Tag Archives: code

Anyone who knowingly misleads Parliament should resign. So why hasn’t Johnson gone?

The double-standards in this story are atrocious.

On one side, we see Nicola Sturgeon. The First Minister of Scotland has been found to have misled Parliament by giving an inaccurate account of meetings with Alex Salmond in 2018.

If an inquiry finds that she knowingly uttered falsehoods, then that is a resignation offence for an elected minister of any government, according to the Ministerial Code, and she should go – without question.

On the other side, we see Boris Johnson. The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom has been accused of having misled Parliament by failing to provide details of funding for renovations to his official Downing Street flat.

The allegation is that private donations to the Conservative Party totalling £60,000 have been used as part of £200,000 worth of refurbishments to the flat.

If so, it should have been reported to the Electoral Commission, because the Ministerial Code demands that “a statement covering relevant Ministers’ interests will be published twice yearly”. The last such statement appeared last July, eight months ago.

It seems clear that Johnson has knowingly breached the Code in failing to declare the sources of funding for the flat.

So he should resign – right?

But within Parliament there has been no pressure for him to do so, while Tory calls for Sturgeon to take a hike have been punitive in their decibel level.

Labour’s Keir Starmer, despite being a lawyer, has claimed Sturgeon should go whether she knowingly misled Parliament or not – which is another indication that he should not be in politics, let alone running a political party.

10 Downing Street says all appropriate codes were followed, but this rings hollow. What does Allegra Stratton, Johnson’s press secretary, mean by “appropriate”? Something different from the dictionary definition, one would guess.

That’s how Downing Street has explained the other ways Johnson has recently misled Parliament, as I mentioned in a previous article:

After he said there would be no funding cut for the body tasked with improving transport in the north (he’s taking away 40 per cent of its funding), Downing Street tried to suggest he had been talking about transport generally for the north of England.

And after he claimed all Covid-19 contracts had been published and were “on the record” – only to be contradicted by the High Court – a minister said all CANs – Contract Award Notices – had been published. They are not the same thing.

Today’s howler was his claim, in Prime Minister’s Questions, that Keir Starmer had voted against a promise of a 2.1 per cent pay rise for nurses – that his own government is breaking.

The plan was in the NHS Funding Bill last year – which passed without a formal vote because all the main parties supported it. Starmer didn’t need to vote, but if he had, he would have supported the Bill.

Johnson (or rather, Stratton – he’d done his usual runner) eventually came out with a claim that he had been saying Starmer voted against the Queen’s Speech – but the plan wasn’t mentioned in it.

The document Starmer had been waving around at PMQs – and to which he had been referring – was the NHS long-term plan, which was a policy document and not a piece of legislation on which he could have voted.

So it seems clear that Johnson had knowingly misled Parliament but the issue also seems to have gone away because nobody is calling for his resignation over it.

If you’re wondering who did fund the renovation, here‘s openDemocracy:

The Daily Mail has reported that Downing Street allegedly sought to plug the gap in the six-figure refurbishment of the prime ministerial flat using Conservative Party funds. After the party initially paid for part of the refurb, the Mail reports, Conservative Party donor Lord Brownlow gave it £60,000 last autumn to make up the difference.

The Mail also claims that party officials have since been looking for ways to keep the donation anonymous by returning it, and then repeating it through a new ‘Downing Street Trust’ that would conceal the original source.

Lord Brownlow, who served as vice-chairman of the Tory party in 2017-20 and was made a peer in 2019 by Theresa May, is expected to head up this new non-charitable trust.

So the person who allegedly provided this dodgy donation is set to head the organisation dedicated to hushing it up. More corrupt cronyism?

Let’s face it: nobody involved in this is going to come out smelling of roses.

It’s just that Boris Johnson, more than anybody else, is going to be smelling of faeces.

And it will take more than a Union Flag to wipe them away.

Source: Election watchdog quizzes Tory party over funding of PM’s flat makeover – BBC News

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High Court urged to overturn Johnson’s decision to overlook Priti Patel’s bullying

Do you ever wonder whether High Court judges get frustrated that any serious work they do is delayed by the misdeeds of government ministers (not to mention the bleatings of sensitive celebs – but that’s another matter)?

