Tag Archives: Dame

Conservative corruption: Theresa May tries to cement herself in as leader by BRIBING MPs

Cheats prospering: Theresa May and 1922 committee chairman Graham Brady, to whom she has awarded a knighthood in the New Year Honours, for no reason at all.

How utterly repellent.

Weakling prime minister Theresa May knows she cannot expect her MPs to support her leadership – because she is a failure – so she is trying to bribe powerful Tories into propping her up.

She has given honours to half the ruling board of the Conservative Party’s 1922 committee – the organisation that represents backbench Tory MPs.

Two of them get knighthoods, while a third is made a dame.

Notably, all three are Brexiters. But then, none of the ruling committee support remaining in the European Union – all have voted against it. Former Treasurer (until he was kicked out of Parliament in June) Stewart Jackson, responding to a tweet criticising the Leave campaign for lying to the public, is famous for writing, “Suck it up”. What a nice chap! And he is now special advisor and chief of staff to David Davis at the Department for Exiting the European Union.

Graham – now Sir Graham – Brady distinctly lacks the necessary qualifications for being a knight of the realm. Take a look at the list of his misbehaviours, courtesy of Vice.com:

“When he’s not influencing the government, you may find Brady leading opposition to the legalisation of weed or taking a £8,600 fact-finding trip to the Cayman Islands. In 2011, it was revealed that Brady still employed his wife, Victoria, as a senior parliamentary assistant on a salary of over £40,000 a year. This is despite the fact that, in 2009, the Committee on Standards in Public Life recommended banning the practice of employing family members, describing it as “not consistent with modern employment practice designed to ensure fairness in recruitment, management of staff and remuneration”.”

Cheryl Gillan “was also embarrassed during the 2009 expenses scandal. Amongst other things, Gillan charged the taxpayer £4.47 for dog food; claimed more money for her gas bill than it was actually worth; and over-claimed £1,884 on her mortgage.”

Christopher Chope, also knighted, also a Brexiter, and also mentioned in the extract below, is well known to readers of This Site for filibustering private members’ bills. He notably talked out a bill to outlaw “revenge evictions” – because it is not in his interest as a private landlord. He repeatedly blocked a bill that would ban the use of wild animals in circus performances. He also talked out a bill to end hospital parking charges for carers. He refers to House of Commons staff as “servants”.

His knighthood, awarded “for political and public service”, is nothing less than a garish and vulgar insult to the people of the United Kingdom – as are the honours to the other MPs mentioned in this article.

Theresa May might think she is buying support – but she is also providing ammunition to those of us who would be rid of her corrupt, inept and unforgivable dictatorship.

Theresa May has moved to shore up her future as Tory leader by giving top honours to half of the ruling board of the Conservative party’s influential 1922 committee.

Three of the committee’s six-strong board have received senior honours: Graham Brady, the chairman, and Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, the honorary treasurer, are knighted; while Cheryl Gillan, a vice chairman, is made a dame.

The support of the 1922 committee is vital for Mrs May to deliver on her promise to serve a full five year term as party leader.

Sir Graham is listened to closely by the leadership and would play a crucial role in any future leadership contest, which would be triggered if 15 per cent of the party’s MPs – 48 at present – write to him requesting one.

All three backed Leave in the European Union referendum, as did a fourth Conservative MP to be honoured, veteran former minister Christopher Chope who receives a knighthood.

Source: Theresa May moves to cement her position as Tory leader by giving top honours to half of the ruling board of the 1922 committee of Tory MPs


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Tax credit debt collection is a double-edged attack on the poor

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There’s more than a little of the piscine about the fact that our Conservative-led has set debt collection agencies onto poor families who have been overpaid tax credit due to errors made by HM Revenue and Customs.

Firstly, the move undermines the principle behind the tax credit system – that it is there to ensure that poorly-paid families may still enjoy a reasonable living standard. Tax credits are paid on an estimate of a person’s – or family’s – income over a tax year and the last Labour government, knowing that small variances could cause problems for Britain’s poorest, set a wide buffer of £25,000 before households had to pay anything back.

By cutting this buffer back to £5,000, the Conservatives have turned this safety net into a trap. Suddenly the tiniest overpayment can push households into a debt spiral, because their low incomes mean it is impossible to pay back what the government has arbitrarily decided they now owe.

And the sharks are circling. Instead of collecting the debt on its own behalf, HMRC has sold it on to around a dozen debt collection agencies who are harassing the families involved with constant telephone calls, mobile phone messages and letters to their homes.

In total, HMRC made 215,144 referrals to debt collectors in 2013-14. Of the working families involved, 118,000 earned less than £5,000 per year.

This takes us to our second area of concern. Remember how the Department for Work and Pensions has been encouraging people – particularly the disabled – to declare themselves as self-employed in order to avoid the hassle and harassment that now go hand in hand with any benefit claim? You know – the refusal of benefits based on arbitrary ‘descriptors’ that were originally devised by a criminal insurance company as a means to minimise payouts, and the constant threat of sanctions that would cut off access to benefits for up to three years unless claimants manage to clear increasingly difficult obstacles.

And do you remember how the DWP reported earlier this year that more than 3,000 people who were subjected to the government’s benefit cap have now found work? This blog suggested at the time that many of them may have been encouraged to declare themselves self-employed in order to escape the hardship that the cap would cause them.

