Tag Archives: harass

Suella Braverman has deliberately endangered a lawyer acting for asylum-seekers

Face of evil? Suella Braverman’s dossier attacking immigration lawyer Jacqueline McKenzie seems to be not only dishonest and illegal, but also racist.

Let’s see if I’ve got this right: the Home Secretary of the United Kingdom has deliberately released a dossier filled with lies in order to get the media to harass an immigration lawyer, thereby putting her in danger. Is that correct?

I refer to a four-page document created by Suella Braverman (or ordered by her), and sent to right wing papers the Telegraph, Mail, Sun and Express.

It contained a series of falsehoods about Jacqueline McKenzie, head of immigration and asylum at the law firm Leigh Day, which she herself described as follows, in an article for The Guardian:

Someone had drawn a diagram linking Keir Starmer to anyone who challenged the Conservatives’ Rwanda plan. There was mention of a case in which I represented a Jamaican man who had lived in the UK from the age of nine and was facing deportation. It said that I was a hired adviser on race to Starmer, when in fact I am an unpaid volunteer on a working group set up by Labour to look at race disparities across a number of indicators, just as the Conservatives did with the Sewell report.

It also “outed” me as a trustee of Detention Action, a well-respected NGO supporting people in immigration detention centres, presumably because the organisation challenged the Rwanda scheme in the courts. The dossier did not mention that I had become a trustee after that challenge. I did represent a man who was one of seven shackled on the tarmac waiting to be flown to Rwanda before the flight was grounded by the courts. I feel no shame: a doctor in the immigration detention centre confirmed that my client displayed signs of being a victim of torture.

A statement in support of Ms McKenzie by her colleagues at Leigh Day points out:

Omitted from the briefing was Jacqueline’s involvement on another group chaired by Priti Patel MP on the Windrush Scandal and the 90% of her work which is focused on legal support for victims of the Windrush Scandal.

Another Guardian report quoted the actual Tory document:

The party’s document, which had the heading, “Revealed: senior Labour advisor is lefty lawyer blocking Rwanda deportations”, sought to highlight McKenzie’s links to the party and her work on immigration cases, she said.

The Tory dossier said: “Just last year, she [McKenzie] helped a Jamaican criminal lodge last-minute appeal to deportation because of his high blood pressure. The foreign-born crook had just served an eight-year prison sentence for kidnapping.

“[Labour leader Keir] Starmer has been keen to distance himself from previous remarks and convince voters that he can be trusted on immigration.

“But his decision to hire lefty lawyer Jacqueline McKenzie is further proof that ‘Sir Softie’ can’t be trusted.”

A spokesperson for the Conservative Party intensified the attack in a comment for the same article, stating:

“It’s no secret that an activist blob of leftwing lawyers, dubious campaign groups and the Labour party are trying to frustrate our efforts to stop the boats and deport more foreign criminals.”

Ms McKenzie has made her opinion on the reasons for the Tory attack on her abundantly clear:

There is no doubt this story was timed to accompany the moving of asylum seekers, many traumatised, on to the Bibby Stockholm. The government attacks vulnerable people and those like myself, who represent them in order to distract from issues that the electorate prioritise: the cost-of-living crisis, the environment and the NHS.

This flagrant attack on me and my work, built on misinformation and mischaracterisation and underpinned by racism and misogyny, is a dark day for our political sphere. It represents a serious slur on the integrity and independence of thousands of hardworking and upstanding lawyers.

I’ve saved the worst for last: The attack on Ms McKenzie has put her in danger, along with those around her:

The hit job on me was vile and self-serving, and put me and those close to me at considerable risk of physical harm. I’m having to take security advice and precautions, such is the seriousness I place on ominous emails I have received.

The Tory dossier was not only full of lies; it deliberately and falsely alleged that Ms McKenzie was politically biased – a claim that has outraged members of the legal profession, not just at Leigh Day but across the UK.

According to the Leigh Day statement,

Lawyers should not be criticised for doing their jobs. People are entitled to have legal representation when faced with removal from the country, or indeed being moved to accommodation which may be unsuitable. Many of the clients represented by Jacqueline’s team have been through trauma, torture or incredible hardship. In a civilised society they should be treated with compassion and understanding as well as having the law applied accurately and fairly to the individual circumstances of their case.

