Tag Archives: chaos

Williamson was warned of exam chaos in July, and did nothing. Why has he not been sacked?

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There can be no sympathy for the Johnson government over its ‘A’ level and GCSE exam failures now we know Education Secretary Gavin Williamson was warned in good time – and couldn’t be bothered to do anything.

Former Department for Education Director-General Sir Jon Coles raised concerns in July, and actually had a meeting with Williamson and schools minister Nick Gibb.

The revelation piles up new pressure for the Education Secretary to resign, as he claimed he had only realised there were flaws in the system created to work out students’ ‘A’ level grades over the weekend.

This Site pointed out after he made the claim that it was just an excuse. It seems I was right.

Oh, and it seems he also lied that he was the one who recommended the 280,000 ‘A’ level grades that had been decided using a computer algorithm should be ditched. In fact, it seems Ofqual made the call and the DfE agreed.

All in all, we have learned at least two things from the dangerous mess Williamson has created:

First, that nobody’s fate should be decided by a computer algorithm that is subject to perversion according to the prejudices of its writers and those who commission it.

Second, that Gavin Williamson should be removed – forcibly if necessary – from any position of responsibility in the future. His best job in Parliament is sweeping the floors.

He tried to make thousands of students look stupid but it turns out he’s the dunce.

Source: Tories admit Gavin Williamson was warned about GCSE and A-levels chaos six weeks ago – Mirror Online

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Coronavirus UK: Are the Tories deliberately trying to increase the hysteria?

Only one element unifies the constant babble about coronavirus from the UK’s Tory government at the moment: it is contradictory, confusing and seems designed to increase hysteria, rather than reduce it.

For a start: what’s with the policy of drip-feeding information via individuals or single media sites, rather than broadcasting updates to everyone in regular press conferences and on the government website?

Today we see Matt Hancock – behind a paywall – on the Torygraph website, contradicting the government’s announcement last week that the Tories would be seeking to establish ‘herd immunity’ by allowing us all to be infected, thereby condemning the oldest and weakest of us to death.

Here is that article in full. The Telegraph‘s owners should be run out of the country for putting profit before lives:

That previous announcement was made by scientific advisor Patrick Vallance. His latest advice is in The Sun. I haven’t seen it because I won’t willingly visit that paper’s website and the physical copies are only good to be snapped up by people who need toilet paper as a result of the government-induced panic-buying we’ve all seen.

Robert Peston has been parrotting information he’s been given. Did he even know it was accurate before he repeated it? My understanding is no.

Is it, as Carole Cadwalladr suggests, an attempt to avoid these leaks being attributed to individual ministers who can then be questioned over the validity of their decisions?

Worse still is the claim that people attacking this strategy are “politicising” the corona crisis.

We had this after This Site pointed out the political implications of the Grenfell Tower inferno, back in 2017. I was vindicated, of course – Grenfell has been a scandal that has rumbled on to this very day.

The simple fact is that coronavirus is already political. As Grace Blakely points out here, people have already died as a result of political decisions and the only question is whether those decisions can reduce the toll.

At the moment, it seems that Boris Johnson and his government, by flip-flopping through the crisis, adopting one strategy for a couple of days and then denying it in favour of another, are doing everything they can to create chaos, boost hysteria and ramp up the human cost.

Consider South Korea, the country generally accepted to have got the best grip on the spread of coronavirus. Here’s Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha explaining to Andrew Marr that testing people for the virus is vital… followed by a tweet showing that the UK government has abandoned that vital testing:

Is this a death sentence for old and vulnerable people?

Oh – and apparently the old and vulnerable could be arrested if they don’t quarantine themselves:

So it seems we’re being faced with a situation in which the people most vulnerable to the virus are being told to hide themselves away from society for weeks at a time.

What happens then? Will we see government vans roaming our streets and suburbs, calling for you to “Bring out your dead”?

There will be a knock-on effect again food banks, most of which have already been harmed by the panic-buying spree:

So the “Bring out your dead” vans will remain gainfully employed, picking up the bodies of the underpaid workers whose wages the Tories have been sitting on for so many years.

