Tag Archives: canterbury

Lib Dem rift as local members refuse to help replace candidate who stood down to stop a Tory win

Too close to Johnson: Jo Swinson (left) has made it seem she is supporting Tory Brexit after announcing her determination to stand a candidate in Canterbury, possibly splitting the vote to allow a hard-Brexiteer Tory to take the seat.

Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson was facing a swingeing attack today – from her own party, as she moved to replace an election candidate who has withdrawn in order to allow a ‘Remain’-supporting Labour representative a stronger chance to beat a Brexiteer Tory.

The decision to replace Tim Walker with another candidate has opened Ms Swinson to accusations that she wants Tory Anna Firth, a former “Vote Leave stalwart” to take the seat from incumbent Rosie Duffield, in a move that would support Boris Johnson’s plan for a ‘hard’ Brexit.

Mr Walker made his feelings clear in a comment piece for The Guardian. He wrote: “In the last election, she [Ms Duffield] won the traditionally Tory seat on the slimmest of margins – fewer than 200 votes – and, while I was confident I could substantially increase the Lib Dem vote on the back of my party’s national resurgence, it was clear there was a danger I’d divide the remainers. That would allow in our common enemy, Anna Firth, the Tory candidate and an avowed hard Brexiter and former Vote Leave stalwart.

“I share with many members of my party locally a visceral dread of the Commons being filled with people like Firth. Trying to stop that happening is now more important than ever given Nigel Farage’s unholy alliance with Johnson.

“I’ve therefore asked that my local party withdraw my nomination papers to stand for Canterbury… The nightmare that kept me awake was posing awkwardly at the count beside a vanquished Duffield as the Tory Brexiter raised her hands in triumph. I wanted no part in that.”

How sad that it seems his party leader does want a part in that.

Almost immediately after Mr Walker made his announcement, the Liberal Democrat leadership announced that Mr Walker would be replaced with another candidate – indicating a willingness to create exactly the situation he wanted to avoid.

Now, local party sources have said all four members approved to stand as MPs have said they will not. And if a candidate is parachuted in by Ms Swinson, they are unlikely to receive any support – and may even be met with negativity.

The decision to replace Mr Walker has created an opportunity for Ms Swinson’s political opponents – and they have seized it:

And this is not the only problem the Liberal Democrats are facing.

Kevin McNamara has withdrawn as candidate for Thurrock after a series of images emerged purporting to show tweets posted by him that included racial and homophobic slurs.

It seems the Liberal Democrat campaign is falling apart, before it has properly got started.

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Tory hypocrisy over Archbishop’s intervention in employment politics


It was the most overtly political speech from an Archbishop of Canterbury for many years (although incumbent Justin Welby, and others, have often commented on individual issues before). Here’s part of it:

https://twitter.com/AaronBastani/status/1039888161634234368

The Archbishop’s attack on Universal Credit and zero-hours contracts was welcomed by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, who was mentioned in Justin Welby’s speech.

Mr McDonnell said: “The Archbishop of Canterbury has set out a bold vision for a different society, one without the evils of the gig economy, the exploitation of workers and tax dodging of the multinationals.

“I welcome his speech, and the growing movement against the failures of austerity and neoliberalism. Labour will end zero hours contracts, clamp down on the tax avoiders, and ensure everyone has access to sick pay, parental leave and protections at work.”

But – oh dear – just look at the hypocrisy from the Conservative Party.

Days after Tories supported former Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks in his highly-political attack on the Labour Party over the anti-Semitism row that has been fabricated against it, they were lining up to condemn the Archbishop for what they said was interference in politics.

Tory MP Ben Bradley tweeted: ‘Not clear to me when or how it can possibly be appropriate for the Archbishop of Canterbury to be appearing at TUC conference or parroting Labour policy.’

He added: ‘There are a diversity of views as to what is best for the economy, but [he] only seems interested in presenting John McDonnell’s point of view.’

Mr Bradley is, of course, famous for tweeting a lie about Jeremy Corbyn that resulted in the most-publicised apology ever to appear on Twitter.

Of course there was no way the hypocrisy would go unnoticed. This is just one example of the responses:

And the Archbishop? He said in his speech that he would make no apology for discussing politics. “The Bible is political from one end to the other,” he said.

His intervention is to be welcomed.

The Church of England is often seen as a haven for Conservatives and it will be interesting to see what happens to those Tories’ attitudes, considering this new direction from the pulpit.

