Tag Archives: misery

MP of the Year award attacked over harmful corporate sponsor. Time for a campaign to remove it?

KPMG: this corporation, part of the Atos group that has done so much harm to sick and disabled people, sponsors the Patchwork Foundation’s MP of the Year awards, Should it?

It seems the only element likely to stop Jeremy Corbyn from winning the Patchwork Foundation’s MP of the Year award is the fact that it is sponsored by corporations that have contributed to the oppression of the poor and vulnerable.

Mr Corbyn is on the shortlist of MPs for whom the public is asked to vote.

But some supporters of the former Labour leader – including his own former Shadow Chancellor – are having nothing to do with it because it is sponsored by firms including KPMG.

The controversy sprang up on This Writer’s Twitter feed overnight, springing from discussion over whether certain vested interests would allow Mr Corbyn to win, after their success in ousting last year’s popular left-wing candidate, Chris Williamson.

Paula Peters, a popular campaigner for people with disabilities and friend of This Site, raised the alarm:

It was confirmed by others:

Atos is the company that – now under an alias – carries out assessments of benefit claimants’ ability to work, when they claim sickness and/or disability benefits. It took over KPMG in 2002, and it seems some have little to say in its favour.

The firm’s record for refusing benefits to people who genuinely deserve them – who have then gone on to suffer extreme hardship and, in many cases, death – is well-documented on This Site and elsewhere.

It reflects extremely poorly on the Patchwork Foundation that it would seek – or allow – sponsorship of any of its work by a firm of such character.

KPMG’s sponsorship of the award is not well-signposted; it appears as one of many on a tickertape at the bottom of the awards’ web page.

Paula’s tweet sparked strong responses:

For This writer, the most telling comment in the discussion is Paula’s below:

So perhaps that is what should be done.

Obviously I am too busy with annoying distractions like my two court cases to take on another campaign, but would anybody like to launch one calling on the Patchwork Foundation to decline sponsorship from organisations that are known to cause harm to people?

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.


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How do we wrestle fairness from a rigged economic system?

The problem in a nutshell - and this cartoon was drawn in 1972! [Image: Alan Hardman]

The problem in a nutshell – and this cartoon was drawn in 1972! [Image: Alan Hardman]

It’s terrific when an article makes you think.

Why Capitalism needs unemployment, by Cheltenham & Gloucester Against Cuts, tells us that unemployment is used as a weapon against the workers – with the threat of it used to force pay cuts on employees, while we are told to fear inflation if unemployment falls.

So fatcat company bosses win either way, it seems.

The article commented on Margaret Thatcher’s ideological mentor, Milton Friedman, who “understood that low levels of unemployment give confidence to workers, who can fight for better pay and conditions. When they’re successful, the profit margins of capitalists are reduced, causing them to put their prices up in response“.

We know this happens; we have seen it many times. Some may argue that it is different from cases in which shortages of particular commodities push up their prices and the prices of products that are made from them – but, with fuel prices as the only notable exception, have you ever seen prices drop after these shortages end?

The system is rigged to ensure that working people stay poor, either through pay cuts during high unemployment or inflation in low unemployment; meanwhile the employers and shareholders ensure that they stay rich, by sharing out extra profits gained by keeping pay low or by putting up prices.

What do they do with this money?

The answer, it seems, is nothing. They bank it in offshore tax havens and leave it there. This is why, we are told, Britain’s richest citizens have more than £20 trillion banked offshore at the moment.

That’s more than £20,000,000,000,000! Enough to pay off this country’s national debt 18,000 times over and still have plenty to spare. Enough to solve the problems of the world, forever. It is, in fact, more money than we can comfortably imagine.

It is doing nothing.

Faced with this knowledge, there can only be one logical question: Why?

Why rig the system so that ever-larger sums of money pour into these offshore accounts, if nothing is to be done with it? Where is the sense in that?

The only logical answer appears to relate to its effect on workers: Keeping the profits of their work away from the workforce means they are kept in misery and servitude to the ruling classes – the parasitical board members and shareholders.

There are knock-on effects. Taxpayers are hit twice – not only are they forced to grapple with ever-more-hostile pay offers, but their taxes pay for in-work benefits that subsidise corporate-imposed pay levels; they support people who have been forced into unemployment unnecessarily and the silly make-work schemes that are forced on those people by the Department for Work and Pensions, under threat of sanction.

It’s a protection racket. There should be a law against it. And this begs the next question: Why isn’t there a law against it? How can this corrupt system be dismantled and what should replace it?

