Nick Clegg, former leader of the Liberal Democrats and latterly a bit of a loon [Image: Luke MacGregor/Bloomberg via Getty Images].
We all knew Nick Clegg was talking nonsense throughout his time as deputy prime minister; at least now he’s doing it openly.
He’s right that Labour’s decision to “demonise austerity” led to Jeremy Corbyn being elected as party leader – but completely wrong to present that policy position as something that is bad.
There was absolutely no point to austerity, other than to shrink the state, take money from the poor and give it to the rich. It had nothing whatsoever to do with the UK “living within its means”.
Austerity did not save any money at all. The UK is still running a huge deficit and the national debt has nearly tripled – as Nick Clegg well knows.
If he had wanted to get the UK out of debt, he would have advocated expanding the economy, putting more money into it and getting more out of it.
That’s what Labour’s manifesto promised.
The claim that Labour did not explain how the country could afford its policies was a lie, of course. Every policy was carefully costed and explained in the manifesto and accompanying documents.
Or perhaps Mr Clegg doesn’t understand how the UK economy works. If so, then why was he ever allowed to be deputy prime minister at all?
Nick Clegg has said Labour’s decision to “demonise austerity” as “evil” is what led to Jeremy Corbyn being elected its party leader.
The former Lib Dem leader said while he understood why voters liked Corbyn’s manifesto as it was “an invitation to the British public to have a warm bath and a nice cup of tea”.
But Clegg criticised Labour for not explaining how the country would afford its policies.
“I totally understand why they did this, but the Labour Party had been in government for 13 years and actually presided over many deeply regressive things, far more regressive than we would have allowed,” he said.
“They just loved being in Opposition suddenly in 2010 and found the easiest thing was to demonise any idea of how to save money.”
He added: “It’s what created Jeremy Corbyn. Because if you spend five years demonising austerity and some sort of evil choice, then of course you can never digest ideas that sometimes you need row back as a country in a way of living within the means of what you can afford.”
The late Terry Pratchett must be spinning in his grave. This is not what he intended with his campaign for dignity in death.
RT.com reports the following:
A healthy former nurse has killed herself at a Swiss euthanasia clinic because she feared developing a terminal illness and being unable to take her own life.
Gill Pharaoh, 75, who did not want to become a “hobbling old lady,” was not suffering from any serious illnesses before she died on July 12 at an assisted dying clinic called Lifecircle in Basel.
The former nurse said she didn’t want to become a burden to her children or “block beds” in hospitals and cost the NHS a “fortune.”
There was nothing wrong with Mrs Pharoah at the time of her death. Her reason for choosing to be euthanized is extremely hard to stomach, considering that it falls perfectly in line with the Conservative Government’s policy of condemning anybody with an illness as a burden on state benefits.
There was no medical reason for the procedure at all.
Meanwhile, genuinely-ill benefit claimants are being demonised by the Conservative Government and the media, and deprived of the benefits they need to survive. They are being told that their desire to carry on, managing their conditions as they go, is a selfish attempt to defraud the taxpayer.
Without wishing to be disrespectful of Mrs Pharoah or her family, it seems that, by her death, she has done a huge disservice to those who are trying to live.
How pleasant to hear this said in a Parliamentary debate, with not a single word of denial from the Conservative Government:
“Last week there was an amazing sequence of events. On Monday, the Secretary of State told me that he could not publish … data because they were not kept, and told me to stop scaremongering; on Wednesday, the Prime Minister said that they would be published; and this was swiftly followed by the Government saying that they were appealing against the Information Commissioner’s ruling, stating that publishing these data would lead to ‘probable misinterpretations’ and ‘was too emotive…and wasn’t in the public interest’. What an absolute shambles!”
This was part of the speech by Debbie Abrahams, Labour MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, in a debate on ‘welfare reform and people with disabilities’, called by her to set the scene for any measures against the disabled that George Osborne is considering for his July budget. As the Government prepares to cut £12 billion from the annual social security budget next week, there are real concerns that – in addition to potentially slashing tax credits for the working poor – they will cut further support for working-age people with disabilities.
She was referring, of course, to the government’s increasingly confused response to This Writer’s request for an honest answer to the question, ‘How many people have died while claiming Employment and Support Allowance between November 2011 and May 2014 (the date of my request)?” But wait! She continued:
“I could not disagree more. This is definitely in the public interest. As a former public health academic, I am more than aware of the strict criteria for establishing causality, but there are no grounds for not publishing numbers of actual deaths as well as the Government-proposed standardised mortality ratios, including those who died within six weeks of being found fit for work. Will the Minister now confirm when these data will be published?“
Dear reader, it falls to This Writer to report that not one word came back from the Government benches – not even when the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Justin Tomlinson (who?) got onto his hind legs to give the Government’s response to the debate.
