Tag Archives: Brecon and Radnorshire

What’s this about the Brexit Party being anti-Semitic, Brecon and Radnorshire voters?

If it wasn’t bad enough that the Brexit Party’s candidate in Brecon and Radnorshire has been making promises he can’t keep (he’s not the only one doing that!) – it seems his party is now facing an anti-Semitism crisis.

The allegation arises from legal action initiated by Brexit Party chairman Richard Tice against campaigner Femi Oluwole for tweeting “How have we allowed the Brexit Party to be seen as a tolerant party when its Chairman, Richard Tice, founded an overtly anti-Jewish organisation?” with a screenshot of a Leave.EU tweet showing Tony Blair as a marionette, his strings being worked by George Soros. See for yourself:

Can’t see the problem? It’s because the original image was cut off. Here:

Claims that George Soros, a Hungarian-American Jewish businessman, is influencing political figures in another country (like the UK) tie in with the anti-Semitic trope of the “international Jewish conspiracy”.

Mr Tice’s claim – as I understand it – is that he left Leave.EU in 2016, just after the referendum – and there has been plenty of time for that organisation to have changed direction in a way that does not represent his own views since then.

So how does he explain this?

And this?

It occurs to me that this is another SLAPP lawsuit – Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation. These are abuses of UK defamation law by very rich people against much less-rich journalists in order to stop discussion of matters of public interest. Another example is Rachel Riley’s lawsuit against me.

And, you know, when you have someone extremely rich taking someone poor to court in order to stop discussion of an issue, you have to wonder why. Don’t you?

None of this necessarily means that the Brexit Party itself is anti-Semitic – but it is enough to raise concerns. After all, Mr Tice is the chairman. And look at Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party – despite the fact that none of the allegations of anti-Semitism against him were accurate, people are still demanding that we believe Labour is institutionally anti-Semitic.

Meanwhile, here in Brecon and Radnorshire, Brexit Party candidate Des Parkinson is doing the exact opposite of his party chairman. Instead of trying to convince us he hasn’t done something he may have done, he’s trying to convince is he will do something that he can’t.

So he’s telling us that if elected he’ll campaign to:

  • Deliver Brexit – which he’ll never manage as his party’s sole MP.
  • Reverse the 9.5 per cent council tax rise in the constituency – which is a county council matter and nothing to do with MPs.
  • Maintain long-term subsidies for farmers and cut paperwork – again, something he can’t achieve as the single representative of his party in Parliament.
  • Expand local NHS services with Minor Injury Units at local hospitals – but Powys Teaching Health Board is about to get a £1.5 million cash injection so perhaps those hospitals that don’t have such facilities are about to get them (my local hospital has one now).
  • Invest more in local schools – again, a county council matter.
  • Increase funding for Dyfed-Powys Police – impossible because he will be unable to affect police budgets or the police precept.
  • Stop the expansion of windfarms – this is a devolved matter, handled by the Welsh Assembly and council planners.
  • Stop the BBC’s plan to make people over 75 years pay the TV licence fee – but this is a Conservative government plan that the BBC is being ordered to implement – and he won’t be able to stop it on his own.

In other words, Mr Parkinson can’t do any of the things he is promising.

And now there’s a hint of possible anti-Semitism about his party.

People will vote for him because they’ll see the word “Brexit” and think it will happen if they put him in Parliament (it won’t – at least, not the way he’d do it).

I’m just hoping he’ll take enough votes away from Chris “expenses fiddler” Davies, the Tory candidate who’s also campaigning on a pro-Brexit ticket, to scupper them both.

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.

https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/mike-sivier-libel-fight/


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Isn’t it interesting how Lib Dems change their policies when there’s an election coming?

Here’s a meme that’s appropriate to the subject. Click on it and you should go to a linked article on Another Angry Voice:

quislings

Here in Brecon and Radnorshire we have a Liberal Democrat MP – Roger Williams – who voted to support the Bedroom Tax (and probably all the others) at first and has now turned his back on it to support the Affordable Housing Bill, put forward by his party colleague Andrew George.

In local newspaper the Brecon and Radnor Express (of which Yr Obdt Srvt used to be the editor), he defended his actions by saying: “We found first of all it doesn’t work and secondly it creates hardship for many tenants. We’re not stupid enough not to amend legislation which has proven to be not fit for purpose.”

Further into the article Mr Williams admitted he initially supported the policy in the belief that it would actually do what the Conservatives said it would, and get people moving into appropriate housing: “My support was on the basis I get so many young people and couples coming to my office about inadequate housing while so many are living in social housing that is bigger than necessary. My support was on the basis we would get some mobility in social housing; that hasn’t happened.”

What utter, dissembling bilge!

We all knew the Bedroom Tax would never succeed in its stated aim of getting social tenants to move into more appropriately-sized accommodation because there simply wasn’t enough available – the Tories had sold off most of it during the 1980s and 1990s, while denying councils the ability to build replacements.

