Tag Archives: Goldman Sachs

Mental health called into question as Theresa May stutters through #PMQs

Jeremy Corbyn likened Theresa May to Baldrick, saying her "cunning plan" was to have no plan at all [Image: Daily Mirror].

Jeremy Corbyn likened Theresa May to Baldrick, saying her “cunning plan” was to have no plan at all [Image: Daily Mirror].

Forget Brexit or Heathrow’s forthcoming new runway – Prime Minister’s Questions today was all about mental health.

Karl Turner told a packed House of Commons that his 25-year-old nephew, Mattie, had recently died while waiting six months for a ‘talking cure’ appointment to help him handle depression. He said these treatments were often a dangerous waiting game and a postcode lottery, and asked what Theresa May was doing to sort it out.

She stuttered through a non-answer about having established parity of esteem between physical and mental health treatment but accepted there was more to do, and moved on – only to be stopped in her tracks by Labour’s Alison McGovern, who wasn’t satisfied.

The Conservative manifesto promised shorter waiting times for people with mental health problems, but prescriptions for anti-depressants are on the rise and waits for treatment are lengthening, she said. Was the Tory manifesto just words, or would the PM ever deliver?

Mrs May, out of her depth, reiterated her previous statement.

Help came – too late, from Tory MP Helen Whately, who quoted Mrs May’s commitment to improved mental health on the day she became prime minister, and asked a hastily-prepared planted question about the Tory government’s five-year plan for mental health.

Mrs May responded with words from a piece of paper that had been slipped to her, showing an increase in appointments of 40 per cent since 2010, but the damage had been done. If she needs a planted question and the help of hastily-scribbled statistics to get her out of a hole, she won’t hold public confidence.

There were other disasters. Fellow Conservative Dr Tania Mathias backstabbed Mrs May over her decision to allow a third runway at Heathrow, when air pollution standards were already being breached.

Mrs May said air quality standards could be reached, but bizarrely reached toward road transport to help justify herself. Apparently electric vehicles on the roads will help Heathrow airport meet its air quality requirements!

It wasn’t all grim, though. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn enjoyed rubbishing Mrs May’s strategy on Brexit. After hearing her stuttering about “being very clear” on her aims for Brexit (while being about as opaque as she could be, he said: “I thought for a moment the prime minister was going to say ‘Brexit means Brexit’ again. I’m sure she’ll tell us one day what it actually means!”

Some commentators have accused Mr Corbyn of missing an open goal by neglecting to ask her about her speech to Goldman Sachs bankers, in which she outlined her concerns for business of the UK were to leave the EU after the referendum that, at the time, had yet to be held. But Mr Corbyn was skilful to avoid that; critics would only have attacked him on the grounds that times have changed.

A much better tactic was to say: “When you’re searching for the real meaning and the importance behind the prime minister’s statement, you have to consult the great philosophers. The only one I can come up with is Baldrick, who says, ‘Our cunning plan is to have no plan’.”

Mrs May’s attempt at a riposte – that the actor playing Baldrick (Tony Robinson) was a member of the Labour Party – was subsequently torpedoed by her own supporters, who gleefully undermined their leader by showing that Sir Anthony does not support Mr Corbyn.

Mark Wallace, executive editor of ConservativeHome, showed how far out of his depth he was by re-tweeting this comment from Sir Anthony:

It will be interesting to see what the media make of today’s events.

Faced with such a disastrous collapse by Theresa May, any attempt to spin the exchange into an attack on Mr Corbyn will be unrealistic – making Mr Wallace’s choice of quote doubly wrong.

Join the Vox Political Facebook page.

If you have appreciated this article, don’t forget to share it using the buttons at the bottom of this page. Politics is about everybody – so let’s try to get everybody involved!

Vox Political needs your help!
If you want to support this site
(
but don’t want to give your money to advertisers)
you can make a one-off donation here:

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Buy Vox Political books so we can continue
fighting for the facts.


The Livingstone Presumption is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook

Health Warning: Government! is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook

The first collection, Strong Words and Hard Times,
is still available in either print or eBook format here:

SWAHTprint SWAHTeBook

Billions for bankers who wrecked the economy; the innocent poor starve

Remember last week’s Vox Political article about the way the bankers who caused the financial crash of 2007 onwards have gone totally unpunished for the trouble they caused – and in fact have been rewarded for their crimes?

Here’s a different angle on the same issue:

150118bankers

In the midst of the financial crisis (which had its roots in the US sub-prime housing market), Goldman Sachs made a profit of $4 billion by “betting” on a collapse in that market, and shorting mortgage-related securities. This is an organisation that relied on the economies of the western world going into freefall, in order to profit from the catastrophe.

