Tag Archives: deliberate

Russia report: If Russian influence over the UK is ‘the new normal’, shouldn’t someone be charged with treason?

Bosom buddies: Boris Johnson with Russian industrialist Alexander Temerko. All perfectly innocent?

Now we can all see why Boris Johnson did not want the so-called ‘Russia Report’ released before the general election last year.

The report – released today (July 21) by Parliament’s new Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) – shows that successive Conservative governments have welcomed Russian oligarchs “with open arms”, giving them access to political figures “at the highest levels” – and made absolutely no attempt to investigate Russian interference in referendums and elections; in fact, the Tories “actively avoided” doing so.

This has led, the report states, to the growth of an industry of “enablers” who are “de facto agents of the Russian state”. The report does not explicitly state that these enablers include Conservative government politicians, but its assertion that Russia had access to “the highest levels” of political figures certainly suggests that this is the case.

And the fact that Russia has influence “at the highest levels” seems to have made it almost impossible to organise a response.

The report refers to the defence of UK democratic processes as a “hot potato” over which no government organisation wanted to take the lead in conducting an assessment of Russian interference.

In its response to the report today, the Tory government has said it has seen no evidence of interference in (this is the example it gives) the Brexit referendum. It seems clear that there is a good reason for that: nobody was looking. The government has said it sees no reason to conduct a retrospective investigation into such interference, which looks like a tacit admission of guilt in the light of the report. Committee member Stewart Hosie said, “That is meaningless if they haven’t looked for it.”

The ISC states that “social media companies must take action and remove covert hostile state material. Government must ‘name and shame’ those who fail to act”. The latter demand seems unlikely to happen as it seems clear that the Tory government does not want to do anything.

One reason for that may be the fact that the Tories have been delighted to welcome Russian money and the oligarchs who owned it, “providing them with a means of recycling illicit finance through the London ‘laundromat’.”

It is unlikely that Russia actually interfered in the mechanics of voting in general elections or the Brexit referendum; the UK’s paper-based voting system “makes actual interference with the mechanism difficult” – but “we should not be complacent about other forms of interference”.

The report states that Russian influence seems to have been exerted prominently in the social media, whose bosses had no interest in preventing it.

It states: “There have been widespread allegations that Russia sought to influence voters in the 2016 referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU: studies have pointed to the preponderance of pro-Brexit or anti-EU stories on RT and Sputnik, and the use of ‘bots’ and ‘trolls’, as evidence.

“The actual impact of such attempts on the result itself would be difficult – if not impossible – to prove. However what is clear is that the Government was slow to recognise the existence of the threat – only understanding it after the ‘hack and leak’ operation against the Democratic National Committee, when it should have been seen as early as 2014.

“As a result the Government did not take action to protect the UK’s process in 2016. The Committee has not been provided with any post-referendum assessment – in stark contrast to the US response to reports of interference in the 2016 presidential election. In our view there must be an analogous assessment of Russian interference in the EU referendum.”

In their statement, the Tories have made it clear that they will not conduct a retrospective investigation: “The Intelligence and Security Agencies produce and contribute to regular assessments of the threat posed by Hostile State Activity, including around potential interference in UK democratic processes.

“We keep such assessments under review and, where necessary, update them in response to new intelligence, including during democratic events such as elections and referendums.

“Where new information emerges, the Government will always consider the most appropriate use of any intelligence it develops or receives, including whether it is appropriate to make this public. Given this long standing approach, a retrospective assessment of the EU Referendum is not necessary.”

This is hardly encouraging, given that the ISC report makes it clear that the Tory government has deliberately avoided looking for Russian interference.

Labour has delivered the weak-ass response that we have come to expect from Keir Starmer’s sub-Tory party, courtesy of Lisa “I wouldn’t disclose plans to sell off the NHS” Nandy.

“The report is very clear that the Government has underestimated the response required to Russia and it is imperative we learn the lessons from the mistakes that have been made,” she said. “The Labour Party calls on the Government to study the conclusions of the report carefully and take the necessary steps to keep our country safe.”

Fat chance! And she knows it. The people of the UK needed a much more robust response, calling out Prime Minister Boris Johnson over his extremely strong ties with Russians – he plays tennis with them in return for donations to the Tory Party, remember – and demanding a full-strength investigation into connections between Conservative government members past and present and Russians in the UK – both private citizens and representatives of that country’s government.