Civil service union the FDA is demanding a judicial review of Boris Johnson’s decision not to sack Priti Patel for breaking the Ministerial Code by bullying officers at the Home Office, Department for International Development and the Department for Work and Pensions.

Johnson rejected the findings of a report by Alex Allan that found Patel was guilty of bullying civil servants while a minister in three government departments.

He defiantly backed her to continue as Home Secretary when, according to the rules, she should have been sacked – and said he had “full confidence” in her.

The decision provoke Allan to resign as government adviser on ministerial standards last November, immediately after the prime minister announced his decision.

It also emerged that Johnson had spent considerable effort trying to rally support for Patel among other ministers. This became even more questionable when it was revealed that Patel’s loathsome behaviour appeared to have pushed one employee into attempting suicide.

Now the FDA is taking the matter to the courts – and about time too:

In a written submission, general secretary Dave Penman told the High Court that “civil servants should expect to work with ministers without fear of being bullied or harassed”.

Mr Johnson’s actions had “fundamentally undermined” the disciplinary process, he added, and the prime minister had “misinterpreted” the definition of bullying in the Ministerial Code.

Mr Penman said there was “bewilderment, dismay and anger among our membership” and there had been “serious detrimental effects to workplace relations and confidence in the process for dealing with complaints against ministers”.

He added that, if Mr Johnson’s decision was not “corrected” by the court, “his interpretation of the Ministerial Code will result in that document failing to protect workplace standards across government”.

This is a row that has been simmering for a year – since the resignation of Sir Philip Rutnam as Home Office permanent secretary in February 2020.

He said he had been the target of a “vicious and orchestrated briefing campaign” ringled by Patel.

And he is pursuing an employment tribunal claim for constructive dismissal.

This action can only be strengthened if the High Court supports the FDA’s application.

Source: High Court urged to overturn PM’s decision to stand by Priti Patel – BBC News

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Labour’s first post-‘IHRA’ anti-Semitism accusations have been made – and they abuse the new rules

Remember when right-wing Labour MPs were screaming for the party to adopt the IHRA working definition of anti-Semitism with all its examples, including those that make it almost impossible to criticise the Israeli government?

Remember how those people swore blind that adopting these examples would not lay party members open to false accusations by those abusing the new rules?

Well, they lied.

(Or at least, they have been proved wrong.)

The first accusations under the new system are starting to come to light, and they are damning.

Consider the case of Eleanor Penny, a correspondent for Novara Media, who happens to be Jewish.

It seems – and please correct me if I’m mistaken – that parts of this video in which Ms Penny states that it isn’t anti-Semitic to criticise Israel, holding it to the same standard as other countries, are being used as the evidence against her.

Fortunately there are those among the rest of us who are not willing to lie down and put up with this nonsense:

For what my word is worth (not much at the moment, owing to my own suspension by Labour after allegations of anti-Semitism – a suspension that is now in its 16th disgraceful month), Labour should not just dismiss the complaint.

The party needs to make a sincere apology for allowing such an abuse of its complaints system to take place – as it should with other false complaints such as that against me.

And does the complaint itself count as anti-Semitism, as it is intended to create discrimination against a Jew?

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Guardian article reveals scale of Labour prejudice against those accused of anti-Semitism

Jeremy Corbyn: He seems to be the only member of the Labour Party who is immune from false allegations of anti-Semitism.

As This Writer warned, it is now clear that one only has to be accused of anti-Semitism to be “kicked out” of the Labour Party, thanks to the hysteria whipped up by those who see advantage in it.

Jessica Elgot’s recent article in The Guardian referred to “cases” that are “pending” – not people who have been found to be anti-Semites; just those who have been accused. And look at the reaction.

A “party source” is quoted as saying the “antisemitism subgroup” of Labour’s National Executive Committee means “we have the potential to kick people out super fast”. Apparently justice is not a concern.

What kind of person makes such a suggestion?

And what kind of newspaper publishes it as evidence that Labour is taking appropriate action?

The corruption in this system is clear. Allegations of anti-Semitism are being made dishonestly – not to rid Labour of racists but to “kick out” members their accusers simply do not like.

