The grounds on which the Labour Party wants to accuse people of anti-Semitism are getting more and more shaky.
In this case, one of the accusations against Cllr Karen Sudan is that she has blocked Labour Against Anti-Semitism on Twitter.
This is not an anti-Semitic act. Indeed, as LAAS is represented by extremely dodgy characters, Cllr Sudan should be praised for putting distance between herself and that group. It is the Labour Party that should be ashamed for supporting it.
But then, Labour does have its blinkers on when choosing its allies. It kowtows to the Jewish Labour Movement, Labour Friends of Israel and other right-wing, pro-Likud Israel, anti-Palestinian organisations (despite its claim that all peoples should have the right to self-determination) and rejects Jewish Voice for Labour, Jewdas and the Jewish Socialists Group.
The second accusation refers to a tweet from August 2018 in which she accuses the mainstream media of being ‘too busy making up and/or exaggerating stories about anti-Semitism in the Labour Party’ to raise an outcry over other forms of racism.
This was just after local elections in which there was a huge increase in media reports claiming anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. This is now common knowledge as research has been carried out and shown it to be true.
Meanwhile the Windrush Scandal had taken place, and August 2018 was the month Boris Johnson published his shockingly racist remarks about burqa-wearing women looking like “letterboxes” and “bank robbers”. Those are just two high-profile examples. I feel sure Cllr Sudan was accurate in her criticism.
The final charge against her relates to a tweet from January, opposing the so-called “Ten Commandments” by the Board of Deputies of British Jews.
She was right to do so and then-leadership candidates including Keir Starmer were wrong to sign up to those pledges – several of which involve commitments to break the law, if This Writer’s memory is correct.
Now consider this:
Because of recent changes, the only way Cllr Sudan could defend herself publicly against these claims was to quit the party.
“If I was a member of the Labour Party, I would have to keep quiet about that – and if I spoke about it to anybody I would be suspended.
“They would know I was under investigation but they wouldn’t know why and I wouldn’t be able to discuss it and I wouldn’t be able to defend myself.
“The only way I could do that and stop the gossip and the maligning stuff that would be around it was to resign from the party and put it out there so that people can see how stupid and ridiculous it is.
Of course, quitting the party means the accusations won’t be prosecuted through its disputes/disciplinary system – but it also means she has been forced to quit the party, possibly for political reasons.
The Labour leader of Crawley Borough Council – one of the authorities on which Cllr Sudan sits – denied any suggestion that the accusation against his former colleague came from anybody in the council’s Labour group.
He said it seemed likely that “someone’s been nationally trawling through Labour accounts trying to find any historical Tweets which may well constitute anti-Semitism”.
But his belief that it was somebody at Labour’s London HQ is less believable. It has been suggested that LAAS has been doing exactly what he described – that’s in the leaked Labour report on anti-Semitism investigations.
Perhaps this indicates the veracity of that claim?
And it would certainly tie in with the fact that one of the disputed tweets is a reference to LAAS.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
What follows should make you very angry: An ignorant Conservative councillor has attacked an opponent in the Labour Party for tweeting an entirely appropriate comparison between Iain Duncan Smith and Adolf Hitler.
Yes, Cllr Ashley Dearnley, leader of the Conservative group in Rochdale – it was perfectly appropriate for North Middleton Cllr Chris Furlong to tweet a picture of Hitler above one of Iain Duncan Smith and imply that the Conservatives may be responsible for the deaths of more disabled people than the Nazi leader – that is what the figures suggest.
Remember, the reference to the killing of 70,000 disabled people by Nazis is compared with only 81,040 people who died in only just over two years under Duncan Smith’s Conservative policies. We don’t have the full figures yet.
Mr Dearnley can’t say that Conservative Government policy has not led to any deaths because we have the case of Michael O’Sullivan to prove that it has.
Not only that, but north London coroner Mary Hassall’s report, blaming Tory policy for Mr O’Sullivan’s suicide, was filed in January 2014, meaning that the Tory Government’s protestations, throughout the summer, that there is no causal link between Mr Duncan Smith’s policies and the deaths of claimants, is proved to be a lie.