While the work we do as a firm is not always popular we strive to provide access to justice to all whether that is bereaved families who need help finding answers through the inquest process, those who have been seriously injured on our roads, employees who have been discriminated against by their employers and international communities who bear the brunt of multinational corporations wreaking havoc on their local environments. This commitment to access to justice for all extends to those seeking asylum in this country or who need support with their immigration status.

We are proud of the work we do and will not be cowed by a government whose strategy appears to be to attack and demonise lawyers, and the judiciary, merely for working to ensure the laws of this country are upheld.

It is a position that the Law Society, which represents and supports solicitors across England and Wales, and the Bar Council, its counterpart organisation for barristers, fully supports:

Their full statement runs as follows:

“Everyone is entitled to legal representation, and it is a United Nations basic principle that lawyers should not be identified with the causes of their clients as a result of representing them.

“The legal community is gravely concerned by the experience of immigration solicitor Jacqueline McKenzie.

“That is why – as we have said repeatedly – it is wrong to describe lawyers as ‘lefty’ or ‘activist’ simply on the basis of the causes they advocate on behalf of their clients.

“Lawyers who represent their clients are not only doing nothing wrong, they are doing exactly what they are supposed to do in playing their part in ensuring that the rule of law is upheld. Ms McKenzie has been doing exactly what she is supposed to do as an immigration solicitor, acting in the best interests of her clients within the constraints of the law.

“Political leaders know that lawyers represent their clients within the legal framework that parliament creates and CCHQ should seriously reflect on what has happened in this case.

“Language and actions that unfairly undermine confidence in the independence of the legal professions, and potentially risk the safety of lawyers, will ultimately undermine confidence in our entire justice system and the rule of law.”

It seems clear to This Writer that the dossier of lies about Ms McKenzie is part of the “crackdown” on “rogue lawyers” that the Tory government announced earlier this month.

At the time, Justice Secretary Alex Chalk claimed that the aim was to stop a minority of lawyers who were making false claims in order to allow people who should be deported to stay in the UK.

He seemed to be having trouble getting his words out and, if the attack on Ms McKenzie is representative of the Tory plan, this should be unsurprising. It can be hard to present a pack of lies as factual information.

Even then, the Law Society was pointing out the errors in the Tory claims:

So:

The Tories’ claim to be cracking down on a small number of lawyers who are dishonestly and illegally playing the system on behalf of foreigners who should not be in the UK seems to be a cover for an attack on entirely respectable lawyers that is itself dishonest and illegal.

But then, what can we expect from a Home Secretary whose own word cannot be trusted?

One final point that I haven’t mentioned before: Ms McKenzie is black. This Tory “crackdown” on asylum-seekers and those who represent them is not only dishonest and illegal; it is also racist.


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BBC ‘journalist’ harasses Bercow on the street over refusal to allow third ‘meaningless vote’ on Brexit

John Bercow: Politeness and restraint.

When I reported that Commons Speaker John Bercow had ruled out a third “meaningful vote” (three? They’d be more aptly described as “meaningless”) on Theresa May’s duff Brexit deal, I did not expect her to try to get around it by underhand means.

As she is determined not to change a single line of her appalling document, options included a “paving vote” to set aside the convention under which the same proposal could not be put to the vote twice in a single Parliamentary session, or proroguing Parliament – ending the current session and starting a new one to get around the issue.

And then there was the lowest tactic of all – pretending that Mr Bercow made his ruling in order to derail democracy (and halt Brexit), rather than as a matter of duty as the chairperson of the House of Commons, responsible for ensuring that its decisions comply with law and precedent.

The aspect of it that really astonishes This Writer is that the BBC – currently under investigation by Ofcom on the possibility that it has been failing in its duty of impartiality – seems to have led the attack on Mr Bercow’s credibility.

And the corporation got what it deserved. Consider this response to a BBC reporter’s on-street harassment of the Speaker on his way to work.

Mr Bercow responded with politeness and restraint. The BBC reporter’s questions were – well – as Tom Pride described them.

One more thing: Suppose Mrs May manages to get another vote on her deal, and it wins support from MPs. Will they be doing so because they honestly believe it is a good deal, having read the nearly-600-page document from cover to cover?

Or will they just be tired out and afraid that they’ll lose the support of an impatient public if they don’t?


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Lefty journo and Tory MP confronted by wall of gammon. Guess who gets Establishment support

For the record: Owen Jones, pursued by James Goddard – both recording the encounter on their mobile phones, while a policeman watches. The behaviour of these right-wingers is like that of cartoon villains, so I’ve cartoonised this scene.

