He laughed: Remember, Iain Duncan Smith laughed at the terror he was causing a rape victim by using the Bedroom Tax to make it too expensive for her to keep a ‘panic room’. His Department for Work and Pensions later lost the case in the European Court of Human Rights but we should never forget that he and the other Tories thrive on terrorising vulnerable people.
The Tory government has confirmed that it will not lift the Bedroom Tax from victims of domestic violence, after the European Court of Human Rights ruled that it was an act of discrimination.
A cross-party group of MPs had written to demand that the government should lift the Bedroom Tax from such people.
The letter, signed by 44 MPs, was organised by Labour’s Stella Creasy and follows a decision by the European Court of Human Rights.
The Tory government had imposed the Bedroom Tax on a rape victim who had been given a panic room as part of a “sanctuary” scheme, but the ECHR had ruled that this was an act of discrimination as it meant she would be unable to afford to rent the property.
44 MPs have written to Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey urging her “to take immediate action on this life and death matter.
“The application of the ‘bedroom tax’ to Sanctuary Schemes clearly undermines this aim.
“So too, seeking to encourage people to leave their homes for smaller ones as this policy does, is also in conflict with the aim of Sanctuary Schemes – which are designed to enable those at risk of domestic violence to remain in their homes safely.
“We call on the government to act now and create an exemption for this very vulnerable group.”
Last week, the DWP said it was “carefully considering the court’s decision”.
But now we’re being told: “The government said there were no plans to abolish its policy on the removal of the spare room subsidy.
“It said the policy helped contain ‘growing housing benefit expenditure’, strengthens work incentives and makes better use of available social housing.”
So it’s still all about the money: the Tories are ignoring the courts to continue persecuting victims of violence and rape – and putting their lives in danger. Think about that!
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.
How unfortunate for the Conservative Party that “most influential Tory outside the Cabinet” Tim Montgomerie tweeted one minister’s disgust at the perception that unelected foreigner Lynton Crosby is running the party – and thus the government – on the same day the Tories were trying to get people riled up against the unelected foreigners they say are ruining human rights legislation.
Tom Pride, over at Pride’s Purge, had the juice: “Cameron is so desperate to win the next election he hired an Australian called Lynton Crosby to tell him how to do it.
“But now cabinet ministers are complaining that the unelected Australian is running the country instead of Cameron.
But Tom uncharacteristically missed the icing on this particular cake.
No, it isn’t the House of Lords (although that’s a perfectly good example of why the Tories are wrong, right there).
Today (Friday) is the day the Tories chose to launch their campaign to replace the Human Rights Act with a new ‘Bill of Rights’, dictated by them, which in fact takes rights away from you, rather than bestowing them.
Conservatives have described their campaign to remove power from the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg in a characteristic way, as follows (this is from today’s Express): “Tory MPs … say voters are fed up with unelected foreign judges siding with illegal migrants, terror suspects and criminals.”
Whoever he is, Mr Montgomerie’s minister is right to complain about unelected Lynton Crosby.
At the start of a campaign against unelected foreigners, his presence shows up the Conservatives as a gaggle of hypocrites.
Here’s an early response to the Conservatives’ plan for a Bill of Rights to replace the Human Rights Act, from – predictably – the UK Human Rights Blog:
“I can see why Grieve, Clarke and Hague had to go. The plan to make European Court of Human Rights judgments “advisory” is a full frontal attack on an international treaty which we signed up to and haven’t withdrawn from. For the UK to be under an international legal obligation to “abide by” judgments of the ECtHR and for Parliament simultaneously to legislate that those judgments are only advisory is incoherent at best and anarchic at worst. It demonstrates to the whole world that the UK Parliament has no truck for international obligations.
“It is also cowardly. If the intention is to withdraw from the ECHR, then that should be the policy. We should probably have a referendum about it. But these proposals are an attempt to pick a fight with the European Court/Council of Europe under the banner of “protecting” human rights. If the Council refuses to accept change, then the UK will withdraw, or will be expelled. In reality, the UK would be setting terms which the ECtHR cannot possibly accept – if it were to sanction what the UK is proposing then it would be losing the only genuine power it has, to enforce judgments.
“There is a genuine possibility that the ECHR project will now collapse. One of the features of international law is that it relies to a large extent on the good will of the states involved and their legislatures in respecting the obligations – what is the ECtHR going to do if Russia decides not to abide by a judgment… invade the country?
“Another view is that if you really break down what this proposal is saying then it will make little difference in practice. The ECHR doesn’t bind Parliament, but rather the UK as a whole. However, if Parliament decides that it will reword the treaty without withdrawing from it, that is an incoherent approach (as Grieve described it). It actually has the potential to undermine Parliamentary sovereignty, not strengthen it, by precipitating a constitutional crisis. The ECHR is not directly enforceable in domestic courts but who knows what the more creative judges and lawyers will do with this.