Cllr Dearnley, clearly ignorant of the hole into which his party has dug itself, is quoted as follows: “The remarks are appalling and are totally unacceptable. I would expect the Labour Party to withdraw his whip. If the new Labour leader has anything about him, he will make sure he is removed from the Labour party.”
It seems the matter has been referred for investigation by the Labour Party. This Writer would argue that, if Jeremy Corbyn has anything about him, he would celebrate Cllr Furlong’s forthrightness, highlight the support he has gained from disabled people and demand to know why the mainstream media have chosen to ignore this hugely important issue.
“I know if David Cameron heard that any of his councillors made remarks comparing people to Hitler, then David Cameron would make sure that they were removed from the Conservative party. If Corbyn has any mettle about him, he will ensure that this happens,” Cllr Dearnley continued. The rest of us don’t know that, though. We only see a man, whose policies have caused deaths, being rewarded for it.
Speaking to Rochdale Online, Councillor Furlong defended himself: “I posted the tweet because people are dying because of policies instigated by Iain Duncan Smith and the mainstream media is ignoring it. I have been campaigning on these issues for a while now but, for some reason, the mainstream media is choosing to ignore it.”
Join the club, Chris!
If the MSM really wanted to cover this, there are several possible issues to investigate:
The fact that in May 2014, I submitted a Freedom of Information Request on the number of incapacity benefit claimants who have died, and the Conservative Government has yet to honour that request with a full and honest answer. It claimed to have done so on August 27 but this was a lie.
The fact that part of the Tory Government’s failure to answer my FoI request means we do not know the full number of people who died after being found fit for work under the current government’s brutal regime. We know how many people who had been found fit for work died within two weeks of their claim ending (because they had been found fit for work) – but that is just a fraction of the total number of deaths. Mr O’Sullivan committed suicide six months later, but his death is still directly attributable to government policy. Mark Wood died of starvation, four months after being found fit for work – was the government any less guilty of causing his death?
The fact that the mortality rate in the work-related activity group of Employment and Support Allowance is three times the national average, yet these are people who are expected to be fit for work within a year. Attempts have been made to claim that they have conditions that make them more likely to die early, but this is irrelevant as they are pushed out to join the wider population (which has a far lower mortality rate) in any case. If they really do have more serious conditions, they should be in the support group. Right?
The fact that the death rates for all claimants of incapacity benefits do not tally with the death rates for Incapacity Benefit/Severe Disablement Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance individually. It is to be expected that the number of claimants won’t tally because people have been migrated from the older benefit to the new, so they may have two claims within a particular year – but you can only die once, and you can only be on one benefit when it happens.
The fact that the medical test, taken as part of the work capability assessment for ESA, includes a question about whether the claimant has had suicidal thoughts in the past. If a claimant admits contemplating suicide, the next question is “Why haven’t you done it?” Is this not designed to push the claimant towards taking his/her own life, thus removing themselves from the benefit bill? It’s called chequebook euthanasia, and the Nazis were very fond of it.
The fact that, after visiting the Nazi extermination camp at Auschwitz, Iain Duncan Smith himself started using the phrase “Work makes you free” in direct imitation of the words written in German over the camp gates. Those words were, of course, a sick joke – just as Iain Duncan Smith words have been for an unknown number of incapacity benefits claimants. He has recently adapted the phrase, as part of a drive to get even more ill people off the benefit books into “Work makes you healthy” – for which there is no medical proof at all. In the light of this behaviour, it is impossible not to compare this man with Hitler.
The above examples are just off the top of this writer’s head. The Conservative Government, and flunkies like Cllr Dearnley, want to pretend that everything is working perfectly and there is no cause for alarm.
But then, as you can see, the Conservative Government is full of liars.
The image above is the parody of the Conservative Party’s infamous ‘Road to Recovery’ poster showing the railway line leading to the World War II extermination camp at Auschwitz, as tweeted by fellow blogger Tom Pride with the words, “The new Tory campaign poster featuring a German road’s a bit controversial”.
