Tag Archives: Caroline Lucas

Caroline Lucas’s call for all-female, all-WHITE cabinet to fight no-deal Brexit attracts mockery

‘Crackpot’: Caroline Lucas.

This was Green MP Caroline Lucas’s attempt to stop Jeremy Corbyn from forming a government after he wins a ‘no confidence’ vote in Boris Johnson’s government.

It will be a relief for Corbyn supporters that her plan is so badly flawed that any of the other women she had suggested for it would be fools to support it.

Here’s how The Guardian reported her plan:

The Green MP, Caroline Lucas, has thrown down the gauntlet to 10 high-profile female politicians over blocking a no-deal Brexit, proposing a cabinet of national unity including Labour’s Emily Thornberry, the Liberal Democrat leader, Jo Swinson, and the former Conservative cabinet minister Justine Greening to seek legislation for a fresh referendum.

Lucas offered to broker a deal with female MPs from all the main political parties in Westminster, as well as the SNP’s leader, Nicola Sturgeon.

Lucas, who is understood to have begun talks with the women she has addressed in her open letter, sent the offer to Thornberry, Swinson, Greening and Sturgeon, as well as the Change UK MP Anna Soubry, the independent MP Heidi Allen, the SNP’s Kirsty Blackman, the independent Northern Irish MP Sylvia Hermon and Plaid Cymru’s Liz Saville Roberts.

The final MP who has been approached is Yvette Cooper, one of the leading Labour figures coordinating efforts to stop no deal, but the only one of the addressees who has not explicitly endorsed a second referendum herself.

Unfortunately for Ms Lucas, critics on the social media were quick to point out that her all-female cabinet was also all-white. Why were there no black MPs among them?

And why did they have to be all-female anyway?

Against this sexist and racist background, they also asked why Yvette Cooper had been included; a backbencher who does not support Ms Lucas’s call for a second referendum.

https://twitter.com/Widox80/status/1160691353581436928

Source: Caroline Lucas calls for emergency female cabinet to block no-deal Brexit

This is why you shouldn’t blame Corbyn for refusing to talk with Theresa May

Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May: He was canny enough to know her offer of cross-party talks was a sham.

After years of ignoring everything apart from her own weird prejudices (think “hostile environment”), it took the biggest loss of a vote in Parliamentary history to bring Theresa May to the negotiating table with other party leaders – we’re told.

She made a great show of opening up to cross-party talks, but all the evidence shows that this is just another delaying tactic.

Even The Sun‘s Tom Newton Dunn thinks so:

If this comment from Richard Burgon is accurate, then it’s clear that Mrs May hasn’t taken the idea of cross-party talks seriously at all:

What is the point of claiming to be prepared to listen to other party leaders if Mrs May has made it clear from the outset that she won’t change anything? None that I can see. How about you?

And that’s why, as Labour Insider states, Mr Corbyn has rejected the offer of talks as a “stunt.” According to that account, he also said “unless the Conservative government removes a no deal Brexit as a possibility then they are not honestly open to working together”.

Mr Corbyn’s demand was echoed by the leaders of the Liberal Democrats, SNP and the Green Party.

And what do we get from the media?

This Sky News interview is typical of the attitude we have seen – and the interviewer’s attitude is atrocious:

And it leads to the kind of nonsense spouted by Hugo Rifkind here:

That will never happen.

It seems clear that Mrs May’s idea of cross-party talks involves her talking to the other parties and them listening. She won’t change a single part of her offer so it seems clear that this is about browbeating other politicians.

And it won’t work for a very simple reason:

The second party of Dave Ward’s tweet raises an interesting question. We know Labour MPs have been talking with the Conservatives – but has it been with an entirely supportive attitude? It seems not:

It seems we have Michael Gove to thank for keeping some Labour MPs on the straight-and-narrow, then!

What about the political leaders who did agree to meet Mrs May?

Here’s Caroline Lucas’s report:

And here’s Nicola Sturgeon:

All of this supports what Steve Howell suggests here:

This rings true. Another Tweeter pointed out that “The last time Jeremy Corbyn had meeting with Theresa May, they agreed timetable for vote on her Brexit deal of Dec 11th. She renegaded on agreement wasting a month. Why should he now believe what she says, not ask for No Deal off the table without which talks have no purpose?”

So we have a situation in which Theresa May has put on a show of being reasonable, when in fact she isn’t being reasonable at all.

And the only reason she was even able to put up this pretence is she was shored up by the DUP. And even this was unreasonable as her deal runs roughshod over Arlene Foster’s red lines. Ian Lavery suggests more realistic rationales for the Northern Irish party’s support:

Gracie Samuels was more blunt:

And Cllr John Edwards wraps the whole situation up in a nice bundle:

How can we have confidence in her? She has delayed democracy in order to present our MPs with an impossible choice; she has bribed another political party to ensure she cannot be ousted; and she has lied to us all about her cross-party talks.

The fault lies with us – the people of the United Kingdom – for allowing a political organisation as venal and corrupt as the Conservative Party to govern us, and for voting in favour of an undefined departure from the European Union in that party’s illegally-influenced referendum.

Have we learned our lesson yet? Or shall we take the lead of the Tories’ media friends and blame Mr Corbyn?

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MPs debate cannabis legalisation; no change made

cameron-hypocrite-cartoon-cannabis

Did anybody think there would be?

The debate in the Westminster Hall today (Monday) followed the submission of an e-petition to the Parliament website calling for the legalisation of cannabis, signed by 220,000 people – more than twice the number needed to gain a hearing among MPs.

Labour MP Paul Flynn, opening the debate, said: “I would like to illustrate how this Government—like all Governments—have handled this issue. It is typified by the response we had to this thunderously eloquent petition.

“The Government response begins with the statement that ‘cannabis is…harmful’.

“Cannabis is the oldest medicine in the world. It has been trialled and tested by tens of millions of people over 5,000 years. If there were any problems with natural cannabis, that would have been apparent a long time ago. However, all we have is this wall of denial by Governments who are afraid of the subject, afraid of becoming unpopular and afraid of it being said that they are going to pot.

I am not unrealistic, and I do not expect the Government to make a volte-face on recreational cannabis, but they should explain their position and realise what is going on. However, the case for medical cannabis, including in its natural form, is overwhelming.”

Some of that case was made by other MPs. Conservative (yes, Conservative!) Graham Stuart said: “My constituent B- M- suffers from Crohn’s disease and psoriatic arthritis, and she is allergic to most of the pharmaceutical medicines that are prescribed—in fact, they have given her ulcers. She has found effective pain relief only through cannabis… Sadly, the current situation sees her forced into the company of illegal drug dealers.”

