Tag Archives: Graham

#ConcreteMike : interviewer tells #InsulateBritain spokesman you can grow concrete

This is what happens when a right-wing radio presenter thinks he’s smarter than a simple man with a simple message:

“You can’t grow concrete,” said Cameron.

“You can…” responded Mike Graham – and then had to eat silence while Cameron let the enormity of his mistake sink in.

This Talk Radio presenter actually suggested that people could grow concrete – a synthetic substance.

And then he went on to suggest that being a carpenter – making items out of a renewable substance like wood – is bad. It’s one of the oldest and most useful professions in any human culture!

No wonder Mr Graham said he didn’t want to talk to Cameron – or anybody else from Insulate Britain – ever again. As it is, he will undoubtedly receive a strong shaming over this.

If you really want to know what Insulate Britain is about – there’s a reason behind their road-blocking protests, you see – then enjoy This Writer’s interview with another member of the organisation, here.

The quick summary is that if you agree with Insulate Britain, then you want warmer homes, a solution to the dangers of climate change, and decent jobs for local craftspeople.

If you don’t, then you side with somebody who thinks carpentry is a bad idea.

And if we’d listened to people like Mike Graham back when humanity was first starting its ascent, we’d all still be living in caves, wearing animal skins and afraid of the dark.

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Will Labour have any backers left after Starmer started attack on unions?

Sharon Graham: The Tories are demanding that Labour leader Keir Starmer take no donations from Unite after she threatened to work “outside the law”, if necessary, to win industrial disputes. It will leave Labour with an even bigger hole in its finances than it has now.

Keir Starmer seems determined to cut off all funding opportunities for his version of the Labour Party.

After spending more than a year attacking and reducing the membership on false pretences, so that the party is now a shadow of the largest political organisation in Europe that it was under previous leader Jeremy Corbyn, it seems he is now distancing himself from the trade unions.

It seems right-wing mischief-makers, either within the party or from outside, reminded Starmer of a 2019 threat by new Unite boss Sharon Graham, to work “outside the law” to win industrial disputes.

It was a humiliating for the Labour leader, who had only days previously congratulated her on her election win and claimed he was looking forward to “working together to improve the lives of working people”. That was probably an empty promise in any case, considering Starmer’s record of betraying his vows.

Tory Party co-chair Amanda Milling challenged Starmer to pledge to take no donations from the union if Ms Graham adopted the tactics she had threatened – but he probably won’t even have the choice.

Unite – Labour’s biggest financial backer – already restricted its supply of cash to the party under previous general secretary Len McCluskey, because of Starmer’s perceived failures as a leader, and Ms Graham is already being urged to go further and cut funding altogether.

Bakers’ union the BFAWU has already threatened to disaffiliate from Labour altogether after Starmer’s party threatened its president with auto-exclusion. The union says he has done nothing wrong and on Labour’s recent record, this is entirely believable.

A vote is to be taken and the result announced during Starmer’s speech at this year’s Labour Party conference.

Ms Graham’s threat was clearly announced as a last resort – as “Operation Cupcake” makes clear in this thread…

… but Ms Graham made it clear that she would not apologise for defending workers. She has already started a review of all the union’s activities, to ensure that members who are involved in disputes get “all the support they need”.

So a confrontation seems likely – and Starmer, having driven away more than 100,000 members and failed to secure corporate funding, will come off worst if it happens.

Meanwhile, commenters on the social media have drawn public attention to the realities of the situation:

Indeed.

Starmer is irrelevant – both to working people and to the UK as a whole. He had a chance to be a uniting force in the Labour movement and he blew it on vindictive attacks against left-wingers (so much for his claims to lead a “broad church”).

The focus now is on what the unions will do if they separate from Starmer’s Fake Labour altogether and let it sink.

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Sharon Graham wins Unite election – meaning the nomination process is broken

Sharon Graham: she’s the new Unite general secretary but the election has cast a shadow over the legitimacy of the nomination process.

Congratulations to Sharon Graham for becoming the first female general secretary of the UK’s largest trade union, Unite.

And well done to her, also, for demonstrating that the mechanism for nominating candidates is badly broken and must be improved.

