Tag Archives: intimidate

Intimidation forces cancellation of film screening about Labour’s ‘anti-Semitism’ WitchHunt (Part One of Two)

Bully: Luciana Berger is no longer a member of the Labour Party, but she intimidated it into forcing the cancellation of a film screening in order to silence dissent against her story about anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.

Labour’s latest bid to smear and discredit people who speak against fake “anti-Semitism” accusations against party members is a disgrace that flies against a basic rule of British justice.

Of course the usual fellow-travellers in the mainstream media have kicked up a song and dance about it so you’ll know that Labour MP Chris Williamson was attacked yesterday (February 26) by his former party colleague Luciana Berger after it was revealed his office had booked a room in the House of Commons to host a screening of the film WitchHunt, about the accusations of anti-Semitism against Jackie Walker, who is herself Jewish but whose Labour Party membership has been suspended for a specious reason (you can read about that – and see why the allegation is false – here).

Ms Berger tweeted:

“With a ‘guest’ who hasn’t yet had their antisemitism disciplinary hearing”?

So she’s been accused, but no verdict against her has been recorded?

That means only one thing – as I made clear myself in a tweeted response to Ms Berger:

That’s right – Ms Berger was trying to silence an innocent woman, preventing her from stating her side of the story.

Now, why would she want to do that – especially when one realises that she hasn’t even seen the film herself?

It seems she succeeded, too – the screening has now been cancelled as a result of the adverse publicity Ms Berger created, even though it has nothing to do with her; she isn’t a member of the Labour Party any more.

It had been arranged with Mr Williamson’s office by Jewish Voice for Labour. In a press release, the organisation stated:

Intimidation forces cancellation of WitchHunt film in Parliament

“A documentary film exploring the background to accusations of antisemitism in the Labour Party, due to be screened in the House of Commons on Monday March 4, has been cancelled after an outcry from people who have not seen it.

“Within hours of an invitation being sent to Labour MPs and journalists, the Jewish News  reported calls for expulsion from the Labour Party of Chris Williamson MP whose office had booked the room to show the 62-minute documentary, titled WitchHunt. Williamson had no other role in organising the event.

“Neve Gordon, Professor of international law at Queen Mary University of London, who was due to take part in a panel discussion after the screening next Monday, said: ‘This is outrageous. It certainly confirms the significance of the movie.’

“The documentary has been acclaimed by leading filmmakers Mike Leigh and Peter Kosminsky, both of whom are Jewish, and by Israeli historian Professor Avi Shlaim (Oxford University). His statement, which topped the invitation, says: ‘Anyone who speaks or writes in the public domain about antisemitism and the current state of the Labour Party has a duty to see this film and address the issues it raises.’

“The film is due for release online on March 17th following a tour with director Jon Pullman to a number of cities including Nottingham, Brighton, Edinburgh and Derry.

“Pullman said: ‘We hope that people concerned with the struggle against racism and antisemitism take the time to see the film, and then make their own mind up. To have it publicly denounced as ‘offensive’ by people who have not seen it raises question about what is happening to democracy in this country.'”

The testimonial from Mr Kosminsky is particularly pertinent as it states: “[WitchHunt] packs a powerful punch, telling a story we just aren’t hearing at the moment.”

The reason for that should be obvious from Ms Berger’s tweet.

She got exactly what she deserved, though. Let’s take a look at some of the comments her tweet, and my response, attracted:

https://twitter.com/tadpoleno3/status/1100435771243356160

Here’s the trailer for WitchHunt:

“A message to anyone who dissents: ‘We can get you.'”

Chilling.

And that is exactly what we have seen in this heavy-handed intervention from Ms Berger.

AFTERWORD: It should be noted that Jewish News reported the screening of WitchHunt was due to take place shortly before the Jewish Labour Movement was due to debate its future with the Labour Party, with “some members pushing for disaffiliation”. Let us hope that this happens and Labour separates itself from this poisonous organisation which is far more interested in supporting the Zionist project in Israel than in standing up for Jewish people in the UK who may disagree with its political stance. Consider its own mission statements (as reported here) for evidence.

Ms Walker will face her Labour Party disciplinary hearing on March 26. Here’s a tweet about it that you might find interesting:

https://twitter.com/AnnieHailey8/status/1100447690679300096


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‘Top’ libel lawyer ridiculed all over Twitter after threatening tweets

Presumably Mark Lewis thought it was a good idea to approach people like me with messages on Twitter threatening us with court action.

