Considering her record of behaviour, is anyone else surprised that the only reason Janice Atkinson has been suspended is her expenses?
According to the BBC, the MEP for the South East was due to contest the Folkestone and Hythe Parliamentary seat on May 7 – until the Sun newspaper revealed a possible expenses impropriety in which her chief of staff, Christine Hewitt, appeared to ask the manager of a restaurant in Margate, Kent, for an invoice for a much higher sum than the bill she had originally received, around the time of UKIP’s spring conference.
It is not known whether these actions were authorised by the candidate herself. If she is prevented from running for the seat, UKIP may have saved itself from scenes like this:
The party may also have saved itself the embarrassment of another televised faux pas (that’s your actual French) like the moment last year in which Ms Atkinson said that a UKIP supporter from Ramsgate was a “ting tong” (whatever that may be).
From the BBC report, it seems UKIP has already reached a conclusion about her behaviour: “A UKIP spokesman said the party was ‘incredibly disappointed’ with Ms Atkinson, who appeared to have ‘exercised extremely poor judgement’ and to ‘have acted in a way the party has never and would never condone’.”
Considering her record, one has to ask why it took the party so long to recognise this.
The government’s latest draconian measure – to drive people who have been living off the state for more than three years into all the nonexistent jobs that ministers insist are waiting for them – was launched today. (Monday)
Help to Work forces jobseekers to sign on every day, commit to six months of voluntary work, or sign up to a training scheme (the last two effectively removing them from the government’s unemployment figures without getting them a job) – or face having their Jobseeker’s Allowance docked for increasing lengths of time.
It’s clearly a scam to fiddle the joblessness statistics but, dear reader, you’re intelligent enough to have worked it out before you even started reading this.
Of course, voluntary work must be offered without coercion – otherwise it’s slavery – and for this reason leading charities have already announced that they will boycott the mandatory work placement part of the scheme.
Particularly disturbing – and we should be grateful that they highlighted this – is the fact that this aspect would lead to jobseekers doing more than double the 300-hours’-maximum community work than convicted criminals, who are ordered to carry out certain tasks as punishment for their offences.
The Guardianused the government’s own data to prove that Help to Work does not increase anybody’s chances of getting a job, and is more likely to put people off signing on for the benefits to which they are entitled – a ‘punishment’ effect that the government is desperate to play down.
Esther McVey, speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme in support of the scheme, said instead that it would be particularly useful for “people who have been away from the marketplace and the workplace for long periods of time”, and specifically mentioned those suffering from mental illness.
All right then, let’s ask this:
How well would this scheme fare in trying to find a job for a man aged 60 with no academic qualifications worth mentioning (left school at 14 and has lied about further education achievements), whose working life consists of a failed Army career that lasted less than six years, followed by irregular stints selling arms, working in a property company and selling gun-related magazines, in between periods on the dole. He has been funded by the taxpayer continuously since 1992 – a total of 22 years ‘parked’ at our expense. There are concerns about his state of mind, with fears that he suffers from paranoia and delusions.
Could Help to Work really find a job for a man like this?
Let’s hope so – because, if there’s any justice, Iain Duncan Smith will be looking for a job after next year’s general election.
Lest we forget: We know that, on average, 73 people died every week between January and November 2011 – after undergoing the DWP work capability assessment administered by Atos. Who knows how many are dying now?
Interestingly, the DWP story differs from that published by the BBC, even though the corporation must have used a version of the press release provided to it in advance.
In the BBC story, released on Saturday, “More than a million others withdrew their claims after interviews” – but the DWP press notice, released today, claims “More than a million others withdrew their claims before reaching a face-to-face assessment”.
In addition, the DWP release features a long section on its Disability Confident roadshow, and there is another statistic which claims that the proportion of disabled people in work has reached 45 per cent.
Disability Confident, designed “to encourage more employers to hire disabled people”, “to showcase the talents of disabled people and highlight their tremendous value to the British economy” is, on the face of it, a good idea.
