Tag Archives: convention

MP delays childbirth to vote on Brexit – sparking row over Tory untrustworthiness. Here’s the reason

Tulip Siddiq: Tory treachery is forcing her to take dedication to democracy to a rarely-seen degree.

Remember when Tory Party chairman Brandon Lewis broke a “pairing agreement” with a Liberal Democrat who was on maternity leave so his government could win a Brexit vote? Tulip Siddiq does.

Pairing is a longstanding convention in the House of Commons, where the whips of the government and an opposition party agree to allow MPs from one side to miss a vote because of personal reasons or official business. The other party agrees to hold back one of their MPs from voting so the two absences cancel each other out.

But it seems Conservative chief whip Julian Smith has been trying to get his party’s MPs to betray that convention. He was successful in getting Mr Lewis to vote on Brexit legislation when he had said he would absent himself to accommodate the fact that Jo Swinson was having a baby.

Remember?

Tulip Siddiq does.

Advised by doctors to have her second child by caesarean section today (January 15), she has opted to push the procedure back two days because she does not trust Theresa May’s government to act honourably.

Who can blame her for that?

Of course the decision has sparked a row, with other Labour MPs saying a proxy voting system should be introduced, making the now-discredited “pairing” convention unnecessary:

For members of the public, it seems to have become a matter of honour that every MP should turn up and vote.

https://twitter.com/LeeHow14/status/1084914541811642368

Here’s my preferred reason for that democratic fervour:

One thing is sure, no matter what the outcome of the vote (and I think we all know what it is going to be):

The Conservative Party will go into it in disgrace, and can only expect to come out of it in worse condition.

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Racist Sajid Javid wants Tory government to break international law on asylum seekers

Sajid Javid: Pleading the cause of racism against asylum seekers.

It’s a common argument against the refugees coming across the Channel to the UK at the moment – why don’t they just stop in France?

The answer is obvious: They don’t feel safe there.

And the legal position is clear: The 1951 refugee convention acknowledges that refugees may enter countries through irregular routes and should not be penalised for this. The outcome of an asylum application cannot be pre-judged, irrespective of how that person reached the country. Asylum claims have to be determined according to the law and the circumstances of every individual case.

All of the above seems to have been lost on Sajid Javid, who seems to think it would be big and tough of him to refuse asylum to anybody who manages to cross the Channel safely.

The Prole Star is correct. It would be illegal to refuse asylum to anybody who arrives in the UK and demands it, based on the method of their arrival or the fact that they did not stop in another country instead. It is not up to him to make such a decision.

As Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott pointed out: “It is not for Sajid Javid to claim that asylum seekers may not be genuine. He cannot know. We have a system for determining that.”

Can you imagine what would happen if Mr Javid went through with his racist idea?

No?

Well, don’t worry – all you have to do is watch events in Israel, where the racist Likud government has announced that it intends to expel around 38,000 African refugees.

(I say racist because the hatred of people of other ethnicities is clear; Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said the expulsions are necessary to protect Israel’s “Jewish character”.)

Many of the people concerned say they came to Israel to seek asylum after fleeing persecution and conflict, but the authorities in that country regard them as “economic migrants”.

The BBC report of this outrage states that the group affected by this policy “includes people fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria, who are likely to be granted refugee status”.

But the Guardian‘s report on Sajid Javid’s racism includes a comment by immigration and asylum barrister Colin Yeo as follows: “Sending genuine refugees to face persecution in order to dissuade others from seeking to come here is plainly illegal.” If Israel is signed up to the same convention as the UK – and it is – then it is illegal in that country as well.

And the words of Yvette Cooper, quoted in the Guardian report, may also be applied to Israel: “Asylum claims have to be determined according to the law and the circumstances of every individual case, not as an arbitrary political decision supposedly to deter others.”

Sadly, it seems there is no penalty for non-compliance – other than bad publicity in the newspapers, and that depends on the political leanings of their owners.

Perhaps Mr Javid thinks a little bad publicity is worth risking. It seems likely he’ll be watching what happens in Israel with great interest.

Of course, if a general election is called in the meantime, there’s a chance his racist ideas will come to nothing.

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Exposed: The distortions that made anti-Semitism smears possible

Marc Wadsworth (left), introducing the family of Stephen Lawrence to Nelson Mandela.

A great deal of attention has been given on the social media recently (although not the mainstream media, you notice) to the report by the Media Reform Coalition and Birkbeck on the mainstream media’s coverage of allegations of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.

It found that there have been “prevalent errors, omissions and skews in the mainstream coverage”, and much of the reporting of it has focused on this headline.

This Writer found much of interest in the case studies, also – especially that which focused on Marc Wadsworth.

Mr Wadsworth has been in the news again recently, after he spoke in favour of Kerry-Anne Mendoza giving the Claudia Jones memorial lecture in his capacity as chair of the National Union of Journalists’ Black Members Council. His comments attracted the enmity of commentators of a certain political leaning, who referred critically to the incident at the launch of the Chakrabarti Report that led to accusations of anti-Semitism against him.