“The point about devolution is also really sticky: see Aileen McHarg’s post. Almost certainly, Scotland and Northern Ireland (and perhaps Wales) will challenge the right/ability of Westminster to impose this on them. I think they may win that argument meaning the supposed bill of rights will be England only. Less human rights for the English. Not such a catchy slogan.
“On obligations, which are to ‘rebalance’ the existing rights: What this really amounts to is a politicisation of a rights instrument. Of course, a party which wins a majority in a first past the post system gets the opportunity to impose laws which those people who didn’t vote for the party will object to. The quid pro quo is that if the other party win the next election, they can reverse those laws. But rights instruments (at least, the way they are understood across the world) are intended to sit above party politics and permit scrutiny, from a largely apolitical perspective, by judges of executive action. By recalibrating the rights according to the political beliefs of one party (and from the looks of it, only one section of that party), it turns the supposed “bill of rights” into something quite different: a kind of legal backstop for ideology.
“It’s grim stuff. The Sun, Daily Mail, Express and Telegraph have almost won. The monstering has had its effect. More to come.”
Theresa May announced plans to repeal the Human Rights Act last year. Now that we can see some of what this means, we have every reason to fear this legislation.
It seems the Conservative Party’s proposals for a new Bill of Rights, to replace the Human Rights Act, will be announced today – according to Jack of Kent. He reckons he was given the information in circumstances which circumvent any embargo and it is in the public interest to publish them as soon as possible.
Jack of Kent says the new measure will:
Repeal Labour’s 1998 Human Rights Act.
Break the formal link between British courts and the European Court of Human Rights. In future Britain’s courts will no longer be required to take into account rulings from the Court in Strasbourg. This will make our Supreme Court the ultimate arbiter of human rights matters in the UK.
End the ability of the European Court to require the UK to change British laws. Every judgement against the UK will be treated as advisory and will have to be approved by Parliament if it is to lead to a change in our laws.
Define much more clearly when and how Human Rights laws in the UK are to be applied. This will end the ability of the Courts to decide unilaterally to apply Human Rights laws to whole new areas of public life.
Limit the use of Human Rights laws to the most serious cases. They will no longer apply in trivial cases (Paul Bernal’s blog has already called this into question).
Balance rights and responsibilities. People who do not fulfil their responsibilities in society should not be able to claim so-called “qualified rights” in their defence in a court of law.
Ensure that those who pose a national security risk to this country or have entered it illegally cannot rely on questionable human rights claims to prevent their deportation.
Examples of how the new law will be different include:
Terrorists and serious criminals who pose a significant threat to the security and safety of UK citizens would lose their right to stay here under Human Rights Laws.
People who commit serious crimes in the UK, and in doing so infringe upon the basic rights of others, should lose their right to claim the right to stay here under the right to family life. So for example, a foreign criminal, guilty of causing death by dangerous driving and so taking away the rights of another citizen, would not be able to claim family rights to stay in the UK (This seems odd – why would they want to? If they committed such a crime in this country, they would want to get as far away from our prisons as possible; Yr Obdt Srvt has experience of this happening – a court allowed bail to a foreign national accused of causing death by dangerous driving and he skipped out of the country, never to be seen again).
No one would be able to claim human rights to allow them to step outside the law that applies to all other citizens, for example a group of travellers claiming the right to family life to breach planning laws.
The right to family life would be much more limited in scope. For example an illegal immigrant would not be able to claim the right to family life to stay in the UK because he had fathered children here when he is playing no active part in the upbringing of those children.
Limit the reach of human rights cases to the UK, so that British Armed forces overseas are not subject to persistent human rights claims that undermine their ability to do their job and keep us safe.
Looking at the comments attached to the article, one of the most telling comes from Adam Colligan, who writes: “Call me a stupid American, but if your ‘Bill of Rights’ is an act of ‘restoring Parliamentary sovereignty’, you’re doing it wrong. The whole point of codifying rights in a constitutional manner is to prevent parliamentary overreach, not to enable it. This seems to be the sad end of a decade-long process in which the Tory commitment to a British Bill of Rights has swung from a project meant to protect individual liberties — from threats in Westminster as well as Strasbourg — to one meant to strip them bare before the will of the government of the day. Isn’t it telling that zero of those ten bullet points actually conssist of a positive assertion of rights?”
Basic rights, like the right to a fair trial and the right to life which are an essential part of a modern democratic society will be protected, we are told.
