Johnson: do you trust this man not to put the army on the streets to quell unrest? Already it’s being suggested they will be ordered to guard Downing Street.
People were left confused about what to think after a news website said sightings of the army on UK streets were hoaxes – only for another paper to say troops were set to be deployed, hours later.
Images of soldiers (allegedly) on UK streets started appearing yesterday evening (March 18) – but the claims were debunked by Buzzfeed:
“Text messages and pictures have been spreading rapidly on WhatsApp on Wednesday claiming that the British army has been deployed on the streets of London ahead of a lockdown to fight coronavirus,” the site stated.
“However, there is no evidence of the military being used to impose a lockdown, nor are there any known plans for that to happen.”
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
This Writer did not stick around for all the punditry after Jeremy Corbyn’s history landslide win of the Labour Party leadership. I went shopping with Mrs Mike instead. Times may be hard but groceries won’t wait.
Judging from the BBC’s coverage, I wasn’t going to miss much. Norman Smith – who managed to make Ed Miliband look good and be branded a “pillock” with a silly question during the general election campaign – showed he hadn’t learned any lessons by spouting babble about Corbyn being out within a year. If that was the quality of the immediate reactions, then Yr Obdt Srvt was better-occupied buying toilet bowl cleaner.
On my return, I found that some social – as well as mass – media commentators had started to express opinions. The first I saw was by Corbyn’s fellow left-winger, Michael Meacher MP: “With four contestants in the running, to achieve 60 per cent of the leadership vote in the first round is an outright landslide.
“Jeremy Corbyn has secured a higher percentage than Blair got in 1994. Even more significant, Corbyn’s electorate at 554,272 was more than double Blair’s, and no less than 76 per cent of them actually voted, a higher percentage turnout than Blair got. And another pointer to the overwhelming inspiration that Corbynmania achieved – no less than 160,000 volunteers were recruited to the Corbyn campaign – far, far bigger than in any similar campaign in the past.”
Why this fixation on Tony Blair? Because Blair’s arrival marked the beginning of huge – and controversial – changes in the Labour Party, changes that were famously applauded by Margaret Thatcher (think on that). Corbyn’s landslide gives him a mandate to change Labour even more radically than Blair – back to what it should be.
No wonder Mr Meacher was delighted: “This is a seminal day in British politics, marking the coming together of the two great conditions needed for transformational change – radical new ideas and a burgeoning social movement on the scale required to push through major change.”
The Daily Mirrorwas next to attract This Writer’s attention, claiming that the Tories were salivating at the thought of Corbyn as leader: “They see a serial rebel who will not be able to command any loyalty, a man whose foreign policy interventions involve greeting Hamas as ‘friends’ and a leader who will drag his party further from the centre ground.”
The reference to Hamas is of course to a term he used as a matter of politeness, rather than as a description of his feelings – as anybody who has researched the issue will know.
“You can add to the charge sheet his stance on Trident (against renewal), his association with anti-austerity organisations and, horror of horrors, his Republicanism.”
But the Mirror added: “Voters in the Labour leadership were attracted to Corbyn because of his authenticity. His views are obviously not to everyone’s taste but people admire the way he articulates them with sincerity,” before saying he needs to show he can reach out beyond Labour’s reservation(if this means the Labour Party itself, that party is now greatly expanded, thanks merely to his candidacy).
Tories who think Labour moving left will allow them to take the centre ground should think again, the paper says, as “when one party moves further towards its heartlands, the other finds itself pushing equally forcefully, like two repelling magnets, in the other direction”. A far-right Tory Party is unelectable, of course.
Also: “David Cameron, while he is Prime Minister, will no longer have the comfort of working with a leader of the opposition pliable on issues of foreign policy and military intervention.
“Cameron and Osborne will also have to make the case anew for their anti-austerity agenda against an opponent who has been surprisingly articulate when it comes to setting out an alternative agenda.”
The late Cameron Minshull: This 16-year-old was killed when he was dragged into a lathe due to poor health and safety measures [Image: Daily Mirror].
Work placement providers’ duty of care for people on apprenticeships and other government-sponsored work placements is being questioned after a factory boss was jailed over the death of a 16-year-old youngster.
