This is a bit of an oldie (the clip is from September last year) but relevant as we prepare to have a new prime minister forced on us by electors in the Conservative Party.
The message is clear: don’t think for a moment that you can change UK politics by electing Keir Starmer’s Labour Party instead of the Tories, because he is just the same as them – another member of the ruling Establishment.
The last Labour leader who wanted real change was Jeremy Corbyn – and he was hounded out by the Establishment’s client mass media, who proved exactly how far they can influence the weak-minded by convincing huge numbers of people that the peace-loving Corbyn was a hate-filled racist.
Here’s the clip:
From a personal point of view, I like that point that it is a badge of honour if you are attacked by the Labour leadership and pushed out of the party; it means they think you are important – you matter.
This Writer was among the first people to be attacked in this way.
It’s nice to know that I have an effect on the world.
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.
Pointing the finger: Ken Loach joined the call to end unfair benefit assessment interviews after the death of a man in Llanelli.
A campaign to ban benefit assessment interviews has been launched after a 65-year-old man with diabetes collapsed and died after being found ‘fit for work’.
Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) has called on the DWP to halt assessments for Personal Independence Payment and Employment and Support Allowance after the man died while waiting for an interview to discuss his future benefit options.
Discussing the death, This Site stated: “He would have been old enough to retire if the Conservatives had not decided to raise the retirement age for both men and women in an attempt to save a few pennies.”
I wrote: “Yes, he was obviously ill. But that doesn’t mean a thing to a Tory government… They call it a ‘positive benefit outcome’.”
Others compared the tragedy to a similar scene in left-wing film-maker Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake.
Now Mr Loach himself has spoken in favour of DPAC’s campaign.
Unconsciously paraphrasing my words, he said (according to the Morning Star): “What has happened really was disgraceful. The man was only 65 — he only had a few more months to go and he would have been retired anyway.
“Such is the brutality of it, but it’s clear that the Tories have no intention of changing their harsh system.”
And he said: “We have to vote them out — we may as well start with Iain Duncan Smith, the architect of this misery, who is as callous as he is sanctimonious.”
That is already well in hand – as you can read here.
Demanding an end to PIP and ESA assessments, DPAC activist Jennifer Jones raised the relevant point – that a man has died in a manner that could have been prevented.
It happened because a benefit assessor “lied about his fitness levels and abilities and he wasn’t given the support that his individual needs deserved”.
She’s right – and it makes a nonsense of repeated attempts by the DWP to claim that it does provide support tailored to the needs of each benefit claimant.
So far – in this case – the DWP’s only comment has been a message of sympathy to the deceased man’s family and friends.
DPAC – and Mr Loach – have demanded an end to benefit assessment interviews, for the obvious reason that they have now been proven to do more harm than good.
But there is no way the DWP – run as it is by a Conservative government – will take such action willingly.
Labour has promised to overhaul the benefit system completely, though.
The only way to be sure this does not happen in the future is to elect a Labour government.
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.
It’s going to be hard to have a serious discussion about Ken Loach’s reported words because the rent-a-quote crowd have been all over it already.
He says his suggestion that party members should “kick out” Labour MPs who attended the anti-Corbyn (not anti-Semitism – that was just a pretext) demonstration does “not reflect my position”.
Of course, we know that the characterisation of Mr Corbyn as a leader who has done little about anti-Semitism in the Labour Party does not reflect his position, either.
Anti-Semitism in the Labour Party has reduced since Mr Corbyn became leader.
So the question arises – did these MPs attend the demonstration because they genuinely wanted to harm their party leader by supporting a lie, or were they genuinely misled? Either answer implies a critical failure of judgement.
And this leads us back to the last point Mr Loach made – that Parliamentary candidates should be selected every time there is an election, and the selection should not be based on individual incidents but on the MP’s principles, actions and behaviour over a sustained period of time.
Whatever you think about his other comments, he is right in that.
Everybody makes mistakes, and it is easy to be deceived by a lie if enough people are demanding that you believe it.
I wonder how many of the Labour MPs who attended that demo are big enough to admit they made a mistake in supporting such a lie?