But there is much more to the European Convention on Human Rights – which the Human Rights Act enshrines in UK law – than that.
What about nation states’ primary duty, to “refrain from unlawful killing”, to “investigate suspicious deaths” and to “prevent foreseeable loss of life”? (Or do the Conservatives want to get rid of this in order to legalise the deaths of all those inconvenient disabled people who were ruled out of ESA by the new version of the work capability assessment they brought in?)
What about the prohibition on slavery or forced labour? (Mandatory work activity/Workfare, anybody?)
What about the prohibition of the retroactive criminalisation of acts and omissions? (We all know the answer to that – the Coalition’s retroactive Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Act runs roughshod over this human right).
What about the right to privacy? (The Surveillance Act provides our answer to that.)
What about the right to freedom of expression? If this Bill of Rights replaces the Human Rights Act, will Vox Political be banned and Yr Obdt Srvt arrested for Thought Crime?
What about the right to freedom of assembly and association? Will this mean the end of trade unions? Will it mean the end of legal political protest?
What about the prohibition of discrimination? What about the right to effective remedy for violations of these rights? Nothing is said about these in Jack of Kent’s summation.
This Bill of Rights should fill you with fear.
Not because of what is being said about it – the stated intention to clamp down on what may be described as “mission creep” and bring human rights legislation in line with the intention (in some areas) should be welcomed.
This is a policy that should be feared because of what is not being said – for the reasons highlighted in bold above.
We may have to take on the responsibility of raising awareness of this, if we are not to lose these important and hard-won fights – forever.
“Even by the usual brazen standards of human rights reporting, this correction from the Daily Mail stands out. Obviously, we weren’t meant to take Richard Littlejohn’s August 2014 comment piece seriously, it being semi-rabid comment bait, but surely the article should have included a health warning to that effect?
“In ‘seriousness’, the Mail’s response to the false claim that “Others have won the ‘right’ to heroin and gay porn behind bars” is pathetic. The claim which has been corrected was not presented as a joke and it would not have been understood as one.”
The article concludes: “Human rights myths are sticky and the damage is usually done and the myth well spread before a newspaper is forced to correct its story. Well done to lawyer Shaoib M Khan for getting some kind of response from the newspaper.”
One point it has missed – and it’s a serious matter – is the following:
If nobody had complained, the Daily Mail would not have published its correction and people would still have some justification for believing Littlejohn’s statement to be correct.
Human rights myths are sticky, and it can be very hard to repair the damage done. The fact that (at the time the image was made) only 16 people had shared the article rams this point home.
That is why it is vital that any false claims such as this – which impacts on Chris Grayling’s plan to repeal the Human Rights Act and remove the UK from the jurisidiction of the European Court of Human Rights – must be found, corrected and publicised.
Sacked: Dominic Grieve’s reservations about Legal Aid cuts put him at adds with the Coalition government; it seems his concern over a planned attack on human rights led to his sacking.
Now we know why former Attorney General Dominic Grieve got the sack – he is said to have opposed a forthcoming Conservative attack on the European Court of Human Rights, which he described as “incoherent”.
Coming in the wake of his much-voiced distaste for Chris Grayling’s cuts to Legal Aid, it seems this was the last straw for David Cameron, the Conservative Prime Minister who seems determined to destroy anything useful his party ever did.
The European Court of Human Rights was one such thing; Winston Churchill helped set it up after World War II and its founding principles were devised with a large amount of input from the British government. It is not part of the European Union, but is instead connected to the Council of Europe – an organisation with 47 member states.
It seems the Conservatives want to limit the European Court’s power over the UK, because they want Parliament to decide what constitutes a breach of human rights.
The opportunities for corruption are huge.
Considering the Conservative-led Coalition’s record, such corruption seems the only reason for the action currently being contemplated.
The plan could lead to the UK being expelled from the Council of Europe, and the BBC has reported that Mr Grieve had warned his colleagues that the idea was a plan for “a legal car crash with a built-in time delay”, an “incoherent” policy to remain a signatory to the European Convention of Human Rights but to refuse to recognise the rulings of the court which enforces it.
The United Kingdom helped to draft the European Convention on Human Rights, just after World War II. Under it, nation states’ primary duty is to “refrain from unlawful killing”, to “investigate suspicious deaths” and to “prevent foreseeable loss of life”.
The Department for Work and Pensions has been allowing the deaths of disabled people since 2010. Withdrawing from the European Convention and scrapping the Human Rights Act would mean this government would be able to sidestep any legal action to bring those responsible to justice.
