He’s all right, Jack: Keir Starmer has an enormous salary as an MP and leader of the Opposition, plus £10,000 extra that MPs voted for themselves in order to work from home – all at the taxpayers’ expense. He doesn’t care that the same taxpayers who funded him have been left with nothing because of the coronavirus lockdown that his Parliament imposed.
Well done, Keir Starmer! What a socialist you are!
Labour’s new leader has said it would be inappropriate to impose a Universal Basic Income (UBI) benefit system during the coronavirus crisis.
This means people who have been deprived of their income by the Tories imposed lockdown are condemned to live without any money until the lockdown ends – possibly for some time after, while the nation picks up the pieces.
Mr Starmer seems entirely relaxed about this u-turn – he had previously demanded a national “income guarantee scheme” to fight the economic impact of Covid-19 and still says the benefit system isn’t fit for purpose.
His spokesperson has said that Labour will “be making arguments for a new settlement that is more simple, more effective and offers proper protection to people” after the lockdown ends – when it is no good to the people who need it most now.
Last month, Labour MP Alex Sobel led a cross-party group of more than 170 MPs and lords in demanding a move to UBI.
Spain has introduced UBI – and did so while that country was facing its highest level of coronavirus infection and deaths.
Labour’s election manifesto last year – which Starmer obviously supported – included plans to pilot UBI across the UK, with areas including Liverpool and Sheffield bidding to test the scheme.
And the new Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Jonathan Reynolds, is also said to be a supporter of the system.
But Starmer has said no.
Starmer is happy for thousands of people to fall through the huge gaps in the government’s current system.
Starmer is happy for them to starve.
Perhaps that’s what we should call him from now on: Starmer the starver.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
Theresa May said ‘a line should be drawn under the issue’ after utterly failing to oversee a proper investigation [Image: AFP/Getty].
It is not appropriate for the UK’s prime minister to say that Mark Garnier has been cleared of inappropriate behaviour.
Theresa May ordered that the Cabinet Office should investigate whether Mr Garnier breached the Ministerial Code.
But it is known that his behaviour towards Caroline Edmondson took place before he became a minister – the Ministerial Code was not relevant to it and therefore the result of the investigation is pointless.
This is key point (applies in part to Green investigation). Brings both Ministerial Code and Cabinet Office into disrepute to abuse the process in this way. https://t.co/zjnrOatOjz
The result speaks volumes about Mrs May’s attitude to sexual inappropriateness (let’s call it) by members of her government: She doesn’t care.
In fact, where it does happen, all she wants to do is hide it.
At a time when sexual indiscretions by the powerful against those over whom they have power are being brought into the open – such as the claims against powerful men in Hollywood by the women whose careers they controlled – this is a shocking way for Theresa May to behave.
Remember, she is alleged to have done her best to squash inquiries into historical child sex abuses, especially by members of Parliament.
Looking at her behaviour in this case, can anyone doubt that her actions deserve closer scrutiny?
A Conservative minister who admitted asking his secretary to buy sex toys has been cleared after a Cabinet Office investigation and will keep his job.
There was no evidence that Mark Garnier, the International Trade minister, had “breached the expected standards of behaviour”, the inquiry decided.
Mr Garnier faced the probe after his former secretary, Caroline Edmondson, told the Mail on Sunday he had given her money to buy two vibrators at a Soho sex shop.
On another occasion, he was alleged to have told her – in a bar, in front of witnesses – “You are going nowhere, sugar tits.”
Confusingly, Mr Garnier was investigated for a possible breach of the Ministerial Code of Conduct – although the incidents took place in 2010, before he became a government minister.
UPDATE 15:44 OCTOBER 31: Owen Jones has just clarified that it is the Sun story about Michael Fallon that is not on the sex spreadsheet. That document is now available publicly, if you know where to look, so you can find out for yourself whether Mr Fallon is included for other reasons.
Michael Fallon: If he’s looking worried, think how the other Tory MPs on the ‘Pestminster’ sex spreadsheet feel – not to mention the prime minister who had weekly briefings on their activities and did nothing to stop them.
It seems This Writer was mistaken in speculating that Michael Fallon was a particular person mentioned on the spreadsheet of 36 Tory MPs and their sexual indiscretions – Owen Jones, Aaron Bastani and Ash Sarkar (among others) have seen the unredacted list and he isn’t on it.
Some of us live a long way from the Westminster bubble and aren’t afforded these privileges.
This information has led to speculation on the reason for Mr Fallon’s confession – on a very narrow spectrum, as it seems obvious:
Mr Fallon’s confession was a distraction from the far more serious crimes committed by other people who are named on the spreadsheet.