He was wrong. But I bet he makes the same mistake again.

On the evening of February 20, I got home from a hospital trip with Mrs Mike and her mum to be greeted with the following messages:

That last comment was a good idea because I had no intention of responding at all.

What kind of lawyer contacts his intended victims on Twitter?

The wrong kind, apparently. I took a bit of legal advice, which may be summed up in this short Twitter (again) thread by Shaun Lawson:

So there were no grounds for legal action in the original behaviour of the people being contacted (I had written my own article, followed with a piece about the kind of people who support Ms Riley and Ms Oberman – based on their own tweets, so it’s still not actionable) – and Mr Lewis was apparently trying to trap us and provoke us into something actionable.

No thanks!

I noticed activity on my Twitter feed had picked up and checked it out. Some of it was from the usual stormtroopers* of the anti-Semitism witch-hunt, but it very quickly became clear that these were being ignored.

Instead, other Twitter users were responding to the threat against me by reporting Mr Lewis to both Twitter itself and the Solicitors Regulation Authority, which had already fined him £2,500 for a previous transgression:

https://twitter.com/j43kfr05t/status/1098319656027328517

Some pointed out that Mr Lewis was apparently trying to bully minors:

https://twitter.com/LabLeftVoice/status/1098344677563133953

After a while, the ridicule took on a festive tone. People were really enjoying taking down this alleged expert:

https://twitter.com/JOShUAkANE013/status/1098347604059045888

https://twitter.com/rdudley55/status/1098647231505276931

Perhaps the most embarrassing part of this is that some in the mainstream media have taken all this seriously.

The Guardian reported: “The Countdown presenter Rachel Riley and former EastEnders actor Tracy Ann Oberman are preparing legal action against up to 70 individuals for tweets relating to their campaign against antisemitism in the Labour party, according to the pair’s lawyer.

“Mark Lewis, who made his name representing phone-hacking victims, said he is contacting people who have either posted allegedly libellous claims about his clients or repeatedly sent them large numbers of messages, which he says is tantamount to harassment.”

Wrong way round. If I recall correctly, they were doing the harassing.

“At the end of last year he and his partner moved to Israel, citing the level of antisemitism in Europe.”

https://twitter.com/saeed6ali/status/1098562045820186624

Perhaps this is a serious attempt at using the law to bully perfectly decent people, but it is clear that the people behind it cannot be taken seriously.

I’ll take it seriously when I see a reason to do so. Right now, I don’t.

*If anyone wants to claim anti-Semitism because mention of “stormtroopers” calls the Nazi variety to mind, be assured that no such comparison is possible. Nazi stormtroopers were successful in the horrible things they did – at least, during the first few years they were around.


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Gobby Brextremist Goddard arrested again – for threatening photographer

Gobby James Goddard: His tendency to let his mouth run away with him keeps getting him arrested.

Remember James Goddard, the pro-Brexit fanatic who got arrested after intimidating incidents involving Anna Soubry, Owen Jones and others on College Green, Westminster, last month?

No?

Well, it’s hardly surprising.

It’s even less surprising that he has been arrested again – this time for threatening a press photographer.

It seems a recording exists of him telling Joel Goodman, “I swear to god when there’s no police around here, I’m going to take your head off your shoulders, and all the football lads will as well, your card is marked … Trust me, next time you’re in London mate, you’re finished.”

The full details are available on Zelo Street.

As intimidation attempts go, it’s not very convincing. As a propagandist, this guy doesn’t hold a candle to Lord Haw Haw. Or even Lord Snooty.

Perhaps we might call him Lord Snotty?

Or perhaps we should refuse to give him and his ilk the time of day.


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Tory double standards: Abuse them and the police are called – but they can abuse anyone freely

Pointing the finger: A Conservative MP shouts at Commons Speaker John Bercow during discussion of the Grieve Amendment.

Conservative MPs have been at their abusive worst in Parliament – heckling Speaker John Bercow over his decision to allow a vote on the so-called Grieve Amendment, and hurling insults at Jeremy Corbyn, ironically as he called for a “safe space” from such behaviour during Prime Minister’s Questions.

The hypocrisy comes into sharp focus when one recalls that only two days before, Conservative MPs wrote to Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick, demanding stronger policing of the area outside the Palace of Westminster to prevent abuse of the kind directed at Conservative MP Anna Soubry by (right-wing pro-Brexit) protesters on Monday.

Note that I put “right wing pro-Brexit” in parentheses because there seems to be a concerted effort to airbrush this fact out of the record, along with the abuse of left-wing journalist Owen Jones by the same people. We’ll come to that shortly.

