’t know any better.
If you have ever wondered why you couldn’t get on in life, despite all the talent anyone should ever need… now you know the truth. It’s because you didn’t go to a private school and you didn’t go to Oxford or Cambridge University.
According to the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, 71 per cent of senior judges, 62 per cent of senior armed forces officers, 55 per cent of top civil servants, 43 per cent of newspaper columnists and 36 per cent of the Cabinet are members of a deeply elitist “cosy club” who were educated at private schools (Owen Jones, writing in The Guardian, commented: “It is quite something when the ‘cabinet of millionaires’ is one of the less unrepresentative pillars of power”).
Also privately-educated were 45 per cent of chairmen/women of public bodies, 44 per cent of the Sunday Times Rich List, and 26 per cent of BBC executives. Where are the naysayers who claim the BBC is a Leftie haven now?
When it comes to Oxbridge graduates, the situation worsens – they have a “stranglehold” on top jobs, according to The Guardian, which adds: “They comprise less than one per cent of the public as a whole, but 75 per cent of senior judges, 59 per cent of cabinet ministers, 57 per cent of permanent secretaries, 50 per cent of diplomats, 47 per cent of newspaper columnists, 44 per cent of public body chairs, 38 per cent of members of the House of Lords, 33 per cent of BBC executives, 33 per cent of shadow cabinet ministers, 24 per cent of MPs and 12 per cent of those on the Sunday Times Rich List.
My personal belief is that this should be no surprise to anybody – I’ve known it ever since the then-headteacher at my high school proudly announced that the only sixth-former on their way to Oxford, one year back in the 1980s, was his own daughter. Even then it wasn’t about what you knew but who Daddy was.
At least it is official now.
The person who should be least surprised by these findings is Commission chairman and Labour turncoat Alan Milburn. He does not come from a nobby background but has been absorbed into the group – possibly in gratitude for a series of betrayals of his own kind that began when he entered government.
Milburn was one of the Labour MPs who embraced neoliberalism in the 1990s. His reward was a place in the Cabinet as Minister of State for Health, then Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and then Health Secretary. He was also honorary president of the neoliberal thinktank Progress, which works hard to foist right-wing ideas onto the Labour Party.
It is no wonder, then, that Milburn subsequently became the darling of David Cameron’s Coalition government, being offered a role as ‘social mobility tsar’. It is in this role that he has delivered the current report on elitism.
According to that great source of knowledge Wikipedia, Milburn’s role was about “advising the government on how to break down social barriers for people from disadvantaged backgrounds, and help[ing] people who feel they are barred from top jobs on grounds of race, religion, gender or disability”.
Nearly four-and-a-half years into a five-year Parliament, Milburn came out with this report, and I’m willing to bet that, if a similar document had been compiled before Labour left office, evidence would show that the situation has worsened, not improved.
Even now, David Cameron is probably congratulating Milburn on what a great job he has done – achieving nothing.
In fairness, even a man like Milburn could not ignore such clear findings and the report describes the situation as “elitism so stark that it could be called social engineering“.
What is more interesting about the situation is the fact that it has been described as a ‘closed shop’, a term more readily-associated with those bitter opponents of privilege – the trade unions.
A closed shop is an agreement under which an employer agrees to hire union members only, and employees must remain members of the union at all times in order to remain employed. That is definitely what the report is demonstrating and, considering the elite’s antipathy to the unions, it is further demonstration of the high-handed and corrupt attitude of these types – their belief that they should be a law unto themselves.
This in fact provides us with the only positive element to come out of this report. It gives jobseekers a decent reason for being unable to secure work – all the best jobs are being hogged by overprivileged twits!
Owen Jones’s Guardian article suggests of the situation: “In the case of the media this has much to do with the decline of the local newspapers that offered a way in for the aspiring journalist with a non-gilded background; the growing importance of costly post-graduate qualifications that are beyond the bank accounts of most; and the explosion of unpaid internships, which discriminate on the basis of whether you are prosperous enough to work for free, rather than whether you are talented.”
That is not my experience.
I did my post-graduate journalism course with help from a training scheme run by the Tory government of the time – the Department of Social Security paid for my education in that respect. My recollection is that I was one of the highest-achievers on that course; considering my future career, this indicates that there is truth behind the ‘closed shop’ claim of the new report.
My experience on local newspapers is that they are more likely to offer a way in for aspiring “non-gilded” reporters now than when I entered. While I was fully-qualified when I was hired by my first employer in Bristol, here in Mid Wales the papers have seemed happy to hire people with no qualifications at all, and train them up. There are no unpaid internships here, to my knowledge.