Why else would the NEC have included, in its sheet of charges against me, a directive for the panel hearing my case to find me guilty, no matter what the evidence says?

I have now sent my defence to the Labour Party – all 194 pages of it – and there will be a hearing at some point in the future. I have absolutely no confidence that the interests of justice will be served by it.

That is one reason I am crowdfunding for legal action in a genuine court. I believe this is the only way the facts of the matter will be revealed.

I have a JustGiving page and you are invited to visit it and contribute to the cause.

The Labour Party deserves better than the fake justice its members are being offered.

Leaked Labour disciplinary papers have laid bare the scale of the challenge the party’s governing body faces in tackling antisemitism.

Around 70 cases are believed to be pending. However, the papers reveal only a minority were considered by the NEC because of time constraints.

Another party source said action would ramp up considerably within weeks. “The new code of conduct means we will not have to go to the full NEC disputes committee, but a smaller antisemitism subgroup. It will mean we have the potential to kick people out super fast, instead of waiting months for a full disputes meeting and just getting through 11 of 70.”

Source: Leaked Labour papers reveal scale of challenge to tackle antisemitism | Politics | The Guardian

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Another Labour MP falls foul of her local party members – this time over anti-Semitism

Louise Ellman: Where do her loyalties lie – with her party, with her constituents, or with the Tory-run Board of Deputies of British Jews?

This is self-explanatory, courtesy of Skwawkbox:

Earlier this week, Louise Ellman was one of two Labour MPs expected to propose a motion at the weekly PLP (parliamentary Labour party) meeting. The motion was ultimately deferred until early September, but constitutes an attempt to manoeuvre Labour’s NEC (National Executive Committee) into abandoning Labour’s Code of Conduct.

That code endorses the IHRA’s (International Holocaust Remembrance Association) ‘working definition’ of antisemitism – which describes itself as not legally binding, making it unusable as a party rule without clarifications – but, as the ‘working’ title invites, it builds on, clarifies and reinforces it by elaborating on some of the ‘examples’ that experts, including the working definition’s original creator, agree can be used to inhibit legitimate criticism of the behaviour of the Israeli government.

Ms Ellman has also appeared on national television this week to attack the code, saying that many MPs “referred to their own constituents” when voicing their objections during the PLP meeting.

Some of those constituents, including Jewish members, had their say tonight on Labour’s Code of Conduct at the monthly meeting of the Liverpool Riverside CLP (constituency Labour party) of which Ms Ellman is the MP, where a motion supporting Labour’s Code of Conduct had been tabled.

Members voted by more than three to one in support of the motion and therefore in support of Labour’s code.

Source: IHRA-motion MP’s CLP votes overwhelmingly to support Labour code | The SKWAWKBOX

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Jewish newspapers attack Corbyn – or are they TORY newspapers?

I have an apology to make.

This Site has been unusually quiet for a few weeks now. Usually I manage to put out anything between five and 10 articles a day but lately I have had trouble getting even a single piece to the public.

This is because I have been writing huge amounts of text intended to defend myself against false accusations of anti-Semitism that have been made against me by an anonymous accuser who contacted the Labour Party, and by the Conservative-supporting press.

I do not believe these accusations have been made because of any anti-Semitism in my work or my personal attitudes. My opinion is that they were intended to stop me producing articles for This Site which support a Labour government.

If you would like to learn more about the attack on me, and would consider contributing to me efforts to raise funds to challenge these claims in court, please visit my JustGiving page.

This is not about racism; it is about politics. It is about undermining support for a Labour Party that would help all people in the UK.

Look at the latest stunt: Three Jewish newspapers teaming up to attack Labour’s refusal to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working – take note of that word, “working”; we’ll come back to it – definition of anti-Semitism.

A government led by Jeremy Corbyn would pose an existential threat to Jewish life in the UK, a joint editorial published by the country’s three most prominent Jewish newspapers has claimed.

The Jewish Chronicle, Jewish News and Jewish Telegraph each produced similar front pages for their Thursday editions attacking the Labour party’s decision not to fully absorb an internationally accepted definition of antisemitism into its code of conduct, and its wider record on the issue since Corbyn became leader in 2015.

