Jack Monroe: this is an old image but it’s probably the best one This Site has.
Food campaigner and writer Jack Monroe was asked to comment on the cost of living crisis by talk radio channel LBC.
She used the 10-minute (or so) slot to take aim at the Conservative politicians she (rightly, in my opinion) considers responsible.
So on the current prime minister, she said, “If Boris Johnson isn’t going to do his job, why do we pay his salary?”
Rishi Sunak, she said, could afford to take the “luxury position” of waiting to see how the crisis turns out, “because things are going to turn out fine for him.”
Kwasi Kwarteng and Nadhim Zahawi’s meeting with energy firm representatives came to nothing and was “gesture politics”.
On Tories generally, she said the only possibilities that occurred to her were that they were either benefiting directly from the crisis, incompetent, or simply didn’t care.
Meanwhile, while prices (and profits) quadruple, the poorest people – including people with disabilities – are worried that they will die.
See/hear for yourself:
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.
A commenter on the blog sent me a link to Jack Monroe’s Facebook page today. I’m probably as familiar with Jack as you are, but no more so – perhaps mainstream success gives that person more validity in some way than mine in the social media. But Phil’s “Have you seen this?” intrigued me.
The link was to a post following up on an Observer article published over the weekend, and read as follows:
“I would like to publicly apologise to the Department of Work And Pensions for an inaccurate statistic in my Observer article yesterday on the grim reality of the welfare system in what was once ‘Great’ Britain.
“In my article I stated that 2,400 people had died shortly after their Employment Support Allowance had been severed, having been (clearly wrongly) judged as Fit To Work.
“The DWP informs me that the correct figure is in fact 2,380.
“As they are so keen on accuracy, and transparency, I thought I should provide the rest of the stats.
“Between December 2011 and February 2014, 50,850 people who were claiming ESA, died.
“Of these, 7,200 had been judged as ‘able to return to work in the future’ and placed in the ‘work group’ category of ESA to undergo regular gruelling testing in order to continue to claim the pithy pittances they needed in order to stay alive. (For avoidance of doubt, humans do generally need food and shelter to survive.) Spoiler alert- THEY DIED.
“On top of these, 2,380 people who had been stripped of financial support and judged fit to work, subsequently DIED.
“Seeing the DWP are so very keen on accuracy that they send bollocking letters to my editor, I expect they will be now opening the case files of the 9,580 people in a 2 year period who DIED having been judged as ‘fit to work’ or ‘fit to work in the future’. God forbid I make 20 mistakes in the face of your 9,580.”
You can read the Observer article here. The relevant passage states: “Comply or starve. Comply and die, such were the cases, over a two-year period, of 2,400 people who died after their claim for employment and support allowance ended because they were declared ‘fit to work’ by DWP. I wrote in 2013 that my three-year-old could pass an Atos assessment. It doesn’t mean I should have sent him to stack shelves in a supermarket.”
The mention of “2,400 people” is quite clearly a rounding-up because, if you click on the link that has been inserted on that very number, you can visit the original Guardian article quoting the DWP’s response to a Freedom of Information request for the exact number of deaths.
My Freedom of Information request. And one of the reason I am angry as I type these words.
You see, there are two reasons the DWP has no cause to – as Mx Monroe describes it – “send bollocking letters to my editor”. I have already described the first.
The second is the simple fact that the information the DWP sent out on August 27, 2015 was incomplete – and therefore inaccurate. The Department has no business accusing anybody else of inaccuracy when it can’t get its own figures right.
The story of how this information became public knowledge is long and complicated but it is relevant that I had to get a ruling from the Information Commissioner in May last year, ordering the DWP to release the figures. As my request had been made on May 28, 2014, those figures should have run up to that date – but didn’t, as Jack’s post indicates.
When I wrote to the DWP, pointing out that they were now under a legal obligation to provide all the information I had requested, I received an email saying I should submit another FoI request. Ha ha. It took 15 months and the threat of litigation to get a reply to the last one – and that had been a second attempt!
I reminded them that I could take them to court and they gave me what I wanted in the first week of November last year. With that information, I was able to demonstrate that few claimants died after the DWP suspended repeat work capability assessments on ESA claimants on January 20, 2014. Alas, it seems likely that the delay had allowed the public to grow bored with the issue of sickness and disability deaths, so this went largely unreported.
So, after the DWP told the world it had provided me with all the information I had requested, it took another two months and more before my demand was actually answered.
And ministers had the cheek to criticise Mx Monroe for a slight inaccuracy.
It may interest you to know that in the period that the DWP had originally left unreported, a further 120 people died shortly after their claim was terminated, on a claim that they were ‘fit for work’.