The tweet worked on several different levels: It referenced the fact that all three claims made on the original poster were inaccurate – in effect, the Conservative Party lied to the public with its very first piece of campaign material; it also acknowledged the fact that the road in the original picture was not British, as had been claimed by George Osborne on Channel 4 News (and this blog has covered reporter Cathy Newman’s surprise on finding out this was not true), but was a road near Weimar in Germany – another Tory lie; and it also made a strong point about the future the UK might face if voters allow themselves to be persuaded into supporting the Tories, based on this lying campaign.
It is also worth drawing attention to Vox Political commenter (and The Critique Archivesblogger) Martin Odoni’s reaction to the revelation about the origins of the Tory poster’s image: “I’m no believer in omens or sympathetic magic, but, after all the economic hardship of the last seven years, that is really bad symbolism. I mean, don’t we remember what economic chaos and an evil, fanatical Chancellor did to the Weimar Republic?”
This writer received several versions of the Auschwitz railway image after publishing an article on the Conservative campaign poster.
Tony Dean commented with a simple reference to this one:
And commenter marcf28 sent the following image, with the words “Interesting choice of image – with a striking similarity to this one”.
Neither picture has appeared on Vox Political before because this writer considered them a step too far. The comments were published and readers were free to click on the links if they so desired.
I exercised my judgement and that was my decision.
It seems that Nottingham Labour councillor Rosemary Healy has been suspended because she neglected to make a similar judgement call.
As a follower of Tom Pride on Twitter (and there’s nothing wrong with that; Tom’s articles and tweets often provide an oasis of amusement for those of us who are struggling against the harm being caused every day by the Coalition Government) it is entirely possible that she retweeted his picture automatically, in the belief that her own followers would enjoy some sharp humour.
Alas, the humour was too sharp for some, and crossed the line of good taste in their opinion.
Was Cllr Healy wrong to retweet this image? On balance, she probably was. As a councillor representing the Labour Party, it could be argued that she should not be re-transmitting messages that could be interpreted as making light of a very dark period in human history.
Could be argued. Could be interpreted. It’s a matter of judgement.
It could also be argued that the tweet, and the image, make a deadly serious point about the reality of Conservative government. Many parallels have been drawn – accurately (before anyone starts wrongly invoking Godwin’s Law) – between Conservative-led Coalition policy and the actions of the Nazis (who came to power after the failure of the German republic identified with a town called Weimar, let’s not forget).
Remember Vox Political‘s articles about chequebook euthanasia? That information has been sent to the Information Commissioner’s Office in support of the bid to have the Freedom of Information request on ESA claimant fatalities since November 2011 honoured at last; and it has been sent to the Commons Work and Pensions committee, whose investigation into the effects of withdrawing benefit from claimants began in earnest this morning (January 7).
There is a deadly serious (and the word ‘deadly’ is used advisedly) side to Tom Pride’s tweet; there usually is.
However, UKIP supporter ‘Guy Ropes’ sent this blog the following comment today: “Is it correct that a Labour councillor in the Midlands has tweeted an alteration to a Conservative poster that is so insensitive I’d be disappointed if you even tried to talk about it much less defend it. Thankfully his branch have suspended him. I’m not sure – even if they tried really, really hard – that the BNP could conceive of something so tasteless. So how about calling a truce – instead of slagging people and parties off, let’s stick to discussion of policies.”
The problem here is misinformation. The councillor is accused of creating the tweet (and gets a sex change in the process). The tweet is described as tasteless, indicating the commenter has not considered the serious points on which this article has elaborated. And there will be no truce because no hostilities have been declared. It seems Mr ‘Ropes’ has an issue with this blog’s policy of debunking false claims – such as those in his comment.
So, yes – Cllr Healy showed an error of judgement and should not have RT’d the tweet, given her position; and no – the tweet itself is not “insensitive” or “tasteless” in itself – in the judgement of this writer.
We need bloggers like Tom Pride to bring these connections to our attention.