That’s a very good question, because the other cosh being held over our collective heads is the possibility that firms will move abroad if new laws in this country threaten their massive profits. This is where an international agreement between nations or groups of nations would be very useful, if it was carried out in the right way – a Transatlantic, or Trans-pacific, Trade and Investment Partnership, perhaps.

And what do we see? Plans for such agreements have been put together and they do the exact opposite of what they should – tying the workers into ever-worsening conditions. This is why the TTIP, currently being pushed on the European Union, must be rejected – and why bosses will do anything to ensure it succeeds.

This is the situation. It seems clear that nothing will change it for the better until somebody has the courage to stand up to these manipulators (who were probably schoolyard bullies back in the day) and say enough is enough; change is coming – do what you will.

Tax evasion and avoidance is already a huge issue here in the UK; perhaps we need to make a criminal offence of manipulating the economy – with prison sentences for bosses who put their prices up purely to retain high profit margins when their salaries are already dozens of times higher than those of their workers.

But what else is needed? How can such a mechanism be brought in without scaring off business? Or should we let them go, and put something fairer in their place? Ban them from trading in the UK unless they conform to the new model?

These are ideas that need exploration – by many people, not just a few.

What do you think should happen?

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Atos ‘death threats’ claim – ‘outrageous’ insult to those its regime has killed


“If this isn’t intimidation, I don’t know what is – it’s a very clear message to anyone: How dare you protest against us and, if you do, we’ll find you fit for work!” Anti-Atos protester Joanne Jemmett with the sign left by Atos workers outside the assessment centre in Weston-Super-Mare on Wednesday (“Fit enough to protest – fit enough to work!”) at the start of this short film documenting the demonstration there.

Watching the stories stack up in the wake of the national day of protest against Atos last Wednesday has been very interesting.

The immediate response was that Atos has approached the government, seeking an early end to its contract. This deal, under which Atos administers the hated Work Capability Assessments to people on incapacity or disability benefits, would have been worth more than £1 billion to the company over a 10-year period.

Allegedly, company employees have been receiving death threats, both during and after the protests. We’ll come back to those shortly.

The Conservative-led Coalition took this development in the way we have come to expect – spitefully. A DWP spokesperson said that the company’s service had declined to an unacceptable level, and that the government was already seeking tenders from other firms for the contract.

This is what happens when bullies squabble.

Atos is the big bully that has just had a shock because the other kids in the playground stood up to it and made it clear they weren’t going to stand for its nonsense any more. We’re told that all bullies are cowards and it appears to be true in this case – Atos went running to the bigger bully (the government) and said it was scared. The government then did what bigger bullies do; it said Atos was rubbish anyway and set about finding someone else to do its dirty work.

Here’s the sticking-point, though – as the BBC identified in its article: “The government was furious with Atos for leaking information it believes to be commercially confidential… If Atos wants to pull out early, some other companies may pay less to take those contracts on than they otherwise would.”

I should clarify that companies don’t actually pay for contracts; they offer to carry out the work at the lowest prices they think are viable, in competition with other firms. The government chooses the company it feels is best-suited to the work. In this situation, it seems likely that the possibility of death threats may put some firms off even applying.

So let’s come back to those threats. A spokesperson for the organisers of Wednesday’s demonstration tells us that pickets took place outside 93 Atos centres, across the UK. Most of these were very small – averaging 30 people or less (I can confirm that in Newtown, Powys, a maximum of 15 people attended at any one time). Brighton and London were bigger, but 12 demos had only one person present.

“That is really funny because, as you have seen, Atos are saying they had to close down all their centres for the day – up and down the country – because of huge hoards of scary, threatening disabled people issuing death threats,” the spokesperson said.

“All demos were peaceful and no trouble or arrests were reported.”

In the spokesperson’s opinion: “Atos have been planning to step down for a long time because they weren’t making enough profit and just used our tiny little demos as an excuse.”

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and sister group Black Triangle issued a joint statement: “The bizarre exit strategy Atos have developed in identifying apparent physical threats on Facebook despite the growing lists of real deaths caused by the WCA regime is an outrageous insult to all those who have died and all those who have lost family members through this regime.

“It is an insult to those left without their homes, without money and needing to go to food banks.

“It is an insult to every person who has suffered worsening physical and mental health through this inhuman regime.”

The statement also poured water on any government claim that other companies had been put off bidding for the contract:”The alphabet corporations – G4S, A4E, SERCO, CAPITA – are already lining up to take over the multi-million profits and the mantle of the new Grim Reapers. The misery imposed by this Government and the DWP will continue as long as its heinous policies continue.”

