It isn’t news that people claiming Universal Credit are forced to starve – especially in the five weeks before they receive any payments at all.
But the Tories have been making a big deal of their generosity in providing the benefit – along with a £20 uplift – to more people during the Covid-19 crisis.
Now we see the facts:
Many people claiming universal credit for the first time during the pandemic were unable to put aside enough cash to save £10 a month, eat healthily or regularly, or pay bills because the benefit payment was inadequate to meet basic living costs, a study has found.
A survey of the experiences of thousands of people who signed on after losing their job under lockdown concludes that even with the temporary £20 a week Covid-19 uplift many struggled to bridge the gap between benefits and living costs without borrowing from family, running up credit card debt, or using food banks.
Two-thirds of all claimants reported suffering financial strain, with one in six new claimants skipping a meal in the previous two weeks, and more than 60% reporting they would be unable to replace or repair electrical goods if they broke, or put aside enough cash to save £10 a month.
The fact is that Universal Credit is a sham that provides only enough in payment for the Tory government to make their claims – when in fact it plunges claimants into debt, and often into mental illness.
There are many reports of suicides among benefit claimants and the information above suggests ample evidence to support their reasons.
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.
Angela Smith: Her claims about a “cabal of hard-left members” in her local Labour Party appear to be false.
Right-wing Labour MP Angela Smith has denounced members of her own constituency party as “a cabal of hard-left members” after she lost a vote of “no confidence” on Friday, November 16.
Penistone & Stocksbridge Labour Party supported the motion of “no confidence” in their MP by 27 votes to 20 against.
In response, Ms Smith released what can only be described as a rant on Twitter, as follows: “I take my responsibilities as a Member of Parliament very seriously and my first priority is always to do my job, to the best of my ability.
“It is frankly astonishing that a cabal of hard left members has absorbed everyone’s precious time and energy on an inaccurate and divisive motion of no confidence. Given that the country is facing its biggest crisis since Suez, one would have thought their attention would be better focused on the huge decision facing the country, a decision that will affect the lives of every one of my constituents for years to come.
“I will continue to prioritise our area and my constituents and will not be distracted by internal political posturing such as this.”
From my own point of view, it is less than a week since I was expelled from the Labour Party on a series of false, trumped-up charges, including one that I supported a claim that Tony Blair had been influenced, during his time as prime minister, by “a cabal of Jewish advisers”. I didn’t – but it seems to me that anyone using the word “cabal” is suggesting a conspiracy of some kind and deserves to have their behaviour examined.
Members of Penistone & Stocksbridge CLP have responded to Ms Smith’s rant by releasing the full text of their motion – to show that her claim that it was “inaccurate and divisive” is false. Here it is:
“This CLP notes that
1. Angela Smith has represented this CLP since it was created in 2010. Before that she was MP for Sheffield Hillsborough from 2005 to 2010. (1)
2. In 2015 Angela Smith voted against greater restrictions on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) to extract shale gas in National Parks, the Broads, areas of outstanding natural beauty, World Heritage sites, and near points where water is abstracted for domestic and food production purposes. (2)
3. Angela said earlier this month at a water industry conference in Manchester that Labour’s plans for the return to public ownership of the privatised water industry were “undeveloped, uncosted and should not be a priority among so many post-Brexit challenges”. She denounced the proposals, promoted by John McDonnell, as ideological and founded in “the politics of the past”. (3)
4. Angela Smith has written in the press articles that undermine the leadership and the wider Party. (4)
5. Angela Smith tweets and retweets criticism of Jeremy Corbyn. (5)
6. Angela Smith was invited to the Annual Dinner in February. However, she advised the organisers that she would not be attending the Annual Dinner, but she would in fact be attending another event that was being held at the same venue, Wortley Hall.
“This CLP believes that:
• Angela Smith has by her conduct, her actions, and in articles she has written demonstrated that she no longer represents the views of the CLP.
• She has been a persistent and visceral critic of Jeremy Corbyn and through her divisive attacks on him she has damaged the Labour Party locally and nationally.