Article 4 of the Convention prohibits slavery, servitude and forced labour – in other words, the government’s Mandatory Work Activity or Workfare schemes. The government has already faced legal action under this article, and has been defeated. It seems clear that the Tories want to avoid further embarrassment and inflict the maximum suffering on those who, through no fault of their own, do not have a job.
Article 6 provides a detailed right to a fair trial – which has been lost in the UK already, with laws allowing “secret courts” to hear evidence against defendants – which the defendants themselves are not permitted to know and at which they are not allowed to be present. The Legal Aid cuts which Mr Grieve opposed were also contrary to this right.
Article 8 provides a right to respect for one’s “private and family life, his home and his correspondence” – and of course the UK’s violation of this right has been renewed only this week, with the Data Retention Act that was passed undemocratically within a single day.
And so on. These are not the only infringements.
Clearly the Tories want to sideline the European Court so they never have to answer for their crimes against the British people.
Many a truth told in jest: This Labour advert was withdrawn after claims that it was in bad taste (although this could be said equally well of the television programme it references) – but it accurately summarises the Conservative approach to the European Union and our place in the world.
Here at Vox Political it has come to our notice that some of you are still thinking of voting ‘Conservative’ in the European Parliament elections. This would be a mistake.
The Conservative Party is trying to hoodwink you into thinking it has a host of great ideas dependent on having a large number of MEPs after May 22, but its own manifesto tells a different story.
Here are just three examples:
1. The lynchpin of the Conservative campaign is the pledge to hold an in/out referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union. The party’s European manifesto states, “The British people now have a very clear choice: if you want a referendum on whether Britain should stay in the EU or leave, only the Conservative Party can and will hold one.”
This has nothing to do with your vote on May 22. It is a General Election promise involving the UK Parliament, not the Parliament of Europe. It is Westminster MPs who would push through the Tory plans for a referendum during the next UK Parliament, not MEPs in Brussels.
The suggestion that the proposed referendum – which is heavily promoted in the manifesto – has anything to do with these elections is a flat-out lie.
Long-term readers should not be surprised that Conservatives are lying again, but this may come as a surprise to Tory adherents. To them, we should say: “Wake up!”
2. One of the “key changes we will fight for”, listed on page seven of the manifesto, is “National parliaments able to work together to block unwanted European legislation”. If this seems like a good idea to you, it may come as a surprise to learn that it is a key feature of the Lisbon Treaty, that was signed by the last Labour government in 2007. That’s seven years ago!
It’s called the Ioannina Compromise, and it means that, if Member States who are against a decision are significant in number but still insufficient to block it (1/3 of the Member States or 25 per cent of the population), all of the Member States must commit to seeking a solution.
It seems likely that the reason the Conservatives are even mentioning it is that this part of the Lisbon Treaty is only due to come into force this year – 2014.
3. One change the Conservatives are determined to impose is the removal of your ability to defend your human rights.
The manifesto states that they will “Undertake radical reform of human rights laws and publish a detailed plan for reform that a Conservative government would implement immediately: we will scrap Labour’s Human Rights Act, curtail the role of the European Court of Human Rights in the UK and make certain that the UK’s Supreme Court is in Britain and not in Strasbourg.”
Conservatives hate human rights laws because they forbid slavery, servitude and forced labour – such as the Tory-led government’s ‘mandatory work activity’ schemes; they provide a right to a fair trial – currently being removed in the UK by the Tories’ restrictions on Legal Aid; and most importantly they oblige nation states to “prevent foreseeable loss of life” such as that caused by the assessment regime for disability benefits, imposed by the current UK government.
The European Court of Human Rights is – as everyone should be aware – nothing to do with the European Union at all. It is part of the Council of Europe, which is composed of 47 European nations. The Conservative Party does not need a majority of MEPs to withdraw from it.
However, such a withdrawal would represent a betrayal of the Conservative Party’s great Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the man who is considered most directly responsible for the creation of the Council of Europe and the court. Dedicated Conservatives should consider this point well. None of the people currently running the Conservative Party have anything approaching the stature of a Churchill, yet they are taking it upon themselves to cut Britain off from his legacy – and they are lying to the public about how they need to do it.
In fact, let’s face it, the Tory European Manifesto for 2014 is a pack of lies.
The Conservatives currently have more MEPs than any other UK party, but any unbiased examination of their claims will lead to the conclusion that they deserve to have none at all.
Deception? – The controversial UKIP advert using an Irish actor, who plays a British worker replaced by cheap Labour from Europe.
YouGov research for the Sunday Times has put UKIP in the lead in the European election contest, with support from 31 per cent of those who were surveyed.
This put the Eurosceptic party three points ahead of Labour (28 per cent) and a massive 12 points ahead of the Conservatives (just 19 per cent).