Green MP Caroline Lucas said: “The biggest scandal is that this Government, like successive Governments, have set their face against the evidence… If we look at an evidence-based approach, there is absolutely no correlation between a drug’s legal status and the amount it gets used. In other words, prohibition simply does not work.”

Former Social Security Secretary Peter Lilley (Con), who co-sponsored the debate, said: “There are practical reasons for wanting to move to legalisation. First, attempts to prohibit the sale and use of cannabis have failed. It is readily available and widely used.

“The second point is that they have failed despite the fact that 80 per cent of the effort in the so-called war on drugs goes on trying to prohibit the use of cannabis. If we provided some legal outlets for cannabis, that enforcement effort, the treatment effort and so on could be diverted to tackling hard drugs, which really do harm people, enslave people and, sometimes, kill people.

“Thirdly, keeping on the statute books a law that is widely ignored and impossible to enforce undermines faith not just in that law, but in law and the legal system more generally.

“Finally, legalisation would deprive the criminal world of a large and lucrative market.”

But Mike Penning, minister for policing, crime and criminal justice, wasn’t having any of it. The most he could offer was: “I am committed to working with other Departments and whoever else wants to work with us to ensure that, in the 21st century, where cannabis can be helpful through pharmaceuticals, we will try to make sure that that happens. I am committed to looking at the research and at what work we should be doing. This debate has been enormously useful, but I cannot support the petition.”

And that was the bottom line.

It’s sad to say that the conclusion to be reached after this debate is not one about whether cannabis should, shouldn’t, will or won’t be legalised, but about the usefulness of government e-petitions – and it is this:

We might as well write our petitions on toilet paper and flush them into the sewers. The Conservative Government we have now would pay just as much attention and respect to that as it will to anything coming in via the e-petitions website.

Searching for silver linings in the Euro election’s purple cloud

No cause for celebration: This man is now the leader of the largest British political organisation in the European Parliament.

No cause for celebration: This man is now the leader of the largest British political organisation in the European Parliament.

Could the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership be sunk off the coast of a new, anti-federalist Europe?

It seems like a natural consequence of the election victories enjoyed by Eurosceptic and far-right parties across the continent – and one of the few reasons to be optimistic about the result.

We don’t have all the information yet, so it is impossible to be sure, but it does seem likely that people who won popular support by emphasising national sovereignty against that of the EU will be against a trade agreement that suppresses nations’ rights to make their own laws, and puts multinational corporations above countries.

Unfortunately UKIP, the British Eurosceptic party that has won 23 seats (so far), seems more likely to support the agreement that would force British workers into lowest-common-denominator working conditions and pay deals, in a betrayal of the populist promises it made to get elected.

Nigel Farage’s campaign took a leaf out of the Conservative Party’s book by hiding some of UKIP’s most unpalatable plans from the electorate; now that he has what he wants, will we see UKIP working to ensure, for example, that National Health Service privatisation is locked into British law? That would require support for TTIP.

If Farage’s party doesn’t support the controversial plan, they’ll probably stay away from the vote (as they do in most matters; UKIP has one of the worst attendance records in the European Parliament).

Of course the European Parliament doesn’t work the same way as the UK Parliament; UKIP may have won the most seats but this does not automatically hand it power – 23 UK seats is only one-third of those available, not a majority, and it will have to join a larger grouping in order to make its voice heard.

UKIP’s choices over the next few days and weeks will be crucial, as they will allow us to form opinions about how the party’s victory will affect life here in the UK.

The Eurosceptic party’s victory – the first time in more than 100 years that an election has been won by someone other than Labour or the Conservatives – means the other British political parties have more soul-searching to do.

Labour came second, defying right-wing pundits on the BBC and elsewhere who were hoping to see “weird” Ed Miliband suffer. But his lead over the Tories is just 1.5 per cent – hardly a ringing endorsement.

Clearly the British people were not convinced by his offer and Labour must revise its position on Europe or prepare to lose the next general election.

A good starting-place for the Party of the Workers would be a promise to halt the flow of migrant workers from EU countries with weaker economies by pushing for a change to the rule allowing free movement between countries – ensuring that this only happens between states that have comparable economies.

This would put an end to the economic opportunism that has caused the perceived flood of migrants from the poorer countries of eastern Europe, and make it possible for British people to get better jobs, offering more working hours – and negotiate for higher pay.

It isn’t rocket science, but Labour has failed to grasp this concept. One has to wonder why. Maybe Labour is still a bit too fond of Conservative-style neoliberalism. Is that it, Ed?

Labour’s problems are nothing compared with those of the Conservative Party. David Cameron wagered that his promise of an in/out referendum on the EU, to take place in 2017, would win him the next UK general election – but this result has shown that the British people don’t believe a word of it.

Rather than be held to ransom by an over-privileged nob, they have turned to an untried party of even more hard-line right-wingers who would probably create worse problems for working Britons than even the Tories, if they were ever elected into office in Westminster.

That is the message David Cameron has to swallow today: We don’t believe him. We don’t trust him. We don’t want him.

Yet his party seems unrepentant. Prominent members have already rejected calls to strengthen the referendum offer, for example.

The loss will make Cameron more likely to seek a deal with UKIP – and one is already in the offing, if we are to believe the denials coming from other leading Tories. This would be to UKIP’s disadvantage as Farage only needs to look at Nick Clegg to see what will happen.

Clegg should be a broken man. Not only have the Liberal Democrats haemorrhaged local councillors, but now he also has to face up to the fact that he has lost all but one of his party’s MEPs.

The BBC said the survival of Catherine Bearder in the South East region prevented a “humiliating wipe-out” – but isn’t the loss of no less than nine MEPs humiliating enough?

Clegg is already facing calls for his resignation amid claims that nobody wants to listen to him any more. This means the turnabout from “I agree with Nick” in 2010 is now complete. Anyone considering going into coalition with the Conservatives (Farage) should pay close attention. The British voter hates traitors.

There is one more matter arising from this result; a fact that you are not likely to hear on the mainstream media, but one that seems increasingly important, considering the demise of the Liberal Democrats.

The Green Party was fourth-placed in this election. Its 1,244,475 (so far) voters mean it had two-sevenths of UKIP’s support, while the Conservative Party – the party in power here in the UK – had only three times as many supporters.

Expect Natalie Bennett and Caroline Lucas to capitalise on this for all they’re worth.