• Her articles and comments on Fracking and Privatised Water Companies that are contrary to the Labour Party Manifesto commitments demonstrate that she has lost touch with the Party and the constituents she was elected to represent.
• She has snubbed this CLP very publicly at an event to raise funds for her election campaign.
• The relationship of trust and respect that is an essential and fundamental requirement between an MP and their Constituency Party has broken down, perhaps irrevocably, and as a result this CLP has no confidence in Angela Smith to represents its members as our MP.
“This CLP resolves to:
1. Propose a vote of ‘no confidence’ in Angela Smith at the CLP General Meeting on 16 November 2018.
2. Write to the Chief Whip and ask that she has the whip removed.
“Appendix [also written by proposers of motion]:
1. Angela Christine Smith (born 16 August 1961) is a British Labour Party politician and former lecturer. She has represented the parliamentary seat of Penistone and Stocksbridge since 2010. Before boundary changes she was Member of Parliament (MP) for Sheffield Hillsborough from 2005 to 2010.
2. Angela Smith voted against greater restrictions on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) to extract shale gas in National Parks, the Broads, areas of oustanding natural beauty, World Heritage sites, and near points where water is abstracted for domestic and food production purposes. A majority of MPs disagreed and voted for greater restrictions on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) to extract shale gas in National Parks, the Broads, areas of oustanding natural beauty, World Heritage sites, and near points where water is abstracted for domestic and food production purposes. 296 for, 259 against, 0 abstained, 91 absent.
3. ‘Labour MP savages party’s water policy’, The Times, 17 April 2018
4. ”Car crash’ Jeremy Corbyn under pressure over foreign trips’, Daily Express, 20 August 2018
It should also be noted that the motion was submitted by a branch of the CLP at the beginning of October – long before the current crisis over Brexit began.
Ms Smith’s behaviour has attracted justifiable criticism:
During the local elections this MP wrote an article for the Murdoch press denouncing Labour’s plans for public ownership of water, which polls show 83% back, including a large majority of Tory voters, without mentioning her links to private water companies. https://t.co/1GuV7WsBbv
Along with most of the #Labour membership, I support Labour & I support Corbyn as Labour leader. We are NOT 'hard-left'. We DO NOT belong to a 'cabal'. Your arrogance is highly distasteful, & your smears are wholly offensive. Leave the Labour Party now. https://t.co/zK327qz5s7
But it is fair to say that she has also attracted support – from some of the usual so-called “centrist” suspects, like Chuka Umunna and Chris Leslie. Their comments appear below, along with representative responses:
Chuka going large on a vote of no confidence on shit stirring Angela Smith.
Says nothing about Claire Perry's libellous attack on Jeremy Corbyn.
Hi Chris, this is your conscience speaking, what are you going to post on Twitter as "appalling";
UN report describing austerity driven poverty as "punitive, mean-spirited & callous"? OR 2. A disruptive private water company lobbyist being reminded her job is actually as an MP? https://t.co/m74WbBS83F
It seems some members of Labour’s higher echelons still think they have a right to trample over the membership at large. Considering my own treatment at the hands of the National Constitutional Committee, it seems there may be some justification in that belief.
But times are changing, as the recent swathe of “no confidence” votes indicates.
Perhaps the following Tweet sums up the situation best:
Greville Janner: He will face paedophilia charges after all.
It’s what some might call a ‘happy coincidence’: Reports emerged that the decision not to prosecute former politician Greville Janner for alleged historic child sex offences, at almost the same time comedian Adam Hills was raging about the way politicians have been able to cover up such activities in the past.
The rant, on Channel 4’s The Last Leg, was well worth seeing. For those who missed it, here it is, but be warned – he uses extremely strong language:
In Janner’s case, we are told a barrister has spent several weeks examining the evidence as part of an independent review, and has concluded there should be a hearing of the allegations. A decision, expected next week, would overturn the Crown Prosecution Service’s decision in April not to pursue the peer, who is said to have dementia.