Some of what follows is very ugly indeed.

The left-wing journalist Owen Jones, together with Conservative MP Anna Soubry and who knows how many others were targeted by right-wing pro-Brexit protesters outside Parliament yesterday (Monday, January 7).

They were wearing yellow vests because they have styled themselves after France’s gilets jaunes, protesters against rising fuel prices and taxes who blocked roads wearing yellow high-vis jackets on November 18 last year, sparking a pan-European movement.

Think about that for a moment. These anti-EU protesters were aping people who are citizens of the very bloc they hate. That should give you an inkling as to their twisted thinking. But it gets worse.

Here’s Mr Jones’s tweeted video clip of his treatment at their hands:

I’ll be honest – sometimes I disagree with Mr Jones’s opinions, but always in the most cordial way and always with reason. Calling him a “tampon”, a “traitor”, and a writer of “fake news” is neither cordial nor reasonable. And take note of the way the chief bully in the crowd called Mr Jones a bully; it’s a classic tactic, accusing a victim of one’s own behaviour.

The principle antagonist in the clip appears to be one James Goddard. You can witness more of his behaviour here:

It seems astonishing that this man retained his liberty after the behaviour in the clip tweeted by Another Angry Voice. If you’ve seen any of the many reality documentaries showing the police on duty, you’ll know that they usually issue a stern warning to members of the public who start exhibiting loud and threatening behaviour to desist, and arrest them if they don’t comply. The racist claim that the officer in the clip isn’t even British would be a chargeable offence, I believe.

There may be a reason he hasn’t been arrested, but it isn’t a very good one. We’ll come to it shortly.

(If I may interject a note of personal pride here, I seem to recall coining the term “Brextremist” on This Site. I am delighted to see that it has fallen into general usage.)

In a further tweet, Mr Jones added: “By the way, the things they’re yelling at me – traitor, terrorism supporter – are all legitimised by the right wing press and politicians. If anything happens to one of us on the left at the hands of these fascists, they will share the blame. Hope that’s clear.”

There’s just one issue with that comment, as Hazel Nolan makes clear:

Have we become so normalised to right-wing rhetoric that this loathsome language, and the behaviour it encourages, is now deemed normal?

The experience of Anna Soubry would suggest otherwise.

The Remain-supporting Tory ventured outside the Palace of Westminster to give an interview on College Green, only to be interrupted by chants of “Soubry is a Nazi”:

Afterwards, Twitter commentator Femi found her surrounded by the same people who had accosted Mr Jones:

Note the way they mistook him for Labour MP David Lammy. Was it because they are both of Afro-Caribbean descent?

Mr Goddard, it seems, followed up these incidents by crowing about them on the social media:

The displays against Ms Soubry and Mr Jones, attracted widespread denunciation from both members of the public and the political classes.

Aislinn M-D, a doctor, tweeted: “Now im no fan of Soubry but the accusation of being a ‘Nazi’ seems to be one of the most flippantly overused and totally disconnected insult from reality. It disgracefully undermines what the Nazis actually did and makes those using it demonstrate total ignorance of history.”

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon stated, “This is appalling – as is footage today of Owen Jones facing a similar experience. We all have a duty to stand against this kind of behaviour. Robust debate is the hallmark of any democracy – but so too is decency, civility and respect for those holding different opinions.”

So why weren’t the perpetrators arrested?

“Citizen of Everywhere”, responding to a similar question from the Mail opinion hack Dan Hodges (with whom, for once, I found myself in agreement), suggested: “They’re trying to provoke an overreaction from the police so they can paint themselves as victims fighting the good fight against an oppressive regime. It’s usually better to mock them than arrest them, but I agree that changes when they cross the line into individual harassment.”

Nick Church also suggested: “The MPs who have legitimized this level of racism and xenophobia and allowed it to become mainstream should be utterly ashamed.”

Sadly, it seems Parliamentarians were only interested in protecting their own when the issue was raised as a point of order in the House of Commons.

Tory Nick Boles asked Speaker John Bercow, “Will you consult the Serjeant at Arms to see whether the Metropolitan police are doing everything they can to protect the public’s right to protest but also to ensure that Members are able to go about their business in total safety?”