That being said, management practices in the press are so bad that I am constantly amazed anybody bothers trying to work for these idiots at all.
My first paper was passed from one company to another in a “gentleman’s agreement” on a golf course. It meant that I took an effective pay cut, being forced to travel 30 miles further to work and receiving a lower-than-normal pay rise when I became a senior reporter.
Another paper was doing quite well when I joined, offering healthy bonuses for all employees at Christmas. I never got to benefit from this, though, because bosses foolishly took on at great cost a ‘general manager’ who managed all our profits away and then persuaded them to sell up to a much larger firm that stripped the operation to the bone and hoovered up all the profits. Quality plummeted and (after I left) so did sales.
A third paper’s solution to declining sales was a plan to cut back the number of reporters while keeping the management structure intact. That’s right – they reduced the number of people writing the stories that sold the papers. Then they attacked the remaining reporters for the continued drop in sales and absolutely refused to entertain any notion that they might have got the situation arse-backward.
That is why I agree with the UK Commission for Education and Skills, which said that “poor management hinders UK competitiveness”, and with the comment on that report in Flip Chart Fairy Tales, that “poorly managed firms drag a country’s score down and Britain has more than its fair share of them”.
The Milburn report puts the seal on the problem: Firms are poorly-managed because the people at the top are over-privileged fools who got into their position thanks to Daddy’s money rather than any talent of their own.
As the banking crisis – caused by these very people – and the subsequent, slowest economic recovery in UK history demonstrate starkly for all to see, these private-school, Oxford and Cambridge ignoramuses are worse than useless when it comes to managing an economy.
There is nothing you can do about it while a Conservative-led government is in power because that is exactly how David Cameron and his cronies like it.
(What am I saying? Of course they like it – they and their friends are the private-school, Oxford and Cambridge ignoramuses who are cocking up the system!)
You only need to read the ‘Revolving Doors’ column in Private Eye to see how these goons lurch from one failure to another – always finding a new job after each disaster because of the Old School Tie.
It is long past time we saw a few highly-prejudicial sackings but our sad, fat ‘captains of industry’ just don’t have the guts.
How does one mark the passing of Peter O’Toole, if not by watching Lawrence of Arabia? It was his first film role and, some say, his greatest.
I’m sure I cannot be the only one to have drawn comparisons between T.E. Lawrence, as played by the great O’Toole on the silver screen, and David Cameron – who behaved like a tool when he said of British forces in Afghanistan, “Misson accomplished”.
In the film, Lawrence is shunned by his colleagues in the British military because of his unconventional ways, but accepted by the Arabs – firstly because he is able to quote the Koran to them, secondly because he goes out of his way to accomplish feats that seem impossible (like rescuing one of his Arab friends from The Sun’s Anvil) in order to give them hope of military success, and thirdly because he achieves these things for their good, not his own.
David Cameron is a different matter. Unlike Lawrence, he is not an original thinker – or indeed any other kind of leader. He is a follower. British military policy in Afghanistan was not his policy, and he made no effort to take control of it. He has made no effort to understand the admittedly-complicated history and culture of a country that has rightly been described as “troubled”, although few people bother to remember that much of that trouble has been caused by invaders including the British. And if he has gone out of his way, it was to avoid actions of distinction. But he’s happy to take the credit for everything that has been done.
This is why, when Cameron said the mission in Afghanistan will have been accomplished by the time the last British troops leave in 2014, so many commentators jeered.
Cameron is currently saying that the mission was to build up security in Afghanistan, to ensure it cannot become a haven for terrorists again, after our forces leave. This might seem reasonable if it were not merely the latest in a long list of mission statements provided for Afghanistan over the incredible 12 years since we arrived there in 2001.
Others, according to The Guardian, include “removing Al Qaida’s bases, eradicating poppy cultivation, educating girls and helping forge a form of democracy”. While we cannot comment on the first of these, the others either failed abjectly or have become the subjects of fierce controversy. The government of Hamid Karzai has long been criticised as corrupt.
Cameron’s choice of words also creates an unhealthy comparison with Iraq, which fell into chaos for a considerable period after then-US President George W Bush declared “mission accomplished” there.
Even the comedy Prime Minister’s attempt to put the soundbite across to the media seemed hesitant. “The purpose of our mission was always to build an Afghanistan and Afghan security forces that were capable of maintaining a basic level of security so this country never again became a haven for terrorist training camps,” he said.
