Tag Archives: cumulative

Esther McVey is a compulsive liar who should be kicked out of government

Evil eyes: Esther McVey seems to get a perverse thrill from pretending her government's policies are helping people; it is more likely they are driving the needy to despair and suicide.

Evil eyes: Esther McVey seems to get a perverse thrill from pretending her government’s policies are helping people; it is more likely they are driving the needy to despair and suicide.

Note to Iain Duncan Smith: It is not a good idea to try to inspire confidence in a £multi-billion “money pit” disaster by wheeling out Esther McVey to lie about it.

The woman dubbed “Fester McVile” by some commentators has accumulated a reputation so bad that the only way she can hide the metaphorical stink from the public is by associating with …Smith himself, in whose stench she seems almost fragrant. But not quite.

This is a woman who has lied to the public that it is impossible to carry out a cumulative assessment of the impact on the sick and disabled of the Coalition’s ‘final solution’ changes to the benefit system.

This is the woman who, in the face of public unrest about the prevalence of zero-hours contracts, announced that Job Centre advisors will now be able to force the unemployed into taking this exploitative work.

She has previously misled Parliament over the loophole in Bedroom Tax legislation that meant the government had removed Housing Benefit from thousands of people who were exempt from the measure – including Stephanie Bottrill, whose suicide has been attributed to the pressure of having to survive on less because of the tax. Asked how many people had been affected by the loophole, McVey played it down by claiming she did not know the answer, while other ministers suggested between 3,000 and 5,000. In fact, from Freedom of Information requests to which just one-third of councils responded, 16,000 cases were revealed.

Mark Hoban stood in for McVey to trot out the lie that independent reviews of the Work Capability Assessment had identified areas of improvement on which the government was acting. In fact, out of 25 recommendations in the Year One review alone, almost two-thirds were not fully and successfully implemented.

In a debate on food banks, McVey’s lies came thick and fast: She accused the previous Labour government of a “whirl of living beyond our means” that “had to come to a stop” without ever pausing to admit that it was Tory-voting bankers who had been living beyond their means, who caused the crash, and who are still living beyond their means today, because her corporatist (thank you, Zac Goldsmith) Conservative government has protected them.

She accused Labour of trying to keep food banks as “its little secret”, forcing Labour’s Jim Cunningham to remind us all that food banks were set up by churches to help refugees who were waiting for their asylum status to be confirmed – not as a support system for British citizens, as they have become under the Coalition’s failed regime.

She said the Coalition government was brought in to “solve the mess that Labour got us in”, which is not true – it was born from a backroom deal between two of the most unscrupulous party leaders of recent times, in order to ensure they and their friends could get their noses into the money trough (oh yes, there’s plenty of money around – but this government is keeping it away from you).

She said the Coalition had got more people into work than ever before – without commenting on the fact that the jobs are part-time, zero-hours, self-employed contracts that benefit the employers but exploit the workers and in fact propel them towards poverty.

She lied to Parliament, claiming that children are three times more likely to be in poverty if they are in a workless household. In fact, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, in-work poverty has now outstripped that suffered by those in workless and retired households; children are more likely to be in poverty if their parents have jobs.

She attacked Labour for allowing five million people to be on out-of-work benefits, with two million children in workless households – but under her government the number of households suffering in-work poverty has risen to eight million (by 2008 standards), while workless or retired households in poverty have risen to total 6.3 million.

She claimed that 60,000 people were likely to use a food bank this year – but Labour’s Paul Murphy pointed out that 60,000 people will use food banks this year in Wales alone. The actual figure for the whole of the UK is 500,000.

She said the Coalition’s tax cuts had given people an extra £700 per year, without recognising that the real-terms drop in wages and rise in the cost of living means people will be £1,600 a year worse-off when the next general election takes place, tax cuts included. She said stopping fuel price increases meant families were £300 better-off, which is nonsense. Families cannot become better off because something has not happened; it’s like saying I’m better off because the roof of my house hasn’t fallen in and squashed me.

Her talents won exactly the recognition they deserved when her Wikipedia entry was altered to describe her as “the Assistant Grim Reaper for Disabled People since 2012, second only to Iain Duncan Smith. She was previously a television presenter and businesswoman before deciding to branch out into professional lying and helping disabled people into the grave.”

In her food bank speech, she also said the government had brought in Universal Credit to ensure that three million people become better-off. There’s just one problem with that system – it doesn’t work.

This brings us back to the current issue. Last month, in a written answer to Labour’s Rachel Reeves, McVey claimed that – and let’s have a direct quote so there can be no doubt that these were her words: “The Chief Secretary to the Treasury has approved the [Universal Credit] Strategic Outline Business Case.” That would mean the Treasury was willing to continue funding the disaster.

In fact, civil service boss Bob Kerslake admitted yesterday that the Treasury has not signed off the scheme, which the Major Projects Authority classifies as being at serious risk of failure.

Even for a minister in the Coalition government, this woman has lied far too often. She is a danger to the national interest.

So come on, Cameron.

We know you’re a liar but you refuse to go.

We know …Smith is a liar but you refuse to sack him.

Here’s Esther McVey. Her lies have made her utterly worthless to you. She is a liability.

Kick her in the backbenches.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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‘WoW’ debate on sickness and disability benefits live blog

Today's the day: The WoW Petition is being debated in Parliament today, having won the support from MPs necessary to trigger a debate.

Today’s the day: The WoW Petition is being debated in Parliament today, having won the support from MPs necessary to trigger a debate.

That concludes today’s live blog. Thanks to everybody who visited and pressed ‘F5’ to keep up with events.

2.38pm The motion for the government to commission a cumulative impact assessment has been passed – resoundingly – after the debate. Admittedly very few people attended but the result was what the 104,000 people who signed the ‘WoW’ petition wanted.

However, there now arises the question of what the government will do. As was noted in the debate, the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition has been defeated three times in succession over social security benefits – and has done absolutely nothing about the motions that have been passed.

Those who believed Labour would abstain have been proved wrong by today’s result; we must now judge the government by its actions in response.

The public wants action on this matter, and it has been supported by a House of Commons vote.

This is not just a test of Parliamentary democracy but also one of the e-petition system by which the debate was secured in the first place. Does David Cameron intend to ignore the will of the people that has been revealed by this new method which he is said to support?

2.30pm Speaker John Bercow has turned up to take the vote – and the ‘Ayes’ have it.

2.30pm Mr McDonnell says if the government thinks a cumulative assessment is too complicated, why not bring in the independent organisations who say they can do it, and fund them to do it?

2.28pm John McDonnell is winding up after an inadequate response from Mr Penning. “I’ve heard nothing here today that will alleviate that suffering [of disabled people because of the cuts]. If an impact assessment was published, people would be up in arms.”

2.23pm Rather than discuss the policies behind the WCA, Penning agrees that assessments are taking too long.

2.22pm Penning is departing from the usual Tory stance by admitting that problems have arisen since the Coalition took over in government. He says taxpayers’ money should not be paid to Atos to exit its contract.

2.21pm Fears of a Labour abstention are causing a great deal of distress among the general public watching the debate. Ghost Whistler comments: “If Labour are going to abstain, what’s the point of all this?”

2.19pm Already Penning is saying a cumulative impact assessment cannot be carried out accurately. Other organisations have managed it – why not HM Government?

2.17pm Mike Penning is on his feet. Prepare for a rehash of the government stance (at length).

1.14pm WoWCampaign on Twitter is unhappy: “Kate Green departs from motion over scrapping of #WCA  This is an integral part of WOW petition.”

2.13pm Jaypot2012 has read my correction and writes: “My apologies – but I do stand by my comment that if they abstain from this vote then they deserve to lose the next election.”

2.11pm Jason Sheffield on Twitter, apparently responding to Grahame Morris, states: “It is obvious from the empty benches in HoC that UK political parties no longer protect the interests of the poor & vulnerable.”

2.08pm Kate Green tells us Labour wholeheartedly supports the call for a cumulative impact assessment outlined by the petition and in the motion. So Caroline Lucas was wrong whether her abstention rumour, then?