The outspoken film-maker and ally of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accused the dozen Labour MPs who attended last month’s demonstration – including Bristol representatives Thangam Debbonaire and Darren Jones – of “dirty tricks”.
Mr Loach said: “Unless we get Labour MPs who believe in that manifesto last year we won’t get in power.
“If they’ve been going to the demonstration against him [Jeremy Corbyn] outside Westminster… those are the ones we need to kick out.”
The Kes and Looking for Eric director said: “You cannot work with people who have come to undermine the biggest challenge we’ve had – we’ve never had a leader like Corbyn before in the whole history of the Labour Party….and that’s why the dirty tricks are going to come out.”
Mr Loach has since rowed back on his comments telling the Daily Mail , which broke the story, that he did not want MPs to be deselected based on one event and that what he is reported to have said at Kingswood Entertainment and Sports Club “do not reflect my position”.
He clarified, saying: “Re-selecting an MP should not be based on individual incidents but reflect the MP’s principles, actions and behaviour over a long period. Being an MP is not a job for life.
“My view is that candidates should be selected for every election and party members should be able to make a democratic choice.”
I also wanted to feature Ken Loach’s words on the Department for Work and Pensions and social security as a whole. Questioned by a schoolmarmish Jo Coburn, who presented the claim that the DWP helps people into work (which isn’t even worthy of sarcastic laughter), the venerable film-maker knocked her flat by saying it exactly as he sees it – and he’s the man who made I, Daniel Blake:
It took a while, but Greg Clark, Tory minister for de-industrialisation, eventually had to resort to his party’s agreed line on the film I, Daniel Blake, in the face of a barrage of fact-based analysis from the film’s director, Ken Loach.
“It is a fictional film,” he told a BBC Question Time audience in Gloucester. “People… should not think these are the ways people are behaving.”
I beg to differ – and so do members of the great British public who have actually experienced the benefit system.
People are terrified of taking the work capability assessment (WCA), for reasons mentioned on This Blog only a few days ago.
In that article, I asked readers to send in their own stories, and it seems – despite Tory protestations that they have improved the system – that people really are being treated cruelly. “Teasing” – the word Mr Loach used – is the wrong description for it.
One person who was tested in July this year was stripped of ESA for reasons including appearing to “hear his name called in the waiting room”.
So suddenly every WCA is a Catch-22. If you don’t attend, your claim will be cancelled – but if you do attend, you are fit for work and your claim will be cancelled?
Another respondent explained that her husband took the assessment in February this year. He is unable to comment himself as he died on July 31 after his benefit was cut. The assessor told him he looked well, despite the fact that his skin was so thin it was possible to see the definition of his skull beneath his face.
One more? “Classic from my WCA (shortly after my father died of a massive brain haemhorrage and whilst my brother was in hospital on a life support machine after a brain haemhorrage): ‘She enjoys an active social life visiting her brother in hospital on a regular basis.’ Between those two events I had been diagnosed with a rare and incurable and untreatable disease I knew little about and hadn’t even been assessed by NHS at that point. ‘She has no mental health problems’ – I was clinging on by my fingertips.”
Are you angry yet?
What do you think of Tory Greg’s claim that work capability assessors don’t behave as Mr Loach asserts in his film (Daniel Blake is told he is fit for work and forced to apply for a succession of jobs he must then turn down – because he is not fit enough)?
What do you think of the fact that Tory Greg was quoting the Conservative Government’s agreed line about the film – that it is just a work of fiction?
And if you voted Conservative last year or in 2010, what do you think of the fact that your vote supported the torture (and in many cases, death) of your fellow UK citizens – who have committed no crime, and whose misfortune could happen to you at any time?
In the film, Daniel Blake’s suffering at the hands of the DWP is the result of a heart attack. In real life, 53-year-old Stephen Hill was found fit for work, while he was waiting for major heart surgery. He died of a heart attack one month later.
Or how about Brian McArdle, 57 years old, who suffered a fatal heart attack the day after his disability benefits were stopped?