But does this really mean the Party with its Foot in its Mouth has the people’s confidence? Take a look at these comments from the Vox Political Facebook page and form your own conclusions. I hasten to add that this is an unscientific survey, composed of comments from those who had the most to say.
We’ll start with those who support the party.
Most vocal is Denise Cottham. She writes: “Mr Farage has the guts to actually ‘SAY’ what many other people just ‘THINK!’ We respect him for this. He speaks the TRUTH & is not out to deceive the public like the major parties have done all these years, while growing fatter & richer at the country’s expense! And exactly where does the Green party stand regarding the EU? They make appealing promises, but will be unable to keep them without ASKING permission from the EU!!! UKIP priorities make sense, staying in the EU does not.”
Denise Morris adds: “I’ll be voting UKIP and so will many, many other concerned with EU policies that mean we can’t kick out radical hate preachers, without it costing the taxpayer millions and not only that we’ll pay their benefits, get them a nice big house and all while our human rights lawyers try to prevent their deportation, thanks to the EU. It’s no wonder people are looking for other alternatives. Currently our only serious hope is UKIP. We all know where the Cons, Lab and Libs stand, so voting for either of these parties won’t solve anything.
“They are the only party that can take on the other major parties and are gaining popularity. People are fed up with broken promises, lies, the open door policy. I don’t like all of UKIP’s policies, but I don’t like all the Cons’ or Lab either. Labour betrayed the working classes and the Cons have tackled the economy, but at a cost to who? The poor, the vulnerable, so I am totally with you on that one. I have to vote for what I think is best for the future of this country and my children and grandchildren and as I see it, that’s UKIP at the moment. If Labour gave us a referendum and promised to save the NHS, restrict immigration, tackled the economy, then I would seriously consider voting labour but that isn’t going to happen sadly. It’s like being between a rock and a hard place and we need a serious shake up of politics in this country. Something has to change and for the better and maybe the challenge from UKIP will do just that.”
She seems to have confused the European Union with the European Court of Human Rights… “The fact is the British people were conned big time on the EU. We thought we were entering a common market and now most of our laws are made in Europe. Their judges take precedence over our own judges. We were never given the referendum we should have got and UKIP are the only party guaranteeing one. If that happens then MPs can start voting with their conscience again, instead of voting for party policies.”
Regarding the controversial poster in which a foreign actor (from Ireland) was used to represent a British worker whose job had been taken away by evil immigrants, Craig Burnside writes: “UKIP arent against immigration, they just want to control it like countries like Australia and the USA do and outsource jobs.”
On the other side we have the following messages.
From Neil Wilson: “I honestly thought nobody could run a worse PR campaign than Bitter Together in Scotland re: the Independence Referendum, But I have to say UKIP are managing to do so in only a week. My particular favourite is the fact you can send their leaflets back to the Freepost address and they get charged for each one. So, they come to your border (door/letterbox) and you send them packing and make them pay for it. After all it’s what they would have wanted don’t you think? very apt. Although the Boarders typo is running a close second. I would vote for somebody to protect me from boarders, particularily old Etonians. But … best just to keep quiet and enjoy watching them make a monumental cock-up of a campaign all by themselves.”
From Kim Burns: “It’s the irony that’s amusing us. Of course we’re not going to vote UKIP! They don’t like women going out to work, they want to reduce maternity leave to 4 weeks, they want to reduce taxes for the rich and increase them for the poor! Read their manifesto, people!”
We would if we could find it! How about this, from John Elwyn Kimber: “Those who wish to register a Eurosceptic vote without empowering the odious UKIP might be lucky enough to have a candidate representing the late Bob Crow’s ‘No to EU, Yes to Democracy’ campaign – as in the Eastern counties. Or vote Green.”
From Bette Rogerson: “Why would you vote for a party that says it hates Europe, but at the same time takes lots and lots of money from the European parliament? Why vote for a party whose members advocate policies like less tax for the wealthiest, cutting of maternity leave and forcible sterilisation of the disabled? Why vote for a party who wants to take the vote away from the unemployed? Is your job really that secure? Lastly but not least, why vote for a party which claims it wants British jobs for the British and then hires an Irish actor to model as a poor Briton whose job has been taken away by a foreigner?”
Of course, I have also weighed into these discussions. Here’s my response to Denise C: “The facts are against you. Why is Farage now trying to block an inquiry into his MEP expenses? What does he have to hide? Why, if he’s so keen on preventing foreigners from taking British jobs, did his party hire an Irish actor to pretend to be a British worker in a poster? Why did he hire a German to be his PA (and, come to that, what about the nepotism inherent in the fact that this person is his wife)? Why did the UKIP poster showing an ‘ordinary’ British woman who was going to vote UKIP actually show a party member responsible for public relations? Put all these things together and it seems UKIP and the truth are a huge distance apart.