I’ll say it again, for clarity:

What we need now is a comprehensive and independent investigation by law-enforcement agencies into connections between anybody who has been a member of a Conservative government over the past 10 years (including members of other parties who have allied with the Tories – the DUP and the Liberal Democrats) and Russians in the UK who have been here either as private citizens or as representatives of that countries government. Did – and do – these relationships pose a threat to the UK’s security and to its democracy?

And if so, should those who have created that threat be arrested and charged with treason?

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If Tories really regret not testing for Covid-19 in care homes – is it because they were caught?

Test: A Covid-19 test. The Tory government failed to secure enough of these – so it seems ministers deliberately decided to sacrifice care home residents to the disease.

The Conservative government made a conscious decision not to test for Covid-19 in care homes – while the disease was ripping through elderly and vulnerable residents.

That is what we’re hearing from inJustice Secretary Robert Buckland.

He says that, after ensuring that the UK would not have the capacity to test everybody who should have had tests, and while sending people who were known to be infected with Covid-19 back to care homes from hospital, the government decided not to test anybody there for the disease. It seems they were too busy testing people like Matt Hancock instead.

And he also says, “We’ve seen a great tragedy in our care homes which is a matter of huge regret.”

Okay – much of what has gone above is me reading between the lines. But you have to do that with Tories because they don’t give you all the information you need.

For example: is it “a matter of huge regret” that there has been “a great tragedy in our care homes”?

Or is it just regrettable that the public has “seen” it?

Don’t let yourself be fooled; if they could have covered up the excess deaths, that is what the Tories would have done – indeed, it is what they were trying to do.

The choices were all deliberate, though.

And they have resulted in at least 20,000 fewer people (so far) claiming pensions.

That is a huge saving for a Conservative government that hates paying money to the plebs – even though they know that we pay into the pension fund for this very purpose.

At the end of the day, we’re still left with two choices: either the Tories have been incompetent, in which case they should be removed from a position of power…

Or they have been homicidal, in which case they should be removed from society and spend the rest of their lives in prison.

Source: Top Tory admits government ‘chose’ not to test in care homes – and deaths a ‘huge regret’ – Mirror Online

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Tories have DELIBERATELY increased poverty in the UK, according to UN inspector

Professor Philip Alston: He came to his conclusions by listening to people affected by Conservative policies on the poor, sick and disabled. Tories implemented those policies by ignoring the very same people – and now they have vowed to ignore Professor Alston.

The United Nations’ special rapporteur on poverty, Philip Alston, has said he believes the UK’s Conservative government deliberately increased poverty in the country, for ideological reasons.

He said the harm done to the poorest and most vulnerable could be reversed with very little investment; all that is needed is the political will. Sadly, we all know that a change of government will be required to achieve this.

The Tories themselves confirmed this, by stating that they do not recognise the findings of Professor Alston’s report. Clearly they will not act upon those findings either.

In an interview with Channel 4 News, he said the following:

And this is from his verbal report:

A wealth of material has appeared about this – mostly on the social media (and we’ll discuss the reasons for this below), so it is possible to put together a good summary of the report, the reaction to it, and wider issues from that. So here are the headlines:

Here’s the underlying implication – that the Tory government intended to create this problem for the people of the UK in order to achieve “radical social re-engineering”:

Professor Alston said the situation could change overnight with very little investment, if there was a different government:

But the current government is unlikely to do anything because it is in a “state of denial”:

https://twitter.com/Anoosh_C/status/1063402905569583107

It is well worth noting that Professor Alston used the words “hostile environment” to describe the Conservative government’s policies brings to mind the Windrush Scandal – and the Department for Work and Pensions, which is responsible for so many of the policies which have caused the harm, is now being run by the woman who took the rap for Windrush – Amber Rudd.

The effect of Tory policies on women was highlighted by the special rapporteur:

This Site suggested yesterday that Esther McVey resigned as Work and Pensions Secretary, not because of Brexit but because she did not want to face the criticism she would receive from Professor Alston. In his report, he revealed that he had met Ms McVey – and her comments were alarming:

https://twitter.com/Anoosh_C/status/1063405551852404736

One can see why she may not have wanted to stick around for the fallout from that. Instead, as Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell points out, they “manipulate statistics” and “refuse to accept responsibility”.