2.07pm Jaypot2012 is on a roll: “These MP’s, MEP’s, etc. forget their places – they are civil servants who are paid by US, the taxpayer.  It’s about time someone reminded them of this, and it’s also time that the people of this country were reminded as well.”

2.05pm Commenter Jaypot2012 again: “If Labour abstain from this vote then they deserve to lose the next election.  They have been far too pally with the Tories, they are in talks with the Lib Dems, and throughout this coalition “stint in office”, they have backed them, instead of being an opposition party!
“I know that I will NOT vote for labour if they abstain, I will vote for the greens instead!”
In fairness, Labour has not backed the Coalition. This is a falsehood that has been put about often but is not supported by voting records.

2pm On Twitter, #WOWFeb27 is trending above #Merkel. An indication that the majority of MPs got their priorities wrong?

1.58pm Commenter Jaypot2012 writes: “How about all the money that has been wasted and thrown away on IDS schemes?  How much has been lost with the IT schemes?  He says he’ll just write it off.  Does he realise that money belongs to us and could have been used to pay people their ESA whilst they appealed against their decisions?  Now we have people who are starving, who are ill and have no money because IDS thinks the money is monopoly money and he can waste it and throw it away!”

1.57pm WoWCampaign tweets: “Is it not time the whole House faces the horror of what is being done? History will judge, if not before.”

1.55pm “It is not a lack of interest; it is not a lack of understanding that means so few people are here today – it’s a lack of time,” says Madeleine Moon in defence of the low attendance at the debate.

1.53pm “We weren’t elected to this house to fight for the interests of the powerful and privileged,” says Mr Morris.

1.50pm Cuts are being targeted on just two areas, with 50 per cent aimed at benefits and local government, and the sick and disabled being affected disproportionately, says Mr Morris.

1.48pm Grahame Morris: “The sick, vulnerable and disabled weren’t responsible for the economic crash, but they are bearing the burden.” He says, “If these cuts had been made fairly, they would have fallen on the better-off.”

1.46pm The problem with WCA assessments is not with Atos but with the policy it is pursuing, as Capita is experiencing the same issues, says Sheila Gilmore.

1.44pm The claim that DLA was going to too many people and hardly anyone was ever reassessed was a “straw man”, leading to flawed proposals for reform, says Sheila Gilmore.

1.40pm Sheila Gilmore to the hardly-represented government: “I didn’t know why it is so difficult – why it is so hard to work out the impact of your policies!”

1.35pm Commenter Barry Davies: “Kudos to Dennis Skinner, well stated argument, and the sort of passion we need to get our case over.”

1.34pm Caroline Lucas reckons Labour will abstain when this debate comes to the vote. What do readers think about that?

1.33pm Upbraided by Labour on her claim that Rachel Reeves said Labour would be tougher on welfare (“Labour will be tougher on welfare spending”), Caroline Lucas said spending should be based on need, not targets.

1.32pm Caroline Lucas has also updated us on the number of people on the government benches. They now number three.

1.31pm Caroline Lucas pays tribute to Francesca Martinez, who “did so much” to publicise the WoW Petition.

1.30pm The worst is yet to come, according to Mark Lazarowicz, as the consequences of the government’s cuts mount up. “We’ve had chaos, misery, the bureaucratic nightmare, the waste of money that is the bedroom tax.”

1.29pm The Benefit Claimant on Twitter: “@David_Cameron Most important debate in politics is going on in the house. You’re at home. We’ll need to sanction you.”

1.28pm Caroline Lucas MP on Twitter: “Grand total on Govt benches: 2 #shameful

1.27pm Mark Lazarowicz is quoting organisations in his constituency who say the main problems they are facing include long delays in processing. This echoes the findings of the National Audit Office, released today.

1.25pm “This government cannot be trusted to reform welfare in a fair way,” says Mr Danczuk. “While people… will be able to get rid of this government next May, the damage it is doing will last for decades.”

1.24pm ‘Kathrine’ on Twitter makes a very pertinent point about the attendance at this debate: “Thanks to all those MPs who turned up to #WOWFeb27, the rest of them are callous, cowardly, and f***ing WORK-SHY.”

1.23pm Simon Danczuk is telling us about a constituent who received a glowing letter from the DWP stating how much closer she was to getting work as a result of government efforts. This constituent was in a coma at the time.

1.21pm “It’s an absolute nonsense and the way that we are treating these people is an absolute disgrace,” says Ian Lavery. “It’s an absolute outrage. People are dying as a result of the Welfare Reform Act 2012… Is this really the sort of country we want to leave to the next generation. This is IDS’ UK.” A passionate speech to match that of Dennis Skinner.

1.19pm Universal Credit is “an absolute car crash” but “it’s not the DWP who are suffering,” says Ian Lavery.

1.18pm “I’ve got someone who was sanctioned by the DWP because he was in hospital with a severe heart condition,” says Ian Lavery. “Is this a way to treat human beings?”

1.16pm Mr Lavery says people taking the Atos assessments are facing a “Little Britain” scenario where “the computer says no” and the assessor is not medically qualified.

1.16pm “We shouldn’t be making decisions to hammer the disabled and the vulnerable because we could be next,” says Ian Lavery.

1.14pm Ian Lavery says many disabled people have given up. One asked him if he understands what it’s like to feel “trapped like an animal”.

1.13pm Katy Clark says one in five people who have been sanctioned while on JSA were disabled.

1.08pm If this motion is passed, it will be the third time this year that the government has been defeated on a motion relating to benefits. On both previous occasions the result was ignored. Maybe it will be third time lucky, says Eilidh Whiteford.

1.06pm Disabled people have been “vilified” and “stigmatised” in a way that is “shameful”, says Eilidh Whiteford.

1.05pm Eilidh Whiteford says the challenge is finding employers who are willing to take on disabled people.

1.02pm Eilidh Whiteford: “To get it so very wrong, so many thousands of times, just beggars belief. The government needs to get its head out of the sand.”

1.01pm Sheridan says if only a fraction of the resources used chasing down benefit claimants were used to tackle tax evasion, it would make a big difference #WOWFeb27

12.59pm WoWcampaign on Twitter: “Benefit mismanagement hurting sick and disabled, watchdog says http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/feb/27/benefit-mismanagement-hurting-sick-and-disabled-atos-capita … …  #wowfeb27

12.58pm James Thurston on Twitter: “It hasnt been mentioned in the #WOWFeb27 yet but negative rhetoric generated by DWP Ministers results hinders not helps disabled get work.”

12.57pm Jim Sheridan tells us people claiming benefits are “demonised” and no consideration is given to the circumstances in which they are claiming. It is a tactic to divert attention “from the gross abuse of power” in this country.

12.55pm Jim Sheridan tells us this should be about treating people with dignity. He says he was out of work for three years, blacklisted due to trade union activity, but “I was not a shirker as some of those opposite might treat me”.

12.53pm Comment from Jaypot2012: “I am hopping mad here – I so wish I was there, and that I could speak for the disabled and long term sick.  As for the conservatives and lib/dems – they have no idea!  They sit there with their smug faces when really they are thinking that the disabled should be culled!!!!!!!!”

12.50pm Steve Turner on Twitter: “It’s not a question of ‘accuracy’ in WCA’s for #atos. They are doing what they have been told to do by #dwp. Get ppl off benefits #WOWFeb27

12.42pm Action for M.E. on Twitter: “Dennis Skinner slams Atos as a “lousy, rotten firm” and says “it’s high time we got rid of this mess”. #WOWFeb27

12.40pm “The reason they’re on demonstrations like they never did before is because they are desperate, desperate people waiting for us to do something to help them.” Powerful speech by Dennis Skinner.

12.39pm “We’re having hundreds and thousands of people being turned down.” He refers to a constituent who waited month for an appeal while he had cancer, and died before it was heard.

12.38pm “I wish [David Cameron] would say money is no object for disabled people – it really is a scandal.”

12.38pm “There were people telling me they had been for the WCA and turned down, and they couldn’t rise from their wheelchair.”

12.37pm “There were blind people telling me what was about to happen and I didn’t believe them.”