Does anybody else think this is a response to the 36 international Jewish organisations who came out in support of Labour, last week?

Oh, you didn’t hear about that? I’m not surprised – it was hardly reported here in the UK. Fortunately, quite a few of us read The Canary and know what’s going on.

That website stated: “Jeremy Corbyn has received a major boost from 36 Jewish groups worldwide, embarrassing the corporate media. The Labour leader is currently under pressure from the press, the right of his party, and the conservative Board of Deputies of British Jews. They are pushing for Labour to adopt wholesale the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism into its rule book.

“On 17 July, 36 Jewish groups from around the world said that the IHRA definition “intentionally” equates “legitimate criticisms of Israel… with antisemitism”. And later in the day, Labour’s ruling body approved a new code of conduct that included a version of the IHRA definition without the examples that could stifle legitimate criticism of Israel.

“For the first time, 36 Jewish groups (including six based in the UK) have come together in a move that strengthens the position of Corbyn and organisations that support Palestinian rights.

“Their statement says the IHRA definition is “worded in such a way” as “to intentionally equate legitimate criticisms of Israel and advocacy for Palestinian rights with antisemitism, as a means to suppress the former”.

“Spearheaded by the US-based Jewish Voice for Peace, the groups continued: “This conflation undermines both the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality and the global struggle against antisemitism. It also serves to shield Israel from being held accountable to universal standards of human rights and international law.

“”We urge our governments, municipalities, universities and other institutions to reject the IHRA definition and instead take effective measures to defeat white supremacist nationalist hate and violence and to end complicity in Israel’s human rights violations. Israel does not represent us and cannot speak for us when committing crimes against Palestinians and denying their UN-stipulated rights.””

The international response has been to support Labour and it seems the three newspapers attacking the party are doing so in order to reinforce the trumped-up opposition to the party’s policies and boost support for the Conservatives.

Now look at the way The Guardian reports the same issue:

Concern has been expressed about the refusal of the party’s national executive committee (NEC) to accept the full text of the working definition of antisemitism produced by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). The document provides a definition and 11 examples. The former is accepted by Labour, but not all of the latter.

Labour’s NEC objects to the example that defines “claiming that the existence of a state of Israel is a racist endeavour” as antisemitism. The party said it was concerned about creating a code that could be “used to deny Palestinians, including Palestinian citizens of Israel and their supporters, their rights and freedoms to describe the discrimination and injustices they face in the language they deem appropriate”.

See how it is slanted to suggest that Labour’s modifications to what is – let’s remember – a working definition (one that is intended to be modified to improve clarity) are cause for concern.

In fact, Labour’s changes are welcome because they take away the automatic assumption that the state of Israel cannot act in a racist way.

Consider current Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s racist “Israel as a nation-state of the Jewish people” Bill. It permits neighbourhoods to block people of specific nationalities or religions from moving in, removes Arabic as an official language, and directs judges to look for precedents from Jewish legal rulings in instances where Israeli law offers no guidance.

It isn’t about protecting Jews; it is about persecuting Arabs.

But people who make this point can be accused of anti-Semitism by those like the editors of the Jewish Chronicle, the Jewish News and the Jewish Telegraph, pointing at the example in the IHRA working definition.

This isn’t even the only place where the working definitions examples let the document down.

Another example of anti-Semitism is described as “Making … stereotypical allegations about Jews … such as… the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.” But what about Shai Masot?

He was a staff member at the Israeli embassy in London who was caught conspiring to influence UK politics in the interests of his country; a Jew trying to exert control over the UK government. Under the working definition of anti-Semitism, anybody accusing him of that would be smeared as an anti-Semite – but the allegation was true.

And Mr Masot said members of organisations including Labour Friends of Israel and Conservative Friends of Israel were among his supporters. To the best of my knowledge, no questions have been asked of those groups – for fear of the action being labelled anti-Semitic?

I wonder if these abuses of the term “anti-Semitism” stem from the misinterpretation of the so-called Macpherson principle – that a racist incident (including anti-Semitism) is “any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person”.