“That has been the most important part of the mission… The absolute driving part of the mission is the basic level of security so that it doesn’t become a haven for terror. That is the mission, that was the mission and I think we will have accomplished that mission,” he added, unravelling completely by the end. He mentioned security three times, “haven for terror” twice, and the mission no less than six times!
And the experts disagreed. The British ambassador to Kabul from 2010-12, William Paytey, said: “Afghanistan has got a long way to go and it could be many decades before we see real peace there.”
A true pro: It is a testament to the Queen’s professionalism that she is able to get through her speech at the annual opening of Parliament without either laughing at the stupidities or choking in horror at the implied threats to her citizens.
Today the Queen made her speech at the official opening of Parliament. Her words were, as always, written by the government of the day, and therefore it seems appropriate to provide a translation, as follows:
“My government’s legislative programme will continue to focus on building a stronger economy so that the United Kingdom can compete and succeed in the world.” Focus on it, but do nothing about it.
“It will also work to promote a fairer society that rewards people who work hard.” If you haven’t got a job, you’re shafted.
“My government’s first priority is to strengthen Britain’s economic competitiveness. To this end, it will support the growth of the private sector and the creation of more jobs and opportunities.” There is no intention to take any action in this regard; the government will simply applaud actions taken by others.
“My ministers will continue to prioritise measures that reduce the deficit – ensuring interest rates are kept low for homeowners and businesses.” Interest rates are nothing to do with the government. It is easy to make promises when no action is required.
“My government is committed to building an economy where people who work hard are properly rewarded. It will therefore continue to reform the benefits system, helping people move from welfare to work.” My government is committed to building a low-wage economy where people have to work hard simply to keep what they’ve got. It will therefore continue to erode the benefits system, forcing people to move from welfare to destitution as a warning to those who’ve got jobs, that this will happen to them if they make a fuss.
“Measures will be brought forward to introduce a new employment allowance to support jobs and help small businesses.” A bung for our friends.
“A bill will be introduced to reduce the burden of excessive regulation on businesses. A further bill will make it easier for businesses to protect their intellectual property.” Deregulation worked so well with the banks in 2007, we thought we’d give other businesses a chance to ruin the economy. And it’s not enough that Facebook now owns everybody’s photographs – corporations want everything else as well.
“A draft bill will be published establishing a simple set of consumer rights to promote competitive markets and growth.” The rights of the consumer will be restricted to what we say they’re allowed, to protect corporate freedoms.
“My government will introduce a bill that closes the Audit Commission.” We don’t want the public to know the facts about our spending and where it goes (into our pockets).
“My government will continue to invest in infrastructure to deliver jobs and growth for the economy.” But we’re not saying where the money will go (into our pockets).
“Legislation will be introduced to enable the building of the High Speed Two railway line, providing further opportunities for economic growth in many of Britain’s cities.” Future economic growth, of course – we won’t see the benefit for many, many years.
“My government will continue with legislation to update energy infrastructure and to improve the water industry.” At huge cost to everybody who has to pay the bills.
“My government is committed to a fairer society where aspiration and responsibility are rewarded.” This is meaningless.
“To make sure that every child has the best start in life, regardless of background, further measures will be taken to improve the quality of education for young people.” This is meaningless.
“Plans will be developed to help working parents with childcare, increasing its availability and helping with its cost.” Private childcare organisations, starting cheaply but costing more as they get a grip on parents.
“My government will also take forward plans for a new national curriculum, a world-class exam system and greater flexibility in pay for teachers.” We’re going to stamp on teachers hard. And the new national curriculum means nobody from state education will be able to compete with our children at Eton.
“My government will also take steps to ensure that it becomes typical for those leaving school to start a traineeship or an apprenticeship, or to go to university.” We’ll shoehorn the state-school mob into something under threat of destitution, and save university for people who can pay for it (like us).
“New arrangements will be put in place to help more people own their own home, with government support provided for mortgages and deposits.” More second homes for Tory voters, as set out in the Chancellor’s Budget speech in March.
“My government is committed to supporting people who have saved for retirement.” If they have savings, they won’t need the national pension and can give it back, like Iain Duncan Smith suggested.
“Legislation will be introduced to reform the way long-term care is paid for, to ensure the elderly do not have to sell their homes to meet their care bills.” They can die there instead.
“My government will bring forward legislation to create a simpler state pension system that encourages saving and provides more help to those who have spent years caring for children.” It’ll encourage saving because it won’t be enough; and carers can have the kids taken away from them.