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Lucas, Miller and a law that worked so hard not to treat them equally

140417lucasmiller

Congratulations are due to Green MP Caroline Lucas, who walked free from court today after criminal charges against her were overturned.

She had been charged with obstructing a public highway and a public order offence, during high-profile anti-fracking protests last summer. Neither offence carries a prison sentence – the maximum penalty for either charge would have been a fine of up to £1,000.

District judge Tim Pattinson said the prosecution had failed to satisfy him that Lucas had “the requisite knowledge” about the Section 14 order being in place.

On the obstruction charge, he said he did not hear any evidence that any actual obstruction of a vehicle or person was caused by the protest.

It is good for British justice that Ms Lucas was acquitted – but bad for British justice that she was taken to court in the first place, most particularly because the case contrasts so strongly with that of disgraced former cabinet minister Maria Miller.

Miller claimed tens of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money under false pretences. You can call that fraud, if you like (maximum penalty: 10 years’ imprisonment).

Did she go to court? No.

Because she is a member of Parliament, the financial irregularity was investigated by a Parliamentary body, the Commons Committee on Standards. Rather than take the advice of the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner, who recommended that Miller pay back the full amount, the committee ruled that she should return just £5,800 and apologise to Parliament for obstructive behaviour during the investigation.

Surely everybody can see the double-standard here?

The least we can learn from these two stories is that the law absolutely does not treat everybody equally.

Ms Lucas was arrested, detained at Her Majesty’s convenience and now she has faced trial for the offences alleged against her. This MP, who opposes the government in Parliament, was then acquitted after a fair trial and has the support of the general public in this matter.

Miller was accused of a far more serious crime than Ms Lucas but has not been arrested, has not been detained, and has not been tried for the offences alleged against her. The then-government minister was whitewashed by her colleagues and only resigned because of a public outcry against the decision.

What conclusion can the public draw, other than that government MPs are effectively above the law?

David Cameron’s government can only redeem itself with two actions: It must remove Parliament’s right to investigate claims of financial irregularity by MPs and placing this duty firmly where it belongs – with the police and the Crown Prosecution Service.

The other action?

Obvious, really…

Maria Miller must face a criminal trial, charged with fraud.

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UK government refuses to accept responsibility for crimes against humanity

131109doublespeak

A guest report by Mo Stewart ©Mo Stewart April 2014

Following the bogus Work Capability Assessment (WCA) conducted by Atos Healthcare, as contracted by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), the United Kingdom (UK) Government admitted that it was wrong to cut the disability benefits of Mark Wood, the vulnerable disabled man who starved to death following the removal of his benefits, in the 21st century UK, when weighing only 5st 8lbs.

Regardless of this tragedy, the UK Conservative led Coalition Government still refuses to accept any responsibility.

Despite the fact that the WCA was introduced by the Labour Government in 2008, it was originally designed by previous Conservative Governments, in consultation with the notorious American corporate giant now known as Unum Insurance, identified in 2008 by the American Association for Justice as the second most discredited insurance company in America.

Without a welfare state, sick and disabled people in America are required to use private healthcare insurance. The tyranny now imposed on the sick and disabled people in the UK, using the WCA, was designed in consultation with Unum Insurance to oblige the general public to purchase private income protection insurance policies once it was made very clear that chronically sick and disabled people could no longer rely on the British State for adequate financial support.

Americans often suffer when attempting to claim from the income protection insurance policies of Unum Insurance, who use an identical bogus disability ‘assessment’ model as that used by Atos Healthcare.

Due to the similarities of the negative and damaging experiences of claimants, American sick and disabled people are periodically informed about the struggle in the UK by the high calibre and relentless work of Linda Nee, who tries to encourage claimants to publicly protest as witnessed in the UK, which it seems disabled Americans still don’t dare to do – such is the intimidation of Unum Insurance & the American authorities (see here, here and here).

The new report by The Mental Health Welfare Commission for Scotland, regarding a woman’s suicide after being ‘stripped of disability benefits’, was reported by John Pring at the Disability News Service (DNS) and by many others. The Coalition Government knew this carnage would happen.

Three years ago a list of distinguished academics, together with politicians and disability support groups, identified the future in a letter as published in The Guardian newspaper: ‘Welfare reform bill will punish disabled people and the poor.’ Now, three years after this letter was published, questions are being asked as to why the appointed and totally unsuitable Lord Freud, in his capacity as the Minister for Welfare Reform – who was not elected by anyone in the usual democratic way – deemed it necessary for the DWP to stop collating the numbers of deaths recorded after the long-term sickness and disability benefit, Incapacity Benefit, now changed to the Employment Support Allowance (ESA), is removed from claimants. (My emphasis.MS)

Questions are also being asked as to why this unelected former City banker was ever afforded so much authority and power in the UK Government given his reputation, where one commentator described Freud as: ‘…one of the key players in several of the most embarrassing and badly managed deals in investment banking history.’ (See here and here)(My emphasis. MS)

The recent welfare Backbench Business debate in the House of Commons (HOC) was granted due to the 104,000 signatures on the WOW petition, as gathered by disabled people and their carers, who are demanding a cumulative impact assessment of all the welfare reforms. The debate was held on February 27, 2014 where, lamentably, most Coalition Government Members of Parliament (MPs) failed to attend this very important and historic debate. Of course, Coalition MPs still played the ‘blame game’, reminding the opposition that the previous Labour Government had introduced the Work Capability Assessment (WCA).

However, the Coalition routinely overlook the fact that they knowingly changed the WCA into the government-funded nightmare that it is today, whilst MPs such as George Hollingbury (Column 430) actually claimed that the Coalition “took it forward”… (Welfare Reform Act 2012) whilst disregarding the fact that a WCA face-to-face assessment with Atos Healthcare is taking over six months to arrange. (Column 433) (My emphasis.MS)

Hollingbury waxes lyrically about all the ‘expert’ opinion (Column 431) that totally failed to expose the dangerous and limited reality of the WCA, not least due to the restricted possible answers in the tick box WCA computer questionnaire, as conducted by Atos Healthcare, that fail to offer the choice of ‘none of the above’ as an additional possible answer when the WCA questions do not refer to a particular claimant’s situation.