Cameron Minshull was dragged into a lathe because he was wearing ‘unsuitable’ ill-fitting overalls which hung from his wrists and had not been trained to use the machine, Manchester Crown Court was told.
At the time, he was being paid just £3 an hour, after being rushed into a placement by recruitment agency Lime People Training Solutions – which puts people into apprenticeships in order to get public money from the Conservative Government’s Skills Funding Agency, according to the Daily Mirror.
The factory owner was jailed for eight months and his son received a suspended four-month prison sentence after admitting health and safety offences.
But Lime People Training Solutions was let off with a £75,000 fine – equivalent to its for putting around 17 youngsters in work placements – after denying any such breaches.
This happened because the government isn’t interested in health and safety. It considers calls for proper monitoring to be over-bureaucratic and burdensome.
On the Health and Safety Executive’s website, in the page dealing with work experience, HSE chair Judith Hackett states: “Work placement arrangements are too often seen as over-bureaucratic and burdensome, putting off potential employers.”
She continues: “Employers should already be managing the risks in their workplaces and are best placed to assess whether or not they need to do anything additional for a new young person joining them.”
And she states: “Schools and colleges… should not be second-guessing employers’ risk assessments or requiring additional paperwork.”
This next part is absolutely appalling: “An appreciation of risk and how to deal with it can be one of the biggest benefits offered by a placement.”
Is this appreciation to be gained through the death of an apprentice?
Work placement organiser companies are told: “If you are advised that a particular placement is not possible due to health and safety, the person giving you that advice may well be wrong – there are very few work activities a student cannot do due to health and safety law.
“Remember that the placement provider (employer) has primary responsibility for the health and safety of the student and should be managing any significant risks.” The only step the organiser is advised to take is to talk through the work required of the apprentice/person on the work placement, and discuss relevant precautions. There is no requirement to ensure those precautions are in place.
So that’s all right then. There’s no need to worry about health and safety concerns; they are somebody else’s problem.
Employers are told: “Under health and safety law, work experience students are your employees. You treat them no differently to other young people you employ.
“Simply use your existing arrangements for assessments and management of risks to young people.”
There you have it.
There is no legal requirement for extra measures to ensure the health and safety of young people placed with employers – and nobody checks an employer’s practices to ensure they conform with legal requirements.
The death of Cameron Minshull could have been prevented – but the government couldn’t be bothered.
Here’s Kevin Maguire, writing in the Daily Mirror:
Labour’s next leader will become trapped in a maze of Tory lies unless he or she challenges a string of poisonous myths.
I badgered Ed Miliband for years in this column to prove spending by the last Labour Government didn’t trigger the 2008 global financial collapse.
The national debt was a smaller proportion of GDP before the banking crisis than Labour had inherited from the Conservatives in 1997.
Failing to regulate the spivs and speculators was the catastrophic error, not reviving the NHS or putting money into workers’ pay packets.
Economists knew it, the Bank of England governor knew it and so too did David Cameron and George Osborne – but the Tory duo cynically pinned the blame for the crisis on Labour’s spending plans.
The problem is, of course, that many of the politicians who now claim to represent Labour values are quite happy to let this Tory lie go unchallenged.
Those of us who know the facts have been telling everybody we can for the last five years and more, but we simply don’t have the mass media clout needed to get the message across.
People like the right-wing Labour leadership candidates (everyone apart from Jeremy Corbyn) and Harriet Harman can’t be bothered to correct a ‘big lie’ that has been repeated so often that people now believe it automatically.
They’ve got their Parliamentary seats and pensions; they’re doing quite all right out of all this, thank you very much.
Maguire makes some more useful points, which are well worth repeating, if you have ignorant friends:
The whole welfare debate is skewed when we wrongly think £24 in every £100 of the social security budget is fiddled. In reality, it’s just 70p.
The Department of Work and Pensions pumps out these tales to justify deep cuts. The £1.2 billion a year benefit fraud is pennies next to a great tax robbery soaring to as high as £120 billion.
Yet the Treasury and HMRC prefer cosy private deals with wealthy dodgers while what crooked US socialite Leona Helmsley referred to as the “little people” are thrown to the hounds.