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Cameron’s ‘incoherent’ response to IS hides a plan for another war

Laughing at the law-abiding: IS militants at a captured checkpoint in northern Iraq [Image: AFP/Getty].

Laughing at the law-abiding: IS militants at a captured checkpoint in northern Iraq [Image: AFP/Getty].

David Cameron has no strategy to protect Christians who are threatened by violent religious groups like IS, and his policy is determined by the “loudest media voice”, according to the Church of England.

There’s no arguing with it. A letter from the Bishop of Leeds, Nicholas Baines, endorsed by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, points out that Cameron’s UK has turned its back on the suffering of tens of thousands of Christians fleeing IS jihadists in Mosul, Iraq’s second city, while the government responded promptly to reports of Yazidis trapped on Mt Sinjar.

The letter also condemns Cameron’s failure to offer sanctuary to Iraqi Christians who have been driven from their homes, when the French and Germans have already done so. Parliamentary questions tabled last month to find out whether the UK intends to offer asylum to Iraqi Christians have lain unanswered. Perhaps this is a political decision as Cameron thinks more foreigners coming here will push up support for UKIP; if so, that would support the Church’s view that he is reacting to the media, rather than following his own policy.

In fact, Cameron’s approach is becoming clearer. He wants to involve us in another war.

But, burned by his defeat in Parliament last year over Syria, he is taking a ‘softly, softly’ approach.

Having sent humanitarian aid to Iraq, he wrote in today’s Sunday Telegraph that this was not enough.

“He warns that Britain will have to use its ‘military prowess’ to help defeat ‘this exceptionally dangerous’ movement, or else terrorists with ‘murderous intent’ will target people in Britain,” the Telegraph report states.

Didn’t Tony Blair also use the possibility of a threat to the UK to cajole Britain into supporting the last round of wars in the Middle East? The antagonist may change but it seems the script does not.

In fact it is true that something must be done about IS. A lawless gang of murderers is setting up a lawless state in parts of Iraq and Syria that have been weakened by wars we either fought or did nothing to prevent – and fears that they could radicalise gullible Brits and send them home to carry out terrorist acts on our soil are real.

What is needed is a co-ordinated response from all law-abiding powers – not just in the west but Middle-Eastern countries and others. IS is the political equivalent of a rabid animal; its members don’t care who they attack, as long as they cause maximum harm, and every country in the world should be aware of this.

Cameron potters around the edges instead, following the same plan the UK always uses.

We could have sorted out these problems before withdrawing from Iraq a few years ago. We could have done it in the 1990s, after the first Gulf War. We could have sorted them out at any time before then – and with greater ease, but that does not suit a western industrial complex that is geared towards perpetuating warfare.

Cameron’s attitude is media-driven. His defeat over Syria has led him to revise his strategy, waiting for public opinion to be swayed by media reports of the bloodshed taking place abroad, stoked by fears that it could happen here in Blighty. When the public is supportive again, he can announce action – but only just enough action to keep the Middle Eastern countries at odds with each other, making further military conflicts inevitable.

Today, it seems he has decided he can act, if comments like “we need a firm security response, whether that is military action to go after the terrorists, international co-operation on intelligence and counter-terrorism or uncompromising action against terrorists at home” are to be believed.

Cameron also wrote that this is a “struggle against a poisonous and extremist ideology, which I believe we will be fighting for the rest of my political lifetime.”

His political lifetime will end in May 2015, so he’s right about that.

It seems his evil strategy for the Middle East will continue to affect the region long after the end of his physical lifetime, too.

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‘It is cheaper to help people die rather than support them to live’

Lord Carey: He may be demonstrating the amount of thought he has given to what unscrupulous people will do with his "change of heart".

Lord Carey: He may be demonstrating the amount of thought he has given to what unscrupulous people will do with his “change of heart”.

A “change of heart” by a former Archbishop of Canterbury over ‘assisted dying’ has dismayed at least one campaigner for the rights of people with disabilities.

Mo Stewart has been researching and reporting what she describes as the “atrocities” against the chronically sick and disabled in the UK for the last four years. She said Lord Carey’s decision to support legislation that would make it legal for people in England and Wales to receive help to end their lives would “play right into the hands of this very, very dangerous government”.

Justifying his change of position, Lord Carey said: “Today we face a central paradox. In strictly observing the sanctity of life, the Church could now actually be promoting anguish and pain, the very opposite of a Christian message of hope.

“The old philosophical certainties have collapsed in the face of the reality of needless suffering.”

The Assisted Dying Bill, tabled by Labour’s Lord Falconer, would apply to people with less than six months to live. Two doctors would have to independently confirm the patient was terminally ill and had reached their own, informed decision to die.