And how do they get away with it? The answer is obvious:

Excellent points. And if you think the BBC isn’t hiding important facts from you, were you aware of the following?

No? Then the BBC, together with other right-wing news organisations, has been hiding the facts from us all.

We need responsible news media, holding the government to account for its actions, and a cabinet minister willing to accept the facts and act on them in the national interest.

We have been given Amber Rudd.

I said it before and I’ll say it again: This would be a farce if not for the fact that people are dying.

Disability assessment system ignores evidence and pushes claimants towards death

Hoax: That's how the DWP has described many people's claims for PIP and ESA. In fact, it seems the assessment system itself is the hoax, and the government department the hoaxer. [Image: Getty Images]

Hoax: That’s how the DWP has described many people’s claims for PIP and ESA. In fact, it seems the assessment system itself is the hoax, and the government department the hoaxer. [Image: Getty Images]

If you have a long-term illness or disability but have wondered why you receive low scores on the government’s face-to-face ‘work capability assessment’, here’s why: The software is written to ensure that any information you provide may be ignored.

That’s right – the tick-box test program that the DWP took from criminal American insurance corporation Unum, which had been devised to make people ineligible for insurance payouts, does not take into account any of the claimant’s personal details.

David Daish, a programmer and software tester, went through the PIP assessment process and then provided his professional opinion on the software to Facebook page Atos Miracles. PIP is the most useful benefit to discuss in this context because the onus is on assessment providers, rather than individual disabled people, to gather evidence from a list of health and social care professionals provided by the claimant.

He wrote: “The software is written so that whatever the assessor writes in the first part of the report, such as history, and anything the claimant tells the assessor, there is nothing whatsoever in the second part, the choosing of descriptors, that is connected to the first part.

“This means nothing is built into the programming to make sure the assessor uses all the evidence that was (hopefully) collected, or was provided elsewhere, and then can subsequently make the right descriptor choice.

“The assessor can basically say anything they like. Nothing in the software forces them carry out the assessment fairly.” [bolding mine]

He went on to describe the software as “little more than a glorified Word document: “A piece of programming that is not integrated in any way, has no checks and balances to make sure the business process it is supposed to support works as it should, that is, the PIP assessment itself, is in my view unforgivable. I’m inclined to think it is deliberate.”

That is a perfectly logical conclusion to draw.

This would suggest that the increased stress, the despair and hopelessness instilled in claimants by the loss of their benefit for no good reason, and the subsequent loss of life through suicide or exacerbation of the health conditions that the assessment system insists do not exist, are also deliberate.

It also makes sense of the apparently-illogical decisions being thrown out by the system all the time. Citizens Advice has stated: “Both Atos and Capita [PIP assessment providers] have made snap decisions about whether PIP claimants must attend a face-to-face assessment. Even when they do request evidence, providers only need to tell claimants who they have asked for it – not whether they actually received any or what it said.”

It seems that any such evidence would be ignored by the assessment software in any case, so it should come as no surprise that Citizens Advice continued: “In the absence of additional evidence, an astonishing 98 per cent of all assessments have been face-to-face… This is adding substantially to the delays and financial hardship experienced by disabled people.

“We now have two different systems for gathering independent evidence in PIP and in ESA, neither of which is working for claimants, assessment providers or the DWP.”

As someone with only limited knowledge of computer programmer, it is probably not for This Writer to comment. But my own knowledge suggests that a teenager from the 1980s could have produced a better program, using BASIC, than Unum and the DWP have managed here. A series of simple ‘IF… THEN’ loops would have ensured that all relevant information was taken into account.

Perhaps this is what we should do.

I don’t mean we should write a BASIC program to show up the inadequacies of PIPAT (the actual assessment system) – rather we should endeavour to produce our own program that performs in the way the public has been led to believe PIPAT does. Then we could run a few assessments through it (the DWP must provide full details of assessments and outcomes if these are requested, so they won’t be hard to acquire) and compare the results.

Is that a reasonable suggestion?