First, let’s consider yesterday’s Parliamentary antics, starting with the Grieve Amendment. Tory backbencher and former Attorney General Dominic Grieve had proposed an amendment to legislation that gives the government 21 days to say what happens next if its Brexit deal is voted down, and a further seven sitting days (days in which Parliament is in session) in which to hold a vote.

The amendment reduces the time allowed before a statement is made to just three days. It isn’t binding, but it would be extremely damaging to Theresa May if she failed to do so.

MPs objected because they claimed the original legislation was unamendable. Mr Bercow held a different view:

Let’s see if I can dig out some examples of the behaviour he had to endure. Here’s Arj Singh:

That’s mild. Try this:

Mr Clarke’s reference was to the right-wingers who abused Ms Soubry and Mr Jones, and hints as to the attitudes he saw being expressed around him.

Then we had the hypocrisy of the Leader of the House, Andrea Leadsom:

Here’s the icing on this particularly rotten cake – the moment when Tory MP Adam Holloway accused Mr Bercow of trying to sabotage Brexit, claiming as evidence that the Speaker has a pro-Remain sticker on his car. The slapdown was brilliant:

https://twitter.com/SidUnite/status/1083002551493189637

It seems clear that the behaviour of these Conservatives lowered the tone of debate in the Commons and arguably harmed the reputation of Parliament itself – although some would say that this cannot happen as they have already damaged it irreparably:

The arguments over the Amendment were – sadly – only a sequel to a similar unseemly display during Prime Minister’s Questions.

Both Mrs May and Mr Corbyn mentioned the intimidation of Ms Soubry and Mr Jones on Monday. The prime minister said politicians and the media should be able to go about their work without harassment and intimidation.

Sadly, her backbenchers did not pay any attention to her (perhaps cementing our opinion that she is no leader) and poured abuse at Mr Corbyn while he agreed with her. He said: “We also have to be clear that intimidation is wrong outside this building as it is wrong in any other aspect of life in this country, and we have to create a safe space for political debate.”

By this point, the level of heckling had reached a point beyond which he could not continue, so he pointed it out: “You see what I mean, Mr Speaker; I am calling for a safe space for political debate.”

The Tory perpetrators may have enjoyed themselves but the public drew the appropriate conclusions, as the following comments bear out:

https://twitter.com/Wirral_In_It/status/1082976660322955264

And of course, that is what they have been trying to do.

Possibly worse than the habitually abusive behaviour of Tory MPs is the apparent attempt to pretend that the only person suffering abuse on College Green on Monday was Ms Soubry.

I myself was so surprised to see her mentioned on the BBC’s lunchtime Politics Live show – and not Owen Jones, who is a frequent panellist there – that I actually raised the matter with editor Rob Burley. Here’s the dialogue:

What do you think of that?

More concerning still were the efforts to mitigate the effect of Mr Burley’s choice – which was to play up the effect on Ms Soubry and play down that on Mr Jones – by members of the public. Here’s one such comment:

Owen Jones himself put that comment in its place, in a response to information from Channel 4 News reporter Michael Crick that – as with the BBC – attempted to excise the abuse of Mr Jones from the record:

Left-wing members of the public have made it clear that they are not going to accept this kind of misreporting from the mainstream media:

If you are confused as to the reason television news reporters have tried to play down the targeting of people who represent the Left by people who are for all intents and purposes fascists, I refer you to this perceptive comment by Mr Jones, that makes it clear that the mainstream media have legitimised it:

The attitudes we have seen are sickening: Right-wing MPs have shown they are happy to abuse others before TV cameras in the Palace of Westminster, while decrying the same behaviour against their own by members of the public who were filmed on mobile phones, as their cronies in the mass media do their best to make it seem that they are the victims – when in fact they have stoked the extreme attitudes that lead to such abuse, threatening behaviour and, ultimately, violence.

These are our elected representatives but if this is how they conduct themselves, they do not represent me. We must demand better.

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Disability benefit assessors hired ‘security guard’ to beat up claimant’s husband

This is scandalous on several levels. A government-employed benefit assessment company hired a man to assault the husband of a benefit claimant and then denied responsibility for the injuries that resulted.

Firstly, Independent Assessment Services (you know this company as Atos), hired a “security guard” to remove Keith Langham from an interview about his wife Karen’s PIP assessment after an incident at a previous meeting.