But Mo Stewart warned that the proposed legislation, to be debated in the House of Lords on Friday, would be subject to ‘function creep’, with unscrupulous authorities taking advantage of people with depression in order to relieve themselves of the financial burden of paying for their care.

“If this law is granted, what will be deemed a possibility for the few will, very quickly I fear, become the expected for the many,” she wrote in a letter to Lord Carey which she has kindly provided to Vox Political.

“It’s cheaper to help people to die rather than support them to live.

“There is a catalogue of evidence demonstrating that, in those countries where assisted dying is permitted, very often those taking their own lives are suffering from a clinical depression and leave our world to resist the perception that they are a burden to loved ones.

“I am stunned that you would use your voice to try to permit this to happen in the UK.”

She pointed out that medicine is an inexact science and policy changes such as this could have an enormous detrimental impact: “My own webmaster, who is now desperately ill with possibly only weeks to live, was advised he had less than six months to live over four years ago.

“Until very recently, he still enjoyed a high quality of life with his wife, family and friends; a life that could have been removed four years ago” had the Assisted Dying Bill been law at that time.

“What this debate is demonstrating is the failure of guaranteed high quality palliative care in the UK, that makes those with a life-limiting diagnosis feel that self termination is a reasonable solution,” she warned.

“If palliative care was at the peak of quality and access then there would be no need to ever consider such a Bill for this country, as those who wish to access self termination are usually living in fear of the possible physical suffering they may need to endure. This is a highway to clinical depression when quality of life is deemed to have disappeared with diagnosis.”

The current Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has described the Bill as “mistaken and dangerous” and Mo said she believed he had explained the dangers well.

He said: “This is not scaremongering. I know of health professionals who are already concerned by the ways in which their clients have suggestions ‘to go to Switzerland’ whispered in their ears by relatives weary of caring for them and exasperated by seeing their inheritances dwindle through care costs.

“I have received letters from both disabled individuals and their carers, deeply concerned by the pressure that Lord Falconer’s bill could put them under if it became law.”

Mo Stewart’s letter concludes: “In the real world, this Bill – if passed – would, I have no doubt, lead to abuses where some were actively persuaded to self terminate for the convenience, and possibly the inheritance, of others.

“It’s really not a very long way away from an assisted dying bill to an assisted suicide bill.”

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Church v (Secretary-in-a-) State over social ‘reform’

Cardinal-designate Vincent Nichols, who has attacked fellow Catholic Iain Duncan Smith's benefit cuts as a "disgrace". [Image: Liverpool Echo]

Cardinal-designate Vincent Nichols, who has attacked fellow Catholic Iain Duncan Smith’s benefit cuts as a “disgrace”. [Image: Liverpool Echo]

Does anybody else have the feeling that Vincent Nichols, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, was only waiting for the Pope to name him a Cardinal-designate before sinking his teeth into the UK’s Conservative-led Coalition government?

One gets the impression he feels secure that the new position means his words now carry sufficient weight – and they are weighty words indeed.

“People do understand that we do need to tighten our belts and be much more responsible and careful in public expenditure,” said the Archbishop to the Telegraph.

“But I think what is happening is two things: one is that the basic safety net that was there to guarantee that people would not be left in hunger or in destitution has actually been torn apart.

“It no longer exists and that is a real, real dramatic crisis.

“And the second is that, in this context, the administration of social assistance, I am told, has become more and more punitive.

“So if applicants don’t get it right then they have to wait for 10 days, for two weeks with nothing – with nothing.

“For a country of our affluence, that quite frankly is a disgrace.”

“Hunger”, “destitution”, “crisis” – “a disgrace”. You cannot accuse this man of mincing his words!

They come almost a year after the (Anglican) Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby, together with the Archbishop of York and 43 bishops, launched their own attack on changes to social security, saying they would have a “deeply disproportionate” effect on children and families.

Mr Welby had himself only recently taken the Church of England’s most senior office.

Speaking to the Telegraph on March 9 last year, 12 days before his enthronement, he said: “As a civilised society, we have a duty to support those among us who are vulnerable and in need. When times are hard, that duty should be felt more than ever, not disappear or diminish.

“It is essential that we have a welfare system that responds to need and recognises the rising costs of food, fuel and housing.

“These changes will mean it is children and families who will pay the price … rather than the Government.”

The Department for Work and Pensions laughed off Mr Welby’s concerns.