Evidence is piling up to show that the National Health Service – weakened to a constant crisis point by 10 years of Tory underfunding – is simply unable to cope with the extra workload of thousands (if not millions) of COVID-19 patients. This is the opinion of the British Medical Association, as you can see here.

Already Hancock has admitted that the service doesn’t have enough ventilators:

So he’s trying to buy some more, or get manufacturers to make them:

But it’s an ill wind that blows no good to anybody: the Tories’ friends in private medicine are set to rake in £2.4 million every day, loaning out 8,000 beds to the NHS.

That’s more than 3,000 fewer beds than the Tories closed between 2010 and 2017 (I have yet to find figures leading up to the present day)!

Meanwhile, the crisis is revealing hard truths about ourselves:

There is only one conclusion to draw from the above: Don’t trust the Tory government. You’ll be putting your life in the hands of people who simply couldn’t care less.

I think it was Tim Fenton, on his Zelo Street blog, who said Boris Johnson, Dominic Cummings and their cronies simply aren’t equipped to provide information; they offer information warfare – strong on falsehood and misinformation. And they can’t seem to stop.

Call me a raging conspiracy theorist if you like, but the thought has crossed my mind that everything we’re experiencing right now could be a sign of Johnson putting those eugenics ideas into practise – you know, the ideas about cleaning the gene pool of weaknesses and impurities for which Andrew Sabisky had to resign his job as a government advisor. We have enough evidence to conclude that Johnson supports those views, as does Cummings.

So we can’t trust the government.

How about relying on something we’ve had a lot longer.

Where’s our common sense? People have had to cope with disease epidemics – of this very kind – for centuries. Why not go back to tried-and-trusted remedies, at least while the politicians and the medics try to sort themselves out?

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Bercow bemoans ‘sorry saga’ of European Arrest Warrant

Perfect timing: Chief Whip Michael Gove arrives in the Commons chamber just as Speaker John Bercow is finishing his attack on the government's handling of the proposed debate and vote on the European Arrest Warrant. The blame for the fiasco has been laid on the government's whips.

Perfect timing: Chief Whip Michael Gove arrives in the Commons chamber just as Speaker John Bercow is finishing his attack on the government’s handling of the proposed debate and vote on the European Arrest Warrant. The blame for the fiasco has been laid on the government’s whips.

John Bercow is a Conservative – although, for much of the time, it’s hard to tell what planet he’s on, let alone whose side.

As Speaker of the House of Commons he is supposed to be impartial but he seems to find it hard to maintain this stance, with his own party bearing the brunt of his displeasure more often than not.

Today has been a prime example. The government had scheduled a debate over the European Arrest Warrant but there was confusion over whether a vote would take place.

It had been promised by the Home Secretary, Theresa May.

But the matter had been complicated when some MPs tried to turn it into an issue about the European Union, rather than justice.

The motion today followed a decision last year to opt out of 133 EU police and criminal justice measures, including the European Arrest Warrant – and was expected to be about rejoining 35 of those measures, including the EAW.

But at the start of the debate, Mr Bercow had to tell MPs that the vote would be on only 10 of the regulations. It seems the government was hoping to slip the EAW through ‘by proxy’. Perhaps the hope was that this would avoid a possible schism in the Conservative Party over the EU.

Former Tory – now UKIP – MP Douglas Carswell tweeted his opinion of this behaviour: “Devious and underhand tactics by govt whips have reduced Commons to a farce.”

The BBC has reported that Mr Bercow said he had expected a vote on the warrant, condemned the situation as a “sorry saga” and added that “the House should not be put in that position”.

He said: “A commitment is a commitment to be honoured, rather than trying to slip things through [by] some sort of artifice.

He said the public expected “straightforward dealing and they are frankly contemptuous… of what is not straightforward dealing”.

That discussion took place between 4.30 and 5pm and at the time of writing – 7.30pm – MPs remain undecided about what they are debating.

You see, it gets worse. After the Speaker savaged the situation, InJustice Secretary Chris Grayling got up and said the vote would be on all 35 measures the government wants to bring back in – directly contradicting Mr Bercow. That got shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper up on her hind legs to deliver the damning verdict: “What a shambles; what complete chaos.”