Hollingbury quotes Dr Litchfield’s WCA review whilst overlooking the fact that Professor Harrington, who conducted the first three annual reviews into the WCA, when no longer responsible, appeared in a BBC Panorama documentary and confirmed that ‘…people will suffer.’ No government representative can answer the subsequent obvious simple question – why should chronically sick and disabled people ‘suffer’ in the UK, apart from at the whim of a tyrannical government? (My emphasis.MS)

During the historic WOW petition debate, Alan Reid (Column 434 & 435) claims to be proud of his record in government as a Liberal Democrat (Lib Dem), still claiming that Lib Dems in government have been responsible for ‘improving’ the WCA process, whilst totally disregarding the fact that it is irrelevant how much more ‘flexibility’ is given to the DWP ‘Decision Makers’ and overlooking the fact that the ‘Decision Makers’, by their own admission, are totally unqualified for the vast responsibility they have. (My emphasis.MS)

They are basic grade administrators, not medical administrators, and they are incapable of comprehending diagnosis, prognosis or the implications of long term drug use when using a combination of prescribed drugs. (See here and here) More and more DWP bureaucracy with more and more administration means more and more delays, increasing DWP errors and utter chaos with a system clearly in meltdown as more and more victims of this UK government suffer and die. (See here and here) (My emphasis.MS)

Guto Bebb (Column 442) demonstrated that he is very poorly briefed, and doesn’t appear to want to be better informed, claiming that the damning report by the National Audit Office was ‘disappointing’ but insisted that the policy aims were OK. Bebb still seems to think that any sick or disabled person not in paid employment is ‘unproductive’. This disabled researcher begs to differ and, if the MP reads the very detailed published reports (here and here) as accessed by academics at universities throughout the UK, he’d know how incorrect he is.

Dame Angela Watkinson (Column 445) also appears to be remarkably poorly informed, as were various other speakers in this poorly attended yet important debate, who continued to repeat government rhetoric whilst disregarding the detailed evidence that has exposed the realities behind the ‘reforms’ as paving the way for private insurance to replace the once-hallowed UK Welfare State.

Since being introduced by the Conservative Government in 1992, all UK Governments have used the second worst insurance company in America as “government advisers” on welfare reforms, and the dangerous and totally discredited WCA is the result. (See here and here)

Jim Sheridan’s comments (Columns 448,449) were especially welcome during the debate when making reference to the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP) that has replaced DLA: “Reference has already been made to the obsession with people receiving welfare benefits, but for those with money – the tax avoiders and evaders – life goes on as normal. If only a fraction of the resources used and the time spent on chasing down those on welfare benefits was diverted to tackle tax avoidance and evasion, some people might understand the rationale behind it.”“When people finally hear about their assessments, there is not much hope. Only 15.4 per cent of new claims have received a decision, and only 12,654 of the 220,300 people who have made a new claim since April 2013 have been awarded some rate of PIP. A constituent of mine got in touch because her father had been diagnosed with lung cancer. Because there is a possibility that his treatment will work, giving him a life expectancy of up to five years, he has not been classed as terminally ill. He is not well enough to attend a medical assessment and so will have to wait longer for a home visit. It appears that letters from his GP, cancer doctor and cancer hospital are not enough to prove the seriousness of his illness.”“Inclusion Scotland has highlighted the case of the father of an applicant who was told that they would have to wait at least 10 months for any kind of decision, and perhaps even for a first assessment. A constituent of mine who is undergoing cancer treatment has been told that the eight-week time frame given by DWP is an unrealistic amount of time in which to process an application and offer an assessment slot. When my staff called the MP’s hotline, they were told that they simply cannot process the number of applicants as there is not enough staff. They also say that most people who have applied for PIP will not be entitled to it, even before individual cases have been looked at. If that is the mindset of the staff processing the applications, it is hard to see how balanced decisions will be made.” (My emphasis. MS)

Dr Eilidh Whiteford’s comments during the debate were also very welcome (Columns 450 & 451) and highlighted the vital work of the disability support groups such as the Black Triangle Campaign: “The Government are looking at this through the wrong end of the telescope. Raising the bar on eligibility will not make anyone any less sick or any less disabled; it will just make it more difficult for them to function in society and place more pressure on those on whom they rely for their care and support”…. “One of the most profoundly disheartening experiences for me as an MP since being elected in 2010 has been the relentless way in which disabled and sick people have been vilified and stigmatised in the public discourse about welfare reform. Those who had very little responsibility for the financial collapse and subsequent economic problems have nevertheless had to carry the can. The attempt to discredit disabled people in order to justify harsh and punitive cuts in their already fairly paltry incomes is quite shameful. It appals me that the most disadvantaged have been asked to pick up the tab disproportionately for the profligacy of others. As we look to the future, we see further cuts of £12 billion, at least, promised in the years ahead. For disabled people in Scotland, the choice between two very different futures is opening up before them: one with decisions on welfare made in Scotland or one where further cuts slash their incomes even more. That choice must seem very stark indeed.” (My emphasis. MS)

The very experienced Labour MP, John McDonnell, who requested this Backbench Business debate, actually confirmed the involvement of Unum Insurance with the entirely bogus WCA (Column 426): “The work capability assessment was flawed from the start. It stemmed from the work of the American insurance company Unum, and the so-called biopsychosocial model of disability assessment. That was exposed as an invention by the insurance companies simply to avoid paying out for claims.”“The staff employed in order to achieve that often had minimal medical or professional qualifications, and their expertise or experience was often totally unrelated to the condition or disability of the people they assessed.”“Assessments largely disregarded people’s previous diagnosis, prognosis or even life expectancy. The recent Panorama programme Disabled or Faking It? exposed the scandal of seriously ill patients—people diagnosed with life-threatening conditions such as heart failure or endstage emphysema—being found fit for work. The so-called descriptors, or criteria, on which assessments are based bear no relation to the potential employment available, take little account of fluctuating conditions and are particularly unresponsive to appreciating someone’s mental health issues.” John also identified the utter absurdity of this Government, introducing yet another bogus assessment as the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) that will ‘replace’ DLA although it is likely to remove this additional support from the vast majority of the 3.5 million people in receipt of DLA.

Shockingly, the provision of a Motability long leased vehicle, as funded by the mobility component of the DLA, will now be removed from the majority of chronically disabled people who do work; thus actually preventing them from going to their place of work since they are physically unable to use public transport, which will dramatically and knowingly increase the numbers of disabled people not in paid employment. (Column 428) (My emphasis.MS)

No matter how many unnecessary tragedies are reported, or how many people die in utter despair and destitution, Conservative MPs like George Hollingbury will dismiss them all as ‘questionable’ results….and Alan Reid, for the Lib Dems, still actually claims to have had some positive function in a Government that helped sick and disabled people, whilst disregarding the horrors, the deaths, the suicides and the overwhelming evidence; including distinguished academic papers from UK universities, together with detailed reports by both the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Nurses. Reid accepts no responsibility for the nightmare he helped to create, blaming anyone except the Government he belongs to. He needs to read the detailed, referenced research to help him learn what the disability movement already know. As he talks nonsense, people die.