Secondly, this man refused to identify himself, making it possible for his employers to disassociate themselves from him. But then, what would he be doing there, if he wasn’t working for them?

Thirdly, this man committed grievous bodily harm on the 62-year-old grandfather for no readily-apparent reason.

Fourthly, the employers of the “security guard” did disassociate themselves from the offender and allowed him to take the fall for doing exactly what he was hired to do.

Fifthly, why is this matter only being reported now – more than a year after the incident?

Finally, how many other benefit claimants are being greeted with violence?

Atos – or whatever the company is calling itself these days – needs to take responsibility for its decisions.

Chris Bryan would not have been at the Carlisle assessment centre if Atos had not invited him.

Staff there approved of and supported his attack on Mr Langham, and tried to hide the incident on the day – one of the nurses is said to have told Mr Bryan to “get them out through the fire doors”.

Karen Langham had been told by an Atos representative that people like her needed to learn to help themselves, at her previous appointment. It seems clear that Mr Langham had intervened in that interview and it would be worth knowing what happened then.

But all the company had to say afterwards was that Mr Bryan had been removed from duty by its delivery partner and an investigation was taking place.

This is not good enough. It is another example of the persecution of people with disabilities by the Conservative government and its contractors.

Here are details of the story, by the Daily Mirror:

“Keith Langham was left with blood pouring from a head wound after helping wife Karen, 61, with the interview for her Personal Independence Payments. She was told that people like her ‘needed to learn to help themselves’ amid ugly scenes at her first appointment.

“At the second interview, Keith, who is 5ft 5in tall and 10-and-a-half stone, had to be taken to hospital after he was grabbed by powerfully-built six footer Chris Bryan, then aged 30.

“Semi-retired Keith, a services manager said: “He was a very large guy, I would say he was about 6ft 4in tall and 16st, heavily built, shaven headed. He said he was security and we had to leave the building. But he was not wearing any ID.

““I asked who he worked for and he told me he did not have to tell me and we had to leave. We were heading towards the reception when one of the nurses said ‘get them out through the fire doors’.”

“The couple, of Haltwhistle, Northumberland, now realise the second appointment had been ‘flagged’ by the assessors due to problems with their staff at the first interview, and the security guard was brought in as a result.

“Northumbria Police were called to the incident on Aug 18, 2017. Keith was taken to the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle, where he received seven stitches in the head wound.

“Independent Assessment Services stressed their delivery partner managing the site had immediately removed him from duty and a ‘thorough investigation was conducted’.”

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Vox Political applauds Sturgeon’s stance on ‘cybernats’

Nicola Sturgeon: Why is she pictured with David Cameron so often?

Nicola Sturgeon: Why is she pictured with David Cameron so often?

I was going to write a letter to Nicola Sturgeon.

It would have been in response to the sustained abuse this blog has received from supporters of the Scottish National Party who have now been labelled ‘cybernats’ – the abusive trolls who lurk around Facebook, Twitter and the Blogosphere, waiting for someone to write anything remotely critical of their party and then launching vicious verbal attacks on them – occasionally supported with threats of physical violence.

Here’s a mild example of one such outburst, with the profanities ‘starred’ out. Here’s a fun game to play at home – see if you can replace the stars with letters creating words that aren’t profanities! It might be harder than you think:

“Aye but you are a c***, and yes I do support SNP but that’s not why I said yur a c*** c***, I called you a c*** because you are sticking your English-Welsh whatever the f** yi are nose into Scotland’s business and trying to cause trouble by talking utter f***** s****, not only are you a c*** yur a f**** i****. I am sure you are a government backed troll trying to get reactions and start arguments in a sad attempt to discredit the SNP. The internet was full of gov backed c*** trolls like you in the lead up to the referendum. Now f** off f** face no one is listening tae yur p*** C***.”

It was meant to be threatening but was unintentionally hilarious due to the silly pidgin Scots these people try to adopt in their writing and the suggestion that This Writer – of all people – is working for the Conservative Government!

I got as far as writing the letter and printing it out, with this and other examples to support my call for her to take action, but it stayed on my printer tray for nearly a month because other matters took precedence: The government appealed against the ruling on my ‘DWP deaths’ FoI request; Mrs Mike’s mother came to visit; I co-organised a community/music festival… you know how one thing drives out another sometimes.

Then I read this in the Torygraph: “Nicola Sturgeon has pledged to tackle the so-called ‘cybernats’ over online abuse, saying SNP members who ‘cross the line’ will face disciplinary action.