The councillor at the centre of the row over David Freud’s comments about disabled people and the minimum wage owns a property in Tunbridge Wells, which he rents to people with learning disabilities via a charity. He receives housing benefit payments from the local authority.
At the Conservative party conference, Councillor David Scott told Lord Freud:
“The other area I’m really concerned about is obviously the disabled. I have a number of mentally damaged individuals, who to be quite frank aren’t worth the minimum wage, but want to work. And we have been trying to support them in work, but you can’t find people who are willing to pay the minimum wage.
> You can’t find people who are willing to pay the minimum wage to fully fit workers either – all those employers taking part in Workfare for example – the real something-for-nothing society : cheapskate employers.
“We had a young man who was keen to do gardening; now the only way we managed to get him to work was actually setting up a company for him, because as a director in a company we didn’t have to pay the minimum wage, we could actually give him the earnings from that.”
> In the wake of dubious self-employment schemes, will this be the next scam to reduce the unemployment figures ?
Become the director of your own company ! Earn £2 an hour !
Councillor Scott, along with his partner, is the director of or has an interest in several limited companies. They also own several properties in Tunbridge Wells.
One of these properties is a house in Cadogan Gardens, known as Scott Properties, of which Councillor Scott is both the joint owner and landlord.
According to Zoopla, the average value of a property in Cadogan Gardens is over half a million pounds.
Rooms in the house are ‘Rented to disabled persons directly or through Pepenbury, a registered charity.’
“. . . provides high quality care and support for adults with a learning disability and complex needs, some of the most vulnerable people in society. We give them choice and control over how they live their lives and believe that every individual has the right to live an independent and rewarding life, whilst feeling safe and supported.”
Councillor Scott told Benefits and Work that the young man he told David Freud about has never lived at Cadogan Gardens, has never worked at any property owned by Councillor Scott and has also not worked at any property connected with Pepenbury.
“If you have got some gardening work to be done you won’t pay someone for four hours when you could pay someone else for half an hour to do it. If you have a lawn in the garden and you employ a person who is doing it with support from somebody else there, you know you can employ them and it could cost you £10 to do it.
“If this person is going to take four hours to do that, would you be willing to pay £40? If you do not give them £40 you are not paying them minimum wage.”
When asked who the ‘we’ referred to in his discussion with Lord Freud was, Councillor Scott told us that it was:
“People working with my daughter when she was alive.”
Benefits and Work also contacted Pepenbury for a statement about whether the young man was one of their service users, but we have not yet received a response.
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Tory Parliamentary candidate Chris Davies: In his letter he accuses local Labour members of “acting as disciples of their London hierarchy” – and then regurgitates as much of the drivel handed down to him by his own Westminster masters as he can manage.
Once upon a time, if you found an error in an article, a document or (in my case – I’m going back to when I was very young) a teacher’s work, you were congratulated for finding the “deliberate mistake”. The culprit would say something like: “Well done! I put that in there as a deliberate mistake to see if you were alert enough to find it. You’ve passed the test! As a reward, clean the blackboard.”
I wonder if the same can be said of a letter in the local paper by a Councillor Chris Davies who, we’re told, is the Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Brecon and Radnorshire. If so, it seems likely that even the doziest student should find at least one, because his screed is riddled with errors.
Last night I spent several hours writing up a response to his nonsense, and I propose to share it with you now. This means the article will be quite long, but never mind. As those of you who keep up to date with current affairs know, it’ll give Facebook something really juicy to censor.
Here’s the letter from Cllr Davies. Spelling mistakes and misuses of apostrophes are all his own work:
“For years people have had difficulty in distinguishing between the policies of political parties, accusing politicians of all being the same and hogging the middle ground.
“I am grateful to the local Labour Party acting as disciples of their London hierarchy for putting clear water between our parties.
“As reported [on April 11], the local Labour councillors are up in arms over the Coalition Government’s Welfare Reforms.
“Yet rather than offering to help people back into work or helping them move into more suitably sized accommodation, all these Labour councillors offer is, ‘Check your exemption status.’