Here’s the answer: “The House authorities are not technically responsible for the safety of Members off the estate—that is and remains a matter for the Metropolitan police—but naturally, I take this issue very seriously and so, I am sure, do the police, who have been made well aware of our concerns.

“Reflecting and reinforcing what the hon. Gentleman said about peaceful protest, let me say this. Peaceful protest is a vital democratic freedom, but so is the right of elected Members to go about their business without being threatened or abused, and that includes access to and from the media stands in Abingdon Green. I say no more than that I am concerned at this stage about what seems to be a pattern of protests targeted in particular—I do not say exclusively—at women. Female Members and, I am advised, in a number of cases, female journalists, have been subjected to aggressive protest and what many would regard as harassment.”

It took a further intervention from Labour MP Pat McFadden, asking Mr Bercow “to do everything possible to ensure that journalists and broadcasters can do their job and that Members of this House are free to speak their minds” before the Speaker included all members of the press, including Mr Jones, in his considerations.

Following on from this exchange, more than 50 MPs wrote to Metropolitan police commissioner Cressida Dick, demanding stronger action to protect people who work in Westminster from aggressive far-right protesters.

The letter stated: “After months of peaceful and calm protests by groups representing a range of political views on Brexit, an ugly element of individuals with strong far right and extreme right connections – which your officers are well aware of – have increasingly engaged in intimidatory and potentially criminal acts targeting Members of Parliament, journalists, activists and members of the public.

“We understand there are ongoing investigations but there appears to be an ongoing lack of coordination in the response from the police and appropriate authorities including with Westminster borough policing – and despite clear assurances this would be dealt with following incidents before Christmas – there have been a number of further serious and well publicised incidents today.

“It is… utterly unacceptable for members of parliament, journalists, activists and members of the public to be subject to abuse, intimidation and threatening behaviour and indeed potentially serious offences while they go about their work.”

Would they have taken this step if only Mr Jones had been targeted? I have doubts about that.

He is a divisive figure, and often cannot count on other members of the media for support in matters such as this. Consider his clash with BBC Radio 5 Live presenter Tony Livesay. Mr Jones tweeted: “I went on earlier and the presenter said that by describing these fascists as “knuckle-dragging Tommy Robinson supporters” I was comparable to them. This is what we are dealing with in the British media.”

Mr Livesay responded: “Did I equate it @OwenJones84 ? Or did I say some people might say you’re not elevating the debate.”

In return, Mr Jones stated: “There is no debate to be elevated with fascists screaming abuse. This is beyond a joke.”

It is. I had intended to present an example of the abuse tweeted to Mr Jones by someone using the handle “MidNightLion1”, threatening extreme violence. It has been deleted, but it read: “You will get smashed one day Owen. Someone will beat the life out of you and it will be brilliant to see.”

Mr Jones responded: “Whatever happens to me, we crushed fascism before and we’ll crush fascism all over again.”

“Whatever happens to me”? Nobody should have to contemplate the possibility of serious harm coming to them, simply for expressing opinions – which, in contrast with those of the so-called yellow vest protesters, do not threaten harm to anybody.

As Grace Petrie tweeted: “It is gravely strange that not three years ago an MP was murdered in an act of far-right terrorism and it had no meaningful effect on this country’s discourse.”

That MP was Jo Cox. Her widower Brendan added: “The problem isn’t (just) extremists like this but mainstream commentators who spur them on with talk of traitors, enemies & betrayal. We should be able to debate difficult issues without making out the other side is evil.”

I hope I am not overstepping the mark if I include politicians among the “mainstream commentators who spur them on”, because, as “Red ’til I’m Dead” points out…

Yet when they start threatening people, the Establishment ranks rally around the Tory MP, while the lefty journalist is left to contemplate the possibility of serious physical harm.

Does that seem acceptable to you?

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Netanyahu’s Israel is victimising Jews who don’t support his apartheid regime

Victimised: Simone Zimmerman.

In the words of Jewdas: “The irony of Israel recently crowning itself as the ‘Jewish Nation-State’ at the same time as it is turning away increasing numbers of Jews due to their political views should not be lost on anyone.”

American Jews have good reason to be afraid. Recent interrogations, harassment, and deportation of left-wing Jewish American activists over their political beliefs and activities have ushered in a new political moment in the relationship between Israel and diaspora Jewish communities.