But Iain Duncan Smith, the Secretary of (or “in a”) State for Work and Pensions, is – or is at least supposed to be – a devout Catholic. How could he ignore such harsh criticism from the most senior member of his Church in the United Kingdom?

Very easily, it seems.

Iain Duncan Smith has not deigned to respond. Perhaps he has a belief – he does seem to rely on them a lot, now, doesn’t he? – that he is doing more for the people of this country than the Archbishops. There’s a word for this condition that’s slipping my mind for a moment… no – I’ve got it.

A ‘Messiah’ complex – a state of mind in which an individual holds a belief that they are, or are destined to become, a saviour.

‘Messiah’ trumps ‘Archbishop’ so IDS has chosen to ascend above the debate, leaving its resolution to his trusty DWP spokesperson, who came out with the usual lies.

“Our welfare reforms will transform the lives of some of the poorest families in our communities with Universal Credit making three million households better off and lifting hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty,” wittered the spokesperson.

To disprove these words, let’s turn to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the social policy research charity that seeks to understand the causes of social problems, identify ways of overcoming them, and show how social needs can be met. This organisation has stated – repeatedly – that Universal Credit in its current form will create “increased risks of budgeting problems, debt, arrears and ultimately financial exclusion”.

The same organisation quotes research from the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) which states that, under current Coalition government policies, rather than hundreds of thousands of children being lifted out of poverty, by 2020 more than one million more children will be in poverty than when the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats slithered into office by the back door in 2010.

So who do you believe? Come to that, what does Iain Duncan Smith really believe?

The DWP spokesperson said: “It’s wrong to talk of removing a safety net when we’re spending 94bn a year on working age benefits and the welfare system supports millions of people who are on low incomes or unemployed so they can meet their basic needs.”

But we know that Iain Duncan Smith has inflicted £28 billion of cuts on people receiving benefits from his Department for Work and Pensions. If another IFS statement – that this represents only two-fifths of the Coalition’s cuts plan – is accurate, then the total amount he’ll want to cut is a staggering £70 billion.

And he wants his people to talk about the money he’s spending, rather than the effect he’s having. So, what does he believe?

He believes in Mammon.

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‘Barefoot banking’ to support people on the edge

usury

This is a piece I wrote for the local credit union in my part of Powys, following on from the Archbishop of Canterbury’s vow that the Church of England would fight payday lenders. Quite right – usury is an evil that religious organisations traditionally oppose. I’m publishing it here because the main information is relevant nationwide (and also because today appears to be quite slow for political news).

Credit unions must rise to the challenge created by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s stand against payday lenders, according to a leading figure in a Mid Wales organisation.

Richard Bramhall of Red Kite Credit Union said the main issue facing credit unions was how to bring affordable credit to “people on the edge”.

Last month, the Most Reverend Justin Welby announced that he planned to help community-based credit unions by allowing them to use Church of England premises as bases, to put firms like Wonga.com, which charge huge amounts of interest for their loans, out of business.

“His idea is very constructive,” said Mr Bramhall.

“Instant credit is a difficult sector to service because of high rates of defaulting. Payday lenders, door-step lenders and loan sharks – and to a lesser extent banks and credit card companies – answer the threat of bad debt by charging monstrous interest rates.

The Credit Union approach is responsible lending, careful interviews, getting guarantors where possible and working with the member to develop financial competence.

“The ethos always was to save; build a relationship with the credit union through saving – becoming a shareholder – and borrowing using the shareholding as security. They pay low interest and benefit by keeping and growing their shares.

“We do not want to lend at high rates,” he said. “Our standard rate is 12.68 per cent, or one per cent per month. If you borrowed £100 over a year and paid it back without interruptions, it would cost you £6.60 in interest, with no extra charges and no penalty for early repayment.”

But he warned: “The population density here is so low and the conceivable number of members so small that, even if everyone joined, our income from loan interest would not be enough to pay for bank-type premises or employees.”

The Credit Union’s solution is what Mr Bramhall calls ‘barefoot banking’. He said “The Herb Garden Café, in Llandrindod Wells, is an example. You can access credit union services six days a week, 12 hours a day – not just when we’re open but any time we’re in the building. People can pick up leaflets, ask about the credit union, leave messages, make payments and collect cheques. It costs the café nothing.

“If people want to help, they could develop the sort of access point we have here. Our greatest need is for self-motivating volunteers and casual drop-in service points in shops, churches, cafes and even private homes all over Radnorshire and north Brecknock.”

He added that credit unions also needed to establish themselves in schools, teaching responsible money management to youngsters.