12.36pm Dennis Skinner refers to a historical debate with Sir Keith Joseph. “Even in the Keith Joseph era, the welfare state was a status quo, by and large. Even in the Thatcher years, this chaos did not happen! We never had capability assessments. We never had a march by 3,000 blind and disabled people which heralded the beginning of this coalition.”

12.34pm Steve Turner on Twitter: “I’m not ‘trapped’ on benefits, I am ILL.
I just want to be left alone to get well, not made to jump thru hoops every other week. #WOWFeb27

12.33pm Chris Bracken on Twitter: “If you are a sick or disabled constituent of Guto Bebb, you have my sympathy. #wowfeb27 #wowdebate

12.32pm Bebb says we should have WCAs, and they should take on advice from medical experts – failing to accept that the expertise of these people is in question and the rationale behind the tests has been discredited.

12.31pm Bebb is harking back to the Harrington reviews, which we know have not been implemented, even though he says they have been accepted.

12.30pm “We had a failing welfare system,” claims Guto Bebb. He says it trapped people in a way which was unproductive and unfair.

12.29pm Guto Bebb (Con) defends government policy saying the NAO report is about implementation, not policy.

12.28pm CAB Sleaford on Twitter: “#WOWFeb27 Mark Durkan: “Fixing a number and squeezing more people off benefit to reach it” .. is what we can expect in the future.”

12.27pm “Those who are terminally ill, those who have a total life expectancy of six months, are having to wait 28 days [for a PIP decision] – one-sixth of their total lifespan in the bureaucratic morass.”

12.26pm PIP – “They started with a number and framed their policy around it,” says Anne McGuire.

12.25pm Anne McGuire says disabled people are not against welfare reform – just the changes of the last three years which disproportionately affect disabled people.

12.24pm Anne McGuire reminds us that David Cameron promised in 2010 that his government would look after the sick, disabled and old.

12.23pm Anne McGuire MP says a cumulative impact assessment is something the government should have brought in when it introduced its benefit changes. She berates Graham Evans for conflating fraud and error, which are two different things.

12.21pm James Thurston on Twitter: “Its a great shame that Graham Evans MP (Con) Weaver Vale is reading his speech verbatim. Does he know what he’s talking about? #WOWFeb27

12.19pm Commenter LeonC: @GHollingbery those results are in the minority a test that just helps the few is not good enough one death too many #WOWdebate #WOWFeb27

12.18pm He’s quoting financial statistics. That won’t get him very far. We spend less than our OECD partners on disability benefits.

12.17pm Graham Evans (Con) says the government’s reforms offer protection for those who need it the most, and support to help people back into work.

12.15pm Was that Grahame Morris commenting on the fact that the WCA is based on a discredited model pushed by a criminal US insurance company?

12.14pm I just caught a reference to calls for information being described as “vexatious” but I was trying to update this page and it was glitching. If it was a reference to my request for an update on mortality statistics, he’s absolutely right.

12.11pm He says those with the most severe disabilities – two per cent of society – are suffering 15 per cent of the cuts.

12.10pm Ian Mearns: The fact that this is being considered by Parliament is an indictment of our political system. “We don’t need an independent assessment to know what is going wrong. [It is] causing immeasurable suffering. We know what the effects are. We support this motion merely as a way of exposing the truth… [measures] attacking the poorest and most vulnerable in society.”

12.08pm “The system is fine in theory and the government has made improvements, but Atos has failed completely.” Blame-shifting from Alan Reid. A Labour member asks: “Does the hon member take any responsibility for the government in which he sits?”

12.06pm Michelle Maher on Twitter has this chap pegged: “Alan Reid LibDem saying more improvements must be made but shifting balme to ATOS and Labour #wowdebate #wowfeb27

12.04pm Mr Reid is also referring to the Harrington reviews of the WCA system. He says the Coalition has improved the WCA.

12.03pm Mr Reid wants to know the official Labour line on this, as Labour does not intend to spend any more on benefits than the Coalition. It’s a fair point!

12.02pm Liberal Democrat Alan Reid supports the government, saying disabled people are moving into jobs at the rate of 100 per day. Is this the bogus figure for people who are being urged to claim they are self-employed?

12.00 Dame Anne Begg: Changes to housing benefit, local housing allowance, the bedroom tax, council tax relief have hit disabled people the hardest. The benefit cap might not have hit the disabled but it has hit carers. Social care cuts, meaning local authorities cannot provide care, again hits disabled people. Universal Credit will affect the disabled. “It’s because all of these are affecting their lives that there is an absolute need for a cumulative impact assessment. No-one knows the full force of everything that is falling on households. Unless we do that, we will never know.”

11.57am Caroline Lucas: In Brighton and Hove, of 60 clients only three – five per cent – have been assessed for PIP.

11.57am Dame Anne Begg: “The government says it isn’t picking on disabled people… Every single one of (the main) benefits is undergoing enormous reforms… and we know that they are not going well at all. Atos wants out of its contract. Face-to-Face WCAs in the home are taking up to six months to arrange. Those in the work-related activity group only get their benefit for a year. They have paid into the benefits schemes all their lives. People who thought they had done the right thing (are suffering under this government).”

11.54am “The evidence I see… is that many people have been given a new lease of life by the government’s approach to welfare,” according to Mr Hollingbery.

11.53am Hollingbery is quoting positive results for a few people in his constituency. Anecdotal. The motion here is for an independent assessment of the cumulative impact – across the board.

11.50am A Labour interjection requests Mr Hollingbery looks at John McArdle’s site to see some of the human stories of people affected by the WCA. Hollingbery is trying to brush it off.

11.49am Hollingberry is saying the WCA isn’t perfect but it is subject to continual improvement.

11.47am George Hollingberry (Conservative) is trotting out the claim that recommendations following reviews of the WCA have been implemented. Independent studies have revealed that they have not.

11.46am Liz Crow on Twitter: 15% of disabled people’s health affected “a lot” or “quite a lot” by lack of money http://iaf.gd/8sz  #InActualFact #WOWFeb27

11.44am The WoW petitioners want the truth revealed, because they believe no civilised society would allow people to be treated in this way, Mr McDonnell concludes.

11.43am The result: Poverty for many. Inability to heat homes. Difficulty feeding the household. Humiliation. Suicide. Disabled people feel hounded by the media, politicians and the government, just for being disabled.

11.43am Demos/Scope study concludes that disabled people will lose more than £28 billion and will bear 13 per cent of the cuts.

11.42am “Disabled people are disproportionately hit by the bedroom tax with 72 per cent of affected households containing a disabled person. Local authorities have rejected applications from disabled people in adapted houses who are unable to downsize.” On a personal level, I know this to be true because I know a person in my home town who is affected in this way.

11.40am Backlogs have developed at each stage of the claimant process for the new Personal Independence Payment. The assessment provider? Atos, along with Capita. See today’s NAO report on the rollout of PIP.

11.38am Disabled people are put on the work programme with only a 5.3 per cent success rate. Forced closure of Remploy factories has removed the opportunity of sheltered work for them.

11.37am The government is reneging on a promise to conduct an independent review on the abuse of sanctions.

11.36am There has been a huge increase in the number of sanctions against people on ESA and JSA. One in five of those sanctioned were disabled.

11.35am The British Medical Association has called for the end of the WCA with immediate effect, to be replaced by a safe system – McDonnell.

11.34am Mr McDonnell acknowledges that the work capability assessment is based on the biopsychosocial model promoted by the Unum insurance company – and condemns the fact.

11.33am In theory, the introduction of the work capability assessment administered by Atos (by the last Labour government) was a good idea; in practice it has caused suffering, humiliation, stress, and at times absolute despair – McDonnell.

11.31am Looking at the number of people present on both sides of the house, does anyone else get the impression Angela Merkel’s visit was timed to sabotage this debate?

11.30am Jenny Gulliford on Twitter: 30,000 reduction in no. of people with mental health conditions recieving social support according to McDonnel #WOWFeb27

11.29am Many local authorities have changed eligibility criteria to those with only the most substantial needs. This is a false economy as the cost to society becomes greater (according to another backbencher).

