Tag Archives: New

It’s big, but neither ambitious nor impressive: Boris Johnson’s plan for new laws

On the attack: Boris Johnson has unveiled no fewer than 38 Bills and draft Bills that will clamp down hard on the people of the UK while denying any help to deal with the crises facing us.

Boris Johnson his revealed a plan for 38 new laws in the Queen’s Speech at the State Opening of Parliament, delivered in her absence by Prince Charles.

The Prince may have been mortified that it fell to him to report such a mess of half-baked ideas, attempts to dodge democracy, and above all failure to address the burning issues facing the people of the United Kingdom due to the incompetence of Johnson’s nearly three years as prime minister (and almost 12 years of Conservative failure in total).

There are no plans to address the cost-of-living crisis that is already crippling the ability of the poorest in society – millions of whom are already having to go without food on a regular basis – and threatening to harm millions more in the future as another increase in energy prices and wider-spread inflation hits families.

The government is putting forward an Energy Security Bill to “accelerate our transition to more secure, more affordable and cleaner homegrown energy supplies”. But this won’t help anybody for many years – and it includes an expansion of dirty nuclear energy that will make the UK a target for disasters like Chernobyl and Fukushima, and will fill the country with nuclear waste.

Johnson has claimed that his aim is to build a high-skills, high-pay economy, and that this will protect the population in the future. But he has been criticised for failing to draft an employment bill to protect workers’ rights, thereby leaving them open to exploitation.

On the other hand, there are plans to clamp down on political protest: the Public Order Bill would create a criminal offence, with a maximum sentence of 12 months, of “interfering with key national infrastructure” such as airports, railways and printing presses. This would also make it illegal to obstruct major transport works such as HS2.

Home Secretary Priti Patel says the changes are needed to deal with a “self-indulgent minority who seem to revel in causing mayhem and misery”. Doesn’t that more accurately describe the Conservative government of which she is a member?

And as part of what we’re told are seven Bills to capitalise on opportunities (if you can call them that) created by Brexit, a new Bill of Rights will show how Johnson intends to scrap your human rights and replace them with a series of privileges to be granted you by your Tory overlords, that may be changed whenever they feel like it. It has been suggested that this will not replace primary legislation, though.

A possibly-euphemistic Brexit Freedoms Bill will give the Tories power to change EU laws that were copied into the UK’s statute book after the country left the European Union – which should also ring alarm bells among members of the population who know that this signifies a removal, not expansion, of our freedoms.

Another Bill will set out the framework in which Nadine Dorries will be able to push through her undemocratic plan to privatise Channel 4 – after a government consultation found that 96 per cent of the population don’t want it to happen.

The list goes on and on – but most of the items on it are described in only vague terms. Many of them are plans to relegate certain forms of lawmaking to what’s known as “secondary legislation” – statutory instruments that are signed off by ministers rather than enjoying a democratic vote in Parliament. These may be seen as assaults on democracy and steps toward dictatorship.

You can spot these for yourself in the lists provided by news organisations, for example here, here and here.

Worst of all is the fact that this programme of attacks against you will continue, even if Boris Johnson is removed from power.

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#LabourFake – propaganda op falls flat as existence of new members is questioned

Keir Starmer: yes… yet another own goal.

Well, it has been truly said that the secret of good comedy is timing.

Only on Saturday night (February 19-20) I found myself watching an episode of Dave Gorman’s Modern Life is Goodish in which the star of the show discusses the shady practice of buying Twitter followers, and how you can tell them apart from real people.

Then on Sunday (February 20 – today, as I type this), I discover that suddenly the Labour Party has sprouted a throng of new members who don’t appear ever to have existed before – many of whom have very few followers of their own, which is a dead giveaway, really.

And all this after “Kiethy” was accused of having bought Twitter followers of his own. Around a third of his followers aren’t real people, it seems – possibly more by now, because people who have followed him in good faith may have turned away in disgust.

Amid the scepticism, there’s been plenty of opportunity for humour – of the gallows variety, admittedly. Some of us have been taking great joy in mocking the possibility that Keir Starmer’s new (and horrifying!) Labour policies would attract people with genuine (read: traditional) Labour values:

Once again, Starmer and his right-wing halfwitted cabal have made themselves – and the Labour Party they infest like parasites – look daft.

In their case it is an apt description. But the vast majority of Labour Party members deserve much, much better than this. Sadly, Starmer has changed party rules to ensure that they cannot demand it. The best they can do is leave (and there are far better organisations to join).

Was anybody actually stupid enough to believe this silly propaganda fail?