We can see this because of the number of Unite branches that were seen to nominate different candidates.

Steve Turner reckoned he had 525 branches behind him – the most of any candidate – but it is widely believed that he only beat right-winger Gerard Coyne into second place because supporters of Howard Beckett held their noses and voted for him.

Beckett himself managed 328 branch nominations but pulled out in order not to split the Left vote. In hindsight, that may seem ill-advised.

Graham herself had 349, while Coyne managed just 196.

The fact that these nominations were not matched by the proportion of votes offered to each candidate indicates that there’s something wrong with the process.

I don’t know what that process is, but if it doesn’t offer sufficient weight to the number of members in each branch who support a particular candidate, then it needs to be fixed.

If it doesn’t even allow rank-and-file branch members a say, then it must be corrected at the earliest opportunity.

And there’s a knock-on effect, too: because they saw Turner receiving the most nominations, so-called ‘optics Left’ ‘influencers’ tried to exert pressure on Graham and Beckett to withdraw (successfully, in Beckett’s case).

We see now that this was a bad call.

You can read a more detailed piece about this over on Skwawkbox.

The message to take home is that Unite could have ended up with a leader who did not represent the intentions of its voting members – because of its faulty nomination system and the reactions of influential people.

Source: Graham’s win discredits Unite nominations process – and destroys ‘blue-tick’ left’s credibility – SKWAWKBOX

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Deaths and other harms to benefit claimants prompt renewed lawsuits – and calls to investigate DWP

Death by DWP: Philippa Day.

The chickens are coming home to roost at the Department for Work and Pensions.

The families of three benefit claimants – who are said to have died because the DWP deliberately mishandled their claims – are continuing to take the department through the court system in their search for justice.

Publicity around the cases has led to a BBC investigation in which it was found that they are just three out of 150 cases in which the DWP has conducted internal investigations into its own behaviour.

Now the department is facing demands for an independent investigation into its conduct. Long overdue demands, in This Writer’s experienced opinion.

Here‘s the BBC:

Cases where people claiming benefits died or came to serious harm have led to more than 150 government reviews since 2012, a BBC investigation found.

Internal reviews are held by the DWP when it is alleged its actions had a negative impact, or when it is named at an inquest.

Calling for an inquiry, Labour MP Debbie Abrahams said: “It needs to be taken out of the hands of the DWP.”

Ms Abrahams, who previously read out in the Commons the names of 29 people who have died, said: “There needs to be an independent inquiry investigating why these deaths are happening and the scale of the deaths needs to be properly understood.”

The DWP said it had established a new Serious Case Panel in 2019 to consider themes identified from serious cases, which included independent members.

Yeah, right. I opened Gibbons’ Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire the other day. That doesn’t mean I read any of it.

Now let’s hear from Leigh Day solicitors, who represent the three families who are pushing their cases through the courts:

The families spoke to the BBC to share their stories and the legal stages of their cases.

Philippa Day who lived with a long standing mental health illness, and was diabetic, died aged 27 in October 2019, two months after she was found collapsed at home in Nottingham.

On 27 January 2021, HM Assistant Coroner for Nottinghamshire, Gordon Clow concluded that the problems Philippa had with her application for disability benefits were “the predominant… and the only acute factor” which led her to take action on 8 August 2019 that ultimately proved fatal.

Following the inquest, a letter of claim has been sent to DWP and Capita which alleges breach of human rights and negligence by the DWP and Capita arising out of the events which led to Philippa’s death and seeks compensation for the wrongs Philippa and her family suffered. DWP and Capita have three months to respond before claims may be pursued in the High Court.

Death by DWP: Jodey Whiting.

Jodey Whiting, aged 42, took her own life on 21 February 2017. She suffered severe mental health problems and had her benefits terminated a fortnight earlier for not attending a Work Capability Assessment, leaving her with no source of income.

The Attorney General granted their consent last year for an application to the High Court for a fresh inquest into her death, which the High Court will hear on 22 June 2021. Jodey’s mother seeks a fresh inquest to ensure the role played by the DWP in her daughter’s death are publicly and fully investigated.

Death by DWP: Errol Graham.