The MRC/Birkbeck report has this to say about it: “The immediate availability of a video recording of the incident offered a useful basis on which to assess the degree to which the activist, Mark Wadsworth, was accurately quoted in reports. Again, this reflects a common theme in much of the related coverage where contentious or controversial statements are paraphrased in reports in ways that can potentially distort their original context or meaning.

“Wadsworth accused Ruth Smeeth, a Jewish MP who had been critical of Corbyn on a range of issues (and especially antisemitism), of “working in hand in hand” with the Daily Telegraph. Given the immediate focus of the event, this was immediately interpreted by some as a veiled antisemitic attack, drawing on a racial stereotype of Jews controlling the media.

“On the face of it, however, Wadsworth’s comments seemed to reflect a widely-held concern amongst Labour members that centrist or right-wing MPs were ‘plotting’ to oust the elected leader of the party, and that this extended to collaboration with some of the Tory-supporting press. As it turned out, these concerns were well-founded as the event was swiftly followed by a wave of shadow cabinet resignations that was at least partly orchestrated with the media, including the BBC.

“Of crucial significance here was Wadsworth’s reference to an interaction he witnessed between Smeeth and a single reporter from a single newspaper. There was nothing in his original comment that either explicitly or implicitly generalized this interaction into a broader accusation of working with the right-wing press or media at large. Indeed, he was subsequently caught on camera having a private exchange with Jeremy Corbyn stating that he ‘outed’ Smeeth for “working with the
‘Torygraph’”. This would seem to support the view that Wadsworth’s charge was not one of collaborating or conspiring with the press in general.

“Yet this is precisely how Wadsworth was indirectly quoted in 13 out of 35 reports. At its most benign, such paraphrasing adopted words such as “colluding with the right-wing press” without any qualification… And at the extreme end of the spectrum Wadsworth was reported in the Sun as accusing Smeeth of being part of a “Jewish media conspiracy” and in a separate article, simply “attacking her for being Jewish”.”

The report added: “It would appear that several journalists had taken cues from Smeeth herself who, in a formal response, had alleged that Wadsworth used traditional antisemitic slurs to attack her “for being part of a ‘media conspiracy’”. In spite of the seriousness of the allegation, nearly half of the reports in the sample (15 out of 33) either quoted Smeeth directly or referred to her allegations without mentioning Wadsworth’s denial. This was a clear subversion of the journalistic principle of offering a right of reply to those who face reputational damage from an allegation of harm.

This was all the more perplexing given that journalists did not have to rely on second hand accounts of what was said at the meeting. Many were in attendance of  the launch which was also streamed live and the video footage – including the recorded interaction between Wadsworth and Smeeth – was easily and immediately accessible.”

The conclusion was: “Underlying the evidence presented here was a persistent subversion of conventional news values…  Journalists covering the launch of Labour’s antisemitism report in 2016 routinely misquoted Mark Wadsworth in ways that invoked a notion of media conspiracy that was entirely absent from his original statement, in spite of the fact that a video recording of the event was readily and immediately accessible.”

I know from personal experience that the treatment of Marc Wadsworth was not a solitary case. Gabriel Pogrund’s Sunday Times article alleging that I was a Holocaust denier relied entirely on a ‘leaked’ report from Labour’s NEC which itself was based on allegations by the Campaign Against Antisemitism. My own original words were publicly available – and had been for more than a year, at the time his report was published.

Whilst I was contacted by Mr Pogrund prior to publication of his story, he did not give me a right of reply on the claims he made.

It is clear that this “persistent subversion of conventional news values” has become standard practice in mainstream media coverage of allegations of anti-Semitism against members of the Labour Party.

In light of the facts highlighted by the report, it seems clear that Labour’s National Constitutional Committee, which examines allegations against members, needs to revisit the case of Mr Wadsworth – and reconsider whether it should continue with the cases against myself and others who have suffered similar accusations.

And then the Labour leadership would be well-advised to consider suing the press outlets mentioned in the report, not only for wasting all our time but for libelling the party as a whole.

It is these so-called newspapers that have brought the Labour Party into disrepute, and not the members whose names they have dragged through the mud.

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Disabled people’s rights are hanging on upcoming judicial review

Welcome to hell: The work capability assessment is the start of a long path involving challenges, continual reassessments, misdirection or demands from the DWP, Job Centre Plus or work programme providers, leading eventually to despair, destitution and, in many cases, death. Could YOU mount a judicial review against this regime?

Welcome to hell: The work capability assessment is the start of a long path involving challenges, continual reassessments, misdirection or demands from the DWP, Job Centre Plus or work programme providers, leading eventually to despair, destitution and, in many cases, death. Could YOU mount a judicial review against this regime?