“The Scottish First Minister made clear it is ‘not acceptable’ for people to use social media to ‘threaten violence, or hurl vile abuse, or seek to silence the voice of others through intimidation’.”

The article quotes her as follows: “I am making clear today that the SNP will take steps to warn those whose behaviour falls short of the standards we expect.

“We will tell them to raise their standards of debate, to stick to issues not personalities, and to ensure robust and passionate debate takes precedence over abuse and intemperate language.

“I am also making clear that where appropriate we will take disciplinary action. In the SNP we have a code of conduct and online guidance for our members.

“Where that code is broken, members should have no doubt that we will use our disciplinary processes.”

This is praiseworthy. For once, Vox Political fully supports Ms Sturgeon’s policy.

She could go further, though.

The example of abuse quoted above is from a person whose relationship to the SNP – beyond “yes I do support” – is not known. She has not promised action to curb non-members of her party.

Is it all right, then, for people who support the SNP but are not members to continue abusing the rest of us?

Perhaps I will send that letter after all.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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Dear DWP: Don’t waste police time – they don’t investigate uncommitted crimes

150215sanctioncentreDWP employees at the Killingworth Job Centre in North Tyneside need a reminder in basic law, namely: Police only investigate crimes that have actually been committed.

It’s a fairly obvious legal caveat that seems to have passed over the heads of whoever set the police onto one claimant who warned he might have to resort to shoplifting to survive, after staff at that Job Centre sanctioned him off of Jobseekers’ Allowance.

However, it seems the police there are no better; they paid the claimant concerned a visit at his home in order to ascertain from him that he was not in fact planning to commit a crime. Perhaps a better word would be “intimidate”.

Here’s the full story, courtesy of Unemployed in Tyne and Wear.

Of course, we don’t know what the claimant did wrong – if anything – to be sanctioned off-benefit in the first place, but this kind of heavy-handedness – from the DWP and the police – helps nobody.

In this claimant’s case, it seems he has family who can help him out – but what if he didn’t?

We know about others who, once sanctioned, went to their deaths in one way or another.

Is this story telling us that the police are helping the DWP victimise people fatally?

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Bullying in Parliament over Universal Credit?

The "bully": Perhaps Parliament is merely giving Iain Duncan 'RTU' Smith enough rope to hang himself, as the saying goes - but when considering the huge list of his misdemeanours, one has to ask how much rope he needs.

The “bully”: Perhaps Parliament is merely giving Iain Duncan ‘RTU’ Smith enough rope to hang himself, as the saying goes – but when considering the huge list of his misdemeanours, one has to ask how much rope he needs.

Sometimes information becomes public that boggles the mind. It seems Iain Duncan Smith bullied members of the Public Accounts Committee into blaming his permanent secretary, Robert Devereaux, for the failings of Universal Credit.

That’s right – it is alleged that the man who is afraid to reveal how many people have died because of his policies, whose mandatory work schemes have proved less successful than doing nothing, who changed the law after his rules for Workfare were found to be illegal – only for the Supreme Court to rule they were still illegal, whose departmental annual report is now nearly eight months late, who lied to Parliament and the public about the success of his benefit cap and who is afraid to face the Commons Work and Pensions committee to account for himself, has resorted to intimidation because he doesn’t want to take the blame for his latest – or rather, longest-running, catastrophe.

Let’s not even get started on the Bedroom Tax!

The allegation appears in a BBC News report, under a headline that claims David Cameron is supporting the unrepentant Work and Pensions secretary. Does this mean Cameron approves of such ungentlemanly behaviour as bullying? The report states that “Downing Street said the work and pensions secretary was ‘doing exactly the right thing’ with the new scheme.”

Smith has denied claims he tried to “lean on” members of the committee to place the blame on Mr Devereaux, but Labour sources on the committee told BBC News there was a “concerted” effort by Tory members to shift the blame, with extra meetings and discussions over amendments “pointing the finger” at the permanent secretary.

But David Cameron’s official spokesman was vague in his support from the Secretary-in-a-State. Asked if it was proper for a secretary of state to approach members of a select committee ahead of publication of a report, in the way alleged of …Smith, he said: “There are procedures that are in place for the relationship between departments and select committees and that is something the Department for Work and Pensions have been very clear about.”

Not exactly a ringing endorsement, is it?

Labour’s shadow leader of the Commons, Angela Eagle, has demanded an urgent statement from …Smith: “This morning we learn of a wholly improper attempt to lean on members of an independent select committee of this House by Mr Duncan Smith and his parliamentary team to try to put the blame on the permanent secretary.”