You can sign the petition demanding that the Government end its appeal against the order to publish the statistics, and provide the figures to the public, on the Change.org website.
She also asked when the Government will publish redacted information on the circumstances of the deaths of claimants who died while sanctioned, and what changes the DWP instigated in the light of reviews of these deaths – and whether the significant surge in suicide rates for both men and women since 2010— particularly for working-age men—is being analysed by the DWP. No response.
The Government doesn’t have anything to say to the sick, disabled or vulnerable, and even less to say about them.
Ms Abrahams began her speech by pointing out, “It is poignant that this debate falls on the very day that the Independent Living Fund closes. A further £1.2 billion is being cut from support for people with disabilities. Such cuts were a hallmark of the Tory-led coalition, and many are concerned that not only will this increase but the cuts will get worse under this Government.
“I … want to draw attention to the punitive and dehumanising culture that has been part of the delivery of these welfare reforms, which set the tone for the leadership within the Department for Work and Pensions and the Government’s wider tone on social security.”
Here’s a quick precis of the facts: She said that, by 2018, £23.8 billion of support would have been taken from 3.7 million people with disabilities, according to Demos. The measures include:
Indexation of social security payments was changed from the higher retail prices index to the lower consumer prices index
There was also a 1% cap on the uprating of certain working-age benefits.
People on incapacity benefit were reassessed.
The time that disabled people in the work-related activity group are able to receive the employment and support allowance was limited.
Disabled people in receipt of disability living allowance are being reassessed to determine whether they are eligible for the personal independence payment.
Disability benefits are approximately 15% of average earnings. With the recent changes—the 1% uprating and the indexation to the consumer prices index—they will fall even further below those in Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Luxembourg, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Serbia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
People with disabilities are twice as likely to live in persistent poverty as non-disabled people: 80% of disability-related poverty is caused by extra costs. This has implications for disabled people’s families – a third of all families living in poverty include one disabled family member.
Since the Government’s new sanctions regime, the rate of sanctioning of people on IB and ESA has doubled.
She said part of the Government’s strategy has been the “invidious” spreading of a culture of blame and fear.
“In the 1980s we saw the unions being targeted; today the focus is on the poor and the vulnerable.
“The narrative associated with the so-called welfare reforms has been one of divide and rule, deliberately attempting to vilify people who receive social security as the new undeserving poor.
“The Government have spread a culture of pejorative language, such as “shirkers” and “scroungers”. They have intentionally attempted to demonise social security recipients, including disabled people.
“The innuendo that people with a disability or illness might be faking it or are feckless is, quite frankly, grotesque… Unfortunately, the regular misuse of statistics is another way that the Government are trying to harden the public’s attitude.
“The facts are that, in an ageing population, the largest proportion of social security recipients are pensioners and not, as is often implied, the workshy.”
Additional: It has been pointed out to me that Mr Tomlinson stated: “We will be publishing them [sic] the mortality stats—I know the hon. Lady is keen to see them soon; we would all like to see them as soon as possible.” Since he did not define the form those statistics would take, nor did he provide a firm date on which they would be published, it seems clear that what he did say was as near to nothing as makes no odds.
Bizarrely, this is one instance of UKIP getting something right: The image by UKIP’s youth branch, Young Independence, makes it clear that the party is opposed by the NUS. There is no mention of a ban.
Our friends at UKIP have been at it again.
What follows is mainly from the A Liberal Life blog, detailing UKIP’s attempt to claim the National Union of Students voted to ban the party from standing for election within that organisation, when in fact all the union did was declare that it formally opposed UKIP.
Daniel Stevens, NUS International Students’ Officer, explained the decision on the NUS website. He said UKIP made the arrival of Romania and Bulgaria in the European Union a central focus of its 2013 election campaign, “using fear, misinformation and xenophobic language. They claimed the move would [lead] to an influx of 350,000 to 400,000 Romanians and Bulgarians a year, claimed that it would have an enormous impact on public services and went as far as to say it would lead to a ‘gateway for organised crime’… I have met Romanian students at UK universities and colleges who have been absolutely demoralised in the way their country has been stereotyped and portrayed by UKIP. One student went as far as to say that they now felt ashamed to be Romanian in Britain. There is something fundamentally wrong and blatantly xenophobic about a party that is willing to demonise and stereotype an entire country for its own political devices.”