Reid complains about Atos whilst ignoring the fact that the DWP is complicit. Totally unqualified DWP ‘Decision Makers’, under any UK Government, are dangerous as they aren’t qualified; they can’t comprehend diagnosis or prognosis and hence they are a liability and constantly make incorrect decisions. Their decisions to remove benefits from genuine claimants are killing the innocent victims of this UK State tyranny. Their countless wrong decisions mean that people die, encouraged by this enthusiastic and very dangerous UK Government, who sit back and watch as the majority of people blame Atos Healthcare who are simply following the DWP contract by using the bogus Lima computer assessment to conduct the WCA, as required by the DWP. (My emphasis.MS)

Atos Healthcare doesn’t remove anyone’s benefits – a constant incorrect claim by many – as they don’t have the authority. All Atos staff can do is to decide if someone is ‘fit for work’ based on the results of a bogus imported computer assessment. Any other company in the same position would result in the same conclusions as that is how the computer software in designed, which is why the Lima software should be banished and this particular WCA cancelled. (My emphasis.MS)

By definition, DWP ‘Decision Makers’ actually make the decisions about welfare benefits. These totally unqualified administrators are required to consider all additional evidence provided by the claimant; including detailed letters from Consultants and GPs who know their patients very well. It is the incompetence of the unqualified DWP Decision Makers, who fail to comprehend the details of medical information and choose to accept any decision following the WCA, as conducted by Atos Healthcare, that makes these DWP staff so very dangerous to the most vulnerable people in the UK. Mandatory reconsiderations won’t help if the Decision Makers remain unqualified for the job. What better way is there to remove as many people as possible from welfare benefits than to employ totally unqualified staff to make these vital decisions? (My emphasis.MS)

Identified claimant suffering includes dramatic increases in the onset of mental health problems. The General Practice (GP) service is close to collapse due to overwhelming numbers of patients needing support with DWP paperwork, that limits GP time spent with other patients who are ill and the British Medical Association (BMA) and the Royal College of Nurses (RCN) have both exposed the WCA as causing ‘preventable harm’ (as we have already seen). Yet this dangerous UK Government, with a Cabinet full of millionaires who fail to comprehend need, dismisses all other evidence regardless of source. They disregard the obvious fact that the ‘reforms’ are falling disproportionately onto chronically disabled people, and those who are very ill and in need of guaranteed long-term welfare benefits, as the Government sells the UK and transforms a once-great nation into UK plc. (My emphasis.MS)

In a now-infamous 2008 interview, Lord Freud claimed that he ‘couldn’t believe’ that anyone had been awarded a benefit ‘for life’, demonstrating the immense danger of permitting a former investment banker to have control of welfare spending when he fails to comprehend that many health conditions are permanent and do indeed last a lifetime. Meanwhile, the Public Accounts Committee’s report of February 2013 regarding the DWP’s contract management of medical services was unlimited in its criticisms of the DWP: ‘Poor decision-making causes claimants considerable distress, and the position appears to be getting worse, with Citizens Advice reporting an 83 per cent increase in the number of people asking for support on appeals in the last year alone. We found the Department to be unduly complacent about the number of decisions upheld by the tribunal and believe that the Department should ensure that its processes are delivering accurate decision-making and minimizing distress to claimants.‘ (My emphasis. MS)

There were many powerful speeches in the historic WOW petition debate and it isn’t possible to highlight them all. However, one name in particular should be highlighted for the courage to expose the fact that, if a link could be proven, “…there would be a case for corporate manslaughter.(Column 460) (My emphasis.MS)

I salute Caroline Lucas MP of the Green Party for her courage and, in particular, for her condemnation of the official opposition for their total failure to offer detailed, significant support to this nation’s chronically sick and disabled people, with the new Shadow Secretary for Work and Pensions, Rachel Reeves MP, using her first interview to announce that she ‘…would be tougher on people on benefits’. (My emphasis.MS)

What a catastrophic announcement from the Shadow Secretary for Work and Pensions that, effectively, offers this nation’s most vulnerable people no hope if the Labour Party were to win the next General Election in 2015.

Given the recent announcement by the largest trade union UNITE, who have threatened to withdraw financial support for the Labour Party due to their abject failure to identify with the working people of this country, there seems little chance of a Labour Government in the UK any time soon. Any future Conservative or Coalition Government will continue to kill many more innocent victims in this state-sanctioned slaughter, which remains the ultimate Thatcher Legacy as interpreted by her devoted disciple – David Cameron.

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Wannabe tyrants’ flimsy excuses for blocking non-party campaigning

Loss of freedom: Every day the Coalition government tries to take something away from you; at the moment, it's your right to criticise.

Loss of freedom: Every day the Coalition government tries to take something away from you; at the moment, it’s your right to free speech.

With the Antisocial Behaviour Bill successfully blocked (for the time being), defenders of Free Speech may return to the Transparency of Lobbying Bill, and its provision to block any campaigning that our right-wing government doesn’t like.

Caroline Lucas MP, writing in The Guardian today, informs us that the Tories’ and Liberal Democrats’ current rationale for the plan to gag us all is to prevent, say, large fracking firms from spending huge amounts of money in her Brighton Pavilion constituency to unseat her.

The Green Party MP writes: “Yes, apparently Tory and Lib Dem supporters of the bill are defending its swingeing provisions at public meetings up and down the country by claiming they’re necessary in order to prevent fracking firm Cuadrilla pumping a million pounds into Brighton Pavilion to unseat me, and – of course – they would hate to see that happen.”

This is laughable. No member of one party would lift a finger to prevent a member of another from losing their seat.

However, we can use this argument to get to a more likely truth – simply by reversing it.

So let’s suggest that the plan to cut, drastically, spending limits on campaigns by third-party organisations, to broaden the definition of what constitutes campaigning in order to catch more people within the legislation and to regulate organisations lobbying on issues at constituency level is in fact intended to protect Conservative and Liberal Democrat seats from attacks by ordinary people like you and me.

Does this seem more likely?

The evidence does tend to stack up in favour. The legislation is already well-known as the ‘Gagging’ Bill and, as Ms Lucas explains in her article, “would effectively shut down legitimate voices seeking to raise awareness on issues of public interest, whether they are on NHS reform, housing policy, or wildlife conservation”.