“Look at UKIP members and the appalling things they have been saying. Farage moves to shut them up and kick them out whenever they do, but a point has to be reached soon when he – and the rest of us – realises that this is the natural mindset of his party and, as such, it is unelectable.”
To Denise Morris’s comments about European judges, I pointed out: “The European Court is different from the European Union, Denise. If Britain withdrew from the EU, it would still be a part of the court. Also, UKIP is very clearly not the only party guaranteeing [a referendum] – it’s not even the only right-wing, reactionary and repressive party offering such a guarantee.”
I added: “The Cons have not tackled the economy. If you believe that, you’re not paying attention. I’m glad you agree that the poor and vulnerable have suffered in any case. Labour has promised to save the NHS and tackle the economy (in a more meaningful way than the Tories). Labour’s attitude to a referendum may seem less than wholehearted but my impression is that they think it would get a knee-jerk reaction that would show what people do not understand about our participation in the European Union, rather than what they do – your mistake about the European Court is an indication that they might have a point.
“Regarding immigration, my personal belief is that the EU – including the UK – made a big mistake in allowing free movement between countries including new member states whose economies were not yet up to par with the better-established industrial nation states. All they have done is de-stabilise both the states from which people are emigrating and those into which they immigrate… so I would like a tighter policy on this, not just here but in the Union as a whole.
“And those who complain that we voted ourselves into an economic community, not a political union, are correct too. All of these things can be remedied from inside the EU, and if we were to withdraw rather than try to tackle them as a member state, the result would be worse for all of Europe in the long run. UKIP does not see that and the Conservatives cannot see past their own greed and corruption – look at who funds them (bankers and private health firms) and you’ll see that this is the case. The Tory Democrats have sold their souls but Labour is just beginning to find its own soul again. That’s why I think Labour is the best hope for Britain next year.”
Responding to former Labour voter Brian Taylor, who said he wasn’t enthused with UKIP but they would get his vote until a viable alternative came along, I wrote: “Do you really want a flat-rate of 31 per cent income tax, that hugely benefits the extremely rich and enormously harms the poor? That’s UKIP policy.
“If not, you probably want the Green Party, which would also hold a referendum on Europe but is far less Tory in its outlook. I can’t imagine a former Labour voter would honestly want to vote for a party that was further on the right of the political spectrum than the Conservatives.”
So what’s the conclusion?
Well, from this snapshot we can see that, as Denise Cottham and Brian Taylor claimed, people think all three major parties have deceived the public and will do so again. Labour in particular is seen as having betrayed its core constituency – the working classes – in favour of Daily Mail readers and bankers who simply won’t vote for any party more left-wing than the Conservatives. Worse still, for Labour, is people’s belief that the party has been told – time and time again – what it needs to do, but has continually ignored this good advice. UKIP’s problem is that its new advertising campaign also deceives the public, and leader Nigel Farage’s eagerness to block an inquiry into his MEP expenses suggests further jiggery-pokery.
People in general also seem to be genuinely disgruntled with the EU’s ‘free movement’ policy which allows people from any member state to take up residence in any other member state. There is evidence to show that it was a mistake to allow less-developed countries, particularly in Eastern Europe, to take advantage of this policy as many of their citizens have immigrated into the more prosperous regions – leaving their own countries struggling to build their economies, and threatening the stability of the destination countries, whose infrastructure is left struggling to cope with the influx.
UKIP supporters are primarily interested in having an in-out referendum on membership of the European Union, but – as Denise Morris demonstrates – do not seem to understand clearly the issues on which they will be voting. Denise’s concern about the laws preventing us from deporting foreign-born ‘hate preachers’ would not be addressed by leaving the European Union as it comes under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights.
Their grasp of other UKIP policies seems catastrophically poor, though – policies including restricting work opportunities for women and cutting maternity leave, reducing taxes for the rich and raising them for the poor (to a flat rate of 31 per cent), sterilisation of the disabled (if Bette Rogerson’s research is correct), and ending universal suffrage by stopping the unemployed from voting.
They also seem to have a weak grasp of other parties’ policies regarding the EU – the Green Party wants a referendum but Denise C thinks they don’t.
My overall impression is that UKIP is still gaining support as a party of protest, rather than because people have any belief in its policies. The person on the street – whatever their belief – feels “utterly powerless… hopeless and increasingly disinterested”, a sentiment expressed by Karlie Marvel on the Facebook page today.
That’s why UKIP is ahead today.