11.27am 2.7 million disabled people live in poverty, and it is this group the cuts are hitting the most, says Mr McDonnell. He says we were told the cuts were intended to be fair – “Well, the reverse is the case.” He says the burden could be affecting people with disabilities up to 20 times more than the average, because of the cumulative effect of multiple ‘reforms’.

11.25am “We feel that many of us simply won’t survive these cuts,” says Mr McDonnell, quoting campaigners.

11.24am “Maybe naively, they believe that if MPs and ministers really knew what disability was like, they would not stand by and let disabled people be treated in this way.”

11.22am The debate is on. John McDonnell is on his feet, saying “We’re making history today.” He pays tribute to all of us ‘WoW’ campaigners who worked so hard for a year to get the signatures to secure the debate, working despite their disabilities. “MPs may speak in this debate, but it is the voice of the ‘WoW’ campaigners that will be heard.”

11.21am Don’t forget you can make your own feelings known by commenting on this article; I’ll include your comments in the text as long as they don’t contain libellous comments or swearing!

11.14am Kirsty Bentham on Twitter makes an excellent point: “Spoken to many clients contemplating taking their own life solely as a result of ESA and PIP delays #WOWFeb27” The fact is that we don’t know how many people have died as a result of the assessment regime imposed by the current government (they’ll say it was Labour, but the current criteria were imposed by the Coalition). Michael Meacher tabled a Parliamentary question to have mortality statistics published as the last figures date from November 2011, and there has been no response so far. There’s also the tribunal hearing that I have demanded in order to force the Information Commission and the DWP to release the figures.

11.10am ‘Neverender’ has proposed a drinking game: “It’s the #WOWFeb27 game; every time ‘the previous government’ is mentioned.  Take a shot.  We’ll all be ratted a half hour in.” It’s a little swipe at the Coalition habit of blaming everything on Labour.

11.05am ‘In Actual Fact’ on Twitter cuts to the heart of the issue: “Current system for assessing disabled welfare benefit claimants is killing people http://iaf.gd/1t3  #InActualFact #WOWFeb27

11.03am ‘Emsy’ on Twitter injects a note of cynicism before the debate has even begun: “Ok, when do we start taking bets on how many Tories will turn up to #WOWFeb27? Anyone going into double figures?”

10.53am Ekklesia’s website comments on the debate, saying Disabled people challenge damage of current welfare policies.

10.48am Another Guardian piece welcomes today’s debate, stating that ‘Government, not disability, makes us vulnerable’.

10.46am The WoW Petition was sponsored by comedian Francesca Martinez. The Guardian has published a piece about her involvement here.

10.40 am The motion for the debate is slightly different from the text of the petition, and runs as follows:

“That this House calls on the Government to commission an independent cumulative assessment of the impact of changes in the welfare system on sick and disabled people, their families and carers, drawing upon the expertise of the Work and Pensions Select Committee; requests that this impact assessment examine care home admissions, access to day care centres, access to education for people with learning difficulties, provision of universal mental health treatments, closures of Remploy factories, the Government’s contract with Atos Healthcare, IT implementation of universal credit, human rights abuses against disabled people, excess deaths of welfare claimants and the disregard of medical evidence in decision-making by Atos, the Department for Work and Pensions and the Tribunals Service; urges the Secretary of State for Health and the Secretary of State for Education jointly to launch a consultation on improving support into work for sick and disabled people; and further calls on the Government to end with immediate effect the work capability assessment, as voted for by the British Medical Association, to discontinue forced work under the threat of sanctions for people on disability benefits and to bring forward legislative proposals to allow a free vote on repeal of the Welfare Reform Act 2012.”

10.36am You can follow the debate on Twitter with the hashtag #WOWFeb27

Welcome to the live blog covering the Parliamentary debate on the effects of ‘welfare reform’ on disabled people.

The debate was triggered by the Commons Backbench Business Committee, after an e-petition calling for it won support from more than 100,000 people. It was known as the ‘WoW’ petition, because the organisers said it represented their fight against the government’s ‘War on Welfare’.

The debate will be opened by Labour MP John McDonnell.

The petition calls for:

“A Cumulative Impact Assessment of all cuts and changes affecting sick & disabled people, their families and carers, and a free vote on repeal of the Welfare Reform Act.

“An immediate end to the Work Capability Assessment, as voted for by the British Medical Association.

“Consultation between the Departments of Health and Education to improve support into work for sick and disabled people, and an end to forced work under threat of sanctions for people on disability benefits.

“An Independent, Committee-Based Inquiry into Welfare Reform, covering but not limited to: (1) Care home admission rises, daycare centres, access to education for people with learning difficulties, universal mental health treatments, Remploy closures; (2) DWP media links, the ATOS contract, IT implementation of Universal Credit; (3) Human rights abuses against disabled people, excess claimant deaths & the disregard of medical evidence in decision making by ATOS, DWP & the Tribunal Service.”

This blog will follow developments in the debate as they happen, taking information from the debate itself, from comments on Twitter, and from comments made directly to this page by readers; this is your chance to get involved with events as they happen.

The article will NOT be self-refreshing. Readers will have to refresh this page themselves at regular intervals – the easiest way is by pressing the F5 button on your keyboard.

The debate starts at 11.15am today (Thursday, February 27).

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The fakery and failure behind the DWP’s new ‘health’ scheme

131109doublespeak

It seems that the Department for Work and Pensions is sticking to the ‘Adolf Hitler’ model of public relations: If you tell a big lie and repeat it often enough, people will believe it. The press release announcing the new ‘Health and Work Service’ is riddled with long-debunked old lies – and one new statement that deserves our scrutiny.

This is the press release used by the BBC in its article on Saturday, telling us that the new, privately-run service is needed to combat the high cost of long-term absence from work.

It seems to be the DWP’s new practice to pass announcements to – let’s call them “trusted” – media outlets before putting them up on the government’s own press website, as a kind of test-run, allowing any credibility problems to be fixed before the government commits itself in an official way.

That’s why the announcement appeared on the government website yesterday (Monday) – two days after the BBC broke the story. Now – in just half the time it took to appear – let’s look at why it’s a load of rubbish.

“As many as 960,000 employees were on sick leave for a month or more each year on average between October 2010 and September 2013, the government has revealed,” the document begins.

Oh really? The DWP reached this figure by applying the findings of a survey, showing the ratio of long-term absences to total days of sickness absence, to findings by the Labour Force Survey showing the total number of days of sickness absence in the UK. That’s 9,000 sick days and 70 absences, applied to an average of 120 million sick days per year. This is based on 2,019 interviews with employees. There’s just one problem.

At the time covered by these surveys, there were around 4.9 million private sector employers.

Considering the huge size difference between the sample surveyed and the body it represents, it seems unlikely in the extreme that the figure is accurate. If it is right, it would be by luck; it’s probably wrong. The figure might as well have been made up – and you should treat it as though it was.

“The government has already taken big steps in getting people on long-term sick benefits back into work as part of the government’s long-term economic plan, with almost a quarter of a million coming off incapacity benefits since 2010-” Let’s stop there and examine the information content of this sentence so far.

The “government’s long-term economic plan” is a phrase that is being shoe-horned into every press release possible and means nothing. There never was a “long-term economic plan”, and there isn’t one now. Have you seen it? Of course not – it doesn’t exist. This is just a comforting nonsense inserted to lull people into false security that somebody knows what they are doing; I suspect the newly-privatised “nudge” unit may have had something to do with this.

As for “almost a quarter of a million coming off incapacity benefits since 2010”, check out this interview with Iain Duncan Smith, published in the Telegraph & Argus in 2010. He said: “I intend to move 1.5 million off incapacity benefit by 2014.”

It’s now 2014. We don’t have up-to-the-minute figures but on November 13 last year, the DWP press office helpfully tweeted us its then-current figure for people moving off incapacity benefits in a handy chart: 156,000.

140211fakes

That is a long way from a quarter of a million, and only around one-tenth of the Secretary-in-a-State’s 2010 target.