‘May? Fox? Nobodies! Don’t forget my benefit cap will ruin workers’ pay claims’, says Smith*

Return of the savage: Iain Duncan Smith is using his benefit cap to claw back workers' rights. YOUR rights.

Return of the savage: Iain Duncan Smith is using his benefit cap to claw back workers’ rights. YOUR rights.

It’s as if they’re having a competition.

After Liam Fox, the disgraced former Defence Secretary with nothing at all to gain from his outburst, made a fool of himself by making a series of outrageous demands about government spending (the BBC website picks out “We need to begin a systematic dismantling of universal benefits and turning them into tax cuts”), Iain Duncan Smith stepped into the breach to “dismiss” the Archbishop of Canterbury’s warning – despite its firm basis in fact – that benefit changes will drive more children into poverty.

Clearly the man this blog refuses to call anything but Smith is getting worried that he might fail to retain Vox Political‘s coveted Monster of the Year award in the face of such strong competition – don’t forget Theresa May weighed in with a plan to strip everyone in this country of their hard-won human rights – that he felt it necessary to step up.

We’ll put the rabid Fox down first. Vox correspondent Big Bill called it right when he said Fox was already damaged goods.

“He can be sent out to air these ideas without any further potential loss to the party,” Bill wrote.

“If Cameron started airing them or Osborne, there’d potentially be loss to their status, I imagine Tory thinking has it, and they’re too valuable to waste but Fox is already a political phantom, no more than the fading echo of a career mournfully walking abroad at Westminster.

“If more opprobrium’s heaped on his head, well, then, the party’s learned those ideas won’t fly and no loss to anyone. If by any chance they start to be taken seriously then these ideas will indeed be taken up by Osborne and Cameron.”

Judging from the comedy Prime Minister’s response, the ideas didn’t fly at all and in fact went down like the R101.

But let’s not waste the opportunity to pour scorn on Cameron’s comments. Having already fallen foul of the facts in the past, he simply couldn’t resist the opportunity to show that he hasn’t learnt anything and loves the taste of his own shoes.

“There is one piece of advice I won’t take. That’s the piece of advice saying ‘You ought to cut the National Health Service budget’,” said the PM, past the foot he’d just wedged in his mouth.

How quick he was to forget that Andrew Dilnot, head of the UK Statistics Authority, wrote to caution the government that its claims of increased spending on the health service, year on year, during every year of the current Parliament, were inaccurate. Mr Dilnot stated that the figures show a real-terms cut in expenditure between the 2009-10 tax year when Labour was in power, and 2011-12.

Camoron has never acknowledged this fact, even though it comes from an authoritative source. Maybe he’s no longer capable of listening to anything but the voices in his head.

He continued, saying it was “absolutely right that we have got a plan to get on top of our deficit”. Nice one, Call-Me-Dave. It is indeed, absolutely correct that you have a plan to get on top of the deficit. It’s also absolutely right that your plan does not work; will never work; will in fact make the deficit worse. It’s a plan to give you an excuse to shrink the state.

In that sense, Cameron’s difference of opinion with Fox is a sham. Perhaps he’s using Fox’s words to make his own scheming seem less objectionable.

Too bad. After nearly three years of this red-faced buffoon we can all see through him like a fishnet negligee.

And now, let’s turn to another Tory who won’t listen to anything but the voices in his head – Iain Pretentious Smith.

He has responded to calls from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, along with no less than 43 other Anglican Bishops, to reconsider benefit changes that will push an estimated 200,000 children into poverty. These are figures from The Children’s Society, which is a charity that deals with issues affecting deprived children every single day of its existence and should therefore, reasonably, know.

The letter states that the decision to increase financial support for families by no more than one per cent per year for the next three years, regardless of the rate of inflation, “will have a deeply disproportionate impact on families with children, pushing 200,000 children into poverty. A third of all households will be affected by the Bill, but nearly nine out of 10 families with children will be hit.

“These are children and families from all walks of life. The Children’s Society calculates that a single parent with two children, working on an average wage as a nurse would lose £424 a year by 2015. A couple with three children and one earner, on an average wage as a corporal in the British Army, would lose £552 a year by 2015.

“However, the change will hit the poorest the hardest. About 60 per cent of the savings from the uprating cap will come from the poorest third of households. Only three per cent will come from the wealthiest third.”

Only three per cent from the wealthiest households? It seems we’ve discovered why this plan is so attractive to the Party of the Rich.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby – who has yet to be enthroned – added: “As a civilised society, we have a duty to support those among us who are vulnerable and in need. When times are hard, that duty should be felt more than ever, not disappear or diminish.