But I wonder if it isn’t a smokescreen to hide how the DWP is pushing thousands of disabled people into saying they are self-employed and taking tax credits rather than ESA, in order to fudge the figures and make it seem as though good work is being done.
Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive…
Of course, the best source of ESA-related statistics is on the iLegal site where the figures behind the press release have been picked apart by an expert who doesn’t have a vested interest in saving ministerial face.
They show that an average of 83 per cent of the 1,078,200 Incapacity claimants who were assessed qualified for ESA between October 2012 and May last year, while 88 per cent of the 1,332,300 ‘repeatedly assessed’ were re-qualifying.
While the DWP and the BBC have claimed 1.8 million people have magically disappeared from the Incapacity/ESA claimant count, the DWP’s own figures confirm that overall numbers have reduced by only 156,630 since May 2010.
The iLegal article makes it clear that “the claimant count is far from a static number; each month thousands of claimants come on and off all benefits”. But it seems clear that the BBC/DWP figure is a conflated total, simply adding up all new claims – rather than claimants – from 2008 onwards.
This is exactly why UK Statistics Authority chief Andrew Dilnot chastised the government after the Conservative Party released an almost-identical press release last year, using then-current (but still inaccurate) figures and not mentioning Disability Confident.
Let’s go back to the number of people found ‘fit for work’ after assessment. Has everybody forgotten the hammering that the government took during a debate on Atos’ handling of the Work Capability Assessment, exactly a year and a week ago today? If you have, don’t worry – you can read all about it here.
The debate demonstrated time after time that the work capability assessment, as devised by the DWP’s Conservative ministerial team and run by its employees at Atos, was not fit for purpose; that the overwhelming majority of those who had been found ‘fit for work’ were nothing of the sort; and that “this is a government that is perfectly happy with a system that is throwing thousands of sick and disabled people to the wolves”.
The government refused to listen. Then-Employment minister Mark Hoban (standing in, conspicuously, for Esther McVey, who was minister for the disabled at the time) said the independent reviews conducted by Professor Malcolm Harrington had identified areas of improvement and appropriate steps were being taken.
This claim was false. Out of 25 recommendations made by Professor Harrington in his year one review alone, almost two thirds were not fully and successfully implemented.
The government also claimed, repeatedly, that Prof Harrington had supported the migration of Incapacity Benefit claimants to ESA. When fellow blogger Sue Marsh contacted him for confirmation, he responded: “I NEVER—repeat–NEVER agreed to the IB migration. I would have preferred that it be delayed but by the time I said that, the political die had been cast. I then said that i would review progress of that during my reviews. The decision was political. I could not influence it. IS THAT CRYSTAL CLEAR?”
I’d say so – to everybody but the Coalition government.
A good reporter at the BBC would have had all this information to hand. They would have known that the work capability assessment was extremely controversial and had been shown, many times, to be unfit for purpose. They would have known that the government had been slapped down by the UK Statistics Authority after releasing an almost-identical press release last year. They absolutely should have known that other reporters in the same organisation had revealed that the DWP had been pushing disabled people into claiming they were self-employed in an effort to cook the books.
With all that information to hand, it begs the question: Why did they then go ahead with the propagandised misrepresentation of the facts that appeared on the BBC News website on Saturday?
Columnist Jill Filipovic hit the nail on the head when she wrote: “I can already hear your objections: ‘But the area under my boobs doesn’t stink!’ or ‘What kind of marketing genius not only came up with the term “swoob,” but actually thought half the world’s population might be dumb enough to buy into it?’ or simply, ‘This is a dumb product aimed at inventing an insecurity and then claiming to cure it.’
“You would be correct on all three points.
“In fact, inventing problems with women’s bodies and then offering a cure – if you pay up – is the primary purpose of the multi-billion dollar beauty industry.”
The simple fact is that you don’t really need to worry about smells down there – a good old soapy flannel will cure any such problems.
That’s not the point, though. The aim is to get you thinking about it and devoting your energy to it, rather than to other matters.
Now let’s translate that to politics.