“This is the sad reality of a Labour Party that despises individual responsibility and aspiration, preferring instead to encourage and promote state dependency.
“During the last Labour government, welfare spending rose by 60 per cent.
“Such reckless spending and disregard for taxpayer’s money not surprisingly brought record levels of borrowing and debt which left the UK on the brink of bankruptcy.
“For these Labour councillors to now clearly advocate working the welfare system instead of striving to escape it proves that they still have not learnt their lesson.
“These Labour councillors are also completely out of touch with the public, the majority of whom support the coalition’s welfare reform policies.
“The Welfare State is there as a last resort, a safety net, for those who need it – Not as an alternative to work as it became under Labour.
“Labour has always shown little regard for the hardworking taxpayers’ who pay for the welfare state; those paying for others to stay at home and paying for tenants to live in larger houses than they need. The fact that so many of these hard working taxpayer’s cannot afford a property of any size themselves appears of no concern to Labour.
“Whether you are running your own business, working on the checkout in the local supermarket or working as a farm labourer, the majority of the tax you pay now goes to fund the welfare state.
“No one minds paying for those who truly need support, but as these welfare reforms have already shown, there were many people claiming support that they did not need or were not entitled to.
“Tougher medical tests recently introduced to assess the health of the 2.6 million people claiming incapacity benefit found 800,000 of them were perfectly fit and able to work.
“Another 900,000 dropped their claim to these benefits rather than take the test.
“How can Labour honestly say it is unfair that we are capping benefits at £26,000 a year when that is far more than most workers in Brecon & Radnorshire earn?
“How can Labour continue to support a benefit system that gives workless households a higher income than the majority of working individuals who are paying for the system?
“The system should never have allowed unemployment to become more financially rewarding than working. It is this disincentive to work that has largely caused the welfare problem we are now dealing with.
“All Labour can do is pour scorn on anything the Coalition Government does. What are they offering as an alternative? We are seeing No policies, No ideas, No alternatives.
“To quote Tony Blair recently – “Ed Milliband is in danger of being seen as reducing the Labour party to nothing but a party of protests” – It seems to me that whether in London or locally the Labour Party is already there.”
If I know my readership, you are all shaking your heads in blank astonishment that someone who professes to be a reasonable human being – and has managed to become a county councillor, here in Powys, should come out with such an unremitting stream of dribble.
In response, I wrote the following. Be warned – it doesn’t address every single piece of nonsense in Cllr Davies’ letter. There is a word-limit on letters submitted to the newspaper.
So here’s a game for you: Spot the ‘deliberate’ mistakes in his letter that I haven’t singled out, tell us what they are and why they’re wrong.
Here’s my response:
I read with interest the letter from Cllr Chris Davies, who is keen to put “clear water” between our parties. His letter certainly achieves this, ably clarifying that Conservatives have little or no understanding of the effect their so-called reforms are having on those they claim they are trying to help. I’d like to set the record straight. Although I am a Labour member, I think it is appropriate to quote the late Baroness Thatcher: “Where there is error, may we bring truth.”
If taken to its obvious conclusions, the under-occupation charge – more correctly known as the Bedroom Tax – will cost the taxpayer far more than the former situation. The stated aim is to get people who are living in social housing with spare bedrooms to move into smaller accommodation or lose housing benefit. This means a disabled person in a house with thousands of pounds worth of adaptations for their disability, that has two extra bedrooms (one used as a carer’s respite room while the other would be more accurately defined as a cupboard), would lose so much money that they would be forced to move out. If they then went to a private, one-bedroom flat, the taxpayer would not only have to pay full housing benefit (around £100 extra per month) but also the cost of removing the disability adaptations from one dwelling and installing them in the other (thousands of pounds).
You see, the Conservative-led government got its sums wrong. It would be better for all involved (not least the taxpayer!) if ways could be found to prevent this extravagance with the public purse. What the Labour councillors were suggesting was a way of saving taxpayers’ money – not spending it.