They’re laughing all the way. How do you feel about that?

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

Join the Vox Political Facebook page.

Vox Political needs your help!
If you want to support this site
(
but don’t want to give your money to advertisers)
you can make a one-off donation here:

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Buy Vox Political books so we can continue
raising the issues that will affect your finances.

Health Warning: Government! is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook

The first collection, Strong Words and Hard Times,
is still available in either print or eBook format here:

SWAHTprint SWAHTeBook

Autumn reshuffles – will Britain get the political players it needs?

Rearranging the pack: Both the government and its opposition are having a reshuffle today - but will we get aces, or just another set of jokers?

Rearranging the pack: Both the government and its opposition are having a reshuffle today – but will we get aces, or just another set of jokers?

Today’s the day – doomsday for some, and a new dawn for others. Both the Coalition and Labour are reshuffling their top teams.

We already know some of the names that have stepped down. On the government side, Michael Moore has been sacked as Scottish Secretary, to make way for fellow Liberal Democrat Alistair Carmichael. Apparently Mr Carmichael, referring to the upcoming referendum on Scotland seceding from the Union, has said he is “up for it”.

At least nobody tried to put a Tory in, to represent a country where that party has no MPs at all. It may seem beyond the realm of possibility but with the Government of Idiots (and I refer to the term in its classical sense) it would not be surprising.

Deputy Chief Whip John Randall and Cabinet Office Minister Chloe Smith (who was humiliated on the BBC’s Newsnight last year when, as Exchequer Secretary, she struggled to answer questions about the government’s decision to defer a rise in fuel duty. It seems she had been promoted because David Cameron mistakenly believed she was a trained accountant. This does not bode well for today’s decisions) have both stepped down.

The BBC reported that Ms Smith’s resignation letter stated she had been “only 27” when she became an MP and now wanted to “develop other ways of giving public service” – indicating possible disillusionment with the Coalition government and the way it conducts itself.

Transport Minister Simon Burns has also stepped down – but this is to run for the position of Deputy Speaker, which was left vacant by Nigel Evans after he stepped down to fight criminal charges for sexual assault.

All the pundits are saying the government reshuffle will concentrate on mid-level ministers, with every Cabinet-level Tory secure in their position. What a shame.

Meanwhile, over at Labour, the situation is not so clear. Ed Miliband’s decisions have been unrestricted, and speculation has ranged from whether he will increase Shadow Cabinet representative for women, bring back members of Labour’s old guard (unlikely – he would face criticism along predictable lines from the Tories and besides, this seems to be about bringing in new, more attractive faces), promote people who are loyal to him or (my preference) have a Shadow Cabinet Of All Talents – including critics who happen to be very good at their jobs.

Abraham Lincoln had a Cabinet Of All Talents, if I recall correctly. Some consider this to be part of what made him great.

One person who won’t be a part of Labour’s team is former Minister (and then Shadow Minister) for the Disabled, Anne McGuire. who quit last week after five years in the job.

The Stirling MP was praised by disability campaigners such as Sue Marsh who, in an email, described her as “the one true ally we had on Labour’s front bench”.

And blogger Sue Jones wrote: “Anne will always be remembered by our community for her very articulate attacks on the media’s [mis]representation of disabled people and on the Government’s welfare reforms, in parliamentary debate. I remember her account of private debate, too, on the same topic with Iain Duncan Smith, and such was her ferocity and anger at the profound unfairness of the media’s sustained persecution of sick and disabled people, fanned by Iain Duncan Smith, as we know, that she pinned him against a wall on one occasion.”

But the former Shadow Minister, who is herself disabled, ran into controversy when she agreed to host a fringe meeting at this year’s Labour Party Conference, organised by the right-wing thinktank Reform, and sponsored by the Association of British Insurers.

Entitled ‘New thinking on the welfare state’, the event seems to have been a front for insurance companies to try to influence Labour’s thinking on social security in the future. Similar events were arranged by Reform and staged at both the Liberal Democrat and Conservative conferences.

Discussions at the private, round-table policy seminar seem to have centred on ways in which insurance companies could become more involved with social security – what products they could sell to working-class people who fear the loss of income that follows loss of employment.

This is exactly the scenario that the American Unum corporation wanted to create when it was invited into the then-Department of Social Security by Peter Lilley – a weakened state system that either cannot or will not support people in genuine need, particularly the sick and disabled, forcing them to buy insurance policies in the hope that these will top-up their income.

Anne McGuire denied this was the intent of the exercise but it is significant that neoliberal New Labour did nothing to prevent the advance of this agenda during its years in power, including the period she spent as Minister for the Disabled.