Taking just those three examples, the general public remains infuriated at the way the Health and Social Care Act – otherwise known as the NHS Privatisation Act – was pushed through Parliament while mounting public and professional opposition to its provisions was ignored. We counted on our representatives in Parliament and in the press and they let us down. The BBC in particular should hang its corporate head in shame. The ‘Gagging’ Bill would ensure that we could not raise the issue again during an election period, giving the Coalition parties a chance to brush it under the carpet or dismiss it as old news.

The Bedroom Tax will remain a burning issue until after the 2015 election, whether the government likes it or not – the recent revelation that regulations governing people who were social housing tenants before 1996 exempt them from the Tax ensures it, as the government has already committed itself to re-writing those regulations and re-assessing the tenants who are currently let off the hook. Not only that, but tenants who have already lost money – or perhaps even their homes – because they didn’t know these regulations still applied will want reparation for the way they have been treated; let’s not forget that any harm done to those tenants is an illegal act. The ‘Gagging’ Bill would sideline these people and this issue.

As for wildlife conservation, you may be aware that there has been a hugely controversial cull of badgers in a couple of English counties. The pretext for this is the eradication of Tuberculosis – the badgers are said to carry the disease and pass it on to cattle, causing costly damage to herds. However, it seems not one culled badger has been tested for the disease – and at £4,100 per dead badger, is the cull not fairly costly itself?

Coming back to the Guardian article, Ms Lucas hits the nail on the head: “Big business or wealthy people like Lord Ashcroft don’t influence politics through charities, small community groups or campaigning organisations. They often already gain it through family connections or social networks, or they buy it through donations to political parties. Or, in the case of the big energy companies, they helpfully supply staff to work in government departments. The provisions of the lobbying bill will do nothing to stop any of that.

“Sadly, one of the underlying reasons for the government’s attempts to push through this bill is that it is afraid of the power of informed and organised public opinion.

“If Nick Clegg and David Cameron get their way, the legitimate voices of the third sector will be suppressed, and their power neutered.”

Isn’t that what tyrants (or in this case, wannabe tyrants) do?

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The biggest threat to democracy since World War II – and they tried to keep it secret

Corporate trade a-greed-ment: Notice that this image of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership has mighty corporations straddling the Atlantic while the 'little' people - the populations they are treading on - are nowhere to be seen. [Picture: FT]

Corporate trade a-greed-ment: Notice that this image of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership has mighty corporations straddling the Atlantic while the ‘little’ people – the populations they are treading on – are nowhere to be seen. [Picture: FT]

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is bitter pill for anyone to swallow, if they have spent any time defending Britain’s membership of the European Union.

The partnership between the EU and the United States would open America to the kind of free trade deals that have been going on in Europe ever since the original Economic Community was formed – but there is a problem.

It isn’t a problem for businesses; they are in line to get a deal better than anything ever experienced in the world of trade. Citizens and national governments, on the other hand – you, me, and the people who represent us – will be railroaded.

This is because the agreement includes a device called ‘investor-state dispute settlement’, which allows corporate entities to sue governments, overruling domestic courts and the will of Parliaments.

In other words, this could be the biggest threat to democracy since World War II.

In the UK, it could be used by shale mining companies to ensure that the government could not keep them out of protected areas, by banks fighting financial regulation, and by cigarette companies fighting the imposition of plain packaging for cigarettes. How do we know? Because these things are already happening elsewhere in the world.

If a product had been banned by a country’s regulators, the manufacturer will be able to sue them, forcing that state to pay compensation or let the product in – even if this undermines health and safety laws in that country.

It seems that domestic courts are deemed likely to be biased or lack independence, but nobody has explained why they think the secretive arbitration panels composed of corporate lawyers will be impartial. Common sense says they’ll rule for the profit, every time.

Now ask yourself a question: Have you ever heard about this?

Chances are that you haven’t – unless you have read articles by George Monbiot (one in The Guardian this week prompted this piece) or have insider knowledge.

The European Commission has done its utmost to keep the issue from becoming public knowledge. Negotiations on the trade and investment partnership have involved 119 behind-closed-doors meetings with corporations and their lobbyists (please note that last point, all you supporters of the government’s so-called Transparency of Lobbying Bill), and just eight with civil society groups. Now that concerned citizens have started to publicise the facts, the Commission has apparently worked out a way to calm us down with a “dedicated communications operation” to “manage stakeholders, social media and transparency” by claiming that the deal is about “delivering growth and jobs” and will not “undermine regulation and existing levels of protection in areas like health, safety and the environment” – meaning it will do precisely the opposite.

Your Coalition government appears to be all for it. Kenneth Clarke reckons it is “Scrooge-like” to inflate concerns about investor protection and ignore the potential economic gains – but if the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement is any yardstick, exports will drop and thousands of jobs will be lost.

Green MP Caroline Lucas has published an early day motion on the issue – signed by a total of seven fellow Parliamentarians so far.

Labour MEPs are doing their best to cut the ‘investor-state dispute settlement’ out of the agreement, but they are fighting a lonely battle against the massed forces of greed.

So now ask yourself a second question: Why is the European Commission lying to Britain when we are already halfway out of the door?

Britain is not happy with the European Union or its place within that organisation. People think too much of their national sovereignty – their country’s freedom to do what it wants – is being stripped away by faceless bureaucrats who do not have the best interests of the population at heart. Now the European Commission is trying to foist this upon us.

For Eurosceptics in Parliament – of all political hues – this is a gift. For those of us who accept that we are better off in Europe – as it is currently constituted and without the new trade agreement – it is a poisoned pill.

Are we being pushed into a position where we have to choose between two evils that could have been avoided, if only our leaders had had an ounce of political will and an inch of backbone?

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Gagging and blacklisting bill overcomes first Parliamentary hurdle

Public opinion on lobbyists: Note the proximity of the words "corrupt", "cheats" and "influential".

Public opinion on lobbyists: Note the proximity of the words “corrupt”, “cheats” and “influential”. [Picture stolen from PR Week]

A Parliamentary Bill designed to prevent free speech by gagging political commentators, and to enable the ‘blacklisting’ of trade union members by having their names registered, has won the favour of Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs this evening.

They voted to allow the inappropriately-titled ‘Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill’ to proceed to its committee stage after a debate today (Tuesday).

That stage will last for only a few days, during which it will be examined by a ‘committee of the whole House’ – in other words, the Bill is being guillotined; hurried through Parliament in order to get it onto the statute books after the least possible scrutiny. It seems that the government has something to hide.