It is.

It is another example of the low regard Conservative ministers have for Parliamentary procedure and the rule of law.

If they want to push a measure through, then they will descend to any depth in order to achieve it. In this case, it seems they wanted to avoid giving Eurosceptic Tories a chance to rebel against the government, so the Chief Whip (Michael Gove), the Justice Secretary (Chris Grayling) and the Home Secretary (Theresa May) seem to have cooked up a fudge, with a vote on only 10 measures but the decision expected to count on the EAW as well.

That is “not straightforward dealing”. It is “trying to slip things through [by] some sort of artifice”.

It is not statesmanlike.

It certainly isn’t honest.

It is the behaviour of people who clearly do not deserve to be ministers in the UK government.

But then, the Coalition has made a mockery of Parliament ever since May 2010.

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DWP debate highlights Duncan Smith’s failure to perform

“This particular Secretary of State, along with his Department, is pushing people through [the] cracks and hoping that the rest of the country will not notice that they have disappeared.” – Glenda Jackson MP, June 30, 2014.

Yesterday’s Parliamentary debate on the performance of the Department for Work and Pensions under Iain Duncan Smith was more like a trial, with witnesses lining up to condemn the accused.

If the man this blog likes to call RTU (Returned To Unit) thought he would be able to show that his behaviour had improved, he was sorely mistaken – as the comment above illustrates.

It is vital that this information reaches the general public despite the apparent news blackout, in the mainstream media, of any disparaging information about Duncan Smith or his DWP.

But we were discussing the debate as a trial. Let us first look at the evidence in favour of the government.

There. That was illuminating, wasn’t it?

Seriously, the government benches were unable to put up a single supportable point against the mountain of evidence put forward by Labour.

Iain Duncan Smith, the Secretary-in-a-State, resorted yet again to his favourite tactic – and one for which he should have been sacked as an MP long ago – lying to Parliament. He accused Labour of leaving behind a “shambles” – in fact the economy had begun to improve under intelligent guidance from Alistair Darling. “The economy was at breaking point,” he said – in fact the British economy cannot break; it simply doesn’t work that way. His claim that “We were burdened with the largest deficit in peacetime history” is only supportable in money terms, and then only because inflation means the pound is worth so much less than it was in, say, the 1940s – or for the entire century between 1750 and 1850. He called yesterday’s debate “a cynical nugget of short-term policy to put to the unions,” but the evidence below renders that completely irrelevant.

He said complaints about long delivery times for benefits were “out of date” – a common excuse. He’ll do the same in a few months, when the same complaint is raised again.

“Universal Credit is rolling out to the timescale I set last year,” he insisted – but we all know that it has been ‘reset’ (whatever that means) by the government’s Major Projects Authority.

He said there had been four independent reviews of the work capability assessment for Employment and Support Allowance, with more than 50 recommendations by Sir Malcolm Harrington accepted by the government. This was a lie. We know that almost two-thirds of the 25 recommendations he made in his first review were not fully or successfully implemented.

He said appeals against ESA decisions “are down by just under 90 per cent” – but we know that this is because of the government’s unfair and prejudicial mandatory reconsideration scheme – and that the DWP was bringing in a new provider to carry out work capability assessments. Then he had to admit that this provider has not yet been chosen! And the backlog of claims mounts up.

He tried to justify his hugely expensive botched IT schemes by pointing at a Labour scheme for the Child Support Agency that wasted hundreds of millions less than his Universal Credit, without acknowledging the obvious flaw in his argument: If he knew about this mistake, why is he repeating it?

Conservative Mark Harper said Labour opposed the Tories’ most popular scheme – the benefit cap. That was a lie. Labour supported the cap, but would have set it at a higher level. We know that the Coalition government could not do this because it would not, then, have made the huge savings they predicted.

Now, the evidence against.

First up is Rachel Reeves, shadow secretary of state for work and pensions: “After £612 million being spent, including £131 million written off or ‘written down’, the introduction of Universal Credit is now years behind schedule with no clear plan for how, when, or whether full implementation will be achievable or represent value for money.

