Tag Archives: ministers

Ministers demand investigation of Covid-19 NHS and care worker deaths. What result are they after?

Yet again: the PPE used in UK hospitals is pictured bottom right. It seems a new inquiry has been commissioned, to claim that this was enough to protect doctors and nurses from catching Covid-19 in hospitals.

When you read that Tory ministers have asked medical examiners to investigate whether the Covid-19 that killed NHS and care home staff was contracted as a consequence of their work, what do you think?

Call me superstitious but it makes This Writer think Boris Johnson is trying to find an excuse to say his government’s failures aren’t responsible.

Bear in mind that Johnson has been heavily criticised for failing to order the personal protective equipment (PPE) necessary to protect NHS staff.

And the Tory government’s decision to ship care home residents who had contracted the disease back to their places of residence was also attacked as a cause of more than 20,000 excess deaths.

It would be hugely valuable to Johnson if a report could be cooked up, exonerating him of any connection with these deaths – or at least, with the vast majority of them.

The medical examiners involved in the review are described as “senior doctors employed in hospitals to independently review all deaths to verify the correct cause of death and identify any treatment concerns”.

By a curious coincidence, they were “introduced in the NHS last year”.

Never mind superstitious – call me plain suspicious if you want, but I have a doubt about the result of this inquiry. How about you?

Source: Coronavirus: Deaths of hundreds of frontline NHS and care workers to be investigated | The Independent

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Workfare ruling leaves too many questions unanswered

Cait Reilly, the graduate who was forced to leave her voluntary work in a museum to stack shelves at Poundland on the government’s Workfare scheme, has lost her case against the government.
Mr Justice Foskitt, at the High Court in London, said, “characterising such a scheme as involving or being analogous to ‘slavery’ or ‘forced labour’ seems to me to be a long way from contemporary thinking”.
What an interesting choice of words!
Back at the turn of the century, contemporary thinking stated that a woman’s place was in the home, and that she must never contradict her husband, take a job, or be allowed the right to vote. A few decades ago, contemporary thinking about homosexuality forced Alan Turing, the Bletchworth Park genius who cracked the Enigma code, thereby hugely boosting the Allies’ chances of winning World War II, to commit suicide.
Contemporary thinking has been responsible for terrible injustices and this is one of them.
I wonder if he really meant “contemporary thinking”, anyway. Did he, in fact, mean it’s a long way from what the government of the day thinks?
The judge ruled that Workfare does not contravene article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits forced labour and slavery.
A friend of mine looked up “slave” in the dictionary and found among its definitions the following: “A person who is forced to work for another against his will” and “A person who works in harsh conditions for low pay”.
I think we can agree that Cait Reilly was made to work at Poundland against her will (we’ll get to the failings of the DWP’s correspondence in a moment) and, while I can’t comment on the conditions, it is certain that her benefit payment was below minimum wage and therefore, by definition, was low pay.
So by dictionary definitions, she was a slave. Perhaps the judge was commenting on the fact that the legal definition needs to be rewritten?
It wasn’t all good news for the government, though. Although this scheme will remain unpaid, it seems it must be totally voluntary, and communications between the DWP and claimants must reflect this. In other words, the DWP must clean up its correspondence to make it clear that claimants can say no.
Those who have already had their benefits removed for refusing Workfare might now be entitled to compensation. Law firm Public Interest Lawyers, who acted for Ms Reilly, said more than 22,000 people had been stripped of their benefits for refusing Workfare by January 2012. By now (August) this figure may have doubled.
The DWP has announced that it will appeal against the decision. A spokesman has been quoted by the Guardian, saying: “We do not believe there is anything wrong with the original letters and we will appeal this aspect of the judgment, but in the meantime we have revised our standard letters.”
This begs the obvious question: If there was nothing wrong with the original letters, why change them?
The saddest fact about the case is that none of the above touches the real problems with Workfare.
It is not the taxpayers’ responsibility to pay the wages of people employed by a private company. If Poundland wants people to stack its shelves, it should hire them at a living wage, rather than ask the government to provide workers and pay them only in state benefits.
Poundland’s annual profit in 2010 was £21,500,000. Split among its 390-odd stores, that’s more than £54,000 – or enough to pay three extra employees, per store, on minimum wage, with cash to spare. Make it a decent, living wage, and that’s still two extra employees (with a lot more cash to spare).
It could be argued that Poundland has been providing a public service for the government by taking on Workfare jobseekers when it didn’t need any more employees. If this is the case, we must ask why Cait Reilly was promised a job interview at the end of it. The fact that the promised interview never happened, I think, also provides our answer: Poundland has been taking advantage of the scheme to get cheap labour.
If that is true, then the company has gained financial benefit from having Ms Reilly – and others on Workfare – stacking its shelves. Poundland has made money from it, so Poundland should pay all those working for the company a decent wage – including those on Workfare who have helped create that profit.
If this does not happen, then no employer in his or her right mind would think of paying the full amount for an employee when they can get them on Workfare instead, and have the taxpayer foot the bill. Workfare is therefore a way of ensuring that the current lack of full-time jobs continues into the future.
At a time when the government is complaining that the benefits bill is too high – and trying to blame that on so-called workshy scroungers fraudulently claiming they are disabled (fraud rate on those is less than 0.4 per cent) – it is insane for ministers to send those on benefits to work for profitable firms at no cost to the employer.

David Cameron’s dream: a Britain without hope

Here’s an article that brings home the truth about David Cameron’s “Hopeless” Britain. It’s entitled ‘This cruel welfare system is steadily crushing lives – where is the anger?’ Read it and weep.

Having read it myself, I’m glad to see that at least one Guardian contributor appears to agree with my opinion of Liam Byrne, as expressed in my blog back in January.

I believe I can answer the question posed by this article. There isn’t any anger because the prevailing emotion is DESPAIR. John Harris correctly deduces the government’s attitude to welfare, as prompted by companies like A4E, Working Links (who?), Serco and G4S. The trouble is, this is the government’s attitude, and we’ve seen that its far-right policy isn’t for changing just because benefit recipients are suffering!

There will be no Parliamentary rebellions; the Tory back-benches are behind Mr Cameron all the way and the Liberal Democrats are useless as anything but Tory enablers. The saddest part of their involvement is the fact that they will be blamed more than the Tories themselves.

The despair has spread to other scandals – the current banking issue is a prime example. The government wants an inquiry led by its own ministers, right? We know that half of Conservative donations come from the financial sector; Mr Cameron’s personal fortune is based in banking and tax avoidance (or so we’re told); the millionaires in his cabinet are heavily involved in banking. Therefore we can deduce that any minister-led inquiry will whitewash the banking sector and those who have been fleecing us – ‘us’ being ordinary working- and middle-class people who have to use banks to keep what’s left of our cash safe – will go scott free. The people see no way to prevent this.

Finally (although I could go on), Mr Harris asserts that the previous government’s social reforms are partly to blame for our current woes. There is certainly an argument for this and, together with the Labour leadership’s apparent inability to champion popular opinion, it means the people cannot expect the situation to improve, no matter who gets into power after the next election.

This is Britain under David Cameron. Hopeless. Perhaps this is why he is so fond of saying that word at Prime Minister’s Questions. It’s certainly why despair is the prevalent emotion, rather than anger.

Personally, I refuse to give up. I say: Britain needs to change. And the way to make sure it does is to be as vocal about it as possible. Demand change at every opportunity. Force ministers to explain themselves wherever they go. Make their position as difficult as it can be – after all, that’s what they’re doing to you.

If you give in to despair, and let them walk over you, then you’re as much a part of the problem as they are.