When the Bedroom Tax became law in April last year, only a tiny fraction of the amount of appropriate social housing was available for people affected, who wanted to downsize. The others were captives in their own homes, forced to pay a tax because they had been allocated a home that was larger than the law said they needed. In most cases, this was in turn because it was the only size accommodation available.

The Conservatives all knew that. Vox Political published it. It is unrealistic of Mr Williams to expect us to believe that he and the Liberal Democrats did not know it.

If you can’t believe what they’re saying about what they’ve done in the past, why should you believe what they say they’ll do in the future?

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Party before people – the problem with backbenchers

131221backbencher

Let’s look at my constituency MP, Roger Williams. He is a backbencher, not directly involved in policy matters, but he is also an illustration of what is wrong with the Coalition government.

I have no doubt that Roger genuinely wants to help people. Unfortunately loyalty to his party (the Liberal Democrats) and the Coalition means that something happens whenever he gets into the Commons chamber, and his concern for his constituents gets left at the door or perverted to mean something else.

Look at his performance during the food bank debate. The first thing he said was, “I felt very uneasy that some of the most vulnerable people, such as those I have met in my constituency, were being used as a political football across this Chamber. They would not have wanted that. They often feel a sense of indignity about going to food banks. They feel that it is in some way their own fault, but in many cases it is not their fault at all.”

There are worse things to be than a “political football”, Roger. If you are in serious financial plight because of government decisions, for example, it is far worse to be ignored.

He seemed woefully ignorant of the number of food banks in his Brecon and Radnorshire constituency, naming only the facility established by the New Life Church in Llandrindod Wells (which officially opened last summer but had been running itself in since the early months of the year) and one that is planned in Brecon.  The food bank in Knighton was established in October 2012, and there are others in Hay-on-Wye and Ystradgynlais. I believe Rhayader is covered by a ‘satellite’ of the food bank in Llanidloes, across the Montgomeryshire border. This means almost all the major towns are covered, and I know efforts are being made to bring coverage to as many villages as possible, also.

Rather than discuss how the government could help rid his constituency of the need for food banks, Roger unwisely decided to talk them up as valuable additions to the community: “Before the food bank was established in my constituency, I had no organised place to refer people to… At least now I can direct them to somewhere they will get help.”

That is not the point; they should not be necessary in the world’s seventh-largest economy. There is no less money in the UK now than there was in 2010 – clearly somebody is hogging it all for themselves. Shouldn’t Roger – and his fellow backbenchers – be trying to secure a more equitable redistribution of wealth?

Perhaps he thinks this can be found through work, which he said “is the best way out of poverty”. We all know that, under the Coalition government, this has become a hollow lie – more working families are in poverty than workless or retired households put together, because of the policies of Mr Cameron’s government.

At least he agreed that “work is not always available for people”. This provided him with an opportunity to discuss the benefit system, whose failure is an equal cause (with poorly-paid work) of the need for food banks.

Guess what? Roger thinks his government is “making progress to make it better”. You may find this observation delusional when coupled with his next observation – that “Jobcentre Plus seems to be using different criteria in different towns to impose sanctions on people. Obviously, when sanctions are imposed, people are left in great difficulty.”

These statements are mutually exclusive. The government cannot be improving the benefit system for claimants when its staff are deliberately bending the rules to cut payments for those who need them.

In the final analysis, Mr Williams appears confused and bewildered – a poor representative of his constituency but an excellent example of the Coalition government’s policies.

He acknowledges that people hate having to attend food banks, but welcomes their growth in his constituency – even though he doesn’t know how many are here already.

He follows the party li(n)e that “work is the best way out of poverty”, in the face of all the evidence that his government’s policies are worsening in-work poverty.

And he tells us benefit claimants are getting a better service – then criticises Jobcentre Plus for the arbitrary and underhanded way it removes that service from people who have nothing.

Perhaps he will be better-informed after he meets ministers “to find out why the sanctions in different jobcentres have different criteria; why they have different systems for writing to and contacting people in order to encourage them to attend meetings; and why, if people do not attend those meetings, they get sanctioned”.

But he will probably leave those concerns at the door, next time he enters the House of Commons.

Food bank debate shows yet again the government’s argument has no substance

131219foodbanks

By now, we should all know how these Opposition Day debates go – but Wednesday’s discussion of food banks was one of the best examples I’ve heard.

The form goes like this: The relevant Labour shadow minister launches the debate, quoting the facts that support the argument (in this case, that the rise of food banks is a national disgrace and the Conservative-Liberal Democrat government’s policies have caused it), the government denies the charge – always with the same feeble excuses, backbenchers queue up to tell their own damning stories of what has happened to their constituents… and then the government wins the vote because its members have been whipped to vote against the motion, rather than because they believe it is wrong.

