Tag Archives: Michael Portillo

Cameron’s cynical use of his late son is enough to turn anyone’s stomach

ivan-cameron

A commenter on the Facebook group provoked right-wing wrath after David Cameron’s speech yesterday by posting a photograph of a tearful-looking Samantha Cameron and suggesting that even she was embarrassed that he was using the memory of his late son Ivan – yet again – to support his ever-more-desperate claim to be a supporter of the National Health Service.

In the name of balance, Yr Obdt Srvt responded as follows: “Cameron has again and again put the treatment of his child front and centre during discussion of the NHS – a service that he and his government are now determined to undermine and destroy. He was happy to take Disability Living Allowance for his son, but have you noticed that after Ivan passed away, he was also happy to take DLA away from everyone else and replace it with something that is much harder to get?

“Cameron takes selfishness to new levels and, in my opinion, it would be entirely justifiable if his wife was embarrassed to the core by what he said.”

That quietened the dissenting voice, but not the irritation caused to Yr Obdt Srvt by Cameron’s behaviour, which seems offensive to his own child’s memory. It was, therefore, unsurprising to find that he has ‘form’ in this regard, dating back to before Ivan passed away.

Take a look at the following, from Sturdyblog‘s article We need to talk about Ivan. The article featured a series of pictures of Cameron with his son, including the shot at the top of this article, which the author said made him increasingly uneasy:

“Everything had the feel of a ‘photo opportunity’ – not a family portrait.

“I tried to be open to friends who asked ‘would you rather they hid the child away in shame?’. But there was something interesting about both the timing and tone of this – pitched like a curiosity tent in the middle of an election circus. What about the other side in that election?

“I am no fan of Gordon Brown, but credit ought to go where it is due. The man is partly blind, he and his wife lost a child only days after she was born, then had another diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. There was no denial; no attempt to hide away the facts; no shame. But there was also no feeding the media in order to boost likeability – and, heaven knows, Brown needed it. There was stoicism. There was dignity.

“I tried to dismiss my extreme discomfort with the way Ivan was being used, at least in my subjective judgement. I tried to convince myself that this was my own cynicism talking; my political dislike of conservatism; my shameful, selfish awkwardness and guilt at being confronted with disability.

“Unfortunately the pattern continued, even after his death. There were photographs from the funeral, which did not appear ‘papped’. There were pictures at assorted memorials, taken by the Camerons’ official photographer, engineered to engender sympathy or even pity. There were visits to hospices sponsored by OK! Magazine.”

Writing in March 2012, the author stated: “Last week David Cameron referred to baby Ivan during Prime Minister’s Questions again. It was the sixth or seventh time he has done so, either obliquely or directly, in response to difficult questions about the NHS or welfare or disability benefits. Occasionally Cameron is baited into it. He must rise above such occasions. Occasionally, however, the mention is defensive and entirely unprompted.”

Here’s the moment, caught on YouTube:

“In last week’s PMQs Cameron was asked by Dame Joan Ruddock about cutting the benefits to one of her constituents – a 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy. In his response he denied that the benefits available to disabled children were being cut (a distinct untruth with regard to new claimants as explained in this factcheck) and continued: “As someone who has actually filled out the form for disability allowance and had a child with cerebral palsy, I know how long it takes to fill in that form.”

“No reference to the girl about whom the question was; no offer to look into her case; no attempt to answer the question. Only an out-of-context reference to Cameron’s dead child, offered as irrefutable proof that his reforms must be right and implied rebuke for daring to question them.

“We always complain that our politicians are out of touch. What is the objection about a Prime Minister using his personal experience to help shape policy? No objection. But policy consists of words put into action. When the action is distinctly contrary to the words, it is not policy. It is hypocrisy.

“He has presided over an unprecedented, concerted campaign against the NHS. So much so, that the very unit in which his child died is threatened with closure. To do this while citing his personal experiences to silence his critics, is unspeakably wicked.

“To stand there, at the dispatch box, and invoke his plight as the parent of a disabled child, then minutes later announce the closure of 36 Remploy factories (not via a statement by the relevant minister, but by placing a letter in the library) is utterly cowardly.

“The net result? A conversation about Ivan in which nobody dares speak up for Ivan. A muted debate, in which the interests of children like him are not fully represented in our Parliament.

“Each time the spectre of that poor child is raised like an invincible shield by his own father, each time his memory is drop-kicked into a political minefield – knowing that nobody will dare touch it – debate is silenced and legitimate questions about these reforms go unanswered. It is not only inappropriate. It is distasteful and immoral.”