It is essential that we have a welfare system that responds to need and recognises the rising costs of food, fuel and housing.” (Labour Party – and especially Liam Byrne – please note).

It was pleasing to see these words from the new Archbishop, who is clearly unafraid to enter political debates, despite the undue flack received by the former Archbishop, Dr Rowan Williams. The Church should speak up to protect those in society whose voice is not strong.

Of course Smith – a Catholic whose behaviour should have had him excommunicated from his own faith – was having none of it.

“I don’t agree that the way to get children out of poverty is to simply keep transferring more and more money to keep them out of work,” he said, possibly revealing a little more than he intended. It seems Mr Smith thinks that, rather than receiving benefits to support them, poor children should be sent out to work. Is he advocating a return to the despicable conditions of the 19th century, in which children were sent up chimneys to clean them?

Don’t put it past him – look what else he had to say!

He said this: “We are doing the right thing in bringing in the benefit cap. For the first time ever, people on low and average earnings will realise at last that those on benefits will not be able to be paid more in taxes than they themselves earn.”

Exactly. Those on low and average earnings will realise that, if they get the sack, they will not be able to cover their current outgoings, meagre though they may be.

The intention behind the benefit cap is – as Vox Political has stated in the past – to silence those on the lowest wages from seeking any improvement in their pay and conditions, and even stop them from complaining if their bosses decide to cut those things.

It is a wholesale – and despicable – betrayal of the vast majority of the British people.

Don’t you forget it.

*He might as well be saying that; it’s what his statements indicate.

The rise of food banks and the fall of the Big Society

Isn’t it a shame that in the season of goodwill, the Prime Minister cannot extend any to those who are worst-off in his bold Big Society?

Instead, all they’ve been given are bad statistics and platitudes.

I’m referring, of course, to his performance in the last Prime Minister’s Questions of 2012, when he was asked to explain why there has been a sixfold increase in the number of food banks in the UK during the last three years – the time since Mr Cameron’s Coalition government took over.

A food bank, for those who don’t know the exact definition, is simply a place where food is contributed and made available to those in need. In the UK, there are currently 13 million people living below the poverty line (according to the Trussell Trust, which is the authority on food banks in this country). These include working people, whose income does not cover their costs; the unemployed, who are finding they do not have enough money to buy food due to the vicious and unwarranted benefit cuts thrust upon them by the Coalition; and of course the homeless, a sector of society that is due to grow exponentially, again due to the many cuts inflicted by the bloodthirsty Conservatives.

As a consequence of the rise in poverty, overseen and orchestrated by Mr Cameron and his lieutenant Iain Duncan Smith in the Department for Work and Pensions, the classic poverty-related diseases of rickets and tuberculosis are on the increase. In 2012, the Conservatives have achieved their aim to revive the Dickensian Christmas.

“The problem is that it is working people who are turning to food banks,” said Ed Miliband at PMQs. “One head teacher of a school rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted, Vic Goddard, says that even children with a parent or parents in work are often struggling with the choice of heating their homes, buying their children clothes or buying them food. A report last week from the Children’s Society said that two-thirds of teachers knew of staff providing pupils with food or money to prevent them from going hungry.”

This rings true. There is a reason that working people have been receiving benefits, and it is that they are being paid too little. It is a ridiculous situation, in the seventh largest economy on this planet, but one that has been perpetuated by successive governments – including, I’m sorry to say, Labour – since the 1970s. In contrast, executive pay has shot through the roof. If the minimum wage had risen in line with executive pay – just since it was introduced in 1998 – it would be more than £18 today, three times the actual level of £6.19.

The comedy Prime Minister responded with nothing of substance. He said the most important thing was “to get on top of inflation, and inflation is coming down”. How out-of-touch! It is true that inflation must be controlled, but his comedy chancellor, Gideon George Osborne, has decided that benefits – including those for people in work – will rise by less than the rate of inflation for the next three years, and Cameron himself has indicated that poor economic indicators may see him increase this to six years. The longer this rule stays in place, the further into poverty low-waged working people will go.

“The most important thing is to get more people into work and out of poverty,” said Cameron. This is not the same thing. We have seen that working people in the lowest-paid jobs are being plunged into poverty and forced to the indignity of seeking help from food banks – and remember, those starting in work will be the lowest-paid.