The food bank debate was textbook. Not only did it carry all these features, but:

  • The Secretary of State responsible, Iain Duncan Smith, declined to speak at all, but turned tail and ran after listening to only a small number of speakers.
  • Minister of State Esther McVey, who spoke in his place, delivered what Labour veteran Gerald Kaufman described as “one of the nastiest frontbench speeches I’ve heard in more than 43 years”.
  • As one story of government-created hardship followed another, Conservative MPs laughed. Clearly they are enjoying the suffering they are causing across the UK.

Each of these is a damning indictment of the depths to which the Coalition has driven British politics. But the debate is only half of this matter. Now it is our duty to publicise what happened. Many people may not know about this, or may not understand its significance.

They need to understand that food bank use has risen exponentially under David Cameron’s Conservative-led government, from 41,000 people in 2010 to half a million by April this year, one-third of whom were children. People are resorting to them because the cost of living is rising while wages have stagnated and social security benefit payments have been delayed or slashed. The government promised to publish a study on food banks in the summer of this year, but has delayed publication with no stated reason. The government department responsible – DEFRA – did not even put up a minister to speak in the debate.

Probably the most damning indictment was the vote. The Coalition government defeated a motion to bring forward measures that would reduce dependency on food banks. The obvious conclusion is that this government is happy to be pushing ordinary working and jobless people into crushing poverty – and intends to continue putting more and more people in the same situation for just as long as it possibly can.

We heard that:

  • People in Slough are fighting each other over discount fruit and vegetables in the local Tesco.
  • Food banks are visited by skilled workers who are unable to get jobs because of Coalition government policies.
  • Serious failures including administrative error in the benefit system mean one-fifth of the people visiting food banks are there because the Department for Work and Pensions has been unable to do its job properly.
  • The Bedroom Tax has hugely increased the number of people using food banks.
  • “The working poor are emerging as the Prime Minister’s legacy, as millions of people live in quiet crisis.” (Labour’s Jamie Reed).

In response, the Tories trotted out the old, old arguments, trying yet again to sell us the long-disproved claim that Labour forced the country into poverty by mismanaging the national finances. We heard, again, the turncoat Lord Freud’s claim that people were visiting food banks because the items there were free (ignoring the fact that everyone who visits a food bank is referred by a qualified organisation, and verified as being in crisis). We heard, again, the suggestion from our ignorant Education Secretary Michael Gove, that people are turning to food banks because they cannot manage their own finances (good management makes no difference if costs outweigh income; but then he clearly hasn’t been educated well enough to understand that).

Esther McVey’s speech showed clearly why she should have remained on breakfast television, where comparatively few people had to put up with her. She accused the previous Labour government of a “whirl of living beyond our means” that “had to come to a stop” without ever pausing to admit that it was Tory-voting bankers who had been living beyond their means, who caused the crash, and who are still living beyond their means today, because her corporatist (thank you, Zac Goldsmith) Conservative government has protected them.

She accused Labour of trying to keep food banks as “its little secret”, forcing Labour’s Jim Cunningham to remind us all that food banks were set up by churches to help refugees who were waiting for their asylum status to be confirmed – not as a support system for British citizens, as they have become under the Coalition’s failed regime.

She said the Coalition government was brought in to “solve the mess that Labour got us in”, which is not true – it was born from a backroom deal between two of the most unscrupulous party leaders of recent times, in order to ensure they and their friends could get their noses into the money trough (oh yes, there’s plenty of money around – but this government is keeping it away from you).

She said the Coalition had got more people into work than ever before – without commenting on the fact that the jobs are part-time, zero-hours, self-employed contracts that benefit the employers but exploit the workers and in fact propel them towards poverty.

She lied to Parliament, claiming that children are three times more likely to be in poverty if they are in a workless household. In fact, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, in-work poverty has now outstripped that suffered by those in workless and retired households; children are more likely to be in poverty if their parents have jobs.

She attacked Labour for allowing five million people to be on out-of-work benefits, with two million children in workless households – but under her government the number of households suffering in-work poverty has risen to eight million (by 2008 standards), while workless or retired households in poverty have risen to total 6.3 million.

She claimed that 60,000 people were likely to use a food bank this year – but Labour’s Paul Murphy pointed out that 60,000 people will use food banks this year in Wales alone. The actual figure for the whole of the UK is 500,000.

She said the government had brought in Universal Credit to ensure that three million people become better-off. There’s just one problem with that system – it doesn’t work.

She said the Coalition’s tax cuts had given people an extra £700 per year, without recognising that the real-terms drop in wages and rise in the cost of living means people will be £1,600 a year worse-off when the next general election takes place, tax cuts included. She said stopping fuel price increases meant families were £300 better-off, which is nonsense. Families cannot become better off because something has not happened; it’s like saying I’m better off because the roof of my house hasn’t fallen in and squashed me.