I’ve read the uncensored spreadsheet of allegations concerning Tory MPs and it is deeply disturbing.
Theresa May: The minority prime minister has serious questions to answer [Image: Carl Court/Getty Images].
Michael Fallon has owned up to touching Julia Hartley-Brewer inappropriately, marking him out as possibly the first sex pest on the Tory spreadsheet to be identified.
Perhaps he thought there was no point trying to deny it – after all, we already know he had to be peeled off a female Russian agent while drunk, and also that he referred to a female journalist as a “slut” – to her face, not recognising who she was.
To This Writer, it suggests that he is the person described as “perpetually intoxicated and very inappropriate with women” on the spreadsheet.
I may be wrong! In that case, I stand ready to be amazed at the name of someone whose behaviour is even worse.
The recipient of Mr Fallon’s unwanted attention was Julia Hartley-Brewer, a very strong supporter of the Conservative Party who has played down the incident:
Note that her tweet clearly identifies Mr Fallon as the man the Sunday Times claimed “placed his hand on the thigh of a senior female journalist in full view of his frontbench colleagues at a party conference dinner some years ago and announced: ‘God, I love those tits.'”
But Ms Hartley-Brewer stated: “I believe it is absurd and wrong to treat workplace banter and flirting – and even misjudged sexual overtures – between consenting adults as being morally equivalent to serious sexual harassment or assault.
“It demeans genuine victims of real offences… I have not been a victim and I don’t wish to take part in what I believe has now become a Westminster witch hunt.”
Others may have a strong opinion about that!
Perhaps Ms Hartley-Brewer was able to put off a sex pest, but others – in a similar situation – may not be able to do so. Perhaps she did not consider that when she wrote her tweet.
As a man writing about this subject, perhaps I should pause and make it clear that I have spent a considerable time thinking about what may be deemed appropriate behaviour, and what may not.
I would agree that workplace banter should not be equated with serious sexual harassment or assault – but what do you call workplace banter? I would imagine it would be joking about another person – perhaps about their sexual nature, life or abilities – in a way that the other person does not find offensive (or at least, they can get their own back), and I would strongly suggest that it would be with at least one other person present and aware of the behaviour in question. Even then, there is a danger that it could cross the line. Workplace banter should not be a sexual advance, I think.
Flirting should be obvious as such, and it really shouldn’t be possible for anyone to infer threat from it. I have enjoyed flirting with other people very much, and would be absolutely desolate if any of the people with whom I enjoyed those moments considered them anything more than humorous and complimentary. The key is that both people should be at their ease, I think.
As for misjudged sexual overtures – would inappropriate touching come under this heading, or is it going too far? I think the answer to that question is found in the overall demeanour of the person making the overture. If they’re aggressive in any way, then perhaps it’s a little more serious than a misjudgement.
In the case of Mr Fallon, we have examples of the language he is alleged to have used – and it seems entirely inappropriate to me. If I was trying to attract a woman sexually (and I admit it has been a while, as Mrs Mike and I are quite happy in that department, thank you very much), then I would not make a habit of using words like “slut”, or phrases like “God I love those tits”!
Also mentioned by Ms Hartley-Brewer are the words “witch hunt”. Let’s consider that aspect of this story.
The Independent has run an article claiming: “May knows she can’t sort this out: she’s the figurehead of a boys’ club whose male members would scream ‘Witch hunt!’ if she ever dared to try”.
The piece imagines that Mrs May takes a dim view of various potential shenanigans, before making the very serious point that bemusement at the behaviour of her errant MPs is “no excuse to tolerate abuse”.
It continues: “While the case of Mark Garnier, minister for ‘Brexit trade’ … has no criminal implications [he described his behaviour as “good humoured high jinks], it is less hilarious than our more Neanderthal MPs will think. In the hours since the Mail on Sunday broke the story, the gallant Garnier has admitted addressing his secretary as “sugar tits”, and sending her into a Soho shop to buy a brace of choicest vibrators on his behalf.
“Even Chuckles Gove, the Rumpelstiltskin of sexual wit, couldn’t spin that into comedy gold. And whether or not this is a relatively trivial abuse of the power imbalance between male boss and female employee, it simply isn’t funny.
“With Stephen Crabb … it is worse. Having quit his leadership bid when outed for sexting, Crabb now fesses up to having sent “explicit messages” to a woman of 19 he interviewed for a job in 2013 when a minister for Wales. What he calls ‘foolish’, I call ‘an abuse of power for which the Speaker should drag him from the Commons by the penis, promising to remove it with rusty garden secateurs if he ever tries to return’.”