“Legislation will be introduced to ensure sufferers of a certain asbestos-related cancer receive payments where no liable employer or insurer can be traced.” Otherwise we’ll get the blame for abandoning them.
“My government will bring forward a bill that further reforms Britain’s immigration system. The bill will ensure that this country attracts people who will contribute and deters those who will not.” We’re scared that UKIP is taking our voters away.
“My government will continue to reduce crime and protect national security.” We will privatise the police, MI5 and MI6.
“Legislation will be introduced to reform the way in which offenders are rehabilitated in England and Wales.” If you thought our prisons were schools for criminals before, we’re turning them into universities.
“Legislation will be brought forward to introduce new powers to tackle anti-social behaviour, cut crime and further reform the police.” We will privatise the police and introduce curfews.
“In relation to the problem of matching internet protocol addresses, my government will bring forward proposals to enable the protection of the public and the investigation of crime in cyberspace.” We want to know how it works so we can make money off the internet.
“Measures will be brought forward to improve the way this country procures defence equipment, as well as strengthening the reserve forces.” We’ll buy the cheapest equipment we can find and ask the reservists to do it for no pay.
“My ministers will continue to work in co-operation with the devolved administrations.” Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will get even less cash.
“A bill will be introduced to give effect to a number of institutional improvements in Northern Ireland.” It’s too peaceful over there and we need something to distract the plebs from the mess we’re making in the rest of the country.
“Draft legislation will be published concerning the electoral arrangements for the National Assembly for Wales.” If we give the sheep the vote, they might vote Tory.
“My government will continue to make the case for Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom.” We want their money; we want their oil.
“Members of the House of Commons, estimates for the public services will be laid before you.” Prior to privatisation.
“My government will work to prevent conflict and reduce terrorism. It will support countries in transition in the Middle East and north Africa, and the opening of a peace process in Afghanistan.” We want their money; we want their oil.
“My government will work to prevent sexual violence in conflict worldwide.” We can’t even stop it here.
“My government will ensure the security, good governance and development of the overseas territories, including by protecting the Falkland Islanders’ and Gibraltarians’ right to determine their political futures.” They’re strategically important so we’ll rattle the sabre for them.
“In assuming the presidency of the G8, my government will promote economic growth, support free trade, tackle tax evasion, encourage greater transparency and accountability while continuing to make progress in tackling climate change.” We’ll blame the other nations when none of these things happen.
The Nasty Parties’ (I include the Liberal Democrats now – let them all be tarred with the same brush) have voted to squeeze benefit increases to just one per cent for the next three years, after the third reading of the Benefits Uprating Bill in the House of Commons.
That Bill will now go to the House of Lords, where I sincerely hope it will receive a more intelligent examination than many Conservatives and Liberal Democrats gave it in the other place. To help them with that work, I wanted to highlight some of the issues raised by opponents to the Bill, during yesterday’s debate.
Firstly, the government is punishing people who are already hard-up for the failure of its own economic policy. As Stephen Timms said, we were promised that the policy would lead to steady growth and falling unemployment, but we got a double-dip recession, perhaps set to become triple-dip, depending on figures due this week. Unemployment is officially forecast to go up next year, so spending on unemployment benefits will go up, and borrowing will go up too.
The government’s response is to force down the incomes of those who already receive the least in order to cover the cost of its mistakes; the saving made by the Bill’s measures will be about the same as the increase in social security spending.
In April, the government will give a tax cut to everybody earning more than £150,000 per year, and for 8,000 people who earn over £1 million a year, that means a cut of around £2,000 a week. At the same time, someone receiving the adult rate of Jobseekers’ Allowance will get an extra 71p a week.
The change in the personal tax allowance will not help people in work on low incomes. Citizens Advice has pointed out that “any rise in net earnings leads to a reduction in housing benefit and council tax benefit.” In fact the improvement for people in low-income work was recorded by Helen Goodman: 13 pence per week.
Meanwhile, the average price of weekly grocery shopping has risen by 17 per cent and the energy companies have hiked up their prices by around 11 per cent.
The government lied when it said people in the support group of Employment and Support Allowance are protected – they are not. A lone parent with three children who is in the support group will lose £600 in 2015-16 because of the exponential way in which the Bill will grind down the incomes of people who are already hard-up. [CAB]
In fact the impact assessment tells us disabled households are more likely than others to be hit by the changes in the Bill.
Child poverty is set to skyrocket, thanks to the measures of the Nasty Government. The Institute for Fiscal Studies tells us that, taking account of everything that the Government announced before the autumn statement, child poverty was already set to increase by 400,000 by 2015 and 800,000 by 2020.