Cllr Davies’ claim that welfare spending rose by 60 per cent under the last Labour government is scaremongering and cynical manipulation of the figures. Total expenditure on welfare when Labour took over in 1997 was 11.6 per cent of Gross Domestic Product. Under Labour, it averaged 10.7 per cent – that’s right, it went down – right up to the crash. Afterwards, benefits for children and working-age adults rose from an average 4.9 per cent of GDP to six per cent, which is what one might expect during a recession.
For clarity, the majority of welfare spending goes into pensions – around 55 per cent. Benefits for the unemployed total just three per cent. Fraudulent claims total a miniscule 0.7 per cent.
Moving on to Cllr Davies’ ridiculous claim that many people were claiming support who did not need or were not entitled to it, he claims that 900,000 people (in fact it was 878,300) dropped their claim for Employment and Support Allowance rather than take the Work Capability Assessment. In fact, DWP figures show that the number of cases closed before assessment has remained consistent since before the new assessment came into use. It is known as ‘churn’ – a turnover of claims withdrawn for perfectly normal reasons like people getting better or finding a job they can do, even if they’re ill. That is a result of people using the benefit system properly. Every month, around 130,000 people come off ESA – it isn’t a lifetime benefit; it’s something you claim for as long as you must. Because of the huge number of cases on the system and the amount of time it takes for them to be assessed and decided, some people who no longer need to claim haven’t even had their assessment.
DWP figures show the number of people receiving the benefit has in fact risen since the current government increased its scrutiny of disabled people.
Cllr Davies’ claim that the Work Capability Assessment is a “medical” test is also inaccurate. It is based on a system devised by an American insurance company called Unum, in order to avoid paying out to customers whose policies had matured. The aim is to convince very sick people that their illnesses are imagined. As a policy, you might consider that to be sick in itself. The result is horrifying but I’ll try to put it in context: According to the BBC, by October 30, 2012, the total number of British soldiers who had died in Afghanistan since military operations began there in 2002 was 437. That’s equivalent to the number of sick or disabled people who die while going through the work capability assessment system (or as a result of going through it) – every six weeks; an average of 73 per week (according to figures released after a Freedom of Information request).
The benefit cap is another waste of taxpayers’ money. It will reduce households’ ability to pay the rent, leading to an expected increase in homelessness of 40,000 families. How much will local authorities have to pay, housing families in temporary accommodation? Child poverty will skyrocket by 100,000. Many families may break up in response to the pressures. Parents who live separately and divide their children’s residency between them can claim up to £1,000 a week in benefits, while a couple living together may only claim £500. Of course, this would completely wipe out any saving the government would have made on that family, costing £26,000 more every year.
Cllr Davies rightly says £26,000 a year is more than most workers in Brecon and Radnorshire earn. That’s not a good thing – it means people here don’t get the pay they deserve. But even that figure is inaccurate as it omits benefits, so the average income of a working family is in fact £31,500, or £605 per week. The trouble with that is, if applied to benefit recipients, so few people would lose benefits that it would make the cap pointless. You see, it’s all about cutting the benefit bill; it isn’t about fairness at all. But, as I say, the Conservatives are so hopeless they can’t even get their sums right.
Cllr Davies is wrong to say that Labour opposes a benefit cap, however. There is cross-party support for limiting benefits as an incentive to seek work. The difference is that the Labour version would have been fair.
Cllr Davies says Labour supports a benefit system that gives workless households a higher income than the majority of working individuals who are paying for the system – and again he is manipulating the figures, comparing households with individuals. The simple fact is that unemployment benefits stood at around one-sixth of average earnings until April, when the one per cent uprating came into effect and pushed unemployed people closer to poverty. When benefit is so much less, in real terms, than earnings, a higher percentage increase does not mean you receive more money than a working person – something the Conservatives find hard to grasp, it seems.
So which do you believe – the comfortable lies that Cllr Davies has foisted on you, unencumbered by any factual evidence – or the unpalatable truth that the government’s imbecilic handling of the situation will cost us all many millions more in damage control when it all goes wrong?
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