And the article concludes, in agreement with This Writer, that the problem lies in a whips’ office that covers up MPs’ behaviour – especially if it is criminal – in order to use it for political gain.
Theresa May, who receives weekly reports on these “Ins and Outs”, is a part of this process.
The Independent piece states – again rightly – that “wherever there is strong evidence of a sexual offence, moral or criminal or both, it should be removed from the whips’ safe and exposed to the cleansing light of day… But I don’t imagine May will do that. She can’t afford to, as the figurehead of a boys’ club whose male members would scream “Witch hunt!” if she did, and the hostage of a tottering Government that could fall at any time for any number of reasons.”
I think the Independent is far too lenient on Mrs May. She has serious questions of her own to answer – starting with how long she has known about the sexual harassment allegations against her MPs and cabinet ministers – of whom we are told at least six are implicated, among 21 serving ministers, ex-Cabinet ministers and a permanent private secretary.
Cathy Newman from @Channel4News says she has a copy of the unredacted list of 36 Tory MPs. Many are Ministers. No wonder PM looked ill.
A spokesperson for Theresa May today repeatedly refused to say when the prime minister first heard about dozens of allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate sexual behaviour made against Conservative MPs and serving cabinet ministers.
May’s spokesman told Business Insider that May acted once the allegations were “made public” but was unable to say when the prime minister was first informed about them.
So she was quite happy to let these people carry on with their nasty pastimes while the wider public remained unaware – and is only acting, half-heartedly, now that the revelations are starting to fly. Now that they – and she – have been found out.
This fits the “boys’ club”/”witch hunt” scenario, certainly – but then there’s the allegation that her advisors, silenced a survivor of historic child sexual abuse in order to keep Mrs May’s way clear to Downing Street during the 2016 Conservative leadership selection process (we can’t call it an election).
Sharon Evans claimed that the contracts panel members were made to sign by the Home Office were used to stop them from speaking openly about “very serious allegations about very public figures” – allegations which she says were taken back to the inquiry leaders, but ‘nothing was being done about” them. She said:
I suggested that we wrote to Theresa May, who was the Home Secretary, to express our concerns. At the end of the day I was taken to one side and it was made clear to me – this is what I was told – that Theresa May was going to be Prime Minister, that this inquiry was going to be part of this, and that if I didn’t toe the line and do as I was told, if I tried to get information out I would be discredited by her advisors.
If true, why would Theresa May do this?
As the evidence mounts, it seems reasonable to conclude that the rot is not limited to “workplace banter”, “flirting”, or even “inappropriate sexual advances”, but goes much further and involves people in positions of enormous power – possibly even the person with the most power.
That is why it now seems increasingly possible that this so-called “Pestminster” crisis could topple the minority Conservative government.
Not only has the Conservative Party lost its credibility as a responsible party of government but serious questions – indeed, the most serious questions – must now be asked of that party’s, and the government’s leader. Now – not at her convenience.
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:
Here are four ways to be sure you’re among the first to know what’s going on.
1) Register with us by clicking on ‘Subscribe’ (in the left margin). You can then receive notifications of every new article that is posted here.
The inhumanity of Iain Duncan Smith: He is pictured laughing at the plight of a rape victim who, under his ‘reforms’, has to pay bedroom tax for the panic room she needs in order to be safe from her abusive, rapist ex-partner.
Iain Duncan Smith must resign after he disgraced himself yet again, with a leaflet containing fabricated comments from non-existent DWP benefit claimants, according to a leading Opposition MP.
Debbie Abrahams, who has been a leading light in the fight to force the Conservative Government to reveal the true number of people who have died following Duncan Smith’s “welfare reforms”, said the Work and Pensions secretary’s behaviour was a “disgrace” and his position was untenable.
But don’t take This Writer’s word for it – here’s Ms Abrahams herself (all boldings mine):
“As a member of the work and pensions select committee, I have called for Iain Duncan Smith to resign following revelations that his department created a leaflet about sanctions containing made-up quotes attributed to non-existent benefit claimants.
“I instigated an inquiry into the use of sanctions by the work and pensions committee, which reported in March this year, and I believe after being caught out so publicly it must be impossible for Iain Duncan Smith to continue as work and pensions secretary and he should do the honourable thing and resign.
“This is yet another example of not only his incompetence, but what can only be described as very shady and unscrupulous behaviour not befitting a Member of Parliament let alone a Secretary of State leading a Government Department.