Although it was not mentioned in the autumn statement or the impact statement, and a question to the Minister has gone unanswered, the government has let it slip – in a statement by a different minister – that the three years of one-per-cent uprating will increase child poverty by 200,000 – on top of the increase that is already due.
That means that we are on track for one million more children below the poverty line by 2020 – reversing all the progress made during the 15 years since Labour came to power in 1997.
And that is only the figure the government has been prepared to acknowledge in relation to relative income. It has said nothing about the impact on absolute poverty, material deprivation or persistent poverty — measures to which it committed itself in the Child Poverty Act 2010.
The Children’s Society estimates that the following professions are also affected: 300,000 nurses and midwives in the NHS; 150,000 staff in primary and nursery schools; 1.14 million admin workers, secretaries and secretarial assistants; 44,000 electricians and electrical fitters; 510,000 sales assistants and cashiers; and 42,000 armed forces personnel.
“We certainly want it to be more worthwhile for people to be in work, but forcing down the incomes of those who are out of work is not the way to do it,” said Mr Timms. I have been saying that, here, for many months, and it did my heart good to see that it had been said in the House of Commons.
He said uprating should indeed be in line with inflation, as it always was in the past.
He continued: “The Bill was designed by the Chancellor to promote his party’s narrow interest.” Yes – the Conservatives are a minority-interest party. This Bill, and the tax cut for those earning more than £150,000 per year, prove it. They support the super-rich; you and I don’t get a look-in.
And he pointed out that the government did not need an Act of Parliament to restrict benefits upratings. “The Chancellor thought he could boost his party’s standing if he introduced a Bill, so we have one,” he said. Absolutely correct. The plan was to make the Labour Party, in opposing the plan, look like the party of scroungers and slobs. Instead, the Conservatives have confirmed themselves as the ‘Nasty Party’, oppressors of those who most need government help.
“Ministers still say that they are committed to eradicating child poverty,” said Mr Timms. “It says so in the coalition agreement. That commitment is clearly now fictitious. Ministers should stop pretending. They have given up on reducing child poverty. Now they are implementing policies that will force child poverty up.”
Let me draw your attention to the words of Toby Perkins, who tried to put the debate into proper context: “There is a particular irony in the Chancellor, who was a millionaire the day he was born, railing against the extravagance of those on £71 a week.”
I think I can sum up the government’s argument with the words of Charlie Elphicke, who said around five million people in the UK could work, but don’t. He said they need more of an incentive, including an economic incentive, and quoted the Chancellor, Gideon – sorry, George – Osborne: “Over the last five years, those on out-of-work benefits have seen their incomes rise twice as fast as those in work. With pay restraint in businesses and Government, average earnings have risen by about 10 per cent since 2007. Out-of-work benefits have gone up by about 20 per cent. That is not fair to working people who pay the taxes that fund them.”
In other words, he wants to shrink the state (the government’s own actions have created a hole in its finances; it wants to cut public spending to fill that hole) and he can’t do his maths. He compounded his foolishness with a well-repeated lie: “Money is tight in this country today. The reason for that is that [Labour] drove our economy off a cliff, overspending for years and displaying fiscal incontinence that was unparalleled in this country in the last century.”
That is absolutely untrue. Labour ran a lower deficit than the Conservatives throughout its years in power. The increases in the deficit and the national debt were caused by the banking crisis. Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are on record as having supported what the then-Labour government did to solve the mess that was created by high-earning bankers (about whom the current government has done nothing worth discussing). They would have done the same thing and created the same debt.
Fortunately, Ian Mearns was on hand to put Mr Elphicke right: “The hon. Member… forgot to mention that, while those on benefits have had their benefits uprated at twice the rate of those in work in percentage terms over the past five years, the actual increase in financial terms has been on average about £49 for those in work and about £12 for those on benefits.
“Percentages are meaningless; 50 per cent or 100 per cent of very little is still very little. Making comparisons in the way that he did demeans the debate.”
He added: “I think it is the ultimate insult to ordinary people’s intelligence to say that in order to incentivise those at the top end of the economy we have to pay them more, while incentivising people at the bottom end by paying them less. ‘We are all in this together’ — I don’t think.”
Lords, please take note. If any of you uses the argument about percentage increases, I sincerely hope to see others ask that person whether they will be supporting the government on the basis of something that has been proven – and is now known to the public at large – to be utter, meaningless nonsense.
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