And how about this:
It isn’t just the economic debate that’s distorted by myths. Immigrants pay in more than they take off the system.
Only reactionaries and racists benefit when it’s thought 24% of the population are recent migrants when it’s 13%.
Standing up for decent values requires politicians to tell hard truths and never pander to prejudices.
That’s not going to happen in a Labour Party led by Burnham, Cooper, Creagh or Kendall, then.
The Disability News Service has reported Vox Political‘s victory over the DWP, whose officers have less than a month to report the total number of deaths involving people claiming Employment and Support Allowance between November 2011 and May 2014.
The article quotes John McArdle, co-founder of campaigning organisation Black Triangle, who said the updated statistics would be vital: “When the truth comes out about the devastation that this has caused, the whole of society will be absolutely appalled.”
Rick Burgess, co-founder of New Approach, which campaigns to scrap the fitness for work test, said: “People should know the cost of policies they are voting upon, especially when they are causing mass deaths.”
There is much more, and you are encouraged to visit the Disability News Service‘s website to read the full article.
If the Conservative Party forms the next government, the deaths will undoubtedly continue – no matter what the figures prove to be, or the public response to them.
Denied benefit: This is the late Karen Sherlock. Her illnesses included chronic kidney disease, a heart condition, vitamin B12 deficiency, anaemia, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, underactive thyroid, asthma, diabetic autonomic neuropathy, gastropaeresis, and diabetic retinopathy. She died on June 8, 2012, of a suspected heart attack, after the Department for Work and Pensions stopped her Employment and Support Allowance.
The Department for Work and Pensions has commented on this blog’s success in forcing it to reveal the number of Employment and Support Allowance claimants who have died between November 2011 and May 2014.
Readers of this blog will recall that the DWP had refused a Freedom of Information request, made in May last year, but the Information Commissioner’s Office upheld an appeal that used its own rules to demonstrate that the Department had been wrong in law.
The comment appeared in an excellent article by Ros Wynne-Jones of the Daily Mirror. She had contacted the DWP after receiving a press release on the subject from Vox Political – and we should be grateful to her for doing so. Comments to the mainstream media are invariably delivered much more quickly than responses to members of the public.
It is more interesting in what it does not say than it what it does. There is no reference to the fact that the DWP had been found to be wrongly applying the law; no suggestion that it will abide by the Information Commissioner’s ruling; in fact no reference to the Vox Political appeal at all.
Instead, we are told: “It is irresponsible to suggest a causal link between the death of an individual and their benefit claim. Mortality rates among people with serious health conditions are likely to be higher than those among the general population.
“We’ll respond to the Information Commissioner in due course.”
Irresponsible, is it?
There are several ways to disprove this.
Firstly, let us consider the different elements of the Vox Political request. By definition, anybody in the work-related activity group of ESA is believed to be capable of recovering from their illness sufficiently to take a job within 12 months of making their claim. Between January and November 2011, the number of people in this group who died was 1,300; it should have been zero. It is therefore possible to claim that they were put in the wrong group (by a system that may have had targets to meet – but that is a different matter) and that their deaths may have been caused by the stress they faced in having to meet the conditions required by the DWP – or lose their benefit.
We can only say these deaths may have taken place for this reason, because the DWP has not carried out any research on the subject. This displays what many may conclude is a shocking carelessness on the part of the government department. Just one death, in this group, was one too many – but DWP officers, and Coalition Government ministers, allowed more than 1,000 to take place and have done nothing to research the cause and prevent more from happening.
For these reasons, it is simple to conclude that anyone who died while appealing against a DWP decision and those who died after being found fit for work should also be included in the statistics, although it seems likely the DWP will claim it has not researched the number of deaths taking place among those found fit for work. We have news stories covering some of these deaths, so the Department cannot claim ignorance that any deaths were taking place; therefore its omission of any investigation may be considered dereliction of duty on the DWP’s party.