Or David Groves, 56 years old. He died of a heart attack the night before he would have taken his work capability assessment. His widow claimed the stress killed him.
These are just three similar cases. The WCA dead number in their thousands – and that’s just those that are known.
Stephen Hill’s death would not have been recorded by the DWP because it happened too long after his benefits were stopped.
And the Tories tell you, this is just a work of fiction. Don’t worry your pretty little head about it.
Are you angry now?
If not now, when?
It will be too late to be angry when you’re dead too.
Director Ken Loach has condemned the Government for overseeing a culture of “conscious cruelty” in the way it docks people’s benefits.
[The] film-maker hit out at the Government’s benefits regime and fit-to-work tests, which leaves people “living in fear”, when appearing on the BBC’s Question Time [after the release of his film I, Daniel Blake, about about a man’s struggle with the welfare system].
[Mr] Loach made clear he believes sanctions placed on benefits claimants – where the part or all of the payment is docked – are deliberately cruel.
He said: “People are living in fear, and it’s an absolutely intolerable way to live. There’s a conscious cruelty to the way the benefits system is being imposed. The Tory Government knows exactly what it is doing.”
He added: “We know that the Government knows it’s wrong because if you appeal against the assessment you will almost certainly win. They know they are teasing people in a very cruel way.
“When you’re sanctioned your life is forced into chaos and people are going to food banks – there was 1.1 million people getting food parcels. People who would starve otherwise.”
He concluded: “How can we live in a society where hunger is used as a weapon?”
Asked by host David Dimbleby why the Labour Party was in Opposition and trailing in the polls if the Tories were so bad, he blamed the rebellion by MPs who tried to force out Jeremy Corbyn.
He said: “It’s because the Parliamentary Labour Party has done it’s best to undermine its leader, that’s why. People won’t vote for a divided party.”
In response, the Tory Cabinet minister dismissed the account in ‘I, Daniel Blake’ as just a “fictional film”. He said: “Your film, Ken – it is a fictional film. And people seeing it should not think these are the ways people are behaving.”
Loach has said his team “talked to hundreds of people” at the DWP to create the story.
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.
Ken Loach has said there needs to be more public outrage around benefit sanctions and the reliance on food banks, with the situation much worse for working people than when he made his seminal film Cathy Come Home, in 1966.
The veteran film-maker rarely speaks while developing a project but is so deeply concerned about government policy on benefits and the sanctions regime that he gave an interview to the Guardian on the set of his latest film.
Loach, 79, is shooting what may be his last film, I, Daniel Blake, based on the writer Paul Laverty’s research of jobcentres, benefit sanctions and food banks. It tells the story of Blake, who has worked for years as a joiner but is then forced to give up work and claim benefits. “The present system is one of conscious cruelty,” Loach said. “It bears down on those least able to bear it. The bureaucratic inefficiency is vindictive and hunger is being used as a weapon. People are being forced to look for work that doesn’t exist.”
Get your votes out: But who will you support, if your local council is holding elections this year? The mid-term poll is always carefully watched, so your vote could sway predictions for the 2015 general election!
Hard though it may be to believe, in the midst of all the ‘Mrs T’ drivel, but life goes on and there are elections on the way.
The Liberal Democrats have launched their bid for seats on 34 councils in England and one in Wales, predictably, with a smear campaign.
Apparently, both their Coalition partners the Conservatives, and Labour, are inefficient and waste money on “vanity projects”.
This will be a hard criticism for the Tories to counter, considering they are about to waste up to £10 million of taxpayers’ – our – money on a ceremonial funeral for Baroness Thatcher that the majority of the people in the UK simply don’t want.
Apparently, MPs can claim £3,750 each, from the taxpayer, because Parliament has been recalled to pay tribute to her. If they all take advantage of it, that alone will cost us £2,437,500!
Praise is due to Labour’s John Mann, who the BBC placed among those calling the debate a waste of money. He said tributes could have been made next week, when Parliament is due to return.
But then, what is the Liberal Democrat plan to increase the Personal Allowance, that we are all allowed to earn before we start paying Income Tax, if it isn’t a vanity project?