Errol Graham, was found dead aged 57 in June 2018, eight months after his benefits were stopped because of his failure to attend a fit for work assessment. When his body was found, Mr Graham weighed four-and-a-half stone.

An inquest in 2019 found that DWP and NHS staff had missed opportunities to save Graham, and the coroner concluded that “the safety net that should surround vulnerable people like Errol in our society had holes within it”.

Mr Graham’s family have submitted an application to the Court of Appeal after their judicial review challenging the lawfulness of the DWP’s safeguarding policies was unsuccessful. The family argue that the decision in 2017 to terminate his benefits was unlawful and that the DWP’s safeguarding policies and systems need to be overhauled to provide greater protection to vulnerable benefit claimants who, like Errol, suffer from mental health conditions.

The allegations against the DWP are extremely serious.

They indicate that it has been DWP policy to endanger the lives of benefit claimants.

For that reason, it seems clear to This Writer – and I expect to anybody with the slightest common sense – that the DWP should not be judging its own work with regard to these cases.

I say that for the same reason I say Boris Johnson’s Conservatives should not be conducting inquiries into whether contracts were corruptly handed to Tory cronies – or into whether Johnson himself breached the ministerial code by getting donors to pay for his Downing Street flat’s redecoration.

They are liars; they will always whitewash themselves.

We have seen evidence of such behaviour many times over the last 10 years – reported on This Site, among others.

The work of Debbie Abrahams has been exemplary in trying to get an investigation into this scandal by an organisation we can trust.

It’s true that such efforts have achieved very little, so far.

But attitudes are changing.

As more evidence has come to light, public tolerance of the DWP’s entitled attitude has eroded.

Maybe we are finally about to get some factual answers to questions we have been asking for more than a decade.

Source: Investigation reveals 150 DWP reviews into deaths or harm to benefits claimants | Leigh Day

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Judicial review over DWP starvation death of Errol Graham has begun

People die because of DWP mistakes: Errol Graham starved to death because the department decided to stop his benefit money. The organisation later – secretly – changed its rules in a bid to avoid humiliation in court.

A judicial review has begun at London’s High Court, to determine whether a DWP decision to stop Errol Graham’s benefits breached government safeguarding policy and led to his death by starvation.

Mr Graham starved to death in June 2018 after his Employment Support Allowance (ESA) payments were terminated by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) eight months earlier.

The claim, brought on behalf of the family by Alison Turner (the fiancée of Mr Graham’s son), alleges that the decision to halt Mr Graham’s benefits in 2017 was unlawful and that the DWP’s ESA safeguarding policy on the termination of benefits is still unlawful, despite revisions that were belatedly made following the issuing of these proceedings.

Mr Graham, who suffered severe mental ill-health, was found starved to death aged 57, eight months after his ESA payments and housing benefit payments were halted. He had missed a fitness for work assessment and had not responded when the DWP tried to contact him by phone and in person. The payments were terminated in line with DWP policy, without any effort to contact next of kin or other support services and without considering whether Mr Graham’s known mental health issues could have been the reason for his lack of communication.

When he was found dead, he weighed just four and a half stone.

There was no food in his flat and no credit on his gas or electricity meters. An unsent letter to the DWP was found which pleaded “please judge me fairly”.

Ms Turner is asking the court to give a declaration that the DWP’s decision to disallow Mr Graham’s benefits in October 2017 was unlawful because it was in breach of s.149 Equality Act 2010 and Regulation 24 of Employment Support Allowance Regulations 2008.
She says there were strong indicators that his mental health or disability may have given him good cause for not responding and he was known to have long term depression, and the DWP’s policy should ensure such indicators are identified and considered.
Mind, the leading national mental health charity in England And Wales has submitted evidence in support of Ms Turner’s case and the Equality and Human Rights Commission are formally intervening in support.
Ms Turner said
“The DWP decision to stop paying Errol’s benefits meant that, without money to buy food and to pay for heating and lighting, in the end, he starved to death. Although at first the DWP maintained that their safeguarding policy was lawful, faced with a court case, they have made some changes to the policy.
“But these changes are not enough. It still falls to the vulnerable claimant to make sure the DWP knows why they have good cause not to respond to DWP enquiries. That makes no sense when vulnerable claimants might be too mentally ill to respond. For Errol’s sake, I have to challenge this policy so that other people don’t suffer in the way that he and our family did.”