It is possible for the DWP to claim that its comment is accurate regarding people in the support group of ESA – but only to a certain extent. This is why Vox Political initially left support group deaths off the original calculation of the average number of deaths taking place among claimants of ESA; this blog made it out to be around 60 people per week. But a commenter pointed out that being placed in the support group does not mean that a person with a long-term illness will be left alone, and that it is entirely possible that harassment by the DWP could have led to premature deaths in this group; people in the support group are subjected to periodical reassessments that not only cause extreme stress but may be called at random intervals, rather than at regular times. It is entirely possible for a person in the support group to be found fit for work, and have to appeal against the decision – causing more stress. And anyone winning an appeal is entirely likely to find a notice of reassessment in their letterbox the very next day – signalling a return to the beginning of that cycle of stress.
Under these circumstances, This Writer had no choice but to include people in the support group among the death toll – pushing the average during the period covered in 2011 up to more than 220 per week. Although the DWP’s claim that “mortality rates among people with serious health conditions are likely to be higher” is more likely to be correct when applied to people in this group, the Department simply has not done any research on the causes of death. Instead, we have news stories which make it very clear where responsibility lies.
That leaves people who are in the assessment phase of the process. Readers will be aware that the DWP has lengthened this part of the claim procedure hugely by adding a new “mandatory reconsideration” procedure – if a claim is refused, the claimant may not appeal against it until after “mandatory reconsideration” has taken place. There is no time limit in which it must take place and no benefit is paid during the “mandatory reconsideration” period. It is hard to believe this is not intended to place the lives of vulnerable people at risk. How are they supposed to pay the bills, with no money coming in? If they have a mental health condition, won’t this be worsened by the incessant money worries being forced on them by this DWP-enforced process? Of course it will.
Examples of ESA-related deaths (and suicides) are a running theme in Vox Political; this blog has recounted the stories of dozens of people who either died after their benefit was withdrawn or committed suicide because they could not see a way out. We have seen stories of people with terminal cancer being ordered to go to work; of people on their deathbeds being told to attend an interview for work-related activity or lose benefits; of one person with severe mental health problems who had been thrown off sickness benefit and sanctioned off of JSA, who froze to death in the street because he had nowhere else to go.
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith lied on television yesterday (May 5), during a debate on the benefit system, when he said no such review had taken place. The Green Party subsequently demanded a formal apology from the minister, for misleading the public.
One final point: Duncan Smith’s, and the DWP’s, arguments would never stand up in a court of law. There is a wealth of evidence to show the connections between people losing benefit and their subsequent deaths. The DWP has supplied none to disprove those connections. Therefore, if this matter were being tried under jury conditions (as it may be, if allegations of corporate manslaughter are made after the information becomes available) then a jury would have no choice but to convict the representatives of the public organisation.
Duncan Smith labelled the allegations against him and his department “cheap”.
We’ll see how cheap they prove, when all the information is available to the public.
In the meantime, Vox Political‘s advice to readers is unchanged: The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have withheld the facts from you.
Whose idea was it to buy thousands of Twitter followers for Owen Jones, in imitation of the tactic for which David Cameron was recently shown up?
Under the headline David Cameron has tens of thousands of Twitter followers who DON’T EXIST, yesterday’s (February 12) Daily Mirror told us: “David Cameron, who famously claimed “too many tweets make a t***”, faces Twitter shame as tens of thousands of his followers don’t exist.
“The Tory leader has 915,000 followers on the social network, which he joined five years ago.
“But media experts say 15% were ghost accounts – meaning about 137,000 of his Twitter friends are imaginary, while another 393,000 of his followers are deemed “inactive”.
“Celebs have previously been exposed for buying followers to boost their numbers, with online eBay scams arranging for 100,000 fake followers to flock to an account for just £25.”
Now let’s look at what happened to Owen Jones today.
Vox Political is not close to Mr Jones. The Chavs and The Establishment author has not acknowledged this blog’s existence and he never responds to our tweets. He does, however, strike this writer as an honourable person, so when he tweeted
there was every reason to believe him.
Then, today (Feb 13), this happens:
You see, this turned up on the pro-Tory Guido Fawkes blog today:
What’s going on?