No longer is Jewish identity enough to protect American activists from the reach of the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency. Jewish privilege is no longer enough to guarantee entry into the Jewish state should one’s ideology or political views contradict those of the Israeli government.

When Simone Zimmerman and Abby Kirschbaum were detained and interrogated on their way back from a weekend in Sinai, the Shin Bet and border authority interrogators were almost exclusively interested in why the two wanted to work with Palestinians. They wanted to know about their politics.

A week earlier, when Israeli-American author Moriel Zecher-Rothman was held by the Shin Bet at the airport, an agent warned him against going down a “slippery slope” of anti-occupation activism and demanded he provide intelligence on fellow left-wing activists.

Source: In Israel, American Jews can kiss their privilege goodbye | +972 Magazine

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DWP routinely harasses claimants. Isn’t it time we demanded change from this culture of abuse?

Stuart Chester and his mother Debbie McKenzie, with one of the DWP’s forms [Image: The National].

I could write a story every day about DWP harassment of individual claimants, and still leave thousands of people unrepresented.

It is only a week since I wrote about the way the DWP hassled 18-year-old David Brown into suicide by threatening to take away his Jobseekers’ Allowance.

The DWP said it would examine the circumstances that led to the young man’s death, implying that they were extraordinary – but today I am reporting similar behaviour against a young man in Scotland – who, fortunately, has his mother to look after his interests:

A severely disabled young man who is unable to talk, read or write and needs round-the-clock care has been targeted yet again by the Department of Work and Pensions because of Tory government changes to disability benefits.

Last year The National revealed how Stuart Chester, who has Down’s syndrome, epilepsy and autism and is unable to feed or wash himself, was sent a 20-page work capability assessment form to fill in to assess his fitness for work and whether he deserves his Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) benefits.

His mother Debbie McKenzie, 51, said receiving the form had caused her “undue stress” and after filling in the form last August she was told he would have DLA for life because his condition was never going to change.

Now the DWP has dropped another bombshell and sent Stuart a 42-page form to fill in to prove he is severely disabled and entitled to the the new PIP (Personal Independence Payment) that is replacing the DLA.

(Source: Hounded by the DWP: Mother yet again forced to prove her son is severely disabled (From The National))

To the best of my knowledge, Down’s Syndrom, epilepsy and autism are congenital conditions, that is, they are integral parts of Stuart Chester – as opposed to being diseases or conditions that may come and go.

So, what did the DWP think could possibly have changed about them in the last year?

Not only that, but after mother Debbie McKenzie filled out the new form – with all the further stress it entailed – included contact details of Stuart’s social workers and doctors and made it clear that the DWP could use all the details on the previous form… she received notice that it wasn’t the DWP’s job to gather evidence from medical professionals.

Why request those people’s details on the form, then?

The comment from a DWP spokesperson contradicted much of the behaviour we have seen in this story. “It’s really important that we get all the information to ensure people get the right support,” we are told.

Why give claimants this idiotic runaround, then?

“There is support available for claimants who need help filling out the form” – but this is never volunteered; people have to demand it, and this is hard to do when you don’t know it exists.

Furthermore, all the guidance from people who genuinely want to help claimants says the last thing anyone should do is seek help from the DWP in filling out one of its forms. This is a sure route to rejection of a claim.

We are left with Ms McKenzie’s comment: “Maybe the DWP are hoping it is so difficult for people to fill in the forms they just won’t bother.”

That is the conclusion many of us formed, several years ago. It is bizarre that the message still has not filtered through to the general public.

But the main issue is that this is another case of DWP harassment against a claimant, completely separate from the David Brown case and many miles away.

It proves that the harassment of claimants is systemic; it is DWP policy, and the intention is to do harm.

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A campaigner falls. Friends asked to remember Lotte Ryan

Those of you with an interest in such matters will know that another campaigner against DWP injustice has passed on.

How many of you are thinking to yourselves, "She doesn't LOOK ill"?

How many of you are thinking to yourselves, “She doesn’t LOOK ill”?

Charlotte Ryan – Lotte to her friends – was just 37 years of age when she died last week (February 23). She had an incurable version of cancer, brain stem glioma.

At the time of her death, the Department for Work and Pensions was trying to force her to take part in the Work Programme, despite the fact that she was in the Support Group for Employment and Support Allowance.

In a letter dated December 9, 2014, the local DWP Work Programme Provider – Prospects – notified her that she was expected to participate. The letter stated: “As part of your participation in the Work Programme, you have agreed to take part in work experience on a voluntary basis to help you gain work skills and experience.”