“Once again, Duncan Smith is caught trying to paint a particular picture of social security claimants. He is a disgrace and should do the honourable thing and resign. When his own department have to resort to this sort of tactic, in a desperate attempt to make it appear as though the system is working, no-one can be left believing that his draconian social security sanctions regime is fit for purpose.
“Only Mr Duncan Smith seems to believe that unfair and inappropriate use of sanctions on vulnerable social security claimants is acceptable. And now he’s shown that he thinks it’s acceptable for his department to produce literature that is fabricated in a desperate attempt to make people believe his sanctions regime is working fairly.
“It beggars belief that David Cameron can, in the light of this embarrassing debacle, continue to back Mr Duncan Smith as a credible work and pensions secretary when he has presided over such a catalogue of errors.
“In the last few weeks alone, the independent Social Security Advisory Committee has produced a report which says that the Government’s sanctions regime should be given ‘an urgent and robust review’.
“And following the Government’s appeal against the Information Commissioner’s ruling compelling the Government to publish figures on the number of people on Incapacity Benefit and Employment and Support Allowance who have died between November 2011 and May 2014, including those found fit for work, a Tribunal has now been set for November 10to hear why Iain Duncan Smith has refused to publish these data.
“I will never forget the fact that not only did Iain Duncan Smith defy the Information Commissioner’s ruling to provide these data on deaths of people on social security, but that he stated to me, personally, in Parliament, it did not exist. But then, just two days later, the Prime Minister said to me, again in Parliament, the data would be published, only for the DWP’s appeal documents to defy him as well, stating publication was not in the public interest!
“The select committee inquiry which I instigated reported in March and the mountain of evidence that was put before the select committee by religious organisations, academics and charities, not to mention those actually affected by inappropriate sanctions themselves, pointed overwhelmingly to a system that is inhumane and deliberately created to skew unemployment figures.
“The sad truth is that Iain Duncan Smith is doing everything he can to cover up the mess he has created.
“This is a mess that is ruining innocent people’s lives and, as the evidence suggests, even killing some.
“The only credible reason he’s going to such lengths to hang on to his job is because he knows he has so much to hide.”
A petition on the Government website, calling for a vote of “no confidence” in Iain Duncan Smith and his removal from office, may be signed here.
Margaret Hodge: A principled stand against corruption of politics by corporate influence.
This is something that broke while Yr Obdt Srvt was still recovering from a recent illness, but is still worth covering because Labour really needs to understand the danger of association.
Margaret Hodge, Labour’s chair of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, broke ranks to warn the Shadow Cabinet against accepting – shall we call it – “help” from accounting firms like PricewaterhouseCoopers on Friday. She said it was “inappropriate” and she was right to do so.
It’s the political equivalent of accepting “help” from the Mafia – you end up in their pocket, owing them favours.
According to the BBC, Labour MPs including Ed Balls (Shadow Chancellor) and Chukka Umunna (Shadow Business Secretary), along with Rachel Reeves (Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary) have received more than £540,000 in research assistance from the firm in the past 18 months alone.
PwC is one of the ‘Big Four’ accountancy firms – the others are Ernst & Young, KPMG and Deloitte – who also advise the Conservative-run Treasury on tax policy. It should not be beyond anybody’s wit to see there’s a clear conflict of interest if the firm is advising both Labour and the Tories on tax policy.
Labour’s official line is that “PwC have provided long standing support to all three major political parties on a non-party basis, as happened for the Conservatives and Lib Dems before the last election. Given the complexity of government and that opposition parties do not have significant access to civil servants, the support provided by organisations such as these helps ensure that there is better scrutiny of government policy.”
PwC said its staff provided “limited and fully disclosed technical support to the main political parties” but added: “We do not develop policy on their behalf.” Staff on secondment might make “observations on the improvement of legislation or proposed legislation”, the firm added in a statement.
Isn’t this exactly the problem? Staff make “observations”, and before we know it, all our political parties are carrying out PwC policy instead of their own.
If Labour was serious about getting the advice it needed, then it would be employing advisers who have nothing to do with any of the other political parties. That’s the way it has to be. Anything else courts betrayal of the public.
Then there would be no opportunity for these firms to create embarrassment when their activities “promoting tax avoidance” on an industrial scale were revealed by the Public Accounts Committee
PwC said it disagreed with the Public Accounts Committee report (it would, wouldn’t it?) and denied claims by Mrs Hodge that the firm had misled her committee when its executives gave evidence in January 2013. Who do you believe?
Mrs Hodge herself told BBC Radio 4’s The World At One: “You have to be very, very careful when you’re in opposition whom you take money from”.
This is why Vox Political supports the removal of all private company advisors from government. The private sector has no place in decisions about public services.
The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.