It seems clear that some Tory got wind that their leader’s fake followers were going to be outed in the media, so they started buying followers for a prominent Leftie instead, so they could point at him and say: “Look! Look! Those Labour boys are just as bad!”
How sad for them that Owen twigged what was going on, but in any case, two wrongs don’t make a right and some might say a British Prime Minister buying followers to make himself look popular is a lot “wronger” than anything a Leftie journo might do.
In any case, we know that Owen didn’t buy his fake followers.
Perhaps Guido would care to own up and tell us what the game is? How about it, Mr (real name) Staines?
Source: OBR, Economic and Fiscal Outlook, December 2014 * Incapacity Benefit includes Employment and Support Allowance, severe disablement allowance, income support and incapacity benefit.
The benefit cap has so far saved around £100m a year, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies – just 0.1 per cent of the total £215 billion benefits bill if we don’t count the budget for pensioners, the Daily Mirror tells us.
Those who have been hit have lost at least £46 per week, but only half the total lost that minimum amount; the rest lost much more than this. Overall the mean loss was £70 per week or £3,640 per year – around one-eighth of their total income prior to the cap. That means the DWP has bitten a huge chunk out of many household incomes.
However, this claimed saving does not take into account the many costs that could be associated with the cap. Vox Political stated last year that the cap was expected to save just £110m a year, meaning that it has not saved as much as the government hoped, “barely a rounding error in the £201bn benefits bill” – and you’ll notice that the bill has increased by £14 billion in the meantime.
VP continued: “But even these savings could be wiped out due to the cost to local authorities of homelessness and housing families in temporary accommodation. As a leaked letter from Eric Pickles’s office to David Cameron stated, the measure “does not take account of the additional costs to local authorities (through homelessness and temporary accommodation). In fact we think it is likely that the policy as it stands will generate a net cost. In addition Local Authorities will have to calculate and administer reduced Housing Benefit to keep within the cap and this will mean both demands on resource and difficult handling locally”.
So, taking these other costs into account, how much has the benefit cap saved now?
The Mirror article then gets into a more difficult area: The number of people who have moved into work as a result of the cap.
“This can be accounted for by improvements in the labour market, as the FT also notes, but statisticians at the Department for Work and Pensions also found evidence that the cap itself had an impact.
“In particular, 20 per cent of families whose benefits were capped in May 2013 found work within a year.”
But 20 per cent of 27,000 is 5,400 – not 2,000. The IFS figure suggests 7.4 per cent.
What about the bold claims made by the DWP in July last year, that at first 8,000 and then 12,000 people had moved into work after being warned about the cap? As those figures clearly conflict with the new data, are we now to conclude that they were a blatant lie? If so, who committed it – civil servants or Iain Duncan Smith, the secretary of state?
Either way, the Mirror‘s verdict – that “there have been very limited fiscal benefits” – can only be taken as an extremely mild response to the figures.
If the Tories win the General Election next May, they have promised to cap benefits still further – from the current £26,000-per-year-per-family to £23,000.
Perhaps their slogan should be: “More austerity – less prosperity”.
Sense-less: ‘Man of the people’ Farage made his comments during the 2012 ‘Common Sense’ tour.
Nigel Farage has been caught on camera admitting he wants to replace the NHS with a US-style private insurance health system, according to the Daily Mirror, which states:
The Ukip chief insists that he and his party are against privatising the health service and are fighting next week’s Rochester & Strood by-election promising to protect it.
But Mr Farage was left red-faced when footage of him saying he would feel more “comfortable” if Britain’s healthcare system was opened up to the “marketplace” emerged today.
Health unions and Labour MPs accused him of secretly plotting the end of the NHS.
Speaking to UKIP supporters just two years ago Mr Farage said: “I think we are going to have to move to an insurance-based system of healthcare.
“Frankly, I would feel more comfortable that my money would return value if I was able to do that through the marketplace of an insurance company, than just us trustingly giving £100billion a year to central government and expecting them to organise the healthcare service from cradle to grave for us.”
The UKIP leader made the remarks, which surfaced in a video published by the Guardian, on his 2012 “Common Sense” tour of the country.
If that’s what he calls common sense, wouldn’t you hate to imagine what he’d find objectionable?
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