“- and almost a million who put in a claim actually have been found fit for work.” This is a bare-faced lie. It relates to a statement that 980,400 people were judged capable of work between 2008 and March 2013, but there are two problems with this. Firstly, it does not take into account the number of successful appeals against the ‘fit for work’ judgement (125,700); when adjusted to account for these, the total drops to 854,700. Secondly, this refers to the cumulative number of ‘fit for work’ outcomes of initial functional assessments since October 2008, and it seems likely that many people will have made repeat claims after being knocked off-benefit by an adverse decision. We do not know how many people have done this. Therefore the figure is meaningless.

So far, the DWP has told us that working people get sick (no surprises there), that it has failed to reach its target for clearing people off incapacity benefit and that its work capability assessment system is failing to push as many off-benefit as it should, because it is riddled with errors.

How does this connect with the creation of a new ‘Health and Work Service’, dedicated to ensuring that people who spend more than four weeks at a time off work with an illness get back into their job with a minimum of difficulty?

It’s obvious, isn’t it?

This is a scheme to ensure that people are discouraged from claiming incapacity benefits; the idea is that a drop in new claims, coupled with the number of uncontested ‘fit for work’ decisions, might lead to a larger drop in the number of active claims – which means the amount of money being paid out in benefits would also drop.

Inclusion of the word ‘health’ in the title of the new service is misleading, as it seems unlikely that consideration of an employee’s physical condition will have anything to do with the aim of the exercise.

Look at what the release has to say: “The Health and Work Service will offer a work-focused occupational health assessment and case management to employees in the early stages of sickness absence.”

It continues: “The work-focused occupational health assessment will identify the issues preventing an employee from returning to work and draw up a plan for them, their employer and GP, recommending how the employee can be helped back to work more quickly.”

Health doesn’t get a look-in.

No, what we’re most probably seeing is an expansion of the “biopsychosocial” method employed in work capability assessments, in an attempt to convince sick people that their illnesses are all in their minds. Don’t expect this approach to be used for people with broken limbs or easily-medicated diseases; this is for the new kinds of ‘subjective illness’, for which medical science has not been prepared – ‘chronic pain’, ‘chronic fatigue syndrome’, fibromyalgia and the like.

People with these conditions will probably be sent back to work – with speed. Their conditions may worsen, their lives may become an unending hell of pain and threats – I write from experience, as Mrs Mike spent around two years trying to soldier on in her job before finally giving up and claiming her own incapacity benefits – but that won’t matter to the DWP as long as they’re not claiming benefits.

That is what we can all expect from the new ‘service’.

It will be a fake, necessitated by failure.

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Housing association speaks out over Bedroom Tax

131222perkins

It seems the chief executive of a local housing association has taken issue with yr obdt srvt over the Bedroom Tax.

Shane Perkins, of Mid Wales Housing, wrote to the Powys-based County Times after I used that paper to expose an illegal action by the county council’s ruling group, aimed at preventing discussing of a motion for the council to adopt a ‘no-eviction’ policy.

The motion asked the council not to evict tenants who fail to pay their rent because of the Bedroom Tax. Councillors who are also private landlords were forbidden from speaking or voting on the motion as they stand to benefit if social housing tenants are forced to seek accommodation with them as a result of the vindictive policy, and this meant 30 councillors had to leave the chamber.

Members of the ruling group, realising there was a real possibility of the motion being carried, then claimed that any councillors who are social housing tenants should also be barred from taking part – a move that is against the law (to the best of my knowledge). My understanding is that a ‘general dispensation’ allows councillors who are council tenants to take part in debates on, and vote on, matters relating to council housing.

Mr Perkins, writing in the paper’s December 20 edition, suggests that it is almost impossible to establish whether or not a tenant has fallen into rent arrears solely as a consequence of the “pernicious” (his word) Bedroom Tax, and claims that the motion was “a meaningless ‘political’ statement”.

He makes the point that it may be possible to apply the policy where the tenant has never previously been in rent arrears, but this would be unfair on other tenants who are similarly affected now but had fallen into arrears for other reasons in the past. He asks why tenants who struggle to meet their rent payments should not receive a financial subsidy or reward for being a good and conscientious tenant; and also points out that the cumulative effect of other regressive changes to benefits is also likely to affect the rent payments of vulnerable people and, to be consistent, Labour’s motion should encompass them also.

He says all social landlords, including the council, will seek to advise and support tenants who are in financial difficulty, but “in the final analysis, if a tenant fails to pay their rent, the ultimate sanction has got to be eviction.

“To do otherwise would be irresponsible, as ultimately the cost of one tenant not paying their rent is borne by all those tenants that do pay, and spiralling arrears will ultimately affect the viability of the council’s housing, which will serve none of its tenants.”

It would be easy to pick holes in his arguments. The whole point of government policy is to make sure that nobody gets a penny more than the Conservative-led Coalition decides they should have – and this government wants to drive people into poverty – so there will be no rewards for hard work. The Labour Party, and non-political groups, has campaigned ceaselessly to force the government into assessing the cumulative impact of its changes to the benefit system, but the government has refused all such calls, knowing as it does that such research would reveal the monstrous truth about its attack on the poorest in society.

If Mr Perkins is really interested, then he should encourage his own MP to support the call for such an assessment in the debate on the ‘WoW’ Petition, due to take place in the House of Commons in the New Year. I helped write that document, which calls for (among other things) “a cumulative impact assessment of welfare reform”. Labour is supporting the motion. I would suggest, therefore, that any criticism of Labour for making a “meaningless ‘political’ statement” is unfounded.

As for the difference between tenants affected by the Bedroom Tax who have never been in arrears before, and those affected by it who have – this should be something a social landlord can track, especially if they are actively seeking to “advise and support” tenants. This support should include examination of a tenants income and outgoings, before and after the Tax was imposed.

The simple fact is that Mr Perkins would move offending tenants into smaller houses if he had any, but he doesn’t. He would not be talking about eviction if he did. He never built them and we must conclude that he never saw the need. Perhaps he believed that the welfare state would continue to support his tenants.

William Beveridge, the architect of that system, in the report that bears his name, said the British government should fight what he called the “giant evils” of society, including Want.

How could Beveridge know that, 70 years later, the British government would be actively increasing Want, wherever it could. That is what the Bedroom Tax, and the benefit cap, and all the other cuts brought in by this spiteful Conservative-led Coalition are about.

These measures are crimes against the citizens of this country – citizens who have paid into the State, generation after generation since the 1940s, believing that it would look after them if the spectre of Want cast its shadow at their door.

Mr Perkins describes the changes as “pernicious”, but if he allows a single tenant to be evicted then he will be a willing accomplice.

That is what he is saying when he tells us he is prepared to use this “final sanction”.

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Mr ‘Political’ goes to Westminster, looking for justice

"I'm not licked. And I'm gonna stay right here and fight for this lost cause. Even if this room gets filled with lies." - James Steward as Jefferson Smith in Mr Smith Goes To Washington

“I’m not licked. And I’m gonna stay right here and fight for this lost cause. Even if this room gets filled with lies.” – James Stewart as Jefferson Smith in Mr Smith Goes To Washington

Congratulations are due to Labour MPs John McDonnell and Grahame Morris, who have persuaded Parliament’s Backbench Business Committee to agree that a debate on the ‘WoW’ petition will take place in the House of Commons, early in the New Year.

Responsibility now falls back on the British people to make sure our elected representatives do not squander the opportunity, as the Commons Work and Pensions Committee squandered its chance to hold Iain Duncan Smith to account for his own, and his department’s, statisticial inaccuracies.

The petition, on the government’s website, passed its target of 100,000 signatures at the beginning of the month, meaning the Backbench Business committee had to consider whether a Commons debate should take place.

Those who oppose it will be trying to find any reason – no matter how small – to avoid having to consider the changes it demands, so its supporters need to go through it, line by line, making sure they can justify every claim and every demand with hard facts.

We cannot rely on our MPs to do this. Even those who are sympathetic may not have the time or the resources to research the issues properly; and we have seen from the woeful Work and Pensions meeting on Monday that it is best not to leave Parliamentarians to phrase their own questions.

To use an angling metaphor – which seems appropriate – we must allow no opportunity for these worms to wriggle off the hook.