It was then and it is now.

To put Cameron’s claims about the NHS in perspective, Michael Portillo has been quoted (many times) as saying: “They didn’t believe they could win the election if they told you what they were going to do.” Here’s the moment, from Andrew Neil’s This Week show:

Oliver Letwin has also been – famously – quoted as saying that within five years of a Conservative election victory “the NHS will not exist anymore”.

Andrew Lansley spent six or seven years working on what became the Health and Social Care Act 2012, apparently to make it as convoluted as possible in order to prevent its blueprint for an NHS poisoned by profit-making concerns from being diluted during Parliamentary debate. He was banned from talking about this work in the run-up to the 2010 general election (see Never Again?: The story of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 – A study in Coalition government and policy, The King’s Fund and Institute for Government, p2).

The Conservative-led Coalition came into office promising year-on-year increases in funding for the NHS – and has reneged on that promise every year for which funding outturns are known.

The above are just representative examples of the evidence available to show Cameron’s contempt for the service that treated his son.

Coming right up to date, Political Scrapbook called Cameron’s bluff by referring to disabled children he didn’t mention in his conference speech yesterday. The article quoted him verbatim: “For me, this is personal. I’m someone who’s relied on the NHS and … who knows what it’s like when you go to hospital night after night with a sick child in your arms. How dare they say that I would ever put that at risk for other people’s children?”

Then it continued: “In the interests of balance, here are some other disabled children from around the country — a nation in which 40% of children with disabilities live in poverty — who didn’t merit inclusion in his keynote address.

“Five year old Reuben Sims requires round-the-clock care and breathes using a ventilator. His mother has been charged £18.40 per week for the ‘spare bedroom’ used to store Reuben’s medical supplies.

Reuben Sims, disabled child hit by Bedroom Tax

“Here is Luis Rennie, who suffers from cerebral palsy and is registered blind. He has faces eviction from his family home — specially adapted at a cost of £60,000 — if his mother refuses to pay for the room used to store equipment such as wheelchairs.

Luis Rennie, disabled child and a victim of the Bedroom Tax

“And it’s not just the Bedroom Tax which is putting the squeeze on families with disabled children.

“A flavour of the impact of austerity on services provided directly by local authorities is given in an analysis of London boroughs by Ambitious About Autism:

  • Cuts to transport services for children with special education needs
  • Cuts to children with disabilities teams
  • Charging for non-statutory services
  • Provision of statutory services at a reduced level

“Charities working with deaf and blind children are reporting cuts in specialist services.

“Then there’s Universal Credit, which — if Iain Duncan Smith’s team develop the competency to actually implement the policy — will leave 100,000 disabled children worse off by more than £120 per month.

“Young people’s charities also face public funding cuts of almost £405 million over the five years to 2015/16 — a greater proportion than the rest of the voluntary sector.

“Respite for carers is being slashed, with eight out 10 family carers telling Mencap that ‘they have reached breaking point due to a lack of short breaks’:

“‘When you care for someone 24 hours per day and you know it’s going to be forever, sometimes a short break is your only hope.'”

Yr Obdt Srvt has personal experience as a carer and knows this statement to be true.

The sad fact is that the likes of David Cameron will never accept that using a dead relative as a commodity, as a trump card in an argument, is morally wrong. They do not understand the swell of indignation they create whenever they put their grief (whether real or feigned) on parade in a bid to gain electoral sympathy – and voters’ support. They believe they are right to do so.

They deserve to be stripped of that misapprehension in the most humiliating way. When it happens, let’s hope it hits Cameron as hard as the slap in the face he so richly deserves – from his own spouse.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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Plebgate v NHS lies – why is one the lead on the news when the other was buried?

Why does the BBC want us to pay more attention to a squabble between this overprivileged cyclist and a policeman than to the wholesale privatisation of the National Health Service, for which we have all paid with our taxes?

Why does the BBC want us to pay more attention to a squabble between this overprivileged cyclist and a policeman than to the wholesale privatisation of the National Health Service, for which we have all paid with our taxes?

In the mid-1990s I interviewed for a reporter’s job at the then-fledgeling BBC News website. I didn’t get it.

Considering the BBC’s current output and apparent lack of news sense, I am now very glad that I did not succeed. I would be ashamed to have that as a line on my CV.

Unfortunately, the BBC accounts for 70 per cent of news consumption on British television – and 40 per cent of online news read by the public. It has a stranglehold on most people’s perception of the news – and it is clearly biased.