This was devised as a tool to encourage the recording of allegations of racism by the police, after a “refusal to accept racist motivation by a number of officers” was noticed in the investigation of the Stephen Lawrence case.

But the so-called Macpherson principle is now being used to suggest that any claim of anti-Semitism, made by someone claiming to be a victim, must be automatically accepted as anti-Semitism, without investigation.

It is wide open to abuse. As Professor David Feldman stated in his sub-report to the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism: “it is unambiguously clear that Macpherson intended to propose that such racist incidents require investigation. He did not mean to imply that such incidents are necessarily racist. However, Macpherson’s report has been misinterpreted and misapplied in precisely this way.”

Labour’s modification to the IHRA example regarding Israel as a racist endeavour states that: “It is not racist to assess the conduct of Israel – or indeed of any other particular state or government – against the requirements of international law or the standards of behaviour expected of democratic states (bearing in mind that these requirements and standards may themselves be contentious).” I would go on to state that criticism of Israel as a racist endeavour could be considered anti-Semitic – but only if evidence of anti-Semitic intent was proved.

Simply put: There should be no automatic assumption of anti-Semitism, just because somebody claims it.

The claim of anti-Semitism should be recorded and the accusation investigated. Only after a full – and impartial – investigation should any final conclusion be drawn.

That is justice.

If we take the alternative currently being offered, then, as Professor Feldman states, “we open the way to conceptual and political chaos”.

Source: Jewish newspapers claim Corbyn poses ‘existential threat’ | Politics | The Guardian

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Labour has some great new rules for anti-Semitism investigations. What a shame they’re being abused

(Incidentally, this is the only definition of anti-Semitism anybody needs.)

For This Writer, Jon Lansman has more credibility when it comes to anti-Semitism than most of the bureaucrats running the Labour Party’s administrative system.

Mr Lansman, a gentleman of Jewish heritage, defended me when the anti-Semitism accusations against me were brought up – shamefully under ‘Any Other Business’ – at a meeting of Labour’s NEC.

He is not, therefore, a man who is easily-led into making knee-jerk reactions to unsubstantiated, wild claims.

When he wrote the following in The Guardian

Conflating legitimate criticism of Israel with antisemitism is dangerous and undermines the fight against antisemitism. Clear and detailed guidelines are essential to ensure that antisemitism isn’t tolerated, while protecting free speech on Israel’s conduct within a respectful and civil environment. This is what Labour’s code of conduct provides. We should be celebrating and replicating it.

– I believed him.

What a shame the Labour Party is already abusing the guidelines in its new code of conduct for investigating accusations of anti-Semitism.

This is why I need your help to fight these malicious, libellous, false claims. Please visit my JustGiving page to help.

For example, paragraph 12 of the new code of conduct states: “Article 1(2) of the 1948 UN Charter refers to “respect for the principle of equal rights and self determination of peoples”. The Party is clear that the Jewish people have the same right to self-determination as any other people. To deny that right is to treat the Jewish people unequally and is therefore a form of antisemitism. That does not, of course, preclude considered debate and discourse about the nature or content of the right of peoples to self determination.”

That seems fairly self-explanatory – but it is perverted to an unacceptable degree on Labour’s charge sheet claiming that I have committed anti-Semitic behaviour.

It quotes me as having stated: “JLM [the Jewish Labour Movement] is not a movement that represents Jews; it represents Jewish Zionists.” “The Jewish Labour Movement does not represent Jews who are not Zionists. It persecutes them.”

Then it says: “To state that the Labour Party’s official Jewish affiliate does not represent Jews denies Jews the right to self-define. This conduct is abhorrent, antisemitic and falls way below the standards expected of party members. This is clearly prejudicial and/or grossly detrimental to the party.” And this would be true, if the Jewish Labour Movement could be demonstrated to be representative of Jews, regardless of their views about Zionism. It cannot.

As I stated in the article quoted on the charge sheet: “Look at the organisation’s own website. It states:

““The Jewish Labour Movement is also affiliated to the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Zionist Federation of the UK, and organise within the World Zionist Organisation… Our objects: To maintain and promote Labour or Socialist Zionism as the movement for self-determination of the Jewish people within the state of Israel.”