People who have suffered under the current benefit regime are demanding – ever more stridently – that Labour should mount a strong attack on the practices of the Department for Work and Pensions, as run by Iain Duncan Smith and his cronies, Mark Hoban and Esther McVey.

Part of this demand is that private organisations such as Unum and Atos, which administers work capability assessments, should be kicked out, and a new, fairer system of determining disability benefits based on a claimant’s medical condition and needs, rather than the greed of private enterprise, should be brought in.

There has been no hope of this with plastic Tory Liam Byrne as Shadow Work and Pensions spokesman, but rumour has it he could be shunted out and replaced by Rachel Reeves. Is this a good move?

The omens are not wonderful. She is yet another alumnus of the Politics, Philosophy and Economics course at Oxford (another notable example of that course’s graduates is David Cameron). Her background is in business. She once interviewed for a job with tax avoiders Goldman Sachs (but turned down the job offer) and has been named by The Guardian as one of several MPs who use unpaid interns.

Gauke, Osborne and Goldman Sachs: The Treasury’s corrupt tax avoidance conspiracy

Rumbled: David Gauke, the ugly face of Treasury-approved tax avoidance. This man is one reason the poor are being made to pay so heavily for the foolishness of the very rich.

Rumbled: David Gauke, the ugly face of Treasury-approved tax avoidance. This man is one reason the poor are being made to pay so heavily for the foolishness of the very rich.

You know something is wrong in the Treasury when the minister in charge of tax is revealed to have worked for a firm specialising in tax avoidance.

The wrongdoing goes off the scale when it is revealed that the same minister has been actively trying to gag a whistleblower who uncovered a “sweetheart” deal to write off a huge amount of tax owed to the UK by a private company.

That is precisely what we have learned today, thanks to The Guardian.

It seems that David Gauke, the exchequer secretary to the Treasury, green-lit a plan to discredit testimony from Osita Mba, a solicitor with HM Revenue and Customs, after he took the notorious Goldman Sachs “sweetheart” deal to the public.

For those who don’t know about this, the deal with Goldman Sachs was worth up to £20 million, and was part of a series of four such settlements, with large companies, that netted £4.5 billion for the Treasury. That might seem like a lot of money.

But it begs the question, asked by Margaret Hodge MP, who chairs Parliament’s public accounts committee: How much did we not get?

One person who might know the answer is Mr Mba, who told two parliamentary committees that the then-head of tax, Dave Hartnett, had agreed a deal allowing Goldman Sachs, a US bank, to escape £20 million in interest charges, payable to the UK. He claimed Mr Hartnett had done this without following proper procedures.

Disciplinary proceedings were launched against Mr Mba within HMRC, meaning he was suspended from work, and an emailed exchange between an HMRC press officer and Gauke’s private secretary strongly suggest that the minister wanted to discredit the whistleblower with a media smear campaign.

From here, matters get very dodgy indeed.

The National Audit Office was asked to investigate the Goldman Sachs case, along with four others, and although Judge Andrew Parks’ report was not publicly released, the head of the NAO, Amyas Morse, told MPs that the deals had been cleared. Morse’s role was later questioned after a leaked document showed that he had told Hartnett the inquiry would find “nothing of substance” – before it began.

And it was revealed last Thursday – again by The Guardian, which appears to be living up to its name – that the deal with Goldman Sachs had been arranged partly to save our part-time Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gideon 0sborne, from embarrassment.

It seems that the dispute with Goldman Sachs was settled hastily after the bank threatened to pull out of a new tax framework, a week after 0sborne had announced that the bank had signed up to it.

The revelation was made at the High Court last Wednesday, where UK Uncut was calling for a judgement to declare that the 2010 settlement between the bank and HMRC was unlawful. The court heard that Hartnett had personally overruled legal advice, the HMRC’s own guidelines and its internal review board over the issue (confirming Mr Mba’s claim).

So it was a cover-up, in order to allow a company to escape paying the UK a huge amount of money, with the blessing of ministers including 0sborne and Gauke.

In Gauke’s case, of course, this is unsurprising. It has long been known – as can be seen by this entry on the right-wing Guido Fawkes blog – that the minister has not only avoided paying tax himself but also worked for Macfarlanes, a top city law firm that specialises in helping the wealthy avoid paying tax.

The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill, which has been passing through Parliament recently, includes a section intended to introduce greater protection for individuals from harassment when they blow the whistle at work.

In the light of the treatment of Mr Mba, by members of the government that has introduced this bill, it remains to be seen whether this measure was ever intended to succeed.