Take today’s story about PC Keith Wallis, who has admitted misconduct in the ‘Plebgate’ affair by falsely claiming to have overheard the conversation between Andrew Mitchell and another police officer. He admitted the falsehood at a court hearing in the Old Bailey.

The case is important because he had been lying in order to support the allegation that Mr Mitchell had shouting a torrent of profanities at the other police officer, Toby Rowland, after being stopped from cycling through Downing Street’s main gates. PC Rowland had alleged that one of the words used had been the derogatory word “pleb”, and the resulting scandal had forced Mitchell to resign as Tory Chief Whip.

It casts doubt on the integrity of Metropolitan police officers – a further four are facing charges of gross misconduct.

However, the officer at the centre of the case – PC Rowlands – is not among them. He remains adamant that his version of events is correct and is suing Mitchell for libel over comments he made about the incident which the officer claims were defamatory.

This is the story the BBC decided to make the lead on all its news bulletins, all day. It contains no evidence contradicting PC Rowland’s allegations against Mitchell; the worst that can be said is that the admission of guilt casts a shadow over the entire Metropolitan police service – and in fairness, that is a serious matter.

But the fact is that people will use this to discredit PC Rowland and rehabilitate the reputation of an MP who was a leading member of the Coalition government until the incident took place – and that is wrong. It is an inaccurate interpretation of the information, but the BBC is supporting it by giving the story the prominence it has received.

In contrast, let’s look at the way it handled revelations about the Coalition government’s plans to change the National Health Service, back when the Health and Social Care Act was on its way through Parliament.

You will be aware that Andrew Lansley worked on the then-Bill for many years prior to the 2010 election, but was forbidden from mentioning this to anybody ahead of polling day (see Never Again? The story of the Health and Social Care Act 2012). Meanwhile all election material promised no more top-down reorganisations of the NHS. Former cabinet minister Michael Portillo, speaking about it on the BBC’s This Week, said: “[The Tories] didn’t believe they could win an election if they told you what they were going to do.” Considering the immensity of the changes – NHS boss David Nicholson said they were “visible from space” – this lie should have sparked a major BBC investigation. What did we get?

Nothing.

After Lansley released his unpopular White Paper on health, David Cameron tried to distance himself from the backlash by claiming “surprise” at how far they went. This was an early example of the comedy Prime Minister’s ability to lie (so many have issued from his lips since then that we should have a contest to choose the Nation’s favourite), as he helped write the Green Papers that preceded this document (see Never Again). If it was possible for the authors of Never Again to dig out this information, it should certainly have been possible for the BBC. What did we get?

Not a word.

In contrast to Cameron, Lansley, and any other Tory’s claims that there would be no privatisation of the NHS, KPMG head of health Mark Britnell (look him up – he’s an interesting character in his own right) said the service would be shown “no mercy” and would become a “state insurance provider, not a state deliverer”. This important revelation that the Tories had been lying received coverage in less popular outlets like The Guardian, Daily Mirror and Daily Mail but the BBC only mentioned it in passing – four days after the story broke – to explain a comment by Nick Clegg.

One of the key elements used to get members of the medical profession on-side with the Lansley Act was the claim that GPs would commission services. This was a lie. It was well-known when the plans were being drafted that general practitioners simply would not have time for such work and it was expected that they would outsource the work to private management companies – many of whom would also have a hand in service delivery. There is a clear conflict of interest in this. East London GP Jonathan Tomlinson told Channel 4 that the scale of private involvement would be so large as to include “absolutely everything that commissioning involves”. This was a clear betrayal of the promise to GPs. The BBC never mentioned it.

Another phrase trotted out by the Tories was that the changes would increase “patient choice” – by which we were all intended to believe patients would have more opportunity to choose the treatment they received and who provided it. This is a lie. The new Clinical Commissioning Groups created by the Act – and run, not by doctors, but by private healthcare companies on their own behalf – have a duty to put services out to tender unless they are sure that only one provider is able to offer a service. In reality, this means all services must be opened up to the private sector as no CCG could withstand a legal challenge from a snubbed private provider. But this makes a mockery of Andrew Lansley’s promise that CCGs could choose when and with whom to commission.

In turn, this means private firms will be able to ‘cherry-pick’ the easiest and cheapest services to provide, and regulations also mean they can choose to provide those services only for those patients they believe will cost the least money. Anyone with complicated, difficult, or long-term conditions will be thrown to the wolves. In other words, far from patients having increased choice, the Health and Social Care Act means private companies will be able to choose the patients they treat.

We are still waiting for the BBC to report this.