I would strongly urge all readers to put their support behind the remainder of the statement, which asserted: “The Work Capability Assessment must also end.

“The reign of terror by this unelected Coalition Government which has awarded itself pay rises and cut taxes for those earning more than £150,000 while piling punishment, poverty, misery and premature death on everyone else in its policies of rich against poor must end.

“Make no mistake – we will continue to demonstrate against ATOS, now delivering the complete failure of PIP in which claims are being delayed by up to a year.

“We will demonstrate against any other company that takes over the WCA contract.

“We will continue to demand the immediate removal of the WCA, and the removal of this Government.”

Hear, hear.

In my article on the Bedroom Tax evictions taking place in my home town (yesterday) I made it clear that too few people are bothering to pay attention to the evils of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition government. That article received a huge response, garnering almost four times the readership of other recent posts within just 24 hours.

The situation described in this article is much worse – people aren’t being evicted from their homes; they are being forced off of the benefits that have kept them alive, pushed – by the government! – towards destitution, despair and death through either suicide or a failure of their health that their Atos assessment results deny should ever take place.

Today’s article should have more readers, after the success of yesterday’s – but we’ll have to see, shan’t we? If fewer people read it, we’ll know that they all just looked up for a moment, thought, “Oh, that’s interesting,” and went back to whatever distraction keeps them happy in the face of impending government-sponsored pain.

Any attempt to inform the public will fail if the public stops paying attention.

Let’s keep it focused where it belongs.

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The Conservative-led government IS evil, Owen Jones – even if its supporters aren’t

Not evil: We have reason to believe that Iain Duncan Smith's policies have led to the deaths of dozens - if not hundreds - of sick and disabled people every single week. We have reason to believe he is suppressing evidence of the number of deaths caused, which in turn leads us to believe that it is a greater number than we have imagined so far. And he has done so, in order to avoid the inevitable public outcry that would follow such a revelation. Do YOU believe that these actions are not evil?

Not evil: We have reason to believe that Iain Duncan Smith’s policies have led to the deaths of dozens – if not hundreds – of sick and disabled people every single week. We have reason to believe he is suppressing evidence of the number of deaths caused, which in turn leads us to believe that it is a greater number than we have imagined so far. And we have reason to believe he has done so, in order to avoid the inevitable public outcry that would follow such a revelation. Do YOU believe that these actions are not evil?

Following on from the previous article in this series, let’s look at the consequences of hiring organisations that have no moral compass, to carry out vital public work – and the implications about the governments that take them on.

It has long been the attitude of this blog that the leaders of the Conservative Party are evil creatures, and this conclusion is borne out by their actions. Today this contrasts starkly with the opinion of fellow leftie Owen Jones, writing in The Independent, who has claimed it is wrong to label them in that way.

He cites some of the best-known examples used by people to prove the evil of the Tories: “It is projected that over a million children will be driven into poverty by this Government’s policies [wage depression, cuts to benefits, cuts to landlord subsidy]. Half a million people, unable to properly feed themselves in one of the most prosperous countries, have been driven to food banks, particularly because of cuts to benefits or delays in payments. Sick and disabled people are being stripped of support [work capability assessments carried out by Atos]. The bedroom tax is punishing hundreds of thousands for the failure of successive governments to build council housing [and landlords including social landlords will evict them]. Cuts to in-work and out-of-work benefits have been imposed as a cynical ploy, to paint Labour as the party of welfarism: the cost of such political manoeuvring [being] more people having to choose between heating and food [in fact the Conservatives are the party of welfarism. They talk about the social security bill rising 60 per cent under Labour, but under the Conservatives is rose by as much as 80 per cent in a single year (1982-3, if memory serves)].

But he says these wicked, immoral acts, enacted by the most privileged in British society upon those who have no defence against them, are not evil. “‘Evil’ is a comforting, but worrying concept,” he writes. “Its connotations are so extreme that, by applying it to someone, you at a stroke strip them of their humanity; you cease in any way to be able to imagine their rationales or thought processes; they simply become a cartoon villain, for whom the ultimate thrill is the inflicting of misery. As soon as you fail to understand your enemy, they have already defeated you. It would be easy to imagine the Tories as a cabal of upper-class sadomasochists, spending their evenings plotting ever more devious ways to hunt children on council estates like rural foxes. But it misses the point.”