Could it be the fact that the Electoral Commission, the organisation that would enforce the Bill’s provisions if it is passed into law, has made it perfectly clear that it is an attempt to stifle political commentary from organisations and individuals: “The Bill creates significant regulatory uncertainty for large and small organisations that campaign on, or even discuss, public policy issues in the year before the…general election, and imposes significant new burdens on such organisations”?

Could it be the fact that new regulations for trade unions mean members could be blacklisted – denied jobs simply because of their membership?

Could it be the fact that the measures against lobbyists – the Bill’s apparent reason for existing – are expected to do nothing to hinder Big Money’s access to politicians, and in fact is likely to accelerate the process, turning Parliamentarians into corporate poodles?

If so, then the attempt has failed, because all of these, and more, were discussed in today’s debate.

But don’t worry – we have the assurances of Andrew Lansley, Leader of the House of Commons, to keep us from losing sleep over it. The man who asked us to believe his so-called reform of the National Health Service would not lead to wholesale privatisation – and look at it now – took a telling question from Glenda Jackson, early in his opening speech.

She said the Bill “has created almost a fire-storm in my constituency. My constituents are appalled at what they regard as a gagging Bill. They wish to see a list of lobbyists that is transparent to ensure that Government cannot be bought — even though that is a debatable issue. They know that the Bill as it stands would prevent democratic voices from being heard.”

Mr Lansley’s response: “I look forward to the Honourable Lady having an opportunity after today’s debate to go back to her constituents, to tell them that the things they are alarmed about will not happen.”

Let’s hold him to that, shall we? Bear in mind that lying to Parliament is an expulsion offence, even if this particular government does not enforce it. David Cameron and Iain Duncan Smith have already defied Parliamentary convention by telling appalling untruths to their fellow MPs and walking back to their jobs; now it seems likely Mr Lansley may have done the same.

High on the list of opposition MPs’ concerns was the fact that the Bill does nothing to prevent lobbyists working directly for commercial concerns from approaching government ministers and trying to influence them.

“Recent freedom of information requests reveal that Treasury officials met fracking industry representatives 19 times in the last 10 months about their generous tax breaks, yet the public are denied any further details of that lobbying on the grounds that it could prejudice commercial interests,” said Green MP Caroline Lucas. “Is the Leader of the House not ashamed that this Bill will drastically curtail the ability of charities to campaign in the public interest on issues such as fuel poverty and energy but do nothing to curb such secretive corporate influencing?”

And Labour’s Chris Bryant had a query of his own: “Every single member of the public affairs team in-house at BSkyB will be able to visit as many Ministers as they want and every single lawyer employed by BSkyB to advance its case will be able to do so without any need to register. The only person who would have to register would be an independent consultant in a company that solely lobbies. How does that possibly afford greater transparency?”

Mr Lansley’s response: “It promotes transparency because if a representative of Sky visits a Minister in order to discuss that business, it is transparent that they are doing so in order to represent the interests of Sky. However, if somebody from ‘XYZ Corporation’, a consultant lobbying firm, visits a Minister in order to discuss somebody else’s business but it is not transparent through the ministerial diary publication who they are representing, that is not transparent. We propose to remedy that by making it transparent.”

Oh, well that’s all right then.

No it isn’t! It’s the complete opposite of all right! Where the public wanted a curb on corporations corruptly influencing the government, it is instead offering to rub that influence in our faces!

“This is one of the worst Bills that I have seen any Government produce in a very long time,” said Lansley’s shadow, Angela Eagle. The last Bill this bad might even have been the Health and Social Care Act 2012, and the Leader of the House of Commons had his fingerprints all over that one, too… This Bill is hurried, badly drafted and an agglomeration of the inadequate, the sinister and the partisan. From a Government who solemnly promised that they would fix our broken politics, the Bill will do the complete opposite.

“The Bill can best be summed up as furious displacement activity by a Government who hope that the public will not notice their problems with lobbying… they are trying to ram through their gag on charities and campaigners… so that they are silenced in time for the next general election, and they are trying to avoid the scrutiny that will show the public what a disgrace the Bill is.”

She said: “Three and a half years ago the Prime Minister, when Leader of the Opposition, told us that lobbying was the next big scandal waiting to happen. He did not tell us then that he was going to do nothing about it for over three years but survive a series of lobbying scandals and then produce a Bill so flawed that it would actually make things worse.

“Under the Government’s definition, someone will count as a lobbyist only if they lobby, directly, Ministers or permanent secretaries and if their business is mainly for the purposes of lobbying. It is estimated that that will cover less than one-fifth of those people currently working in the £2 billion lobbying industry, and the Association of Professional Political Consultants estimates that only one per cent of ministerial meetings organised by lobbyists would be covered.

“It would be extremely easy to rearrange how such lobbying is conducted to evade the need to appear on the new register at all. The Bill is so narrow that it would fail to cover not only the lobbyist currently barnacle-scraping at the heart of Number 10 [Lynton Crosby], but any of the lobbying scandals that have beset the Prime Minister in this Parliament.

“There is a real risk that the proposals will make lobbying less transparent than it is now. The Government’s proposed register would cover fewer lobbyists than the existing, voluntary, register run by the UK Public Affairs Council.

Moving on to part two of the Bill, she said, “In one of the most sinister bits of legislation that I have seen in some time, this Bill twists the rules on third-party campaigning to scare charities and campaigners away from speaking out. It is an assault on the Big Society that the Prime Minister once claimed to revere… It is clear that these changes will have wide-ranging implications for many hundreds of charities and campaigners, local and national, large and small.

“Some of them have told us that they will have to pull back from almost all engagement in debates on public policy in the year before the election. These changes have created massive uncertainty for those who may fall within the regulations in a way that the Electoral Commission has deplored.

“The changes will mean that third-party campaigning will be restricted even if it was not intended to affect the outcome of an election — for example, engaging in public policy debate. Staff costs and overheads will also have to be included in what has to be declared — something that does not apply in this way to political parties. The Electoral Commission has said that these changes could have a ‘dampening effect’ on public debate. The National Council for Voluntary Organisations has said that the changes will ‘have the result of muting charities and groups of all sorts and sizes on the issues that matter most to them and the people that they support’.”

And on part three, which centres on trade union membership records, she said, “There appears to be no policy motive for the introduction of this new law other than as a vehicle for cheap, partisan attacks on the trade unions, of which only a minority are actually affiliated to the Labour party.

“Officials from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills have been totally unable to explain the problem that this part of the Bill is designed to solve. During a belated consultation meeting with the TUC — it took place after the Bill had been published — BIS officials could cast no light on why part three exists at all. Nor were they able to explain the origin of these proposals beyond their oft-repeated mantra that the provisions contained in part three ‘came out of a high level meeting between the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister’. I think that revelation tells us all we need to know about the grubby, partisan nature of the measures.