““Zionist”… “Zionist”… “Zionism”… “within the state of Israel”.

“It seems clear that “Jewish Labour Movement” is a misnomer. It should be “Zionist Labour Movement”.”

What about Jews who aren’t Zionists, as the JLM defines them?

How do you think the members of Jewdas – attacked as the “wrong kind of Jew” after Jeremy Corbyn attended an event organised by the group – would describe the JLM?

Here’s how. Responding to attacks on Mr Corbyn for attending the event in late March, the Jewdas website stated: “What has happened over the last week is anything but an attempt to address antisemitism. It is the work of cynical manipulations by people whose express loyalty is to the Conservative Party and the right wing of the Labour Party. It is a malicious ploy to remove the leader of the Opposition and put a stop to the possibility of a socialist government. The Board of Deputies, the (disgraced for corruption) Jewish Leadership Council and the (unelected, undemocratic) Jewish Labour Movement are playing a dangerous game with people’s lives.”

So these Jews consider the JLM to be unelected, undemocratic, and playing a dangerous game with people’s lives. Representative of Jews in general? No.

But I am under attack for making this point. Please visit my JustGiving site, if you haven’t already, and donate to my bid to take the liars to court.

What about Jewish Voice for Labour, which admits full membership only to Labour Party members who identify as Jewish – unlike the JLM, which allows full membership to non-Jews, and also to non-members of the Labour Party? This organisation has campaigned against what it sees as false accusations of anti-Semitism against notable figures like Ken Livingstone, Jackie Walker, and Marc Wadsworth (as has This Writer), and also campaigns against the persecution of Palestinian people by the state of Israel.

And JLM members hate it. Responding to Harrow East Labour Party’s decision to affiliate to JVL, JLM chair Ivor Caplin told the Jewish Chronicle it was a “stupid decision” to affiliate with an “obsessive group that is often far too generous to antisemites and Holocaust revisionists”. But at least members of JVL are all Jewish, which is more than can be said for the JLM.

So let’s go back to that claim on my charge sheet about it being “abhorrent, anti-Semitic” and “denying Jews the right to self-define” of me to say that the JLM does not represent Jews [and let’s also remind ourselves that I never actually stated that the JLM didn’t represent Jews; I just made it clear that JLM doesn’t represent all Labour-supporting Jews]. How’s that claim looking?

Ropey.

And the claim that I am denying Jews the right to self-define?

Bogus. It is the JLM that denies Jews the right to self-define – by siding with those who describe other Labour-supporting Jewish organisations as the “wrong kind of Jews”.

I don’t know who wrote the charge against me, but they have taken the terms of Labour’s code of conduct and turned them inside out – using them for a purpose opposite to that for which it was written.

Source: Labour’s antisemitism code is the gold standard for political parties | Jon Lansman | Opinion | The Guardian

Visit our JustGiving page to help Vox Political’s Mike Sivier fight anti-Semitism libels in court


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Poverty is the enemy of good mental health. Why do Tories increase it?

Epidemiologist Richard Wilkinson. He ‘found that poverty and social inequality have direct and indirect effects on the social, mental and physical wellbeing of an individual,’ writes Maureen Tilford [Image: Linda Nylind for the Guardian].

It’s a classic example of failed Tory thinking.

They say they want the NHS to work properly, within the budgets set out for it – but then they worse conditions in society, forcing more people to seek medical help.

In this case, more people are seeking help with mental illnesses because of poverty that has been forced on them by stupid Tory austerity policies.

Only yesterday, This Site published an article on medical experts’ plans to record social issues including poverty as contributing factors to mental illness.

Now, people have been writing in to The Guardian to support political action against poverty – precisely to stop it affecting mental health.

Here’s Dr Maureen Tilford:

As far back as 1963, research by Langer and Michael found that psychiatric conditions not only occur at higher rates in the poorest areas, but also cluster together, usually in disintegrating inner-city communities. Money is not a guarantor of mental health, nor does its absence necessarily lead to mental illness. However, it is generally conceded that poverty can be both a determinant and a consequence of poor mental health.