Moving on to immigration, he pointed out that the NUS represents more than half a million international students, and that he spoke to members of that group every week “who are incredibly fearful of what UKIP represents, and I don’t blame them. Along with UKIP’s entire manifesto, its policies on immigration are currently undergoing a review. Whilst it stresses that it wants a non-discriminatory immigration policy, there is no indication of what that might look like. What’s clear is that UKIP [is] content to use xenophobic language to get their point across. Its previous manifesto stated that ‘multiculturalism has split our society’ and ‘our traditional values have been undermined’. Its new poster strongly implies that 26 million unemployed Europeans are after British jobs. UKIP’s entire campaign is based on immigration policies. The language it uses is an ‘us vs them’ mentality. Farage has suggested that parts of the country have been ‘taken over’ by foreigners and claiming that this has come at a ‘financial’ and ‘social price’. UKIP [has] repeatedly refused to create policies, or in fact a campaign, based on verified evidence of the impact of immigration. Instead [it uses] negative buzz-words that play on people’s emotions to drive an agenda of division.”
Finally, he pointed to what he called UKIP’s “problematic membership”. He stated: “Whilst UKIP will defend itself as not being racist, almost each week brings another case of a party member standing for a position that harbours racist, islamophobic, disablist or homophobic views”. For example:
• The star of UKIP’s TV ad dismissed Ed Miliband as “a Pole,” tweeted islamophobic messages and said Africans should be left “to kill themselves.”
• A UKIP candidate called for Lenry Henry to “emigrate to a black country.”
• An MEP called for British Muslims to sign a non-violence charter.
• A UKIP candidate in Enfield sent messages saying gay marriage sickens people and made misogynistic comments about a female councillor.
• A UKIP candidate in Leeds listed Nazi war criminals as individuals who inspire him.
“These examples are just from a two week period.”
He concluded that some had claimed that NUS passing policy that opposed UKIP contravened free speech. “On the contrary. Students across the country have democratically voted to hold UKIP accountable [for] its actions and views,” he stated. “We must always be suspicious and vigilant against the politics of fear and any political party that is willing to use xenophobia to gain political influence.”
He made it clear that if anyone else from UKIP wanted to run for office in the NUS next year, they would still be entitled to do so.
Now you know the background, let’s get back to the dodgy dealings on A Liberal Life, where we are told that yesterday (August 3), UKIP “community spokesperson” Suzanne Evans tweeted that the NUS was a “leftie dictatorship” for “not allowing UKIP candidates to stand for election”.
Faced with the fact that no such ban exists, the response was, “Debate impossible with LiberalIsland [that’s the author of the blog] – clearly believes it’s fine to ban party that won last nationwide election.”
Then some supporters of this lady jumped in to, well, support her. None of them had an answer to the main point of fact and the best they could manage was a lame “the opposition is equivalent to a ban”.
This is the face of UKIP today. Yr Obdt Srvt has been enjoying (if that’s the word) a debate over UKIP’s opposition to a European Parliament resolution calling on member states to legislate against domestic violence including marital rape. The latest UKIP position is that they were right to oppose the EU resolution because the European Parliament is undemocratic (so does this mean their election win is not valid?) but it would be inconsistent with UKIP’s intent to regain democratic self-government to oppose the Welsh Government’s planned law on the subject.
Apparently the safety of women in the home is of no interest whatever. In fact, the correspondent made this clear by stating: “I suspect that the practicalities of enforcement will largely vitiate a well-intentioned measure. Rape and assault outside the home are not prevented by laws criminalising them.”
Clearly UKIP is perfectly happy to justify its inconsistencies by playing with words.
The vindictiveness of our Conservative-led government knows no bounds.
Not only has the government cut a man’s state benefits after he was diagnosed with cancer, but its supporters then attacked him in the local newspaper’s comment column – even though they knew nothing about his situation.
Rather than sit around, he has spent his time volunteering in the community – for up to 40 hours per week – while also job hunting.
But when his doctors told him he had cancer, DWP officials cut his benefit money by 40 per cent (from £140 per week to £84). This is because attending hospital on both sides of the Humber meant he was unable to attend job clubs and had to claim a sickness benefit instead.
“When a person has cancer the last thing a person needs to worry about is finances but I now have to look after my family, pay bills and finance my trips to hospitals on less than £100 per week,” Mr Woodcock is quoted as saying. “Is this what health and welfare reforms have led to?
“The DWP even told me that if I went back on to jobseekers and gave up my treatment I could go back on to £140 per week to live on – meaning if I decided to die, I could be richer!”
So much for your caring Conservative-led government. Now look at this despicable response from a reader:
“Not much gratitude shown to taxpayers for the hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of free cancer treatment he will receive. I would say that is a pretty substantial benefit myself.”
Disgusting. The whole point of the National Health Service is that everybody pays something towards it, to ensure that it is free at the point of use. One has to question whether this commenter was a government plant, ordered to make this statement as part of the campaign to soften us all up for privatisation.