“These proposals seem deliberately designed to burden trade unions with additional cost and bureaucracy from a Government who claim they are against red tape. This is despite the fact that unions already have a statutory duty to maintain registers of members. I understand from the TUC that neither the certification officer nor ACAS has made any representations to suggest that that was not already sufficient. The Government have to date failed to provide any evidence or rationale for these changes, so I can only conclude that this is a deliberate attempt to hamper unions with red tape because a minority of them have the temerity to support the Labour party.”

And she said: “I have serious concerns about the implications of these changes for the security of membership data. We all know that the blacklisting of trade union members may well still exist in our country. Blacklisting has ruined many lives and these changes could have some very dangerous implications, especially in the construction industry, where many are afraid to declare their membership of a trade union openly for fear of the repercussions.”

And Graham Allen, Chair of the Select Committee on Political and Constitutional Reform, lambasted the Bill. He said: “If someone wanted to do O-level politics on how to produce or not to produce a Bill, I am sorry, but this Bill would be an F — a fail, big time.

“Read the evidence from the Electoral Commission when I publish it in 48 hours’ time. It is damning evidence from people who should really all be on the same side to ensure this provision will happen.

“We should listen to people. Let us have some consultation; let Parliament do its job, smoke out some of the issues and attempt to resolve them. I have a fantastic all-party committee and we could do that job for Parliament, yet those things have been resolutely held at arm’s length.

“Perversely, we are trying to make a Bill that divides rather than keeps people together.”

It isn’t perverse at all. That is precisely the point of it.

Lies, lobbying, Lynton – and a last insult before the long summer break

Taking instructions: Who's on the line, Lynton? Your boss David Cameron, your bosses at Philip Morris, or one of your many other clients?

Taking instructions: What’s that on the line, Lynton? Your boss David Cameron, your bosses at Philip Morris, or one of your many other clients? Or maybe your job?

How nice to see that concerns raised on this blog about the undue influence exerted on MPs by their other interests have been raised in Parliament, along with a Bill to publicise attempts to influence MPs by lobbying organisations.

What a shame that the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill was introduced on the last day before the Parliamentary summer recess in order to prevent anyone complaining about what it contains, is a load of self-serving rubbish that isn’t worth the paper it has been written on – and as such is a symptom, not only of the state of the current government, but of modern UK politics in general (I blame whoever runs the Politics, Philosophy and Economics course at Oxford).

As Unlock Democracy – the campaigning group for democracy, rights and freedoms – puts it, the new bill “is not a statutory register of lobbyists, which the government committed itself to in its coalition agreement; it is a statutory register of lobbying consultants. That simple change has, at a stroke, exempted more than 80 per cent of the £2 billion lobbying industry from having to comply with the register.”

This means the bill does not address the problem of lobbying at all. UD director Alexandra Runswick said: “The problem with lobbying is not the respectable lobbying consultants who abide by a code of practice and already work in a relatively transparent way; the problem is the more underhand activity, whether it is employed by consultants, think tanks, law firms, in-house lobbyists or private individuals.

“By establishing such a gaping loophole, the government will simply drive business away from lobbying consultants and into the arms of less reputable agencies.

“This bill is the next big scandal waiting to happen.”

The organisation has published its own draft bill, that seeks, in the words of Green MP Caroline Lucas, “to deliver real transparency over who is lobbying whom, what’s being spent and who lobbyists are working for – if a special adviser is also working for a tobacco company we need to know about it.” Step forward, Lynton Crosby – the next big scandal.

Mr Crosby, who is David Cameron’s election strategist, works for a company of ‘campaign specialists’ called Crosby Textor, that advised private healthcare providers on how to exploit perceived “failings” in the NHS, according to The Guardian, and of course also works for tobacco giant Philip Morris International.

This is, of course, a huge conflict of interest and Messrs Cameron and Crosby had only themselves to blame when a political row erupted after the government suddenly dropped its much-publicised plans to remove all branding from cigarette packets.

Hugo Rifkind sent up the situation on Radio 4’s The News Quiz (Friday, July 19): “Lynton Crosby… is a strategist for the Conservative Party, and also a lobbyist on behalf of tobacco companies, and there’s an outrageous suggestion that this whole thing about plain packaging on cigarette packets could be somehow linked to his other role… Lynton Crosby is obviously a fine, upstanding man, he has obviously done nothing wrong. Obviously he has completely compartmentalised these two parts of his life and I’m really amazed we’re even talking about it.”

In an interview, David Cameron said he made the decision to U-turn on cigarette packaging at the kitchen table in his Downing Street flat.

But the flat is accepted as being territory that is not recognised as a place for meetings with anybody – lobbyists included – and the comedy Prime Minister did not say whether Mr Crosby was in the room (or had been) when he made that decision.

So what we see is a weak show of willingness to legislate, completely undermined by a strong demonstration of the hold that corporate lobbyists have over their servants in politics – including, in this case, the British Prime Minister. It seems he is working for them, not you.

Michael Meacher’s blog provides a handy list of other inadequacies in the Lobbying Bill:

It allows professional lobbying firms to keep their clients secret, provided they limit their meetings to special advisers and mid-rank officials; they will only have to reveal their clients if they meet ministers or permanent secretaries.

The register of lobbyists it will set up will exclude companies whose lobbying activities constitutes only a small part of the business.

It also discriminates against trade unions even though they are campaigning organisations, not lobbyists.

The bill limits the amount trade unions and other registered ‘third parties’ can contribute directly to general election campaigns by three-fifths, from £988,000 to £390,000. And it proposes that unions will be forced to undergo annual audits on the size of their membership.

Neither measure has anything to do with the bill’s main purpose and both should be struck from it before it is allowed onto the statute book.

And, as Mr Meacher notes, there is “not a word about the £25bn a year the Tory party get from hedge funds and the banks which makes them the biggest lobbyists of all”.

Perhaps those who drafted this nonsense (it is sponsored by Andrew Lansley, who was responsible for that other great travesty, the Health and Social Care Act 2012), should take time during the summer recess to consider withdrawing it altogether and replacing it with something fit for purpose.

With this government, that would be a refreshing change.

The petition for REAL MP accountability – proposing that they be banned from voting on matters in which they have a financial interest – is at http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/44971

(The first Vox Political collection, Strong Words and Hard Times, is now available and may be ordered from this website)