She was wrong.

We don’t need a statement. We need disciplinary procedures.

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This benefits bully harasses the powerless but runs away from criticism

131101IDS1

Several months ago this blog accused Iain Duncan Smith of being a liar and a coward because, not only had he fabricated statistics on the number of people leaving benefits because of his new benefit cap, but he had also weaseled his way out of an appearance before the Commons Work and Pensions Committee to account for this behaviour.

The very next day, we had to apologise (to readers) and publish a correction saying that the man we call ‘Returned To Unit’ would be attending a follow-up meeting in September, at which the 100,000-signature petition calling him to account for the benefit cap lies, organised by Jayne Linney and Debbie Sayers, would also be presented to MPs.

Apparently the meeting was being timed to coincide with publication of the DWP’s annual report for 2012-13.

Now it is November, and we have still had no meeting with RTU. Nor have we seen the annual report, which is now almost eight months late. Meanwhile the calamities at the DWP have been mounting up.

The latest appears in a Guardian report published yesterday, about the ongoing disaster that is Universal Credit. You may remember, Dear Reader, that the Department for Work and Pensions has admitted it had to write off £34 million that had been spent on the scheme; it subsequently emerged that the total amount to be written off might actually be as high as £161 million.

The Guardian article appears to confirm this, adding £120 million to the £34 already written off if the DWP follows one of two possible plans to take the nightmarish scheme forward.

This would restart Universal Credit from scratch, creating a system based on the Internet – and reducing the need for Job Centre staff – and tends to confirm the suggestion that staff are seen as a liability in the government’s plan to cut back on benefit payments; despite being told to bully, harass and intimidate everyone who darkens their doors, they have an annoying inclination to help people claim the benefits due to them.

The other plan would attempt to salvage the existing system, and is understood to be favoured by the Secretary-in-a-State. The drawback is that it could lead to an even greater waste of taxpayers’ money (not that this has ever been a consideration for Mr… Smith in the past. He’ll waste millions like water while depriving people of the pennies they need to survive).

Universal Credit aims to merge six major benefits and tax credits into one, restricting eligibility for the new benefit in order to cut down on payouts. It relies on the government creating a computer programme that can synchronise systems run by HM Revenue and Customs, the DWP itself, and employers. So far, this has proved impossible and a planned rollout in April was restricted to just one Job Centre, where staff handled only the simplest claims and worked them out on paper. Later revelations showed that the system as currently devised has no way of weeding out fraudulent claims.

A leaked risk assessment says the web-based scheme is “unproven… at this scale”, and that it would not be possible to roll out the new system “within the preferred timescale”. Smith has continually maintained that it will be delivered on time and on budget but, as concerns continue to be raised by senior civil servants that systems are not working as expected and there are too many design flaws, it seems likely this is a career-ending claim.

Is this why he hasn’t deigned to account for himself before the Work and Pensions Committee?

Earlier this week, the government lost its appeal against a court ruling that its regulations for Workfare and other mandatory work activity schemes were illegal. Public Interest Lawyers, who handled the case against the government, has taken the view that anyone who fell foul of the regulations may now take action to get their money back. But the matter is complicated by the fact that the government unwisely passed a retrospective law to legalise the rules, in a bid to stop the 228,000 benefit claimants it had sanctioned after they refused to work for their benefits from demanding the money that ministers had – in effect – stolen from them. Iain Duncan Smith is the man behind this mess.

Is this why he hasn’t deigned to account for himself before the committee?

We have yet to learn why this man felt justified in claiming 8,000 – and then 12,000 – people had left benefits because of the £26,000 cap he introduced in April (he claimed it is equal to average family income but in fact it is £5,000 and change short of that amount as he failed to consider benefits that such families could draw). Information from polling company Ipsos Mori showed that the real number of people who had dropped their claims after hearing of the scheme was more likely to be 450 – just nine per cent of the figure he originally quoted.

Is this why he hasn’t put a meeting with the committee in his diary?