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Iain Duncan Smith has committed contempt of Parliament and should be expelled

It's a whopper: How big do you think Iain Duncan Smith's next Parliamentary exaggeration of the truth will be?

It’s a whopper: How big do you think Iain Duncan Smith’s next Parliamentary exaggeration of the truth will be?

Why is Iain Duncan Smith still a member of Parliament?

Apparently there is an offence, here in the UK, known as Contempt of Parliament. An MP is guilty of this if he or she deliberately misleads Parliament, and any MP accused of the offence may be suspended or expelled.

Our odious Work and Pensions secretary is a repeat offender. It is one thing to be “economical with the truth”, as the euphemism goes; it is entirely different to present known falsehoods to the House of Commons as though they were accurate.

Smith’s latest wheeze involves a press release released by his Department of Work and Pensions last month, in which he is quoted as follows: “Already we’ve seen 8,000 people who would have been affected by the [benefits] cap move into jobs. This clearly demonstrates that the cap is having the desired impact.”

There is no evidence to support the claim. This has been made clear by Andrew Dilnot, chair of the UK Statistics Authority, who said in an open letter yesterday (Thursday) that it was “unsupported by the official statistics published by the department”.

He added that an explicit caution had made it clear that the statistics used by Smith to support his claim were “not intended to show the additional numbers entering work as a direct result of the contact”.

In addition, figures released alongside the statement do not comply with the UK’s codes and practices on statistical releases, and concerns have been raised about the methodology and sourcing, along with possible advance sharing of the data with some – sympathetic? – media outlets.

As an aside, it seems unlikely that Mr Dilnot realised, when he accepted his role at the statistics authority, that it would be such a high-profile role. How many people had even heard of it before the Tory-led Coalition government came into power? Precious few, one suspects.

Yet it has now become a household name, due to the Tories’ continued and persistent use of faked statistics.

They claimed the NHS budget was rising when it had fallen – and only yesterday we saw one consequence of this; the critical strain facing accident and emergency units. Remember, many hospitals are having their A&E units closed, adding to the strain on those that are left. Why is this happening, if not to save money?

They also claimed – in a party political broadcast, no less – that the national debt was falling when in fact it has risen massively over the course of this Parliament.

And now this.

Smith is, as mentioned above, a repeat offender: He also stated recently that around a million people have been stuck on benefits for at least three of the last four years, “despite being judged capable of preparing or looking for work”. These figures were, of course, inaccurate – they included single mothers, the seriously ill, and people awaiting testing.

Oxfam’s Katherine Trebeck, policy and advocacy manager for its UK poverty programme, said in The Mirror that this was “beyond the pale”.

She said: “The vast majority of people who are out of work would jump at the chance to take a job that paid them a wage they can afford to live on.”

And the TUC’s general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said in The Guardian: “Only people with weak arguments need to make up statistics.

“The secretary of state needs to apologise – not just to Parliament, but to the many who cannot find jobs, for misusing his department’s statistics in this way.”

The DWP has issued a statement supporting Smith, but its argument is extremely weak. It said anecdotal responses of staff and claimants supported what he had said: “DWP staff and claimants are telling us the cap is impacting behaviour and leading to those affected finally entering the world of work.”

Anecdotal evidence is not fact and cannot be presented as such. Our good friend Wikipedia describes it in these terms: “Because of the small sample, there is a larger chance that it may be unreliable due to cherry-picked or otherwise non-representative samples of typical cases.Anecdotal evidence is considered dubious support of a claim; it is accepted only in lieu of more solid evidence. This is true regardless of the veracity of individual claims.

Manipulation of statistics by the DWP and its secretary of state prompted Debbie Sayers and fellow blogger Jayne Linney – who has supported Vox Political articles many times – to launch a petition on the change.org website, calling on Parliament’s Work and Pensions Committee to hold Smith to account for his habitual offences against government statistics.

The petition is here, and at the time of writing has more than 76,500 signatures. Please sign it if you haven’t already done so.

It’s time for Iain Duncan Smith – who remains, let’s all remember, Vox Political‘s Monster of the Year for 2012 – to put up or shut up. He must either admit that he lied to Parliament and to the people in order to justify his despicable treatment of the most vulnerable people in the country…

… or he must be expelled from Parliament like the disgrace that he is.

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