“And we see 600,000 more private sector jobs this year,” added Cameron, failing once again to admit that this figure includes around 200,000 that were already-existing public sector jobs, re-categorised as private in order to boost the Coalition’s statistics.

“We are helping […] families by freezing the council tax,” he said, neglecting to add that he is forcing people with limited cash to – from April – pay at least 10 per cent of it where they would have received council tax benefit before. “And making sure that we help families with the cost of living,” he droned on. This comment is meaningless other than as a complete fabrication. How can he expect to be believed when he is mercilessly forcing them into poverty?

“We have lifted the personal tax allowance and taken two million of the lowest-paid people out of tax altogether,” he said. But they still have to use their own money to make up the huge losses in benefits that are coming. This government gives with one hand but takes with the other.

“Because of the decisions that we made in this Government to increase the child tax credit by £390 ahead of inflation, we have helped those families with their bills and we will continue to do more in the future.” How? Child tax credit will be abolished when Universal Credit is brought in across the UK.

Cameron’s denouement was his declaration that Labour had nothing to offer, “except for the same old something-for-nothing culture that got us in this mess in the first place”. We all know that this is not true. Until the banking crisis, Labour ran a lower deficit than any Conservative government of the previous 30 years. The Conservatives had supported greater deregulation of the banks right up until the crisis hit, meaning that it would have been much worse if they had been in power at the time. And they supported Labour’s actions to solve that crisis – meaning that, if we are in a mess now, the Conservatives should take as much responsibility for it as Labour. They would have done no different.

Possibly the most astonishing moment was when David Cameron said volunteers in food banks were part of his Big Society idea, “to help those in need”. The stated aim of the Big Society was to create a climate that empowers local people and communities, taking power away from politicians and giving it to people. Now, here, Mr Cameron seemed to be saying the opposite – that it is about taking so much away from people that they are forced to rely on charity to survive. It seems, therefore, that the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, was correct when he labelled it “aspirational waffle designed to conceal a deeply damaging withdrawal of the state from its responsibilities to the most vulnerable.”

His words were, to some extent, echoed by Ed Miliband at PMQs: “I never thought that the big society was about feeding hungry children in Britain. The reality is that in the third year of the Prime Minister’s Government, more children are going hungry and more families are relying on food banks.

“Is it not the clearest indictment of his Government’s values that while lower and middle-income families are being hit, at the same time he is giving an average of a £107,000 tax cut to people earning over £1 million a year?”

And those were the truest words spoken on the subject.

A wake-up call for people on Canterbury’s council estates

The callousness of this Coalition government and its Conservative figurehead never ceases to disappoint me.

It seems that some commentators, in focusing on the issue of food banks raised by Ed Miliband in Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday, completely missed the discussion of an even worse scandal – one that the Coalition has encouraged and that legislation coming into effect next year will escalate.

“I have in my hand a genuine suicide note,” said Ian Lavery, Labour MP for Wansbeck, “from a constituent of mine who, sadly, took his own life after he was informed that he was no longer entitled to Employment and Support Allowance and disability benefits. Across the UK, more than 1,000 people have died only months after being told to find work.

“This is 2012 — we are supposed to be a civilised society. We should be looking after disabled citizens in the UK. Will the Prime Minister listen to the 62,000 people who have signed Pat’s Petition and please finally order an assessment of all changes hitting disabled people in this country?”

David Cameron began his response with an anodyne expression of sympathy to the family of the deceased, before going on to support the government’s actions: “Some people have been stuck on these benefits and not been reviewed for year after year after year.” Like Iain Duncan Smith, who responded in a similar manner to a teenage boy who had lost his father because of the government’s choice to cut his benefits unnecessarily, he refused to address the fact that it was his choices – and those of his government – that had led to the death. If I was a family member of Mr Lavery’s constituent, I would be nauseated.

In itself, you might think that was offensive enough, but worse was to follow when Canterbury’s Conservative MP, Julian Brazier, stood up and opened his mouth: “May I reassure my Right Honourable friend that those of my constituents who are most strongly in favour of reforming benefits — focusing them more on those who need them and taking them away from those who do not — are people who live on council estates and are fed up with working long hours to subsidise the lifestyles of those who do not want to work?”

Did this creature not realise how offensive that remark would be, coming after the exchange with Mr Lavery? The whole point of Pat’s Petition – and its successor, the WOW Petition – is that people on council estates are not working to subsidise the lifestyles of those who don’t want to work. Their tax pounds are subsidising the luxury lifestyles of government ministers, whose actions are killing people who, already, don’t have enough to live on. I’m referring to people who may have worked their entire lives before illness or infirmity stripped them of that ability, and of their dignity.