The move would put pressure on the Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, to resign. She was criticised after it emerged that several other alleged paedophiles who have been diagnosed with dementia have still been pursued through the courts, and a review of the decision was announced last month.
The evidence could be tested in a criminal court in a ‘trial of facts’. The judge would declare at the outset that Janner is unfit for trial, but then ask a jury to decide – on the basis of the evidence – whether he committed the acts of which he has been accused.
There could be no verdict that he is guilty and no criminal sentence – but the jury could make a hospital order, a supervision order or an order for the defendant’s absolute discharge. This would be in order to protect the public, although it is unlikely that Janner is capable of any misdeeds in his condition.
This raises an interesting question: Can we have a ‘trial of facts’ in the cases of other MPs, against whom allegations have been made but who cannot – for many reasons – be punished?
The Blog has no intention of making unsupportable allegations but there are many questions hanging over the name Leon Brittan that deserve to be resolved – along with many others.
While the public may not need to be protected from them – especially if they are dead – isn’t there an argument to be made that they should not be held up as a good example to others, if the allegations about them are true?
The newest right-wing party: This Gary Baker cartoon appeared after Ed Miliband’s ‘One Nation’ speech last year, but let’s adopt it to illustrate the fact that successive Labour leaders, from Blair to Brown to Miliband, have steered the party ever-further away from its support base until, with Miliband’s speech this week, it has become a pale shadow of the Conservative Party it claims to oppose, leaving the majority of the UK’s population with nobody to speak for them.
Yesterday I wrote that Ed Miliband’s speech on social security reform was the beginning of the Conservative victory in 2015 – and picked up a little criticism for it in some areas. I stand by my words.
Ed’s speech proved he is not a leader but a follower. He has agreed to follow Conservative spending cuts and not reverse them. He has agreed to follow Tory spending plans for the first year after a Labour government takes office (if it does) in 2015. He has said he would cap social security spending, formally adopting as policy an idea the Tories floated during the March budget. He has agreed to give up the principle of universal benefits.
He has done this when the Conservatives have no argument whatsoever that can possibly justify what they are doing.
All the Tory claims about austerity have blown away in the wind – hot air to disguise their real aim of shrinking the state and selling off the family silver to their rich friends.
Iain Duncan Smith is to face a grilling by Parliament’s Work and Pensions committee over his – and his colleagues – persistent misrepresentation of the facts about unemployment, sickness and disability and the people claiming benefits on these grounds.
As for the benefit cap, Miliband said an independent body should advise government on how best to design it. Great! Can I sit on this body? I could do with the cash!
Or is it another example of fake jobs for the boys to get their snouts in the trough?
The system needs to change, because the Conservatives/Coalition have cocked it up. Miliband offered up more of the same, with a little bit of tinkering around the edges. Red Conservative.
For a party that’s supposed to be the official Opposition to the government, there was a hell of a lot of Tory talk in Miliband’s speech, like this: “It is only by reforming social security with the right values that we’ll be able to control costs.” Tory values?
“We have always been against the denial of opportunity that comes from not having work. And against the denial of responsibility by those who could work and don’t do so,” he accused, in one of those confusing single-sentences-split-into-two that make his speeches so utterly unreadable. But he needs to get his facts right. The number of people who could work but don’t do so is around 2.5 million – but that’s because there isn’t any work available for them. One job for every five people, although we have witnessed moments when adverts for a handful of places at a single shop have attracted thousands of applications. These people aren’t denying responsibility, Ed – they’re desperate for a chance.
He was referring to benefit fraud, though, wasn’t he? Benefit fraud is the bogeyman that haunts much of Iain Duncan Smith’s policy, even though it is, as the facts show, a ghost. In fact, 99.3 per cent of all benefit claims are genuine and are made out of real need – according to government figures – and that figure rises to 99.6 per cent in sickness and disability cases. It’s not a perfect situation but any system will have its abusers, and that’s why we have fraud detection built into it. Benefit fraud is not a huge problem, and Miliband does himself and his party enormous harm by adopting the Tory line and alienating the genuinely sick and disabled people who have been fighting the unjust removal of their benefits by a system he seems unlikely to reform, for all his weasel words.