Perhaps we should not be surprised, though – it seems that RTU has never had a decent grip on the way his department works. For example, he allowed George Osborne to cancel Disability Living Allowance for one-fifth of claimants in 2010, claiming that the benefit had been “spiralling” out of control because it had 3.1 million claimants – triple the number since it was introduced in 1992. Smith said the rise was “inexplicable” but in fact the explanation is simplicity itself, as The Guardian‘s Polly Toynbee pointed out just two days ago:

“DLA is only paid to those of working age, but when they retire they keep it, so as more people since 1992 move into retirement, numbers rise fast. There has been no change in numbers with physical conditions, despite a larger population; back injuries have declined with the decline of heavy industry. There has been a real growth in numbers with learning disabilities: more premature babies survive but with disabilities, while those with Down’s syndrome no longer die young. More people with mental illness claim DLA now, following changes in case law: there has been no increase in mental illness, with 7% of the population seriously ill enough to be receiving treatment, yet only 1% claim DLA. Psychosis is the commonest DLA diagnosis, hardly a trivial condition. This pattern of disability mirrors the rest of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, with nothing exceptional here.”

In other words, from the moment he took over this hugely important government department, with its huge – and controversial – budget, Iain Duncan Smith had about as much understanding of its workings as a child.

It seems Sir John Major was exactly right when he expressed fears about the DWP Secretary’s ability last week, claiming his genius “has not been proven”.

Is this why we’ve seen neither hide nor … head of the Secretary of State?

Finally, Dear Reader, you will be aware that Vox Political submitted a Freedom of Information request to the DWP, asking for up-to-date statistics on the number of Employment and Support Allowance claimants who have died during a claim or while appealing against a decision about a claim – and that the request was dismissed on the indefensible grounds that it was “vexatious”. This was not good enough so the matter went to the Information Commissioner’s office and, according to an email received this week, will soon be brought to a conclusion.

Is this why Iain Duncan Smith is hiding?

Perhaps it’s time to drag him out of his bolt-hole and force some answers out of him.

Jayne (Linney), in her blog, has called on people who use Twitter to start tweeting demands for Smith to come forward, using the hashtags #whereisIDS and #DWPLateReview. This is good, and those of you who do so are welcome to use any of the information in this article as ammunition in such a campaign.

There is nothing to stop anyone writing to the press – local or national – to ask what is going on and why benefit claimants are being left in suspense about the future of their claims. People have to work out how they will pay their bills, and the continued uncertainty caused by Mr… Smith’s catalogue of calamities is causing problems up and down the country.

A short message to your MP might help stir the Secretary of State out of his slumber, also.

In fact, let’s use all the tools at our disposal to expose this man for what he is – just as this blog stated in July and in May: A liar and a coward who has committed contempt of Parliament and should be expelled – not just from public office, but from public life altogether.

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Doubletalking DWP’s new assault on the sick

Their doctors will say you're not sick: The DWP's new policy is another sign of disrespect to PROPER health professionals across the UK; their diagnoses aren't good enough for the Department. It's bringing its own people in, to pretend more sick people are health, no doubt.

Their doctors will say you’re not sick: The DWP’s new policy is another sign of disrespect to PROPER health professionals across the UK; their diagnoses aren’t good enough for the Department. It’s bringing its own people in, to pretend more sick people are actually healthy, no doubt.

“People on sickness benefits will be required to have regular meetings with doctors, occupational health nurses and therapists to help them address their barriers to work – or face losing their benefits,” the Department for Work and Pensions announced yesterday.

The initiative was revealed under the euphemistic headline ‘Help for people on sickness benefits to address barriers to work’ and shows yet again that ministers in the DWP do not understand the meaning of the word “sick”.

“Around 3,000 people on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) who have been assessed as being able to work in the future will have regular appointments with healthcare professionals as a condition of receiving their benefit. The meetings will focus on helping claimants to move closer to being able to get a job,” the DWP press release states.

“The proposed pilot scheme will compare the help given by doctors, occupational health nurses and therapists to two other pilot schemes which will offer enhanced support from Jobcentre Plus and Work Programme providers to see which is best at helping people off sickness benefits and into work.”

This is all very well, but has it not occurred to DWP officials that perhaps a person who is off work because of illness may already be involved in meetings with healthcare professionals?

This is anecdotal evidence, I know, but Mrs Mike has attended many, many appointments with her GP, physiotherapists, osteopaths, other back specialists, nerve specialists, surgeons, she’s had MRI and CT scans, spent a week at the pain clinic in Bronllys Hospital (recently featured on a BBC documentary which notably focused on its successes and not its failures – it does have them) and is currently due to attend an appointment at the orthopaedic hospital in Gobowen.

What do DWP officials think its people can do, that these specialists – who are experts in their field – cannot?

Employment minister Mark Hoban trotted out the usual line that “we need to ensure that people who are able to work get the encouragement they need to get a job, while those who are too sick to work get real support”. What, by threatening them with losing their sole source of income? That’s not encouragement – it’s bullying; it’s threats; it’s intimidation.