We already know that all the scaremongering about Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants storming the country from January 1 was a crock. That bastion of good statistics, The Now Show, told us last week that the total number of Bulgarian immigrants in the last couple of weeks was “around two dozen so far”, according to their ambassador. In the first three months after our borders were opened to Croatians, 174 turned up.
Yet the government wanted you to believe they would flood our immigration service in their millions, “taking benefits and yet simultaneously also taking all the jobs”.
My use of language such as “storming” and “flood” is not accidental. By far the more serious threat to the UK in the early days of 2014 was the weather – and, guess what, not only was the government unprepared for the ferocity of the storms that swept our islands, the Coalition was in fact in the process of cutting funding for flood defence.
This would have gone unnoticed if the weather had behaved itself, because we would all have been distracted by the single Romanian immigrant who was ensnared by Keith Vaz in a ring of TV cameras at Heathrow Airport.
Now the Tories are telling us that our take-home pay is finally on the rise for all but the top 10 per cent of earners, with the rest of us seeing our wages rise by at least 2.5 per cent.
The government made its claims (up) by taking into account only cuts to income tax and national insurance, using data leading up to April last year, according to the BBC News website.
“The data used … takes no account of the large benefit cuts introduced by the coalition, such as the real-terms cut in child benefit, the uprating of benefits in line with CPI inflation rather than RPI, and the cuts to tax credits,” writes the Statesman‘s George Eaton.”
He also pointed out that other major cuts such as the bedroom tax, the benefit cap, and the 10 per cent cut in council tax support were introduced after April 2013 and were not included in the Coalition figures.
Once all tax and benefit changes are taken into account, the Institute for Fiscal Studies has shown that almost all families are worse off – and the Coalition also appears to have forgotten the five million low-paid workers who don’t earn enough to benefit from the increase in the personal allowance.
Skills and enterprise minister Matthew Hancock compounded the mistake in an exchange on Twitter with Jonathan Portes, director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR). Asked why his analysis “ignores more than four million people in work (the self-employed)”, Mr Hancock tweeted: “Analysis based on ONS ASHE survey of household earnings data”.
Wrong – as Mr Portes was quick to show: “Don’t you know the difference between household and individual earnings?”
Apparently not. ASHE (Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings) is a survey of employed individuals using their National Insurance numbers – not of households or the self-employed.
So the Coalition – and particularly the Tories – were trying to make us all feel good about the amount we earn.
That’s the distraction. What are we supposed to be ignoring?
Or is it the growing threat of a rise in interest rates, which may be triggered when official unemployment figures – which have been fiddled by increased sanctions on jobseekers, rigged reassessments of benefit claimants, a new scheme to increase the number of people and time spent on Workfare, and the fake economic upturn created by George Osborne’s housing bubble – drop to seven per cent?
It seems possible that the government – especially the Tory part of it – would want to keep people from considering the implications of an interest rate rise that is based on false figures.
As Vox Political commenter Jonathan Wilson wrote yesterday: “If the BOE bases its decisions on incorrect manipulated data that presents a false ‘good news’ analysis then potentially it could do something based on it that would have catastrophic consequences.
“For example if its unemployment rate test is reached, and wages were going up by X per cent against a Y per cent inflation rate which predicted that an interest rate rise of Z per cent would have no general effect and not impact on house prices nor significantly increase repossessions (when X per cent is over-inflated by the top 1 per cent of earners, Y per cent is unrealistically low due to, say, the 50 quid green reduction and/or shops massively discounting to inflate purchases/turnover and not profit) and when it does, instead of tapping on the breaks lightly it slams the gears into reverse while still traveling forward… repossessions go up hugely, house prices suffer a major downward re-evaluation (due to tens of thousands of repossessions hitting the auction rooms) debt rates hit the roof, people stop buying white goods and make do with last year’s iPad/phone/tv/sofa, major retail goes tits up, Amazon goes to the wall, the delivery market and post collapses… etc etc.
“And all because the government fiddled the figures.”
Perhaps Mr Cameron doesn’t want us thinking about that when we could be deodorising our breasts instead.