Writing just three days later, she stated: “I have terminal cancer, my prognosis is 0-3 years and I was diagnosed in March 2014 with my brain stem glioma. In April 2014 I was placed in the support group* for 3 years and I have gone from being able-bodied to hopelessly disabled. I have many neurological deficits including diploplia, dyspraxia, dysarthria and dysphagia. To save you googling, this means that I have double vision and am going blind, I’m very clumsy and most days I drop everything I pick up, my speech is failing and one day I won’t be able to communicate verbally at all and I have such difficulty swallowing that I now have a feeding tube.

“I cannot leave the house alone and I’m at risk of choking and need 24 hour care. They speak of me going into residential care, but they hope to keep me in my own home for as long as possible. The trouble is degenerative, nothing will get better, only worse, the cancer can’t be cured.

HOW SICK DOES A PERSON HAVE TO BE BEFORE THE HARASSMENT STOPS?”

Further information, including a copy of the letter, is available on the kittysjones blog.

This writer did not know Charlotte Ryan and this blog cannot, therefore, eulogise her.

But this blog can point out that her passage from this world would have been much easier without constant harassment by an inhumane government to take part in activities that were far beyond her abilities – or lose the benefits that were her lifeline.

Too many people believe that it is acceptable for the DWP – and the Coalition government – to treat the terminally ill in this way.

Perhaps they should read Lotte’s story.

If they won’t understand until they have to experience this treatment themselves, then it will be too late.

* The support group is supposed to be for people who the Department of Work and Pensions consider to have such severe health problems that there is no likelihood of their being able to undertake work or work-related activities.

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Tax credit debt collection is a double-edged attack on the poor

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There’s more than a little of the piscine about the fact that our Conservative-led has set debt collection agencies onto poor families who have been overpaid tax credit due to errors made by HM Revenue and Customs.

Firstly, the move undermines the principle behind the tax credit system – that it is there to ensure that poorly-paid families may still enjoy a reasonable living standard. Tax credits are paid on an estimate of a person’s – or family’s – income over a tax year and the last Labour government, knowing that small variances could cause problems for Britain’s poorest, set a wide buffer of £25,000 before households had to pay anything back.

By cutting this buffer back to £5,000, the Conservatives have turned this safety net into a trap. Suddenly the tiniest overpayment can push households into a debt spiral, because their low incomes mean it is impossible to pay back what the government has arbitrarily decided they now owe.

And the sharks are circling. Instead of collecting the debt on its own behalf, HMRC has sold it on to around a dozen debt collection agencies who are harassing the families involved with constant telephone calls, mobile phone messages and letters to their homes.

In total, HMRC made 215,144 referrals to debt collectors in 2013-14. Of the working families involved, 118,000 earned less than £5,000 per year.

This takes us to our second area of concern. Remember how the Department for Work and Pensions has been encouraging people – particularly the disabled – to declare themselves as self-employed in order to avoid the hassle and harassment that now go hand in hand with any benefit claim? You know – the refusal of benefits based on arbitrary ‘descriptors’ that were originally devised by a criminal insurance company as a means to minimise payouts, and the constant threat of sanctions that would cut off access to benefits for up to three years unless claimants manage to clear increasingly difficult obstacles.

And do you remember how the DWP reported earlier this year that more than 3,000 people who were subjected to the government’s benefit cap have now found work? This blog suggested at the time that many of them may have been encouraged to declare themselves self-employed in order to escape the hardship that the cap would cause them.

Both of these circumstances are likely to lead to a verdict of overpayment by HMRC, as the self-employment reported by these people is likely to be fictional, or to provide less than required by the rules – either in terms of hours worked or income earned.

Suddenly their debt is sold to a collection agency and they are suffering government-sponsored harassment, alarm and distress (which is in fact illegal) far beyond anything they received from the DWP; debt collection agencies are not part of the government and, as Dame Anne Begg pointed out in the Independent article on this subject, “The tactics they use to collect the debt are not tactics a government should use.”

Maybe not. So why employ such tactics?

Let’s move on to our third, and final, worry. By setting sharks on the hundreds of thousands of minnows caught in the government’s trawler-net (that was formerly a safety net – and I apologise for the mixed metaphor), the Tory-led administration is creating a handy distraction from the huge, bloated, offshore-banking whales who donate heavily into Conservative Party funds and who are therefore never likely to be pursued for the billions of pounds in unpaid taxes that they owe.