So, for example, the petition demands “a Cumulative Impact Assessment of Welfare Reform”. The government has denied that this is possible, saying it would be too complicated to carry out and that “external organisations have not produced this either”.

But the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s report, Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion 2013, states: “There is a … growing number of people … in very deep poverty. They are being hit by … overlapping measures from welfare reform”. We can expect some Conservative MPs to demur over the differences between “cumulative” and “overlapping” (probably down to their respective spellings) but it seems clear that the Foundation not only has the evidence needed to provide a cumulative assessment, but has already carried it out.

It should also be noted that the Foundation has said the effects of this year’s changes cannot be quantified yet, and we must wait until next year to learn what further damage may have been caused; this is just the beginning.

The petition also calls for “a New Deal for sick and disabled people based on their needs, abilities and ambitions” – meaning evidence would need to be available to show that the Coalition system does not adequately cater for those needs, abilities and ambitions.

It demands an immediate end to the work capability assessment, and strong evidence will be required to show that this is necessary. Individual cases are fine on an anecdotal level – for example the single-question medical assessment (“Did you get here by bus?”) that led to the refusal of benefit for the poor lady from Kingswood who then took her own life; it seems clear that there was no attempt to understand the state of her mental health.

But these stories must be supported by the weight of numbers. We know that 3,500 people in the work-related activity group of ESA claimants died between January and November 2011. How many ESA claimants have died since then, and how many of them were in the group where they were expected to be working again within a year? We don’t know, because the statistics have been suppressed. Why have they been withheld? Is it because the number of deaths has risen to an even more horrifying level?

If the government wants to deny that this is the case, then it must provide proof. The Coalition has had more than a year to produce these figures; if it is unable – or unwilling – to do so then they must be damning indeed.

This article’s headline is based on the title of the film Mr Smith Goes To Washington (the ‘Political’ refers to the fact that some commenters, here and on Facebook, refer to me as if ‘Vox Political’ was my real name). It is a statement of my intent to go to London and watch the ‘WoW’ debate in person, just as Jefferson Smith attends the US Senate to seek justice in the film.

Of course I won’t be able to speak in the debate. If I could, though, I might pick a few words from that old movie, because they are just as relevant today:

“Take a look at this country if you really want to see something. You’ll see the whole parade of what Man’s carved out for himself, after centuries of fighting. Fighting for something better than just jungle law, fighting so’s he can stand on his own two feet, free and decent, like he was created, no matter what his race, colour, or creed. That’s what you’d see. There’s no place out there for graft, or greed, or lies, or compromise with human liberties.

“Great principles don’t get lost once they come to light. They’re right here; you just have to see them again! I wouldn’t give you two cents for all your fancy rules if, behind them, they didn’t have a little bit of plain, ordinary, everyday kindness and a little looking out for the other fella, too.”

Or how about this one? “I guess this is just another lost cause. All you people don’t know about lost causes. They were the only causes worth fighting for – for the only reason any man ever fights for them. Because of just one plain simple rule. Love thy neighbour. And in this world today of great hatred a man who knows that rule has a great trust. And you know that you fight harder for the lost causes than for any others. Yes you’d even die for them.”

People have died for this cause.

Those of us who remain have a duty not to lose it.

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WoW Petition for rethink of disability ‘reforms’ hits its target

We're on our way: The WoW Petition is on its way to Parliament, having hit the 100,000 signature mark necessary to trigger consideration for a televised debate.

We’re on our way: The WoW Petition is on its way to Parliament, having hit the 100,000 signature mark necessary to trigger consideration for a televised debate. [Image: WoW Petition website wowpetition.blogspot.com]

What a great result for the WoW Petition – it has reached its target of 100,000 signatures with time to spare!

The petition calls for a cumulative impact assessment of welfare reform and a new deal for sick and disabled people based on their needs, abilities and ambitions – rather than the political aims of the current Westminster administration or any motive to cut welfare budgets.

WoW (it stands for resistance to the ‘War on Welfare’) demands an immediate end to the humiliating work capability assessment and a free vote on repeal of the Welfare Reform Act, along with an independent, committee-based inquiry into welfare reform. And it wants an end to forced work under threat of sanctions for people on disability benefits, along with other demands.

Passing the magic 100,000-signature mark does not mean the petition has automatically won a chance to be debated in Parliament; the Backbench Business Committee has to agree to put it forward first.

It is fortunate, then, that the petition has won the endorsement of celebrities including Stephen Fry, Russell Brand, Yoko Ono and Bianca Jagger (according to the Daily Mirror).

“This is a hugely important issue because many disabled and sick people cannot go out and protest against these devastating policies,” said comedian Francesca Martinez, who launched the petition in December last year.

“It is vital that those of us who can, join together to ensure these basic rights aren’t eroded away. With 83 per cent of disabilities acquired [rather than congenital], anyone can find themselves with an impairment, or [living] as a carer, and we must make sure that people are adequately supported when in challenging times.

“This is what a civilised society does. Instead of demonising those on welfare, we should be proud to create a society that provides for everyone regardless of health or ability. We will never forget the many tragic deaths already caused by this government and we will continue to fight in the hope that we can protect those in need from despair, poverty and death.”

Of course we don’t know exactly how many tragic deaths have been caused by the government because it is still refusing to tell us – the Information Commissioner recently upheld the Department for Work and Pensions’ refusal of a Freedom of Information request on that very subject (by me).

One death that we can commemorate is that of WoW Petition co-founder John Dyer, who sadly passed away in November. Fellow co-originator Rick B said: “We are resolute to take this democratic mandate and pursue the cause of making justice for sick and disabled people, and carers, a reality.”

Rick said that he himself almost died in July 2012 because of government ill-treatment.

Let’s all agree that we’re a far cry from where we were in October, when the petition had just 62,792 signatures, didn’t look like it was going to make it, and I wrote: “Are we all so apathetic that we are happy to sit around, eating our horseburgers and gossiping about whether the stars of our favourite soap operas are sex fiends… that we can’t be bothered to spare a thought for people – perhaps people we know – who are suffering for no reason other than that the government we didn’t even elect demands it?”

We’re not – and what a great feeling it is to be able to say that!

But my gut instinct tells me that we should not sit back and expect others to finish the job – not yet. It’s great that the petition will be considered in Parliament, but let’s make sure that our MPs know how strongly we feel about this.

What I’d like to suggest – and this is just a thought that has come to me as I was writing this – is that those of you who have taken part in the Twitter campaign might like to post another tweet saying something like “I want a Parliamentary debate for the WoW Petition bit.ly/XFS5Ur.

If you’re emailing someone, you could add that line after your signature – and this could be especially effective if you are sending a letter to the press – newspaper, magazine or online media.

And you could also add it to any messages you put on Facebook or similar social media.

We’ve got public attention now – let’s make it all worthwhile.

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Have we forgotten how to care – or are we just fed up with a government that won’t listen?

No horses were harmed in the making of this article. But at least one ESA claimant died while it was being prepared. [Picture: Eater.com]

No horses were harmed in the making of this article. But at least one ESA claimant died while it was being prepared. [Picture: Eater.com]

Here we are again.

Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote what in Vox Political terms was a blistering indictment, in which I tore metaphorical strips off of any reader who had failed to sign the government e-petition then known as Pat’s Petition.

This document, calling on the government to “stop and review the cuts to benefits and services which are falling disproportionately on disabled people, their carers and families” had secured around 60,000 signatures but had less than a day left to run when the article was written.

It would be nice to think that the piece acted as a prompt for at least some of the 3,000 people who signed in those last few hours – but this was not enough to save the petition, which failed to reach the 100,000 signatures needed for Parliament’s backbench business committee to consider taking its demands further.

Now we are in a similar position with the successor to Pat’s Petitionthe WoW Petition. It just happens that Yr Obdt Srvt had a hand in writing this one, along with a few others, and a lot of work was done to make it media-attractive and a magnet for signatures.

It was launched by the comedian Francesca Martinez, who is disabled, and the organisers went out of their way to find ways of publicising it throughout the year it was to be available for signing – for example, with ‘mass tweets’ on Twitter to attract tweeple who had not noticed it previously.