What really gets my goat is the petulance of it.
The words that triggered the DWP’s complaint were part of a very moving article about the effect of Tory austerity cuts on benefit claimants, using information that could have been lifted from This Blog – connected to the release of Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake. In the paragraphs immediately following, Mx Monroe wrote very powerfully about the film’s effect:
“I went to see the press screening of I, Daniel Blake in early September. I sat in a roomful of journalists as the two central characters lit tealights in a tray, under flowerpots, to take the chill off a room left freezing by shoddy windows and cut-off utilities, as I did and wrote about back in 2013.
“I sat and watched with a heavy heart as she stole sanitary products from the supermarket, remembering going without, or folding up a clean sock, or balling up toilet tissue on the heaviest days. I barely left the house anyway, so there was nobody to really notice.
“I sat and watched as she stole food. As she queued for the first time around the block at a food bank. As she gorged cold baked beans from a can with her fingers, having not eaten a thing for days. The young boy turning to his mother, asking her where her dinner was. She replies that she isn’t hungry, but she wasn’t hungry the night before, or the night before that, and soon he’ll realise that Mummy just isn’t hungry any more.
“The woman beside me, a stranger, squeezed my forearm as I choked on guttural, involuntary sobs. I’m sorry, I whispered, sloping out to punch a wall in the corridor and cry into the blinding, unaware streets of west London. I looked mad. I am mad.
“How can anyone sleep at night, knowing what we know? How does the world turn, and children going hungry to bed is a guilt alleviated by a sympathetic nod towards the cardboard food collection box in the supermarket? If you’re not angry, as Loach said, what kind of person are you?”
Apparently the only part of it making the officials at the DWP angry was a slight statistical inaccuracy. What kind of people are they?
I gave up chasing the DWP for a while after I finally won my FoI battle. I was fatigued; I needed a break. The figures were making increasingly less sense.
And now, nearly a year later, nothing has changed. The DWP is still treating people like stock to be culled, and protesting that it is being treated unfairly whenever anybody points that out. In its doublespeak world, I, Daniel Blake is nothing but a work of fiction, whereas those of us with any experience of the DWP at all know that its facts are accurate. I have been away too long.
I am not Daniel Blake. But it’s time I stood up for everybody like him – again.
If the 2015 general election should have any theme at all, it is POVERTY.
Think about it; poverty has been the defining force in all our lives since David Cameron squelched into office with all his slimy mates and his treacherous new allies in the Liberal Democrats.
They used the threat of it to get more seats than the Labour Party (even though Labour did not overspend, and Labour’s methods of dealing with the ballooning national deficit – created by bankers – were far more effective than Tory austerity) and gain office in the first place.
They imposed it on the nation with their austerity cuts to investment, public services, and benefits.
Then they used it to divide us against ourselves, by pointing at the ‘have nots’ and calling them ugly words like ‘scrounger’, or ‘layabout’, or saying that ‘a life on benefits has become their lifestyle’. None of this is true. On Question Time last night (it is Friday as this is written), Michael Heseltine trotted out Iain Duncan Smith’s tired line about three generations of people on benefits as if it had any credibility (it hasn’t).
Meanwhile, the number of people in poverty is increasing rapidly. Today, 13 million people in the UK are in poverty – that’s nearly a quarter of the population. In 2010-11, the year the Coalition came into office, 61,468 people were using food-banks. By 2013-14, this had risen by nearly 1,500 per cent to 913,138 people.
The Coalition government consider this to be a great success and David Cameron wants you to re-elect him so he can inflict even more cuts and poverty on you, your family and your friends.
Perhaps you don’t know what poverty is like. Perhaps you’ve never experienced it.
Jack Monroe has. She gave evidence to the all-party parliamentary group inquiry into hunger and food bank use in the UK. Here’s part of how she describes it:
“Poverty took me from being the girl who was always the lead in the school play, to a woman who can’t open her own front door. I suffer panic attacks, anxiety attacks, seemingly random triggers that immobilise me, render me useless but simultaneously unable to explain myself. I’ve cancelled talks and events, crushed into a corner of my sofa, sobbing until my guts ache at the drop of a final demand letter from a years-old debt landing on my door mat. One doorbell ringing unexpectedly last April sent me scuttling to hide at the top of my landing, peering fearfully down the hallway until whoever it was went away. I often miss interviews, because a certain broadcasting corporation calls from unknown or withheld numbers, and I just can’t bring myself to answer them. I’ve lost count of the number of people who tell me my poverty wasn’t real enough, or long enough, or whatever their particular factors deem to be poor enough – and all I can say to them, is that I can’t even open my own front door.”