Her legal representative Tessa Gregory added,

“It cannot be right that it falls to such vulnerable individuals to prove that they had a good cause for not responding and the DWP must require their staff where necessary to make further enquiries before taking the momentous decision of cutting off what is often a person’s only source of income. Unless and until the DWP changes its policies other vulnerable individuals will remain at risk of serious harm or death.”

Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, said the charity has heard from many other people who have lost loved ones in similar circumstances.

“Mind provided expert testimony to the hearing based on the views of people with mental health problems who we’re in touch with who have had to endure awful experiences at the hands of a benefits system, which is made needlessly complicated and stressful.
“Change can’t come soon enough. The pandemic has caused devastating financial insecurity, with more people than ever relying on the benefits system to keep them afloat through this difficult period. We want to see a fair and compassionate benefits system.”

The hearing is ongoing and is expected to conclude on January 13.

Source: Court Case Regarding Errol Graham To Be Heard | Leigh Day

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Alan Moore’s £10k donation shows what humanity should be in the 21st century

Alan Moore: Do not adjust your eyeballs; all is well. Photograph: Kazam Media/REX Shutterstock

Alan Moore: Do not adjust your eyeballs; all is well. Photograph: Kazam Media/REX Shutterstock

Look, buddy, I know about Alan Moore.

I’ve been following the guy since before he was famous – back in the 1970s when he started writing back-up comic strips in Doctor Who Weekly. Oh yes. Even back then, I knew his stuff was great. And I was only 10.

One thing that came through very clearly in his work – particularly the early material – is the way he was able to capture human moments, even in the most whacked-out, surrealist’s dream superhero fantasies; the settings might be bizarre but the characters were people.

In an interview, many years ago, he said: “I think that art has a place in the world, I think it’s important to the world, I think it’s part of the way in which we evolve. I think that cultures evolve as much in response to their art and their dreams and their aspirations as they do to their fears and whatever bullying and intimidation is being heaped on them from outside. There’s very little in current human culture that I place any value on at all, but art is one of the few things that I do value and cherish. I think [it] has an immense importance to the world as it is now and as it hopefully will be in the future.”

Later in the same interview, he added: “There comes a point where if you get serious about your art, if you get serious about the messages you’re putting over, and the way in which you’re putting them over, I think you inevitably come to where you suddenly think… It’s all right using Watchmen as an oblique way of talking about politics and the world condition, but why not just get rid of all these big guys in the funny suits and just talk about it?”

What follows is a near-perfect demonstration of this philosophy in action; a point where Alan Moore stopped using stories to talk about the real world, got down to brass tacks, and did it in a way which is entirely in line with the kind of human behaviour toward others that was exhibited in his works, and that – because of his works – has helped my own philosophy evolve.

You see, it transpires that an old friend of Mr Moore, Graham Cousins, has been fighting the UK’s immigration service for around three years, simply in order to gain admittance into this country for his wife, who is currently forced to live in Mozambique due to the restrictions imposed by the British government.

According to his son Leighton, on the crowdfunding website he put up to help out, the government has been changing the conditions required for Mrs Cousins to be allowed in, apparently to ensure that she never sets foot in the UK. First Mr Cousins had to be earning £18,600 per year. Then he had to have more than £40,000 in his bank account. Now the figure has been upped to £62,500 – and it is to help reach such savings that Leighton started the crowdfunding site.

In response, Alan Moore has publicly donated £10,000 – the full amount requested on the site – in what is quite literally a bid for justice.

The accompanying letter makes his reasoning crystal clear:

151116AlanMoorecheque

He states in his covering letter: “I am led to ask if the official cash amount demanded of those making an appeal is, simply, ‘more than they can afford’?… If the basis for this is not racism, would somebody be kind enough to explain what this reasoning is actually based on?”

Maybe This Writer is blinded by personal regard for a literary hero, but this is exactly what I would do for any of my friends, if I were in a position to help, if the action publicised an injustice and if it was likely to help end it.

I wish more people would do the same.

But then, I’ve been reading the works of Alan Moore since I was 10 years old.