Over 700,000 people are still waiting for a Work Capability Assessment, and… projected spending on Employment and Support Allowance has risen by £800 million since DecemberThe Government [is] still not able to tell us which provider will replace Atos.

Personal Independence Payment delays have created uncertainty, stress and financial costs for disabled people and additional budgetary pressures for Government… Desperate people, many of whom have been working and paying into the system for years or decades and are now struck by disability or illness, waiting six months or more for help from the Department for Work and Pensions.

The Work Programme has failed to meet its targets, the unfair bedroom tax risks costing more than it saves, and other DWP programmes are performing poorly or in disarray.

“Spending on housing benefit for people who are in work has gone up by more than 60 per cent, reflecting the fact that more people are in low-paid or insecure work and are unable to make ends meet, even though they may be working all the hours God sends.

“More than five million people — 20 per cent of the workforce — are paid less than the living wage. Furthermore, 1.5 million people are on zero-hours contracts and 1.4 million people are working part time who want to work full time.

“This… is about the young woman diagnosed with a life-limiting illness who has waited six months for any help with her living costs. It is about the disabled man whose payments have been stopped because he did not attend an interview to which he was never invited.

“The Government are wasting more and more taxpayers’ money on poorly planned and disastrously managed projects, and are allowing in-work benefits to spiral because of their failure to tackle the low pay and insecurity that are adding billions of pounds to the benefits bill.

“The Government are careless with the contributions that people make to the system, callous about the consequences of their incompetence for the most vulnerable, and too arrogant to admit mistakes and engage seriously with the task of sorting out their own mess.

“What this Government have now totally failed to do is to remember the human impact, often on people in vulnerable circumstances, of this catalogue of chaos. Behind the bureaucratic language and spreadsheets showing backlogs and overspends are people in need who are being let down and mistreated, and taxpayers who can ill afford the mismanagement and waste of their money.

“To fail to deliver on one policy might be considered unfortunate; to miss one’s targets on two has to be judged careless; but to make such a complete mess of every single initiative the Secretary of State has attempted requires a special gift. It is something like a Midas touch: everything he touches turns into a total shambles.

Meanwhile, the Secretary of State will spew out dodgy statistics, rant and rave about Labour’s record, say “on time and on budget” until he is blue in the face and, in typical Tory style, blame the staff for everything that goes wrong.”

Julie Hilling (Labour) provides this: “The Government do not know what they are talking about… They talk about the number of jobs being created, but they do not know how many of them are on zero-hours contracts or how many are on Government schemes or how many have been transferred from the public sector.”

Stephen Doughty (Labour/Co-op): “another stark indictment of their policies is the massive increase in food banks across this country.”

Helen Jones (Labour): “When I asked how many people in my constituency had been waiting more than six months or three months for medical assessments for personal independence payment, the Government told me that the figures were not available. In other words, they are not only incompetent; they do not know how incompetent they are!”

Sheila Gilmore (Labour): “Although the problems with Atos were known about—and it is now being suggested that they had been known about for some time—a contract was given to that organisation for PIP. Was due diligence carried out before the new contract was issued?”

Gordon Marsden (Labour): “Many of my constituents have been caught by the double whammy of delays involving, first, the disability living allowance and now PIP. They have waited long periods for a resolution, but because a decision is being reconsidered, their Motability — the lifeline that has enabled them to get out of their homes — has been taken away before that decision has been made. Is that not a horrendous indictment of the Government?”

Emily Thornberry (Labour): “I have been making freedom of information requests.. in relation to mandatory reconsiderations. When people get their work capability assessment, and it has failed, before they can appeal there has to be a mandatory reconsideration. The Department does not know how many cases have been overturned, how many claimants have been left without any money and how long the longest period is for reconsideration. It cannot answer a single one of those questions under a freedom of information request.”

Natascha Engel (Labour): “The welfare state is designed as a safety net to catch people who absolutely cannot help themselves… That safety net is being withdrawn under this government, which is certainly pushing some of my constituents into destitution.”