I have a few examples of the people affected by the Coalition’s benefit cuts. Perhaps readers can work out for themselves whether these cuts really are “focusing… more on those who need them and taking them away from those who do not”. I am grateful to my Facebook friend Jim Moore for supplying the list.

Paul Reekie, 48, left no suicide note – but a letter informing him that his welfare benefits were to be stopped were found next to his body. Was that the action of someone who had been taking advantage of hard-working council estate residents?

Paul Willcoxson, 33, Who had mental health problems, was found hanging in Pignals Enclosure, near Hollands Wood campsite. A suicide letter and next of kin note were found in which he expressed concerns about the cuts to his benefits.

Leanne Chambers, 30, was found in the River Weir five months after she walked out of her home. She had battled depression for a number of years and had taken a turn for the worse after receiving a letter telling her she had to be assessed by a doctor she did not know, to see if she was fit to return to work.

Christelle Pardo, 32, and Kayjah Pardo, 6 months: After having all her income cut off and her housing benefit withdrawn, and with a baby to care for, she had been left destitute. When she begged for help, the only response from the Department for Work and Pensions was that she didn’t qualify under the rules. So she killed herself and her young child. Destitute. Is there anybody reading this who is shameless enough to say this woman was cynically exploiting her working neighbours?

Elaine Christian, 57, was found in a drain after walking out of her home. A post mortem revealed she had died from drowning, despite having more than 10 self-inflicted cuts on her wrists.The inquest in Hull was told Mrs Christian had been deeply worried about a meeting she was due to have to discuss her entitlement to disability benefits.

David Groves, 56, died of a massive heart attack the night before his medical assessment as he sat at his computer and scoured the internet for ways to raise cash in case he lost his entitlement. He was a striver. He knew the odds were against him keeping his benefit, even though he clearly deserved it, and was trying to find other ways of earning money. That is not the action of a scrounger.

Mark and Helen Mullins were found lying side by side in their home after committing suicide together. They had been left destitute after Helen had her claim for benefit turned down. They had no food, no heating and no electricity. If that’s the kind of lifestyle subsidised by working people, under this government, ask yourself: Would YOU want it?

Stephen Hill, 53, died of a heart attack a month after his benefits were stopped. He had been told his heart problem were not serious enough to stop him working.

Craig Monk, 43, was found hanging in his home. He’d had one leg partially amputated and was described by his family as “vulnerable”. He became depressed because his benefits had been cut.

Martin Rust, 36, a schizophrenic, had his benefits cut and was ordered back to work. He left a note saying: “To those I love, I’m sorry. Goodbye.” Coroner William Armstrong said the Department of Work and Pensions’ decision to cut his benefits “caused distress and may well have had an adverse effect”. He recorded that Mr Rust had committed suicide while suffering from a treatment-resistant mental illness.

Paul Turner, 52, died from ischaemic heart disease – caused, his family claim, by the stress of losing his benefits. He was told his heart problems were not serious enough for him not to work, and died four weeks after receiving the notification.

Mark Scott, 46, who suffered from anxiety and epilepsy, was left penniless when he was declared fit for work and his benefits were stopped. He died six weeks later in the Southport flat where he lived alone.

Colin Traynor, who was a lifelong epileptic, was assessed as fit for work. He appealed, but according to his parents he became depressed and lost weight. He died less than four months later. The day after his death, his parents found out he had won his appeal.

If you are getting depressed by the details on this list, let me remind you that these people are a drop in the ocean. According to the last set of official figures I’ve seen, 73 people die every week after being involved in a government reappraisal of their benefits in some way. As you can see from the evidence, those reassessments were wrong more often than they were right.

It is thanks to the support of people like Julian Brazier and the council-estate constituents he quotes (if his remark was accurate) that the Coalition is getting away with these deaths. I hope he reads this article and reconsiders. I hope his constituents do the same. It’s too late to save people like David Groves or Mark Scott, but there are hundreds of thousands more who face hardship that will be just as bad, if the repression of the sick and disabled is allowed to continue. As far as they are concerned, it’s not too late for you to change your minds.

The WOW Petition (it stands for the resistance to the War On Welfare) is now open and can be found here. If you have found any of the above to be persuasive, please sign it.

And for those of you who remain homicidally determined to continue with the policy, no matter how much harm it does – that means you, Mr Brazier, you, Iain Duncan Smith, you Mr Cameron…

Merry Christmas. You’ll get what’s coming to you, soon enough.