More recently, the epidemiologist Richard Wilkinson found that poverty and social inequality have direct and indirect effects on the social, mental and physical wellbeing of an individual. It is clear that poverty and inequality are closely linked and that income inequality produces psychosocial stress.

The wealth gap in the UK is greater than at any time since the first world war and continues to grow. Unless this is addressed at a most senior level in government, the demand on the police will continue, not to mention the suffering of all those callers. This cannot be viewed as a purely health service issue. Allowing the wealth gap to spiral out of control is having serious adverse effects on the UK population on many levels.

And Reverend Paul Nicolson of Taxpayers Against Poverty has this to say:

Prevention of mental illness, and hunger created by low income and debt, requires an increase in taxation and unemployment benefits which many of us would be willing to accept. Central government is making households destitute by shredding unemployment incomes and then stopping them with the benefit sanction, allowing zero-hours contracts and by rolling out the universal credit. Local government then taxes the benefits and sends in the bailiffs to collect the inevitable arrears, adding court costs and huge bailiffs’ fees.

It takes a very rare degree of resilience for mental health to withstand three powerful government departments shelling out threats of bailiffs, prison, eviction and homelessness against a single debtor, who is often struggling to put food on the table for dependent relatives. As Psychologists Against Austerity have reported, such abuses of power are creating humiliation, shame, fear, distrust, instability, insecurity, isolation and loneliness in trapped and powerless citizens.

Source: Poverty is at the heart of mental health crisis | Letters | Society | The Guardian


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Links between benefits and mental ill-health could be recorded by doctors in new plan

[Image: Getty/iStock].

The link between disability benefit assessments, mental health problems and increases in suicide rates could be made explicit in a new plan announced in medical journal The Lancet.

Kate Allsopp and Peter Kinderman have called for mental health professionals to record psychosocial codes in official NHS records, to show whether a patient is suffering from the effects of social inequality, poverty or trauma.

Links between the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) and an increase in suicides, mental health problems, and prescription of antidepressants are specifically mentioned, following on from a study covered by This Site here.

The proposal in The Lancet states [boldings mine]:

It is well known that poverty and social inequity are major determinants of our mental health, and the United Nations Special Rapporteur characterises mental health care not as a crisis of individual conditions, but as a crisis of social obstacles, which hinders individual rights.

It is important, therefore, that the circumstances that have given rise to distress should be formally recorded alongside the distress itself. Psychosocial codes… incorporate descriptive information regarding adverse life experiences and living environments, but are almost never used or reported in clinical practice or academic publications.

These quasi-diagnostic codes document neglect, abandonment, and other maltreatment… homelessness, poverty, discrimination, and negative life events in childhood, including trauma… problems related to family upbringing, and housing and economic problems.

Broadening routine data capture within UK National Health Service records could establish more inclusive, social, systemic, and psychologically comprehensive patterns of difficulties, which could target information regarding established social determinants of mental health problems, such as inequality, poverty, and trauma.

Imagine if it were as serious to fail to document extreme poverty as it would be for a clinician to fail to identify severe depression.

We do not expect that clinicians should resolve such difficulties; it is not the job of mental health professionals to end poverty.

Nevertheless, proper recording of psychosocial… codes in the context of psychiatric diagnoses is imperative because of the close relationship between the two.

The UK government programme of reassessing disability benefits… using the Work Capability Assessment has been associated with an increase in suicides, mental health problems, and prescription of antidepressants.

Transitions into poverty (relevant to codes [on] inadequate housing… lack of adequate food… extreme poverty; and… low income) have been associated with increased odds of children developing socioemotional behavioural difficulties, and individuals who have had an institutional upbringing… are approximately 11 times more likely to experience paranoia compared with those with a less disrupted early history.

As clinicians, we might be better able to serve our clients if we can use such data capture to apply more effective pressure on the political system and drive wider system reform.

Source: A proposal to introduce formal recording of psychosocial adversities associated with mental health using ICD-10 codes – The Lancet Psychiatry


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‘Moaning’ Work and Pensions committee lets IDS ‘off the hook’

131210IDScommittee

It is said that you can get the measure of a man, not from his words, but from his actions. Iain Duncan Smith brought bodyguards to the Commons Work and Pensions Committee yesterday. (Monday)

Why did he need the muscle? Probably because he knew how his behaviour would be received. This is a man who is absolutely not going to accept criticism, in any form at all.