He returns to this theme later: “Just as there is a minority who should be working and don’t want to, there is a majority who are desperate for work and can’t find it.” Evil, divisive, Tory rhetoric. Isn’t this the man who wants a ‘One Nation’ government? Why is he trying to split us up and set us against each other? That’s Tory policy.
Have some more of the same: “I want to teach my kids that it is wrong to be idle on benefits, when you can work” – implying that people – many people – are in just that position. Tory divisiveness from a Labour leader.
Here’s another: “It appears that some people get something for nothing and other people get nothing for something – no reward for the years of contribution they make.” This one really got my goat because it turns the principle of the Welfare State on their head.
For goodness’ sake, it isn’t about paying in money in order to get exactly the same amount back another time. It’s about contributing to the welfare of the state as a whole, including everyone in it. A Labour leader should be making the argument that this is not about selfishness; if you’re a part of this nation, you contribute to its well-being. “From each according to [their] ability, to each according to [their] needs,” as Marx put it. His philosophy may be out of fashion with the ‘Me, me, me’ generation but that doesn’t make those words any less relevant to the funding of a national economy.
I wonder whether quoting Bob Crow from last night’s This Week programme will actually make the message any easier to hear, but I’ll give it a go. He said: “It’s the strong helping the weak – that’s what the whole welfare benefits system is based on.”
“We have to tackle this too,” bleated Miliband. Yes, we do – by correcting the wrong attitude, whenever we hear someone spouting it. So get a clue, Ed.
There are dire portents for the future “laser-focusing” of a Labour government’s spending, as well.
Look at his ideas about attempts to get people into work. He said: “This government’s work programme can leave people… unemployed year after year after year,” leading one to believe that he’ll ditch the work programme and its useless money-grubbing private, for-profit ‘provider’ firms that have been leeching millions from us for years. Official figures have proved they are worse than useless.
Alas no. He went on to voice his support for the grievously damaging Atos-run assessment regime for Employment and Support Allowance, claiming that this backdoor genocide policy “was the right thing to do. We continue to support tests” that kill 73 people per week, on average, according to official figures last year.
His problem with the Atos test was that it should be focused on helping to identify “the real skills of each disabled person and the opportunities they could take up” – completely missing the point about disability. Of course people who are off work with illness have skills, but they cannot use those skills because they are ill! It doesn’t take a genius to work out the sticking-point so he must be intentionally avoiding it.
And then, the killing blow: “So these tests should be connected to a work programme that itself is tested on its ability to get disabled people jobs that work for them.” He would re-employ the useless and wasteful ‘work programme provider’ firms, putting the final seal of hopelessness on the lives of people who thought they could rely on him for help.
Perhaps the worst betrayal in this whole sorry mess – and I’ve only scratched the surface here – is the fact that Miliband and Labour had the front to claim they were making tough decisions. There’s nothing tough about copying the hated policies of a hated and failed administration. There’s nothing tough about allowing their private-interest friends to continue bleeding the state of its cash, and there’s nothing tough about opening up more opportunities for them to strip us of whatever we have left.
Miliband and his team have proved they cannot take the tough decisions; that they are followers and not leaders. If they can’t – or won’t – step up and meet the challenge of our times – starting with a retraction and apology for yesterday’s speech – then they should make way for somebody who will.
And they should do it now, while there is still time to mount a credible opposition to David Cameron’s government of failures.
Postscript: One aspect of the speech I haven’t explored in detail relates to housing benefit, and the pledge to build more houses. Be warned: It seems this heralds another expensive and wasteful private finance initiative (PFI) adventure: “We would let [councils] keep some of the savings they make, on the condition that they invested that money in helping build new homes.” I have a feeling that those homes would fall into private hands at some point in the future – at huge cost to the taxpayer. Again.
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