There was much more, including the devastating speech by Glenda Jackson, partly in response to Natascha Engels’ comments, that is reproduced in the video clip above.

The vote – for the House of Commons to recognise that the DWP was in chaos and disarray – was lost (of course). A government with a majority will never lose such a vote.

But once again, the debate was won by the opposition. They had all the facts; all the government had were lies and fantasies.

By now, one suspects we all know somebody who has died as a result of Coalition government polices on welfare (or, preferably, social security). Two such deaths have been reported in the Comment columns of Vox Political since the weekend, and it is only Tuesday.

That is why it is vital that this information reaches the general public despite the apparent news blackout, in the mainstream media, of any disparaging information about Duncan Smith or his DWP.

Share it with your friends, use parts of it in letters to your local papers or radio stations, even mentioning it in conversation will help if the other person isn’t aware of the facts.

Don’t let it be suppressed.

You don’t want to do Iain Duncan Smith’s work for him, do you?

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Cameron in Afghanistan was no Lawrence of Arabia

131218afghanistan

How does one mark the passing of Peter O’Toole, if not by watching Lawrence of Arabia? It was his first film role and, some say, his greatest.

I’m sure I cannot be the only one to have drawn comparisons between T.E. Lawrence, as played by the great O’Toole on the silver screen, and David Cameron – who behaved like a tool when he said of British forces in Afghanistan, “Misson accomplished”.

In the film, Lawrence is shunned by his colleagues in the British military because of his unconventional ways, but accepted by the Arabs – firstly because he is able to quote the Koran to them, secondly because he goes out of his way to accomplish feats that seem impossible (like rescuing one of his Arab friends from The Sun’s Anvil) in order to give them hope of military success, and thirdly because he achieves these things for their good, not his own.

David Cameron is a different matter. Unlike Lawrence, he is not an original thinker – or indeed any other kind of leader. He is a follower. British military policy in Afghanistan was not his policy, and he made no effort to take control of it. He has made no effort to understand the admittedly-complicated history and culture of a country that has rightly been described as “troubled”, although few people bother to remember that much of that trouble has been caused by invaders including the British. And if he has gone out of his way, it was to avoid actions of distinction. But he’s happy to take the credit for everything that has been done.

This is why, when Cameron said the mission in Afghanistan will have been accomplished by the time the last British troops leave in 2014, so many commentators jeered.

Cameron is currently saying that the mission was to build up security in Afghanistan, to ensure it cannot become a haven for terrorists again, after our forces leave. This might seem reasonable if it were not merely the latest in a long list of mission statements provided for Afghanistan over the incredible 12 years since we arrived there in 2001.

Others, according to The Guardian, include “removing Al Qaida’s bases, eradicating poppy cultivation, educating girls and helping forge a form of democracy”. While we cannot comment on the first of these, the others either failed abjectly or have become the subjects of fierce controversy. The government of Hamid Karzai has long been criticised as corrupt.

Cameron’s choice of words also creates an unhealthy comparison with Iraq, which fell into chaos for a considerable period after then-US President George W Bush declared “mission accomplished” there.

Even the comedy Prime Minister’s attempt to put the soundbite across to the media seemed hesitant. “The purpose of our mission was always to build an Afghanistan and Afghan security forces that were capable of maintaining a basic level of security so this country never again became a haven for terrorist training camps,” he said.

“That has been the most important part of the mission… The absolute driving part of the mission is the basic level of security so that it doesn’t become a haven for terror. That is the mission, that was the mission and I think we will have accomplished that mission,” he added, unravelling completely by the end. He mentioned security three times, “haven for terror” twice, and the mission no less than six times!

And the experts disagreed. The British ambassador to Kabul from 2010-12, William Paytey, said: “Afghanistan has got a long way to go and it could be many decades before we see real peace there.”

So Cameron cuts a poor figure in comparison with Lawrence – and even, returning to our starting point, in comparison with Peter O’Toole. In his hellraising days, Cameron and his Bullingdon friends used to smash up restaurants; Peter O’Toole and his buddies would have tried to buy them.

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