Add it all up and you will see that the largest news-gathering organisation in the UK – and possibly the world – sees more news value in a slanging match between an MP and a policeman than it does in the wholesale betrayal of every single citizen of the country.

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What a fool: Cameron considers joining condemnation of his own government’s Queen’s speech

Cameron contrite while Farage laughs: The longer the Crime - sorry, Prime - Minister wavers over Europe, the more of a fool he makes himself seem.

Cameron contrite while Farage laughs: The longer the Crime – sorry, Prime – Minister wavers over Europe, the more of a fool he makes himself seem.

David Cameron seems determined to make his mark on the history books as the worst Prime Minister never to be elected in the United Kingdom.

Yesterday we learned that he is giving serious thought to supporting a Parliamentary vote that would condemn the Queen’s speech – that now-notoriously sparse proclamation of forthcoming legislation, spat out by Her Majesty like a rotting carcass last Wednesday – for failing to mention any law allowing an in-out referendum on Europe.

It’s as though he’s going out of his way to make a fool of himself.

Perhaps he is running scared of UKIP, a party that won the votes of just over 7.5 per cent of the British voting population in the local elections and is therefore – still – a considerable distance from forming any kind of threat to the Conservatives, who we should remember are the oldest, ugliest and nastiest political organisation in the country.

More likely, he’s running scared of his own backbenchers, who have become considerably more restless about Europe since the (perceived) rise of UKIP to prominence. It’s a false belief, based on the fact that the Eurosceptic party got 25 per cent of the vote in the locals. Total voter turnout was only 31 per cent, so a quarter of that means only 7.5+ per cent voted UKIP.

We should also remember that UKIP supporters were more likely to vote in this year’s elections as theirs was a vote of protest against the government, supporting the party they believe to represent that protest. Others were more likely to believe the locals were irrelevant in the larger scheme of things and stay at home.

However, Tories are not highly-regarded for their understanding and good stewardship of statistics – look at the example of Iain Duncan Smith – so it seems they’re putting the screws on Cameron.

This has been accentuated by calls to quit Europe from ex-heavyweights Nigel Lawson and Michael Portaloo, and the claim by Bore-us Johnson that leaving the EU will not harm the UK’s economy.

It’s as though they are going out of their way to make a fool of him.

You see, there are two very good reasons why Cameron should not support a vote that undermines the measures in the Queen’s speech:

Firstly: He wrote it. Even if he was not responsible for the exact wording, it is the document that outlines the legislative programme for the forthcoming year, to be followed by the government of which Cameron is the leader – and it follows, therefore, that he must have had the final say about it.

If he supports a vote against it, the public can conclude either that he is not a man of principle but one who does whatever he thinks will win him the support he needs, whether it is right or wrong, or that he is a brainless fool who didn’t pay enough attention to the content of the speech.

Secondly: No Parliament can bind the next. It is likely that ‘enabling’ legislation for a vote on EU membership was left out of the Queen’s speech for the very good reason that the vote will not take place during the lifetime of the current Parliament. Cameron has always stated that it would take place after an outright Conservative victory in 2015 – partly to blackmail Eurosceptic voters into supporting his party at that poll, but also because his Liberal Democrat Coalition partners won’t support a vote while they are a part of the government.

Finally, it seems Cameron should have remembered the coda at the end of the speech. It said, “Other measures will be laid before you.”

In other words, provision had been made, already, for legislation that was not included in the speech. He didn’t have to say or do anything.

It’s as though he’s going out of his way to make a fool of himself.

Postscript: New information has been passed to me which casts the situation in a whole new light.

The parliament.org website includes a page about procedures in a hung parliament such as, for example, that under which we are all currently living.

It states: “The first parliamentary test of a minority or coalition government is the vote on an amendment to the Queen’s Speech.  If the Queen’s Speech is amended, the Prime Minister must resign.”

Let’s all hope that this amendment is won and Cameron supports it. Because, guess what?

It’s as though he’s going out of his way to make a fool of himself!

Post-postscript: According to the New Statesman, the Commons Information Office reckons a defeat on the Queen’s speech no longer constitutes a vote of no confidence in the government. That Bill offered a definition of a ‘no confidence’ vote for the first time, meaning that a defeat on the planned legislative programme or, say, the Budget, are no longer regarded as votes of no confidence in the government.

That seems wrong to me; if Parliament doesn’t support the planned legislative programme (or spending plans, in the case of the Budget) then it follows logically that Parliament does not have confidence in the government that devised it.

Whatever happens, it seems this Conservative Prime Minister is happy not to conserve an ancient Parliamentary convention, if it doesn’t suit him.