The government has promised to clamp down on tax evasion and avoidance, but ministers would have to be out of their minds to attack the bankers and businesspeople who pay for their bread and butter.

George Osborne suffered huge – and entirely justified – derision last year when HMRC published a list of its top 10 tax dodgers, which revealed that public enemy number one was a hairdresser from Liverpool who had failed to pay a total of £17,000.

It seems likely that the Conservatives have decided that future announcements will involve the reclamation of far larger amounts, and from far more people…

Innocent people who were either cheated by Tory-instigated changes to the system or by Tory-instigated misleading benefit advice.

Meanwhile the guilty parties continue to go unhindered. Their only payouts will continue to be made to – who was it again?

Oh yes…

To the Conservative Party.

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Jobseekers told to do more to find (non-existent) work

Esther McVile: The employment minister, who claims adamantly that changes to housing benefit do not constitute a 'bedroom tax', is pictured complaining about a so-called 'tunnel tax' in her own constituency in a blatant display of double standards.

Esther McVile: The employment minister, who claims adamantly that changes to housing benefit do not constitute a ‘bedroom tax’, is pictured complaining about a so-called ‘tunnel tax’ in her own constituency in a blatant display of double standards.

WARNING: This article has been edited using the ‘Guide to DWP euphemisms’ published by Richard Hutton, and with inspiration from it.

New rules coming into force at the end of the month mean jobseekers will have to do more to find work – even though there are currently five of them for every job available – the Department for Work and Pensions has announced.

Simply ‘signing-on’ for benefits will be a thing of the past under the draconian and repressive new rules.

Employment Minister and double-standards queen Esther McVey has hailed the new rules as undermining the range of support available, which helps diminish aspects of the social security system so that it no longer protects anybody from being left impoverished – in this case by making sure people cannot start claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) by just signing-on without first humbling themselves before the Tory-led government.

She said: “With the economy growing, unemployment falling and record numbers of people in work, now is the time to start expecting more of shirkers if they want to claim benefits. It’s only right that we should push people who are unemployed into such a depth of poverty that even ‘in-work’ poverty is a step-up.

“This is about taking support away from people and undermining the range of support available to them so they can hit rock bottom faster. In return, we will give people as much harassment as possible, to make them stop scrounging or face sanctions, because we know from employers that we have to break people’s spirit before they’ll work for a really low wage.”

To prepare for their first interview with a Jobcentre Plus adviser, people looking for work will be told they will not even be able to sign as unemployed until they have prepared a CV, set up an email address – even though they might not have a computer on which to use it – and registering with the government’s discredited jobs website Universal Jobmatch, which will expose them to identity thieves and exploiters looking for sex workers. This change will make it possible to exploit people as soon as they start their JSA claim.

People who don’t tow the line will receive more harassment from their Jobcentre Plus adviser – weekly rather than fortnightly – to ensure they can be cleared off the books via sanctions if it proves impossible to push them into poverty work.

All new JSA claimants will also now have a quarterly review with their adviser, who will try to find a reason to impose sanctions and get them off the books.

These new measures are being introduced as figures show the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance fell by over 363,000 on the year, the largest annual fall since 1998. This shows that the system of sanctions, putting people on Workfare to hide the fact that they are unemployed, and asking them to pretend that they are self-employed in order to fraudulently claim tax credits instead, is working.

The government is committed to sanctions and the vast majority of people are bullied off JSA quickly – more than 75 per cent of people end their claim within six months. Every working day Jobcentre Plus advisers shout at 98,000 interviews jobseekers and there are a range of ploys available to push them off the system. These include:

• Hiding them on the Work Programme
• Referring them for ‘training’ by companies that provide the minimum help available, take the money and run
• Putting people on pointless ‘work experience’ that won’t lead to a job but will clear them off the claimant count
• Fooling people with ‘incentives’ that mean nothing
• Getting people to pretend they are self-employed.

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Liars exposed! Why has nobody been sacked yet?

Questions to answer: Maria Miller, the minister for evasion, cannot be expected to respond. She obstructed Parliament's inquiry into her expenses claims and her eventual apology for her misdeeds lasted just 32 seconds.