Here’s another one with his head in the clouds: “I’d look at this man’s situation the other way and suggest that he’s been overpaid (by at least 40 per cent) over the last eight years, whilst he’s been sat at home reaping in the benefits – whilst the rest of us have been going to work. Eight years is a very long time. Why couldn’t he find a job? Not really looking perhaps.”
It happens that a previous commenter had already answered this claim, but clearly these people don’t pay attention to anybody but themselves. The other commenter noted: “He is long-term unemployed (so largely unemployable), he didn’t sit on his behind all day (from what I hear) and smoke pot. The guy has a social conscience and appears to give a toss about where he lives.”
But this person noted that Mr Woodcock’s voluntary work could also harm his benefits: “I have to say he should be careful; the Jobcentre could class that as ‘not actively seeking and being available for work’, mainly due to the amount of time his job-seeking should occupy compared to a full time job.” We’re living in a crazy, upside-down country!
Final word goes to another commenter who pointed out that nothing has changed since the Coalition government first tightened the rules for claiming sickness benefits: “The aim of Govt was to demonise those on benefit by highlighting the worst cases of abuse and unless you are near to terminal there is the idea by the DWP you can do something.”
This is eerily reminiscent of the incident that sparked all the other stories about the victimisation of the sick. Does anybody remember, years ago, when the Coalition government was chastised for putting a patient with terminal cancer into the work-related activity group of Employment and Support Allowance, telling that person he should spend the final six months of his life at work?
Despite the huge backlash and protestations from the government that it has changed the system, it seems there has been no improvement at all.
Meanwhile, perhaps because of the constant right-wing media attacks on the sick as “feckless” “scroungers”, it seems the public have been manipulated into hardening their attitude.
ADDENDUM: You can read another perspective on this, from Scriptonite, here.
Lynne Featherstone: Her speech may have been well-intentioned, but was also patronising and hypocritical in the light of the Coalition’s treatment of disabled people in the UK.
Today the Coalition government announced it is showing the developing world how to treat people with disabilities (don’t laugh) – by ensuring that schools built with direct UK funding will have easy access for the disabled.
According to a government press release, Liberal Democrat International Development Minister Lynne Featherstone used the High Level Meeting on Development and Disability at the United Nations in New York – the biggest disability rights meeting in five years – to call on the international community to tackle the ‘great neglect’ of a billion people globally who face unequal access to education, employment, healthcare, social support and justice as a result of disability.
Did her speech make any mention of the ‘great neglect’ of people in her own country who face discrimination on exactly the same grounds, caused by her government?
“Those living with a disability are disproportionately some of the poorest and most marginalised people in the world – part of an unseen great neglect,” she told the meeting. “It is telling that of the 57 million children currently out of school in the world today, over a third have a disability.
“As a global community, we have a duty to safeguard the most vulnerable. If developing countries are to move forward into prosperity and greater self-reliance, they must take everyone on the journey.
“That’s why from this day forward, all schools built with the direct support of British taxpayers will be designed to allow disability access.
“With the ongoing discussion of what development should focus on when the Millennium Development Goals expire in 2015, we have a once-in-a-generation chance to finally put disability on the agenda.”
Leaders of developing countries would have been justified in looking askance at the British minister while she was making this speech, with her hypocrisy on display for everybody to see.
They would be right to ask themselves: “Is this not a minister from a country that demonises its disabled people? That treats them as a burden on the community? That is trying to purge its society of them?
“Did her government not drive 73 disabled people per week to suicide or death through the exacerbation of their health problems – both brought on by cuts to state benefits and the threat of destitution – during 2011? And is her government not now refusing to provide up-to-date figures on the deaths its policies have caused?
“Does this not mean that deaths of disabled people caused – directly or indirectly – by UK government policies have increased dramatically during this time period, and the same government is trying to cover up the fact?”
It is notable that the government’s announcement landed on the same day that disability activist Samuel Miller received the following correspondence from the office of the UN’s special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights:
“On behalf of the Special Rapporteur, thank you very much for your communications… Ms Sepulveda is observing very closely the situation with the UK welfare policies and their effects on persons living in poverty, including persons with disability.
“She is doing her best within the limits of her mandate to address such situations not only in the UK but globally through direct engagement with Governments.
“She would like to commend you for your tireless efforts and wishes you all the best in your endeavours.”
In the light of all this, would leaders of developing countries not be right, while thanking the UK government for its well-intentioned offer, to ask why Ms Featherstone feels justified in talking down to them about the disabled when her government refuses to allow those in its own country an opportunity to live with dignity.
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