It isn’t a good enough reason and the other party leaders can now see what they need to do about it – especially Labour.
The British people’s support for staying in the European Union is “wafer thin”, David Cameron told the CBI yesterday. Labour’s Ed Balls warned that the UK could “sleepwalk” away from its biggest trading partner at the same meeting.
Is it because most people don’t understand our relationship with the European economic area? Is it because they have been infected with propaganda from the right-wing press?
Is it because there really is a plan to make the UK a third-world country, and withdrawal from the EU is necessary to remove citizens’ human rights, thereby making them easier for the ruling class to exploit? The idea seems paranoid but the actions necessary for it to happen have been coming together.
Isn’t it time we had a public debate about the Union – how it works, how we function within it – in order to find out whether we really are better or worse-off? And why – considering all the bluster – hasn’t this happened already?
Let’s look at the main issues: cost of membership, perceived over-regulation, immigration, and our place on the world stage.
The UK contributes around 14 billion Euros (£11.9 billion) to the EU budget every year, but receives 10 billion Euros (£8.5 billion) back – so in fact we contribute £3.4 billion to other countries within the union; the UK is a net EU payer. A study by UKIP MEP Gerard Batten has claimed that red tape, waste, fraud and other factors adds another £62.3 billion a year to the cost.
But the EU is the UK’s main trading partner, with contracts worth more than £400 billion a year. That kind of money make the membership fee look like a pittance. And the EU has been negotiating with the US to create the world’s largest free trade area in a move that could hugely boost our businesses (although this has a huge potential downside that nobody is talking about).
Perhaps the problem is that the companies profiting from these trade deals aren’t paying their taxes properly? The UK Treasury should receive £92 billion at the current rate of Corporation Tax. How much does it actually get?
Let’s not forget that the Coalition government is trying (ineffectually) to pay down the annual deficit. Any money saved by leaving the EU would not go into domestic projects but would contribute to debt repayments. In effect, it would be dead money; at least, in the EU, it helps bring in business.
Okay, so it’s possible that the UK makes more cash from the EU than it spends on it. But what about all those pesky regulations bogging us down all the time? Wouldn’t we be better-off without them?
Sure – if we didn’t mind losing those £400 billion worth of trade deals. If the UK left the European Union but still wanted to trade with its member states, then we would still have to abide by EU regulations. UKIP’s Nigel Farage points to Norway and Switzerland as countries that have access to the single market without being bound by EU rules on agriculture, fisheries, justice and home affairs – but he doesn’t mention the fact that those countries must abide by EU market regulations without having any influence over how they are created.
A break from the EU, allowing the UK to trade with other nations around the world, means Britain’s exports would be subject to EU export tariffs – and would still have to meet EU production standards.
Yes, the EU burdens us with rules when it probably doesn’t have the right. Why does the EU dictate our policy on water? So there is room for negotiation – but within the Union.
Well, what about immigration? The UK has a huge problem with its borders having been opened up to millions of incomers – mostly from Eastern Europe, with millions more on the way next year, right? Wouldn’t leaving the EU put an end to that?
Yes. It would also put an end to Britons’ chances of living and working in EU countries. 711,151 UK citizens were living in other EU countries in 2011, according to Eurostat. Their right to work and live there might be restricted if Britain quit the union.
While 2.3 million EU citizens were living and working in the UK in 2011, their effect on the country’s economic well-being has been hugely exaggerated. There is no ‘open door’ immigration policy. The immigrant population does not have access to a vast majority of the benefits available to UK citizens, the benefits they do receive are nowhere near the same value as those received by UK citizens and they are a third less likely to claim benefits than UK citizens. Meanwhile, they contribute to the local economy and pay their taxes.
The UK would definitely lose stature on the world stage. There can be no amicable divorce from the EU, as the other leading members are unlikely to allow this country any special privileges or influence. We would surrender our ability to influence EU policy while remaining hostage to EU decisions. The ‘special relationship’ with the United States would also be in jeopardy as that country has made it clear we are a more valuable ally as part of the EU.
As a member of the EU, Britain is viewed by many non-European manufacturers as a key point of access to the European market – but this reputation would be lost if the UK quit the union.
British banks and businesses also see membership as important because it provides access to crucial foreign markets.
Oh, and the UK would still have to deal with the European Court of Human Rights, which is separate from the EU, even after ridding itself of the pesky Human Rights Act that ratifies so many EU employment laws and social protections that prevent Theresa May and her friends from exploiting us all.
Add it all up and the evidence seems clear: Britain is better off with Europe. Yes, there are problems, but these are matters for negotiation, not reasons to run away.