Then, on top of all that, she had the nerve to tell the country, “Rewriting history doesn’t work.” If that is the case, then hers was one of the most pointless speeches in the history of Parliament.

Labour’s Jamie Reed had the best comment on the debate. He said: “The final verdict on any Government is based on how they treat the poorest in society during the hardest of times,” after pointing out that “the laughter from some of those on the Government benches … says more than words ever could.”

On a personal note, my own MP, Roger Williams, spoke about the food bank situation in Brecon and Radnorshire. It is gratifying that he is proud of the food bank set up by New Life Church, here in Llandrindod Wells – I well remember the telephone conversation I had with the organisers, in which I encouraged them to set it up. I am glad they took up the baton – and that he has appreciated their work.

Rather more worrying is the suggestion that he considers a possible new food bank in Brecon to be only the second in our constituency. There are food banks in many other towns, including Knighton, Ystradgynlais and Hay-on-Wye – with satellite facilities in smaller towns and villages. It is disturbing that the MP does not seem to know this.

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Omnishambles, omnishambles, omnishambles

Feeling tired? Don’t worry, Vince Van Winkle, we’ve got a cosy place in the Cabinet for you, next to Ken ‘Can’t Keep My Eyes Open’ Clarke!

Before the general election in 2010, David Cameron reminded us that Tony Blair had summed up his ambitions in three words, “Education, education, education”, then said he could manage his in three letters: “N.H.S.”

How wrong he was!

We now know that the correct three-word slogan would have been: “Omnishambles, omnishambles, omnishambles”!

Here’s three examples of Coalition government ineptitude that have fallen onto my desk during this morning alone.

1. The government is having to shred £350,000 worth of ballot papers for the Welsh police and crime commissioner elections after a late decision to print them in both English and Welsh.

There really is no excuse for this. I know for a fact that Labour and, I believe, Plaid Cymru were both pushing for bilingual ballots, months before now.

When Christine Gwyther heard the Home Office did not have Parliamentary approval for bi-lingual ballot papers and information to voters, she immediately took steps to rectify the matter, writing to Bryn Parry-Jones, the returning officer, who agreed to pursue it on an all-Wales basis. She told Labour’s Brecon and Radnorshire constituency party the story at its meeting in September, which was one and a half months ago at the time of writing.

The government says the cost will be met from the £75 million election budget. I find this unconscionable. People across the country are getting into terrible states of anxiety over how to afford an extra £20 or £30 a month due to benefit cuts (of which more in a moment), but this government is prepared to throw away hundreds of thousands of pounds because its members couldn’t be bothered to make a perfectly simple decision in a reasonable amount of time.

Shambles.

2. A senior Downing Street aide has quit working for David Cameron in order to join Wonga.com, the loan company that charges bizarrely exorbitant rates of interest – more than 4,000 per cent. This is according to Sky News.

Jonathan Luff has done this, allegedly, at a time when the Office of Fair Trading is trying to crack down on payday lenders and concern is high about the industry’s business practices. The question is whether the move will give Wonga inappropriate access to ministerial decision-makers.

I guess we’ll find out, if the issue mysteriously goes away in the immediate future, with no explanation.

Already, critics have denounced the move as a sign of what Conservative supporters are really interested in – not the good of the country, but the size of their bank accounts.

Shambles.

3. Finally, in an article on this very blog, I seem to have revealed ambiguities in the plan for the new, so-called “bedroom tax” that could add tens, if not hundreds of pounds to the cost for people renting council- or social houses.

It seems that it is unclear whether the amounts to be removed from housing benefit – 14 per cent for one extra bedroom, 25 per cent for two or more – are to be taken from the amount of benefit being paid, or from the total rent being paid on the property. One of my readers tells me that Cornwall Council has taken the latter stance, meaning a loss of £21 per week for the first spare bedroom, £29 per week for two – considerably more than the advertised average of £14 per week.

Social housing provider Bromford, on the other hand, states clearly that it is a household’s housing benefit entitlement that will be cut, which seems to make it clear that it is a percentage of the benefit, not the full rent.

One wonders whether the government will stir itself to provide a definitive answer before the new rules come into practice next April. I shall not be holding my breath in anticipation.

Oh, and households with students away from home for less than 52 weeks per year – exempted under the new rules – will find that Cornwall Council doesn’t see it that way, either. from the form letter: “If you have an extra bedroom(s) for children who don’t live with you full time, the Government will count this as a spare bedroom and your benefit will be cut.”

Omnishambles.

Bubbling under, we have the accusation against Business Secretary Vince Cable that he slept through the new Cabinet Growth Committee’s meetings, as he seems to know nothing about them despite being, as I understand it, the vice-chair.

Coming soon: Borishambles.