An appeal to the United Nations, using its Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities to show how the sick and disabled in the UK are being mistreated by the government, will depend on the result of a judicial review later this month.

I have previously documented the work of Samuel Miller, to make the UN aware of the life-threatening activities undertaken by the Department for Work and Pensions under Iain Duncan Smith’s regime of cuts and changes to entitlement, so he should need no introduction.

Mr Miller has been hoping to induce the UN to consider whether the current Smith/DWP regime contravenes international agreements on human rights and the rights of the disabled. Many Vox Political readers have submitted evidence to him, to be used in support of this.

But he wrote to me yesterday, saying this work must be deferred until the result of the judicial review is known.

“Submission criteria require that domestic remedies be exhausted,” he wrote. “Any complaint submitted to the [UN] committee must first have been submitted to the national courts and authorities for consideration.

“As you are probably aware, there’s an upcoming judicial review of the Work Capability Assessment for people living with mental health problems. The dates are January 15-16 & 18, in the Upper Tribunal Courts in London.

“If I can demonstrate to the UN that remedies invoked by the State are neither effective nor available, then UNCRPD complaints would carry more weight.”

He quoted a letter from Jorge Araya, secretary of the UN committee on the rights of persons with disabilities, who stated: “Complainants have initially the duty to demonstrate that they have exhausted domestic remedies, then the burden shifts to the State party to demonstrate that there are remedies still available; if that happens, complainants should demonstrate  that remedies invoked by the State are neither effective nor available.”

So that’s the situation at the moment. Before Christmas, Mr Miller said the amount of time required to mount a judicial review would put the lives of sick and disabled people in jeopardy; that is not the case while one is about to be heard.

Also, consultation with a barrister, Steve Broach (@SteveBroach) has suggested that sick and/or disabled people should explore potential judicial review with solicitors – especially after the DWP announced that people on sickness benefits were “to be offered work experience to help them back into a job”.

The DWP’s announcement last month stated: “People on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) who have been assessed as being able to go back to work at some point are placed in the Work-Related Activity Group for the benefit and are expected to take part in activity which helps them prepare for a return to employment. One of the options available to them will now include voluntary work experience.

“Having taken into account an individual’s circumstances, a Jobcentre Plus adviser or Work Programme provider may feel that an appropriate mandatory work placement – which must be of benefit to the community – would be helpful.

People who fail to carry out any agreed work-related activity without good reason may face having their benefits sanctioned. The sanction will be made up of an open-ended period which is lifted when the claimant meets the requirements, followed by a short fixed period of 1, 2 or 4 weeks.”

The sticking-point would be the cost of bringing a judicial review – in the region of £10,000 to £20,000 for a straightforward case; higher for a more complex matter. If the claimant is unsuccessful, they are likely to be liable for the defendant’s costs as well as their own. “They are therefore looking at a legal bill of upwards of £30,000 if they lose, and they must be prepared for this eventuality, bearing in mind the unpredictability of judicial review proceedings and costs orders,” Mr Miller told me.

Also, of course, we know that David Cameron has vowed to crack down on appeals that delay new laws, planning decisions and policies, and this could potentially be extended to human rights judicial reviews, since his has government already made substantial cuts to legal aid.

What do you think? I’m really interested in hearing what readers think about this.

Could you mount a judicial review, if a decision was made to force you into a work placement and you thought it would harm your health?

What about those of you in the legal profession? You should understand the current situation – regarding the cost of legal action – better than anyone else – is it realistic to expect people on sickness and disability benefits to finance expensive court cases?

If not, what other possibilities are available?

How to regain your reputation with one simple sentence

Clint Eastwood. What a guy.

You may recall a while ago I was one of the many who took issue with Mr Eastwood for his bizarre interview with a chair during a Republican convention in the United States. I wrote an article asking why celebrities have to belittle themselves by declaring their support for political parties, and basically said that it can’t do their reputation any good at all.

Well, it seems I misjudged the great man.

Collared by an interviewer who demanded to know what possessed him, Eastwood’s response was the stuff of legends. “If they’re stupid enough to ask me to a political convention,” he said, “they have to take whatever they get.”

Genius.

One person for whom I doubt this response would work is David Cameron, who was outed as a dunce on David Letterman’s US chat show last week.

It isn’t stupid to ask what “Magna Carta” means. After all, my next-door-neighbour’s four-year-old can work it out.

Perhaps Letterman could have started him off with something easier, though – like maybe, when his party didn’t win the election and never stated that it planned to do so, why has he sold off so much of the NHS in England to private companies, and why does he have plans to sell off so much more of it?

The old argument that it creates more choice is clearly nonsense because people were, reasonably, expecting the choice to be theirs. Instead, they have been presented with the company that has bought the contract and told, “This is your choice of NHS supplier. Don’t catch anything too serious or you’ll be paying it off for the rest of your life.”

Or, in the words of an iconic Eastwood character: “Do you feel lucky?”