Questions to answer: Maria Miller, the minister for evasion, cannot be expected to respond. She obstructed Parliament’s inquiry into her expenses claims and her eventual apology for her misdeeds lasted just 32 seconds.

This blog asked yesterday whether Downing Street communications chief Craig Oliver was a liar, an incompetent, or both after he denied that government officers threatened the Daily Telegraph with tougher press regulation if it published its investigation into Maria Miller’s expenses.

It turns out he was both.

The Telegraph has now published a recording of the conversation between reporter Holly Watt and Miller’s advisor Joanna Hindley, on which its allegations are based. There can be no doubt that the reporter did indeed have Leveson held over her (corruptly); there can be little doubt that this was done at the request of Miller; and there can be no doubt at all that Mr Oliver knew about it.

So – a liar. And incompetent, because he had obviously discounted the possibility that the Telegraph reporter might have recorded the exchange.

It appears that Mr Oliver still has his job, despite having become the second person to disgrace it out of only two appointed by David Cameron. We cannot comment on Joanna Hindley.

The bullying, possibly blackmailing fraudster Maria Miller – who also persecuted thousands of disabled people while she was minister for equalities, also remains part of the government.

This speaks volumes about the lack of judgement displayed by ‘comedy’ Prime Minister David Cameron.

The longer he delays removing his rotten minister, her rotten advisor and his rotten media chief, the more rotten he and his government will become – in the opinion of the public.

And for this Prime Minister, public opinion is everything.

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The Telegraph must stand firm against Downing Street bullies

Self-satisfied: Downing street communications chief Craig Oliver. But does he have any reason to look so pleased with himself?

Self-satisfied: Downing street communications chief Craig Oliver. But does he have any reason to look so pleased with himself?

Is Downing Street director of communications Craig Oliver a liar, or incompetent? Or is he an incompetent liar?

These are the questions we should ask after he denied threatening the Daily Telegraph with tougher press regulation if it published details of its investigation into Maria Miller’s expenses.

The Telegraph reported that Miller’s parents were living in her taxpayer-funded south London second home, implying that she had fraudulently claimed expenses for it, in December 2012 – and immediately followed its report with another, alleging that government advisers tried to bully the paper out of running the story.

The Telegraph claimed that Miller’s special advisor, Joanna Hindley, told a reporter that the Editor of the Telegraph was involved in meetings with the Prime Minister and the Culture Secretary over implementing the recommendations made by Lord Justice Leveson, and that the reporter should discuss the issue with “people a little higher up your organisation”.

The report continued: “Miss Hindley immediately contacted the Telegraph’s head of public affairs to raise concerns about the story. The news group decided to delay publication in order to ensure the facts were correct.

“Having carried out further checks, the newspaper concluded that the story was accurate and decided to publish the article at the first opportunity, meaning it appeared on the day same-sex marriage was debated in the Commons.” The government then suggested that the Telegraph was using the story to “overshadow” the announcement.

“Miss Hindley also accused the Telegraph of harassing Mrs Miller’s father, John Lewis,” the story continued

“In fact, reporters had a brief conversation with Mr Lewis in order to establish how long he had lived with Mrs Miller. Over the course of the conversation, Mr Lewis said he enjoyed reading the Telegraph.”

These claims are clearly damaging to Miss Hindley’s reputation as she is shown to be threatening, on Miller’s behalf, to use government powers to clamp down on reports in the Telegraph, which would be an abuse of the system.

Today’s report on the BBC News website has former Telegraph editor Tony Gallagher claiming that Mr Oliver contacted him to “lean” on the newspaper and “prevent it going about its legitimate business”.

He said: “She has done the free press a great favour,” he said.

“Maria Miller provides a cast-iron example of why politicians should have no power over the press.”

Mr Oliver denied the claim that the Telegraph was threatened. But the question remains: If this is true, why did he not take appropriate action sooner?

If he is right in his claim, then the government could have sued the Telegraph for libelling not only Miss Hindley, but also Mr Oliver andMiller herself. Why didn’t he?

The Telegraph provided its own version of events immediately after they took place, but Mr Oliver has waited 16 months to offer us his side of the story. It’s too late now.

We can only conclude that he is either lying about what happened, incompetent in not having taken the appropriate action at the appropriate time, or an incompetent liar because – given then evidence available to us – it was those acting for the government who misbehaved.

And the bullying, possibly blackmailing fraudster is still in her job. Why?

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