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According to the text, the DWP reckons more than 78,000 “opportunities for disabled people” have been created since 2011, where they have either found a job or “taken a significant step towards the workplace”.
But the logic falls down when you get to the quotation from Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, founder of Easyjet. He said: “Already over 100,000 disabled entrepreneurs employ an equivalent number of people in their business start-ups.”
Firstly, in the light of other quoted statistics that say 21,000 (of the 78,000 initially mentioned) have been on work experience placement, while more than 10,000 more started in sector-based work academies, one must wonder where 53,000 of the people mentioned by Sir Stelios came from.
Secondly, did you notice that he let the cat out of the bag (so to speak)? “Business start-ups”, is it?
This is just the same scam, applied to people on disability benefits like the work-related activity group of Employment and Support Allowance. Once their year on ESA runs out, they have a choice of going on Jobseekers’ Allowance (which is problematic as they cannot say they are fit for work), going without benefits altogether, or taking the self-employed cheat.
Some of them might be working but it seems likely that the vast majority aren’t.
Meanwhile, the government gets to fiddle the unemployment statistics to make it seem that the Work Programme is succeeding and more people have jobs.
It is right that the news media should not promote this blatant false accounting. Instead (as Elizabeth Caldow states in the comment column below) they should be exposing it for the outright fabrication that it is.
There should be a law against it.
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Talent deficit: Iain Duncan Smith wrote a poorly-received novel called The Devil’s Tune – and many may argue that his entire tenure at the DWP has been spent ‘on the fiddle’.
Labour frontbencher, sadist and closet Tory Liam Byrne has been preparing to take over the Department for Work and Pensions – by practising his future policy on current incumbent Iain Duncan Smith.
That’s right – instead of suggesting IBS should go back to the dole queue that he got married to escape, Byrne has told the Work and Pensions Secretary to “spend more time with his novels”.
This is of course an act of hideous cruelty – not just on LieDS, who deserves it, but also on the general public, if Mr… Smith accepts the advice.
His one published work of fiction, The Devil’s Tune, was released in 2003 and its uniformly negative reception may be taken as proof that publishers are more interested in who an author is than in whether they can write.
The Work Programme, which pays companies to help find jobs for the unemployed but which is, according to the DWP’s own figures and in Mr Byrne’s words “worse than doing nothing”.
The Youth Contract, which was set up 18 months ago to get 160,000 unemployed young people into work, and has managed to find placements for just 4,600 jobseekers aged 18-24.
Universal Credit, which was intended to use integrated computer systems to provide real-time updates to benefits. The problem is the software doesn’t work. A pilot scheme opened in just one Job Centre, focusing on the simplest claims, with entitlements worked out on paper (according to some accounts).
The Work Capability Assessment, now put into ‘special measures’ because of the overwhelming number of mistakes which have swamped both the DWP and the appeal tribunal system with complaints.
A Telegraph report said representatives of the Secretary-in-a-State said Mr Byrne’s remarks were a “compliment” as they suggest his welfare reforms are a threat to Labour.
This is correct in the literal sense; they are indeed a threat to labour. It seems that under the current regime, anyone lucky enough to get a job does so in spite of the system rather than with help from it.
Smith’s spokesman (apparently he is no longer able to speak for himself; this does not bode well for his writing) said his reforms were “hugely popular”, which is partially true. Unfortunately they are only popular with people who have not been subjected to them and who don’t know what they mean.
Repeating one of the many falsehoods for which the DWP now has a well-deserved reputation, he added that the Labour Party opposes the benefit cap. In fact, Labour supports a cap – but not the unjustified level at which the government has set it for families.
I refer you to the review of The Devil’s Tune by John Sutherland, Lord Northcliffe Professor of English Literature at University College London in November 2003, when his review was published in The Guardian: “Ask someone, said Tolstoy, ‘Can you write a novel?’ and – most likely – they will reply, ‘I don’t know; I’ve never tried’. They wouldn’t say the same if you asked them if they could play the violin. IDS has tried fiction. And high-political office. He should have stuck to the fiddle.”
Judging by his record since 2010, many may say he did.
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