Is that what you want for yourself? For your family (what kind of person would want that for their family)? For your friends (what kind of person would want that for their friends)?
Of course you don’t. But if you go out on May 7 and vote Conservative, you’ll be condemning somebody to it – or to the kind of death that we’ve seen too often over the last few years. Remember the man who was crushed in a waste compactor while he was looking for food in litter bins? Remember the man who froze to death on the street after being sanctioned off-benefit? How many have hanged themselves because the couldn’t see any future for themselves?
Here’s some advice. If you’re thinking of voting Conservative on May 7, do the whole country a favour:
Let’s have some solidarity for Jack Monroe, who writes: Over the last few days I’ve been inundated with tweets, comments and emails from anonymous accounts, all with the same thinly veiled message. Here’s a couple of the charmers…
Bizarre that this should all start up again, I thought, especially on Twitter, where my profile clearly states:
…So if someone has gone to the trouble of looking me up on Twitter (or Instagram or any other social media) to send targeted, deliberate and frankly unimaginative abuse, how could they fail to notice that I HAVE A JOB.
Visit Jack’s site to read the rest of her civilised takedown of these creeps. VP‘s view on this is that it’s another cack-handed attempt to shame or silence a notable Leftie with a large degree of influence. The last paragraph is well worth quoting, though:
So to the idiot who says I’m a poor role model to my kids, they see me get up in the morning and sharpen my knives and pack my bag. They see me writing at the table. They can identify my books in the supermarket or book shop. They ask most days what I’ve done at work. They know I work. They know I have a job. They know what I do. And now, trolls and strangers that feel compelled to abuse people they don’t know from the safety of anonymous internet accounts, so do you.
Pure genius from Dr Eoin Clarke: “I agree with Albert. E = #CameronMustGo.”
Yes, it’s true. #BBCtrending has finally deigned to notice what – according to its own report – six million of us have already realised: That a hashtag campaign on Twitter called #CameronMustGo is proving very popular.
To put that in context – and because Yr Obdt Srvt has just been debating the extent of the campaign’s reach, on Twitter, with a right-wing naysayer – this means around one-third of the UK’s Twitter users are likely to have seen at least one #CameronMustGo tweet.
The naysayer was quick to point out that not all those reading the tweets will have been sympathisers – “many will be laughing at it like I am” – and this is true. But the intention was not to sway public opinion so far that it forces his resignation, according to one of the people who started it, and who is quoted saying as much in the article.
(You see, we know that Cameron is so insensitive he wouldn’t resign just because large numbers of people demanded it! We don’t even know what he’ll do when he loses next year’s election!)
“‘It’s not about forcing Cameron to resign,’ Gail, 33, told BBC Trending… Rather, she says, it’s about enabling people to talk about their views and experiences. ‘We know a lot of people who are frustrated with politics and they feel they don’t have a voice. Social media is our space.'”
The article went on to claim that “people using the slogan have also been targeting The Guardian and BBC Trending to try to get media coverage for the trend – and so boost its popularity further”. Oh, really?
You know by now that an Oh, really? on this site means somebody’s got it wrong again and this time it’s the BBC, which seems to have suddenly developed an over-inflated opinion of itself. The BBC was targeted after it failed to cover the huge popularity of the campaign at the appropriate time. The statistics in its own report show that #CameronMustGo doesn’t need the BBC to improve its popularity.
What a shame the report did not highlight some of the more off-colour reactions to the campaign – like the targeting of Jack Monroe over her tweet, by spiteful right-wingers who wanted to take a high-profile leftie scalp in revenge for the damage #CameronMustGo is causing them. The subject of her tweet had been well covered previously – by this very site, for one – proving that the targeting of Jack was strategic, and unwarranted.
But the article does ask a pertinent question about the campaign’s effect on politics: “So could this be the beginning of a new phase of British ‘hashtag politics’? No, according to Andrew Walker, co-founder of social media analytics company, Tweetminster. ‘I give it two weeks,’ he tells BBC Trending.”
What a shame Vox Political never kept the tweet that appeared within the first hour of the campaign, claiming it wouldn’t last more than a few hours. The Metro newsrag also suggested it was a mass whinge that wouldn’t last more than a few days. Both are being proved wrong – perhaps Mr Walker can make it a hat trick.
“He says hashtags can quickly become popular on Twitter, but it’s difficult to keep a campaign rolling, as new catchphrases are coined and catch on. And while social media is effective at influencing local politics, it’s less effective at making a big impact on national politics, where voting behaviour is hard to shift, he says, noting that 29.6% of seats have never changed party.”