Nick Clegg says the Liberal Democrats will spread “the burden of austerity fairly”, but if this policy really has made 24 million families in the UK £600 better-off than they were in 2010, that means the Treasury has received £14,400,000,000 less than it otherwise would have. Nearly 14-and-a-half BILLION pounds!
This is money that could have eased the severity of the benefit cuts on the poorest in society, or the government could have invested it in projects that would have created jobs, increasing the tax take and lessening the burden of debt repayments and benefits for the poor.
Noticeably absent from Mr Clegg’s speech, at the Eden Project in Cornwall, was any mention of what his party would do with any new council seats it picks up. Instead, he went back to the Liberal Democrat ‘message script’ that was thrust upon his party back between Christmas and the New Year. “Only the Liberal Democrats will build a stronger economy and a fairer society, enabling everyone to get on in life” he droned.
Here in Radnorshire, Wales, people hearing that will be thinking those words are familiar, and asking themselves when they were aired before. Oh yes – it was last week, when our MP Roger Williams and AM Kirsty Williams were talking up the increases in the Personal Allowance.
So there’s no offer from the Liberal Democrats.
At least Labour’s Ed Miliband launched his party’s campaign with a solid commitment – he wants councils to be allowed to prevent payday lenders from operating in their areas, and to stop bookmakers from opening as well.
In hard times, it makes sense for gambling to be curbed – although it is a shame that the last Labour government allowed it to become commonplace before the financial crash hit. And payday lenders must be brought to heel – the huge interest rates they charge mean borrowers – who need the money because they receive such a poor pay packet from their fatcat bosses, don’t forget – fall even further into debt.
But Labour’s recent behaviour in Parliament has created deep mistrust of the party among its core voters. Labour betrayed the poorest workers in the UK, and everybody who is looking for a job, by supporting Iain Duncan Smith’s retroactive law to legalise his illegal sanctions against jobseekers who would not take part in his slave-labour ‘mandatory work activity’ schemes to raise cash for ‘work programme provider’ companies and commercial enterprises that took part.
If Labour wants to win that trust back, it needs to field prospective councillors who genuinely want to represent the interests of the people in their wards, with good Labour values – ensuring they get the best value for their council tax money, rather than turning services over to private enterprises who then make councils pay through the nose for inferior work, for example.
And what about all the new contenders that have sprung up since the Coalition came to power and started reversing all the good work the previous Labour government did, justifying it by saying the new austerity made it necessary (it isn’t)?
The National Health Action Party can be ruled out, I think. That organisation is a single-issue party created solely to attack Coalition members of Parliament, and anyone else who voted in support of the Health and Social Care Act, that allows private, for-profit companies to run NHS services.
What about the ‘No’ Party? This group claims the UK needs a fresh start, and wants to contend the next general election “on a massive scale”. In that case, they should start at local level. Political organisations of any kind won’t be trusted with Parliamentary seats until their members have proved themselves in the local arena and the May elections are a perfect opportunity to get started. Where are the ‘No’ candidates?
What about the People of the British Political and Lawful Rebellion Party, which says it aims “to put the People back into politics”.
This organisation’s Facebook page says: “It is time this country came together and started the mass political and legal upheavel required for a legitimate, lawful, peaceful and successful rebellion. As a newly founded political party, we take one-step at at time while learning to utilise our skills as individuals and collectively.”
Okay, then why not start now – in local councils? Then the ordinary people will be able to find out what they’re all about.
It seems too early for any wide-based, mainstream ‘Party of the Left’, of the kind Ken Loach has been pushing, to come together in time for these elections – which is a shame.
In the light of Labour’s actions on the Jobseekers (Back to the Workhouse) Bill, it is possible that there does need to be another mainstream, national left-wing political organisation – if only to remind Labour of what it ought to be.
One of the most telling comments about the late Baroness Thatcher was that she changed not only the Conservatives, but other political parties, meaning that Labour followed a similar course to the Conservatives when it came to office in 1997.
It’s time Labour remembered that there are other, real and workable alternatives – and started working on them.
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