“Many people on sickness benefits want to work, so it’s vitally important that we give them the right help to move into a job if they are able. The help we give people at the moment tends to focus on work-related skills, but doesn’t necessarily address health problems. But by giving people regular support from doctors, occupational health nurses and therapists we can do more to help people manage or improve their conditions.”

The thought of the DWP – an organisation that absolutely refuses, under any circumstances, to publish the number of people its policies are killing every week (or have killed already) – claiming it is trying to help people into work is laughable. The fact that it will do this by threatening to remove their benefits is serious to the point of being deadly.

The release goes on to remind us all that people in the work-related activity group of ESA recipients already have ‘work-focussed interviews’ with Job Centre Plus staff as a condition of receiving their benefit. This is true – Mrs Mike attended and, due to her interest in finding work, was passed on to a work programme provider who immediately – within one telephone conversation – told her she was not fit for any kind of work, the Atos assessment had put her in the wrong group and she must seek re-assessment with a view to going into the support group immediately.

That was in January; the DWP has been dragging its heels somewhat. I would say this demonstrates the department’s real concern for people with long-term health problems (almost as much as those nebulous death figures).

In the pilot area, the press release states, the work interview would be replaced by meetings with healthcare professionals – provided by the DWP. The length and frequency of the meetings would be flexible, depending on the individuals’ needs.

Would these healthcare professionals by contracted in from private health companies? If so, isn’t this just another ‘bung’ of taxpayers’ cash to friends of the Conservative ministers in charge of the DWP? Does anyone else sense yet another monumental, Work Programme-style waste of taxpayers’ cash on the horizon here?

“The regular discussions will focus claimants on how they can improve their view of their readiness for work by taking steps to manage their health issues,” the release claims. “They will not replace a person’s GP, but can promote health support and help a claimant to re-engage with their GP if they are struggling to adapt to their condition.” Plausible language, but let’s remember this is DWP doublespeak, so we must not expect anything of the sort.

There will be three separate pilot schemes:

  • Healthcare professional-led – mandatory engagement with health care professionals. Interestingly, this will use funding from the European Social Fund. How they managed to persuade the EU that this was a good idea defies rational explanation.
  • Jobcentre Plus – enhanced Jobcentre Plus support
  • Work Programme – enhanced support designed by Work Programme provider

The pilots will begin in November and will run until August 2016 – so, if there’s any justice, they will be terminated in May 2015 when a sensible government takes over. This depends on whether Labour can devise any reasonable ideas for Work and Pensions in the next 18 months or so, of course.

The pilots will involve people on ESA in the work related activity group who are expected to be able to return to work in 18 months or over – based on the flawed Atos work capability assessments that we all know make wrong decisions in an unacceptable number of cases.

While we’re discussing ways of getting sick people off-benefit (which is what this is about – never mind putting them back into work), I wonder whether DWP officials partaking in this scheme will also employ the “Pester Power” strategy?

I learned about this from Vox Political commenter Maria Nelson this morning. She wrote: “They partake in something called ‘Pester Power’ to bully and harass claimants… knowing it may push people over the edge.”

Apparently it is employed by staff “who bully claimants by hanging up on them and aggravating stressed, angry claimants, losing paperwork etc to create misery – sanctioning etc… Their horrid phone service is privately operated and numbers changed regular[ly] – wrong numbers given out – and it generates nice profits for that private company, and there’s supposed to be a free number for mobile callers but no-one gets told… I was so shocked [by] what I was told, I forgot to ask [for] it”.

Following on from the negative response to my Freedom of Information request about the Atos/DWP deaths, we all know that the DWP is monitoring this blog – so how about making yourselves useful? Why not come out of the undergrowth and give us some useful information about this alleged strategy?

Come to that, why not come out of the undergrowth and give us the facts about the number of people who are dying because of the fatal policies practised by your department? You do realise, don’t you, that your continued participation involves you in mass murder, don’t you? After the response to the FOI request, I see no reason to give any of you the benefit of the doubt; not only are you participating in a scheme that leads to death – it is revealed as a scheme that is intended to cause death. You don’t cover up mass deaths, with an intention to continue the policies that cause them, without intending to induce those deaths.

That’s murder. If you are an employee of the DWP involved in this process, then you are implicated. There will be trials; the dead will have justice. And, just as in Nuremberg in the 1940s, saying you were “only following orders” will not help you.

You should consider a change of career.

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