Both of these circumstances are likely to lead to a verdict of overpayment by HMRC, as the self-employment reported by these people is likely to be fictional, or to provide less than required by the rules – either in terms of hours worked or income earned.

Suddenly their debt is sold to a collection agency and they are suffering government-sponsored harassment, alarm and distress (which is in fact illegal) far beyond anything they received from the DWP; debt collection agencies are not part of the government and, as Dame Anne Begg pointed out in the Independent article on this subject, “The tactics they use to collect the debt are not tactics a government should use.”

Maybe not. So why employ such tactics?

Let’s move on to our third, and final, worry. By setting sharks on the hundreds of thousands of minnows caught in the government’s trawler-net (that was formerly a safety net – and I apologise for the mixed metaphor), the Tory-led administration is creating a handy distraction from the huge, bloated, offshore-banking whales who donate heavily into Conservative Party funds and who are therefore never likely to be pursued for the billions of pounds in unpaid taxes that they owe.

The government has promised to clamp down on tax evasion and avoidance, but ministers would have to be out of their minds to attack the bankers and businesspeople who pay for their bread and butter.

George Osborne suffered huge – and entirely justified – derision last year when HMRC published a list of its top 10 tax dodgers, which revealed that public enemy number one was a hairdresser from Liverpool who had failed to pay a total of £17,000.

It seems likely that the Conservatives have decided that future announcements will involve the reclamation of far larger amounts, and from far more people…

Innocent people who were either cheated by Tory-instigated changes to the system or by Tory-instigated misleading benefit advice.

Meanwhile the guilty parties continue to go unhindered. Their only payouts will continue to be made to – who was it again?

Oh yes…

To the Conservative Party.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And anyone who thinks otherwise is “moaning”.

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

“Our disabilities are our fault.

“Diabetes is a lifestyle choice.

“Everyone who claims benefits is frauding the system.

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

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

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

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Confused Tories don’t understand what the term ‘health service’ means

Bad for your health: If you don't have time to read the full article, this Martin Rowson cartoon from The Guardian provides the full picture.

Bad for your health: If you don’t have time to read the whole article, this Martin Rowson cartoon from The Guardian provides the full picture.

Yesterday was not a good day to be Jeremy Hunt.

“What day ever is?” I hear you cry. Good point, well made.

Yesterday was worse than usual. Not only did the High Court tell him thathis plan to penalise Lewisham Hospital for the failings of a neighbouring health trust was illegal, but the Court of Appeal upheld a ruling that right-to-die campaigners did not have the right to ask doctors to end patients’ lives.

Mr Misprint was found to have been acting outside his powers as Secretary of State for Health, and in breach of the National Health Service Act 2006, when he announced his plan to close or substantially downgrade casualty and maternity services at Lewisham.

Mr Justice Silber said that the decision of the Trust Special Administrator – which was the first made under new, Conservative, health service guidance – was also unlawful.

And he referred to yet another spectacular Parliamentary lie by David Cameron. He’s really racking those up, now, isn’t he? In this one, he told Dame Joan Ruddock, “What the Government and I specifically promised was that there should be no closures or reorganisations unless they had support from the GP commissioners, unless there was proper public and patient engagement and unless there was an evidence base. Let me be absolutely clear: unlike under the last Government when these closures and changes were imposed in a top-down way, if they do not meet those criteria, they will not happen.”

Unfortunately for his reputation, it took a High Court judge to make sure that this guarantee was carried out. Liar Cameron would have pushed the unlawful measure through, even though none of the conditions he described had been met.

Of course the consequence would have been a reduced, substandard hospital service for people living in or near Lewisham – not because the hospital itself was poorly run (it wasn’t) but because the neighbouring South London Healthcare Trust has been haemorrhaging more than £1 million every week. The decision was made with an eye on costs, and with no regard for the effect on people’s health or lives.

Meanwhile, over in the Court of Appeal, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, upheld a ruling that the late Tony Nicklinson had not had the right to ask a doctor to end his life, and neither did fellow right-to-die campaigner Paul Lamb.

The perverse aspect of this is the possibility that they would have got what they wanted – if they had only kept their mouths shut.

Readers may think what follows is in bad taste, or out-of-turn, but it seems that every family in the country has a story in which they suspect doctors of “switching off” a loved one.

From my own family, I can think of two occasions without even trying: One was an uncle with a long-term illness. His wife (my aunt) cared for him but, being a senior citizen herself, she reached a point where she needed to take a break, and booked him into a respite care home. He didn’t survive the experience.

The other was another uncle with a terminal illness who was on painkillers which could kill him if a wrong dosage was applied. We don’t know that this is what led to his death – just as we don’t know what happened in the respite home. But on the face of it, the circumstances are questionable.

All of the above leads us to conclude that yesterday was not a good day to be Jeremy Hunt. You can be sure he was unhappy about it, too.

Picture the scene if you can: The Cabinet room, during a tea break. Various Tories are lounging around, sucking down on some of the plasma they privatised the other week, while Mr Hunt declares: “It isn’t fair! Iain’s policies get to kill hundreds of people every we- sorry, dozens. dozens of people every week – and I can’t even top one or two who want it? What’s the world coming to?”

What indeed. Perhaps Mr Hunt should remember he’s the Secretary of State for Health. It’s in his job title that he should be preserving health, not destroying it.

And money – filthy lucre – should be his last concern!