Clearly Mr Walker hasn’t taken account of the fact that Cameron and the Coalition are making new mistakes all the time, and #CameronMustGo has become a convenient peg on which to hang tweets about them. So, for example, VP‘s tweet yesterday, combining it with Rachel Reeves’ speech: “#CameronMustGo because he has done nothing about Iain Duncan Smith’s #ToryWelfareWaste“.
Despite what the BBC and its stooges may say, it seems likely that this phenomenon will stay with us for a few days yet. After all, if it can beat the social media juggernaut that is I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here to the top spot, it’s got legs.
Even if it doesn’t last, its effect will echo on. There will be new campaigns, and they will try to equal or beat the impact of this one.
For those of you who aren’t in the know, Jack Monroe (she of A Girl Called Jack blog fame) has come under attack from pro-Tory Twitter users after she tweeted, as part of the #CameronMustGo drive, the following:
She really did. Let’s have a look at some of them.
Sarah Wollaston, MP for Totnes (Conservative), stated that Jack’s was “the most shameful tweet; you understand nothing about grief.” She then addressed Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian, asking if Jack’s tweet, from her personal account, reflected the values of the newspaper.
Fortunately this miserable excuse for a public representative doesn’t need a put-down from me. Here’s Nick Portch, who did it with ease by asking if Dr Wollaston was “A Conservative trying to get somebody sacked for exercising their freedom of speech?”
Nice one, Nick.
As for understanding “nothing about grief”, back to Jack herself: “And because 2 years later, I can’t open my own front door, suffer anxiety attacks, the mental scars of poverty are ruinous, #CameronMustGo.” Okay, “mental scars” might not indicate grief to you but it seems very likely that if you suffered those effects as a result of them, you’d spend a certain amount of time grieving about it.
Other criticisms were less civilised. Vernon Vega’s ran as follows [asterisks mine]: “Re the Cameron tweet…you really are a bit of a c**t aren’t you?” What a charmer. Absolutely no substance whatsoever.
Sarah Vine gave us: “No one is privatising the NHS.” We’ll examine the stupidity of this statement momentarily.
‘Angela’ tweeted: “I have no idea who you are, but you are a truly disgusting specimen. You deserve the biggest karmic kick in the face,” and Daily Referendum continued the theme with: “If Karma does exist, then you should be pretty worried right now.”
It seems likely there were worse, because Ms Monroe subsequently tweeted: “I can express my opinion on it, so can you. We disagree, debate, discuss. But death/rape threats, & threats to my son, are a crime.” If karma does exist, then it seems likely these are the people who should be worrying.
She remains unrepentant, as this shows: “Doorstepped by @MailOnline. Short statement, politely delivered, don’t regret pointing out that DC closes down debate on NHS & disability and that his experience of caring for Ivan was not comparable to experiences of others, many of whom are now victims of welfare cuts.”
The Mail subsequently – and gleefully – reported that Sainsbury’s is cutting its ties with Ms Monroe (after using her in advertising campaigns for its Value range of food for people with less money). The headline: “Sainsbury’s axes left-wing blogger for vile PM slur”.
In short, there’s been a lot of fuss over this tweet by Ms Monroe.
For Vox Political, this has been fascinating, because she posted it around 21 hours after Yr Obdt Srvt, the author of this very article, tweeted the following:
Who knows what might have happened if the Tories mentioned above had seen that, instead of Jack’s comparatively mild tweet?
Neither this blog nor its author have received any adverse comments in response to the tweet or the article that preceded it.
What does this tell us?
Perhaps it indicates that Ms Monroe was targeted, not because she suggested anything that was beyond the pale or unforgiveable, but because she is a person from the lower orders who certain people believe has ideas above her station.
Her A Girl Called Jackblog catapulted her into the public eye because it offered ideas about how to make decent meals to people struggling to feed their families on a low budget – in other words, people on benefits. She did it to chronicle her own efforts to feed herself and her son on a food budget of just £10 per week – and she started blogging in response to a local councillor who claimed that ‘druggies, drunks and single mums are ruining the High Street’. A book of recipes went straight to the top of the charts at the start of the year, and a sequel may do the same before Christmas.
She built herself up from ‘Benefit Street’ and the blogosphere to become a success – and the vested interests don’t like it. It disproves their narrative that everyone on benefits is a scrounger, a skiver and a sponger – and they need working people to think what they tell them to think in the run-up to next year’s general election.
That’s why the Tories and the trolls have gone after her; it was an opportunity to put down a lower-class upstart and stifle the facts she was broadcasting.
This writer hopes Jack Monroe can rise above the noise created by the Tories, those with vested interests, and the trolls. Their messages are meaningless. Let us all hope that for each of them there are at least a dozen of us who know her message has reached people we could not, and therefore can only offer her our gratitude and love.
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.