The petition calls for “a Cumulative Impact Assessment of Welfare Reform, and a New Deal for sick & disabled people based on their needs, abilities and ambitions.”

At the time of writing it has two months (and a few hours) left to run, and has just reached approximately the same number of signatures as Pat’s Petition. Unless around 1,000 people start signing every day, this one might fail as well.

Now, I’m not going to shout at you (not this time, anyway). There have been several developments which have affected my own thinking about government e-petitions, meaning my own position towards them has cooled considerably.

For starters, ask yourself: When was the last time the government changed its policy – significantly – in response to a successful e-petition on its website? Has it ever happened? I can’t think of one instance. But that is what this petition demands.

The simple fact seems to be that the e-petition site is a sop for people who want to effect change. They think it is a tool for them to improve the country when in fact it is a tool for keeping them under control; if you are spending a year promoting an e-petition, you won’t be undermining the regime in other ways.

My problem with this – if it is true, and not just a product of my own paranoia – is that, according to government figures that are now long out-of-date, 73 people are dying every week and nothing is being done about it.

Look at the government’s own response, published after the WoW petition received more than 10,000 signatures. It’s on the petition page and concentrates on the call for a cumulative impact assessment, claiming (wrongly) that such an endeavour is practically impossible. It isn’t. There’s no interest in the other demands at all.

Next point: If the 73-a-week figure is accurate – and more so if it is now a grave underestimation (which is my belief) – then the 62,792 signatures achieved at the time of writing is a horrifying indictment of Britain and its citizens. Are we all so apathetic that we are happy to sit around, eating our horseburgers and gossiping about whether the stars of our favourite soap operas are sex fiends (two of the year’s more popular scandals) that we can’t be bothered to spare a thought for people – perhaps people we know – who are suffering for no reason other than that the government we didn’t even elect demands it?

The horsemeat in our beefburgers received far more coverage than the fact that 73 people every week have been dying, even though (as far as I am aware) nobody has suffered fatal injuries from chomping on a bit of thoroughbred. What does that tell you about your fellow Brits? What does it tell you about yourself?

Moving on: Other petitions, on other sites, have attracted more attention (and many more signatories) – especially those with a topical theme that is embarrassing for the government on a personal level. When Iain Duncan Smith said he could live on the amount people receive on Jobseekers’ Allowance, a petition – calling his bluff by demanding that he actually do so – attracted something like half a million signatures within a few days.

On a more serious level, after Smith and Grant Shapps decided it would be fun to distort the truth about the number of people moving into work to avoid the benefit cap, a petition demanding that they make apologies and reparations for their claims also attracted more than 100,000 signatures within a very short period of time – and is to be handed in to Parliament very soon.

These considerations lead us to some uncomfortable conclusions.

First, it is unlikely that a petition focusing only on the plight of those in danger of joining the 73-a-week death toll will ever reach its target – and even if it did, it is unlikely to gain traction among MPs.

Oh, you think I’m wrong? Have you signed the petition? No? Then get across and sign it now – put your name where it will do some good! Yes? Have you told all your friends about it and pestered them until they’ve signed it too? No? Then do that. If you’ve already done both and you still think I’m wrong, go out and accost strangers in the street to do it. That’s how you get it to its target!

Second, any mass media campaign needs a convenient – and probably banal – hook to hang itself on, in order to make the lackadaisical public look up from their fish and chips and take notice.

So any future campaign needs to be timed to correspond with an embarrassing slip-up by a DWP minister. This should not be a problem.

Third, any future campaign should not bother with the government e-petitions website but should take advantage of other petitioning organisations in order to make a more immediate impact.

Got that? Good.

None of these conclusions is an excuse not to sign the petition that is currently running. If you have signed it, make your friends do so. If you’ve made your friends do it, make strangers do it too.

More than 10 people are dying every day, because of this government’s policy – and more will do so, as long as that policy remains in effect. In the time it has taken me to write this, one more will have passed away. Add those numbers up and they are far, far too many.

There has been news this week that the British Army’s final tour of duty in Afghanistan has begun – a country where almost 450 British Armed Forces personnel have died since hostilities began 11 years ago. That’s about as many as are dying here at home, because of government policy, every six weeks.

And the figures we use to calculate the death toll are nearly two years out of date.

Think about it.

Take a hard look at yourself.

And get that petition up to 100,000.

The lies, the cost, the hardship… the price we all pay for Iain Duncan Smith

"Not even this much": Iain Duncan Smith demonstrates how much he cares about the damage his policies are doing to public health, and to the public finances.

“Not even this much”: Iain Duncan Smith demonstrates how much he cares about the damage his policies are doing to public health, and to the public finances. (Image: Evening Standard)

When it comes to Iain Duncan Smith, it seems the point still isn’t being made forcefully enough.

So let us be perfectly clear: This man is a liability to the United Kingdom. He is costing this country billions of pounds with his failed pet projects like Universal Credit, his contracted-out work programmes that are more likely to hinder people looking for a job then get them into one, and even his enormous expenses claims – £39, just for breakfast!

Now it seems he has lied to Parliament – yet again. He told the House of Commons, and the country at large, that his Department for Work and Pensions expected to write off £34 million of investment in the IT systems being developed to administer his real-time, six-benefits-in-one Universal Credit. The actual amount, revealed to Parliament’s public accounts committee yesterday, is more like £161 million.

Not only that, but he was lying when he said he had been monitoring the project constantly. If that is true, then why was a civil servant’s personal assistant allowed to sign off contracts when the responsibility lay with himself, or at least his ministers?

Even more damning, it seems the DWP has spent the last six months sitting on this information, rather than actually doing anything about it!

And this odious little liar last week tried to blame the civil service for Universal Credit’s failure. He is a lower form of life than an intestinal worm.

He still thinks he can take the moral high ground, though – look at his attack on the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, Raquel Rolnik, after she (rightly) denounced his bedroom tax as an attack on British citizens’ human rights.

He described her call to abolish the tax as “outrageous”, claiming that it undermined the impartiality of the UN. Isn’t it more accurate to say that she has revealed the truth, and now he is panicking?

He said he wanted UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon to investigate Ms Rolnik’s conduct – a line already pointlessly taken by Grant Shapps, all of whose claims were lies, as we discovered yesterday.

In the Daily Mail, he said she had not asked ministers or officials for their input, adding: “I find it staggering that without this official information Mrs Rolnik feels she is in a position to be able to properly prescribe what the future of the policy should be.” In fact, she met many officials and government representatives, all of whom are listed in her preliminary report.

So IDS – or RTU, as we like to describe him here (it refers to Army personnel who are Returned To Unit for failing to make the grade) – has lied again. And he joined a deeply dodgy cadre of Conservatives in denouncing her for – among other things – being born in a country with worse deprivation than the UK. Doesn’t that put her in an excellent position to point out the faults in our system?

But then, what can we expect from this vile creature. There are strains of syphilis with more charm and social grace.

Is the point made yet?

Back in May, Vox Political published ‘Iain Duncan Smith has committed contempt of Parliament and should be expelled’. That article has been read by more than 12,600 people who almost unanimously supported it. Now we see that he has shown the same contempt, to Parliament, to the British people, and now to a respected and senior United Nations representative. Go back and refresh your memory if you need to do so.

Is the point made now?

No, it probably isn’t.

The fact of the matter is that most people won’t care, because most people don’t think they are affected by the disasters Iain Duncan Smith is inflicting on us.

They are wrong.

Just go back and consider the cost of all his mistakes: Billions of pounds wasted. Possibly tens of billions, when you consider the cumulative effect (although this would be a hard concept for him; he has resisted all attempts to get his Department to provide a cumulative assessment of his regressive changes’ effect on this country’s poor for many months, claiming it would be “too difficult”).

Tens of billions of pounds have been wasted on his so-called attempts to cut the benefit bill, while that bill has increased, year on year, because of his government’s policies.

As Adlai Stevenson said of Nixon (and the comparison to Nixon is well-deserved): “He is the kind of politician who would cut down a redwood tree and then mount the stump to make a speech for conservation.”