The man whose benefit reforms were mocked by Ed Balls last week as “In Deep Sh…ambles” batted away concerns about inaccurate statistics as somebody else’s fault and, when confronted with a whistleblower’s claim that jobseekers were being sanctioned indiscriminately, said he wanted to see the evidence.

That’s a bit much, coming from the man who is still withholding the mortality statistics of people going through the assessment regime for Employment and Support Allowance. Where is that evidence?

Our evidence that he had a bodyguard comes from Paula Peters on Facebook, who attended the meeting. She wrote: “The police, and they were armed, hustled him into the room. He had a bodyguard in the room with him! What the hell for? We are entitled to watch proceedings and follow due process.”

Dame Anne Begg, chairing the meeting, pointed out that the UK Statistics Authority has received more complaints about the Department of Work and Pensions’ use of statistics than any other government department.

His response: “Yes, but I’ve had two letters. One was about two years ago, concerning something about the use of them on immigration, but they let that one sit – and the last one was where we had a discussion on the use of where I referred to those going back to work on the back of the benefit cap. They said that … I should not make the link. I believed it to be the case – that those people were going back to work due to the fact of reducing the cap; that’s my belief. They said it should not remain as a flat statistic, which we’ve accepted.”

So in that one respect, he admitted that he was wrong.

But he also said: “We have published, over the period that I have been there, over 500 statistical releases. We’ve also started the innovation of ‘ad hoc’ releases – which, actually, we were congratulated for by UKSA… We try and publish as regularly as possible… We try to sell a positive message, and I know there have been issues around negativity with regard to disability benefits.”

Pressed on the fact that Grant Shapps had claimed nearly 900,000 people shuffled off ESA because they weren’t willing to take the work capability assessment, the Secretary of State denied responsibility: “We didn’t actually – and have never – given them that idea about those figures. It was something that they put together and released themselves. I wasn’t even aware that they were going out with that comment at the time… I have had conversations with him and others about being careful to check with the department.”

Committee member Debbie Abrahams wanted to know about the claim by a whistleblower in Job Centre Plus, that JSA claimants were deliberately being set up to fail, contrary to the Civil Service code, with ploys including making appointments without telling the claimant, in order to create an easy opportunity for a sanction and thereby distorting statistics – not after they had been collected but in the collection itself.

She said the whistleblower had tried to raise the issue with managers at all levels, but had been rebuffed each time.

“Well, I’m not aware of that,” drawled Mr Duncan Smith, “and I have to say that I would like to see his evidence for that. With respect, he is making an allegation about some of the incredibly hard work that job advisors do. There’s always one or two people who have a different view about operating in an organisation. I happen to believe that, unless it is proved to the contrary, people in Job Centres do a very good job, work very hard, and they apply sanctions within the rules.”

Challenged on this by Dame Anne, he started to claim that sanctions are always issued because of failure to comply with the strictures imposed on claimants, provoking an interruption from Debbie Abrahams that caused his mask to slip momentarily. “I have listened a lot to what has been said – and moaning about this… You’ve had a fair crack at this.”

So there you have it. Statistical errors are nothing to do with Iain Duncan Smith. Sanctions are always applied fairly and never to distort the statistics.

And anyone who thinks otherwise is “moaning”.

Paula Peters, in her Facebook post, said that disability minister Mike Penning met people from organisations representing the disabled. She reported his words as follows:

“Our disabilities are our fault.

“Diabetes is a lifestyle choice.

“Everyone who claims benefits is frauding the system.

“Everyone who uses the access to work programme is frauding it.”

The public verdict on the meeting has been universally negative. Nicola Clubb (again on Facebook) summed it up well: “I have just watched an hour’s worth of IDS and the DWP evidence to the Work and Pensions Committee and they let him and his three cronies off the hook.

“They did not push him him to explain his use of dodgy stats, they just asked him about a couple of pieces of data released by people.”

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