The villain of the piece: Iain Duncan Smith drives all of the government’s policies that discriminate against the sick or disabled. Others have memorably noted that his idea of helping them is to kick away their walking-sticks to see how far they can crawl.
The UK Coalition government is to face trial by the European Court of Justice over an alleged failure to correctly assess the benefits EU migrants are entitled to claim. This is very laudable, but begs the question: When are the European courts going to address the Coalition’s transgressions against its own citizens?
I refer, of course, to the continuing scandal of Employment and Support Allowance, the disability benefit that isn’t (according to the government’s plans for another so-called benefit, Universal Credit).
Vox readers are, by now, well aware that the so-called “work capability assessment” that allegedly determines whether a person is entitled to the benefit or is fit for work is in fact a sham, run by a French Information Technology company (Atos), using a computerised, tick-box assessment system that is based on a scheme that earned the American insurance company that devised it (Unum) a criminal record, because its sole intention was to prevent as many people as possible from fitting the criteria necessary to win a claim.
The application of this assessment system has led to an average of 73 deaths every week. This means that, between the moment I woke up this morning and the time I’m writing this (around midday), at least two more people are likely to have died – either because their condition has worsened due to the strain of the assessment procedure, or through suicide; their mental health was not strong enough and they decided to give up, rather than fight for what should be theirs by right as UK citizens.
A BBC documentary (Week In, Week Out, May 28, 2013) recently quoted a statistic that claimed people with chronic pain – who are therefore entitled to claim ESA – are twice as likely to die prematurely than those without, so why is the Coalition forcing them through these fake “medical” examinations and then telling them they are fit to work – effectively trying to induce such premature deaths?
That question has been taken to the European courts – and the United Nations’ International Criminal Court. The response, so far, has been breathtakingly disappointing. It seems that they need proof that the UK’s own justice system will not rectify the problem before they will agree to take action.
How much proof do they need?
Within the last couple of weeks, Linda Wootton, a lady who had endured multiple organ transplants due to illness, died – within days of receiving notice that a work capability assessment had found her fit for work and her ESA had been cancelled.
In the same period, a High Court tribunal ruled that the Coalition has broken the law by discriminating against people who are mentally ill. This is exactly the kind of discrimination that causes the suicides. It is something about which the government has been warned – not rarely, but continually and with passion. And what is the government’s response?
It intends to appeal against the decision. It says it has made enough concessions to the mentally ill already.
We know what happens when the government appeals against court decisions. It loses.
And then it changes the law, in order to make its actions legal again.
That is the act of a criminal regime.
But the international courts are still sitting on their thumbs.
By the time I finish posting this article, according to the averages, another ESA claimant will be dead – making three, or thereabouts, since I woke up this morning. If the international courts finally get their act together, examine the mountain of evidence that has built up against the Coalition over the last three years, and find it guilty of corporate manslaughter – or procuring suicide under the Suicide Act 1961 – it will be a tremendous day for the most vulnerable people in the UK.
And make no mistake – the chronically sick and disabled are far more vulnerable than most European migrants.
But one fact will remain: Thousands upon thousands of these vulnerable people will have died, and no court decision will ever bring them back.
ESA isn’t the only benefit system that is failing the British people. Look at Stephanie Bottrill, who committed suicide because she was facing eviction. She couldn’t afford to pay the Coalition’s hated Bedroom Tax.
You see, these aren’t just numbers. They’re people. Thousands and thousands of real people. With real families who are left to mourn the loss.
In the UK, the Coalition and the press have worked hard to create a lack of empathy for these people – calling them scroungers, or skivers, or work-shy. In reality they are nothing of the sort. They are seriously, seriously ill. They are victims of a libellous hate campaign. And they are too sick, and too poor, to mount a challenge against what is happening to them.
Now, I don’t want the Comment column after this article to fill up with hate-speak for Johnny Foreigner. The fact is, the Coalition probably is denying benefits to migrants.
My rationale for suggesting this is the fact that it is denying benefits to the UK’s own citizens, and is perfectly comfortable with letting them die as a result.
So, while I applaud the European Court of Justice for taking this step against the UK government, I must also add this:
Get your priorities right.
Postscript: You know, it isn’t my job to point out these things. There are people in this country who are employed – in fact, there are people in this country who are elected – to do so. Why aren’t these people spending every waking hour campaigning for justice, for their constituents and for the nation as a whole? Why aren’t they fighting the media lies? Where is the opposition to this government criminality?
Post-postscript: Have a look at this article, reporting that the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights has found the Coalition government in breach of the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. Now we have proof that the Coalition is actively discriminating against the disabled, and breaking UN conventions to do it, will the UN, finally, step in?
Oh! I just looked at the time. That’ll be another person dead, then.
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