Sorry, Owen, but on this one I think you’ve missed the point.

Look at the most commonly-cited example of evil we have: Hitler. Sorry to drop the H-bomb but this is relevant: He was genuinely evil. But he was not a “cartoon villain”. Those who fought him did not see him as an inhuman or alien creature. They certainly did not believe his only aim was to inflict misery (although he did, and in similar ways to the current UK administration – look at the way both have treated their sick and disabled). Hitler’s opponents did not see their enemy as a creature they could not possibly understand; instead they spent huge amounts of time and effort trying to get into his mind – even bizarrely decorating their offices with Nazi paraphernalia, dressing like him and trying to look like him in the scramble to comprehend what made him who he was.

They would have agreed with Mr Jones – as I do – that it is necessary to understand an enemy in order to defeat them. But by this yardstick, Owen would be saying Hitler wasn’t one of the most evil men to blight the 20th century – and he clearly was.

Hitler did what he did because he thought it was the right thing to do. He believed – passionately, just as Iain Duncan Smith believes – that his policies were the best, not just for Germany but for the world. He believed that the German people – the Aryan race – were the inheritors of the Earth and he had a duty to bring them into their inheritance. He believed that other races – particularly the Jews, but also the Romany, and undoubtedly others as well – were inferior and that it was all right to use them as slaves in order to achieve the aims of his master race, while expending as few resources feeding and clothing them as possible. And he was surrounded by people who believed the same. Alternative ideas were suppressed.

Isn’t this exactly the same as Owen’s own rationale for the way Conservatives behave? “Most of us like to believe we’re ‘doing the right thing’,” he writes. “A politician introducing a policy that any independent observer will find drives people into poverty will privately justify it to themselves as necessary or unavoidable or for the long-term good of those affected. It allows people – on the right as well as left – to stubbornly believe things in spite of all the facts.” Like Hitler in the final months of World War Two? Like David “There Is No Alternative” Cameron?

“As is well known, the Tory front-bench is drawn from the most privileged sections of society. Such a background can – though not inevitably – lead to a failure to understand why people may struggle to get by,” Owen writes. Hitler’s background led to a failure to understand that he did not have a right to persecute sections of society he didn’t like – and Iain Duncan Smith’s background has led to the same failure. “It means mixing with other prosperous people, who they may see as the real drivers of prosperity who just need to be left to their own devices, freed from meddling governments and unions.” In Hitler’s case, he believed that the government and businesspeople needed to work together to bring about prosperity for the people – whose duty was to follow these leaders and service their needs blindly. “Easy, then, to justify policies that benefit the rich (who you see as noble wealth-creators) and punish the poor (who you see as those too feckless to climb the social ladder without prodding).” Easy, then, to justify policies that benefit the Nazi (who you see as a noble wealth-creator) and punish the Jew (who you see as a parasite, sucking money out of the state).

Conservatives are not a large section of the population. Those who are politically active are a tiny minority – the Tory Party is in fact a minority-interest organisation, promoting the interests of the very, very rich – so branding the Tories as evil is not casting a large section of the population in that light. Most of the people who support the Tories are misguided, rather than evil – they believe too much of what they read in the right-wing newspapers.

But Iain Duncan Smith’s determination to wipe out a whole section of the population just because their bodies don’t function the same way his does? That’s evil. George Osborne’s determination to stick to his austerity policies, even though he now knows there is no justification for them whatsoever? That’s evil. The Tory privatisation schedule that is intended, for example, to put decent healthcare out of the reach of the poor for generations to come, leaving them vulnerable to the revival of some of the least pleasant diseases and health conditions this country has ever seen? That’s extremely evil.

The way privatisation was presented as a way of democratising ownership of the national utility companies, when in fact the long-term plan was for the shares to be sold out of the hands of the working- and middle-classes who were ignorant of how to handle them properly, leading to huge dividends for people who were already rich, higher prices for the poor (to pay for those dividends, and the executive salaries they justified), and continued support from successive governments when the privatised companies failed to plough their profits back into their industry in investment? That was very evil too.

“Manipulating fears over, say, immigration or crime”? Evil.

“Exploiting existing divisions in working-class communities”? Evil.

Manipulating the press to present them as helping the poor, when in fact those who have the least are being hit harder than they have been for generations – while alternative opinions (with some honourable exceptions, Owen) are suppressed? Evil.

I like Owen Jones, but he’s wrong on this one. The Conservatives must be made to accept responsibility for the evil they are doing. He should not be giving these creatures of evil a way out.

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