This hypocrite does not speak for you. He doesn’t speak for the taxpayers because he is robbing them of their hard-earned money and wasting it despicably. He doesn’t speak for the unemployed, the sick or the disabled because he is a social darwinist who would steal a wheelchair to see how the owner managed without it. He doesn’t speak for Parliament because he has lied to Parliament.

Why aren’t you demanding his dismissal in your millions?

Well?

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Democracy in the UK – or What is your MP doing in your name?

They Work For Themselves.com: Michael Gove may well have told IPSA to "stick" its pay rise but you can be sure that this is a publicity stunt. And how long will this principled stand last when his colleagues all take the money?

They Work For Themselves Not You.com: Michael Gove may well have told IPSA to “stick” its pay rise but you can be sure that this is a publicity stunt. And how long will this principled stand last when his colleagues all take the money?

There’s a strong smell of arrogance coming from Westminster at the moment – an attitude of “What are you going to do about it?” to everything. Am I wrong?

On one side we see Labour, trying to divest itself of union influence – and therefore its last link to its working-class background. Ed Miliband thinks the middle class is where the votes are, and he’s absolutely determined to ruin his entire organisation in a vain attempt to prove it. He’ll turn Labour into a plastic copy of the Conservative Party (in the course of which, of course, he’ll also have to change its name. You can’t be the Labour Party if you don’t represent people who work. I understand the word ‘Tory’ is going spare). Trouble is, there is already a Conservative Party. If your politics leans to the right anyway, why support the copy when you can have the original?

The Tories know this. They reckon Labour will self-destruct in fairly short order, leaving the way open for them to continue doing exactly anything they like – as they have been for the past three years and more, despite never having been voted into power by the British people, because they have support from the Liberal Democrats – who are enjoying their very last taste of any national political power.

Both the main parties are sneering at you. They think they know that you will stick to your traditional choices when election time rolls around again: Labour or Conservative. And they know that this means they will be allowed to continue doing whatever they want, against the wishes of the nation in most cases.

That’s how our version of democracy works. You get one chance to vote for the organisation that will rule over you for the next five years. Your decision is nominally based on the promises they make in their various manifestos (many of which will be broken. These documents are rarely worth the paper on which they’re printed), but most likely to be based on habit and an impression of what each party stands for – one that is no longer likely to bear any relationship to reality. Your influence is diminished by the fact that most Parliamentary seats are ‘safe’. The voting population is locked into a particular pattern and each political party can ‘parachute’ its own favoured candidates – people who will support the leaders’ policies, no matter what the wishes of their constituents – into those seats and be assured of support from these drones over the next five years. This is why Labour and the union Unite have been at loggerheads recently – Unite wants candidates who genuinely represent the people of their constituencies; Blairite Labour wants neoliberal, party-propping drones. It looks like Blairite Labour has won the battle, meaning the Labour Party will lose the war; how are they doing in the polls?

So elections are determined on the basis of a tiny number of marginal or ‘swing’ seats. Do you live in a marginal constituency? No? Then your vote probably doesn’t count.

It seems to me that, if we ever want to see democracy in the UK, we need to make it possible for EVERY seat to become a ‘swing’ seat – make it a much harder job for the large parties to ‘parachute’ in their party faithfuls and open up the field to candidates from smaller parties (not just UKIP). But how?

The answer’s obvious, isn’t it? You make sure everyone in your constituency knows exactly what their MP has been doing in their name. Only an informed electorate can make useful decisions, after all – and government of the uninformed is not legitimate government at all.

For example: My MP is a Liberal Democrat backbench drone called Roger Williams. I’ve known him for years and thought he was a nice enough fellow. In fact I voted for him at the last election. It was a tactical vote to keep the Tories out (foolish, in hindsight) – but he has let me down on many major votes, and I’m about to give you two examples.

My constituency is Brecon and Radnorshire – the most rural in England and Wales. It relies on agriculture for much of its income. Therefore it was a shock to our economy when the Westminster government voted to dissolve the Agricultural Wages Board. I cannot currently find any information about how Mr Williams voted on this issue of major importance to his constituency.

I can, however, report his fellow Liberal Democrats’ response to the Welsh Government’s plan for a replacement body covering Wales – they oppose it.

The AWB ensured consistent wages among agricultural workers, and prevented disputes over pay and conditions. Abolishing the board removes recognition of workers’ unique skills, bringing with it a significant pay cut. It is also a mark of disrespect.

In Brecon and Radnorshire, cuts to state benefits will take an average of £433 from working-age people’s incomes – more than a week’s take-home pay where wages are only around 76 per cent of the national average. The loss of the AWB means a significant extra cut to the local economy.

According to Lib Dem AM Bill Powell, his party doesn’t want the Welsh Government to “ram through” this emergency legislation “without allowing Assembly members and committees to scrutinise their proposals fully”.

Perhaps he is forgetting that Mr Williams voted in March to help the Conservative Party “ram through” emergency legislation on the Work Programme in a much quicker and undignified way, in order to prevent jobseekers from claiming back the £130 million that had been stolen from them in illegal sanctions by the Department for Work and Pensions?

So we see that my MP’s party supports the abolition of the AWB, and my MP supported the retroactive law. Both were acts of repression; both were pieces of legislation I oppose. Did he act according to my wishes? Most assuredly not. But he acts in my name.

Oh yes… He also voted against a cumulative impact assessment on the effects of benefit cuts on people with disabilities.

Should he – or any Liberal Democrat – represent Brecon and Radnorshire after 2015? Absolutely not – it would not be in the best interests of the constituency.

But we shouldn’t tolerate anyone from the other parties who preaches freedom for us but practises similar policies of repression.

That’s the message that needs to go out:

“Not in my name.”

Wow! Petition renews the struggle against vicious welfare cuts

A community of the concerned – including people who are sick and disabled, carers, friends, families, and those who are perfectly healthyhas come together to launch a new resistance to the draconian Coalition welfare cuts that are killing, on average, 73 people every week.

The launch of the WOW (it stands for resistance to the ‘War On Welfare’) Petition comes only days after the Conservative Party started a ‘voodoo’ poll on its own website, intending to fool respondents into saying that the reforms already introduced by the Department for Work and Pensions – and soon to be reinforced with even more drastic measures – are fair.

The document on the government’s e-petitions website has been launched by actor and comedian Francesca Martinez. On the Ekklesia website she said we are living in a dark time for disabled people: “Already a third of disabled adults live in poverty. That’s disgraceful and with the new cuts, that figure can only rise.

“It breaks my heart that some of the most vulnerable people in society are being demonised and used as scapegoats. It’s something everybody needs to fight against.”

The petition calls for:

“A Cumulative Impact Assessment of all cuts and changes affecting sick & disabled people, their families and carers, and a free vote on repeal of the Welfare Reform Act.

“An immediate end to the Work Capability Assessment, as voted for by the British Medical Association.

“Consultation between the Departments of Health and Education to improve support into work for sick and disabled people, and an end to forced work under threat of sanctions for people on disability benefits.

“An Independent, Committee-Based Inquiry into Welfare Reform, covering but not limited to: (1) Care home admission rises, daycare centres, access to education for people with learning difficulties, universal mental health treatments, Remploy closures; (2) DWP media links, the ATOS contract, IT implementation of Universal Credit; (3) Human rights abuses against disabled people, excess claimant deaths & the disregard of medical evidence in decision making by ATOS, DWP & the Tribunal Service.”

That may seem a big demand, but the alternative is potentially fatal for hundreds of thousands of people. Esther McVey, the Minister for Disabled People, has announced that, when Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is replaced by Personal Independence Payments (PiPs), more than 300,000 people will have their benefits cut or removed altogether. That is not an achievement.

In addition, anybody who can walk more than 20 metres will not receive the mobility element of the new benefit.

The petition has already won a huge online response, and I strongly encourage you to help build on that. Go to the site and sign the petition. Visit wowpetition.com (the petition’s base website) and join the discussion on the forum. Above all, ask your friends, relatives, work colleagues, or anyone else you think might be interested, to sign the petition.

It’s time to turn the tide against the persecution of the vulnerable.