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Back to work, Britain! But has #BorisJohnson come back from his #Chrimbo #holibobs?

Another late night, Boris? The prime minister may well have spent Christmas raving it up as usual. But the question is, where?

It’s a valid question – especially with Boris Johnson himself saying workplaces should be prepared for a quarter of employees to be absent.

But while they may be missing due to Covid-19 – Johnson himself is far more likely to have jaunted off to foreign parts on his holibobs.

Who can forget this interview from just after Christmas?

With his reputation for (dis)honesty, it’s entirely reasonable to wonder where Johnson is and what he’s up to.

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TV Comedian shreds Starmer

Keir Starmer: he’s not doing here what Sophie Duker suggested in the clip – but the look on his face may suggest he has been in the recent past.

This was too good to leave as a throwaway tweet so I’ve taken video and put it on TikTok to test the possibilities of that platform (and as practice for myself).

It’s from Frankie Boyle’s New World Order, in which comedian Sophie Duker (not Dukes, as the software insisted on renaming her) passes judgement on Keir Starmer’s tenure (so far) as leader of the Labour Party.

It’s not good:

@voxpolitical

Sophie Dukes shreds Keir Starmer (from Frankie Boyle’s New World Order).

♬ original sound – VoxPolitical

(To be honest, the clip isn’t that good either – sorry! But I’m sure it’ll get better once I’ve ironed out a few things.)

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How others see us: Papua New Guinea shreds Johnson’s government

Incredible sulk: how Boris Johnson would probably look if he read this article from Papua New Guinea.

This humiliating summary of Boris Johnson’s government comes from Papua New Guinea, once partly a British protectorate.

What a takedown for Johnson that a country the UK used to rule is now ridiculing his rule of his own land:

For those who have trouble reading text in images, here it is:

So once more to the UK, where the court of despot Johnson is arrayed by the kind of sycophants and shills who would have made Caligula blush. And that’s just the journalists.

The UK is ‘world beating’ in that it is the first country voluntarily to impose economic sanctions on itself, and the first to suffer the labour shortages and stagnating wage growth that nobody but those who predicted it could have predicted.

Eagle Annual nostalgia has begat a reckoning with which Johnson’s poltroons are ill-equipped to deal. In recent weeks several pillaging lawmakers have been lacerated by the self-same media that only months ago turned a blind eye to the slaughter through negligence of tens of thousands. And they’re getting twitchy.

WhatsApp messages are deleted quicker than you can say “Kathryn Stone should consider her position”. Taxes of minimum wage carers that ended up as PPE contracts in the silken pockets of Savile Row suits are being laundered in the usual way: through real estate and favours further down the road.

The Tories are a superstitious tribe, but the magical incantations of ‘Oven Ready’, ‘Leave Means Leave’, and ‘Get Brexit Done’ that once made half the nation dance in ecstasy are now inducing a danse macabre, as the women of child-bearing age fire boltguns into the temples of screaming pigs and the men contemplate imminent planetary systems collapse by driving their SUVs at the new ascetics: smug [smug? Shurely shome mishtake?] pensioners who block motorways.

Everyone knows the reckoning is coming. Westminster is buzzing with the sound of shredders working overtime and Tories squabbling over scraps from the pharma, gambling, and petrochemical firms with whom they’ve spend a decade screwing their constituents.

But Boris doesn’t mind. The caste system left behind by the empire means there’s no shortage of Home Counties talent willing to lick the brogues of a proven liar. The price Britain has paid for painting two thirds of the atlas red is a ruling order so damaged that its members would rather sell their souls to a corporation before admitting that a single mother on eighty quid a week is their equal.

The “shredding” part is particularly relevant now, as demands for Lord Bethell to produce evidence of his meetings with Randox build in volume. What happened to his emails and text messages? Where are the minutes of his meetings?

Has the paperwork already been through one of those buzzing shredders?

And what punishment will Bethell face if he refuses point-blank to co-operate and cough up the juice?

Are we so corrupt – as a country – that we’re just going to let him get away with it?

No wonder we’re such a laughing stock around the world.

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New DWP sanction system could have TOUGHER punishments for claimants

[Image: www.disabledgo.com]

This is extreme, even for the Department for Work and Pensions.

It seems there are moves to toughen up the sanction system for people on New Style Employment and Support Allowance and Jobseekers’ Allowance, even though sanctions were only introduced a few days ago.

The DWP has a new watchdog organisation, the Social Security Advisory Committee (what happened to the Bonfire of All The Quangos?) that reckons the system isn’t harsh enough.

Apparently it is possible for people to claim both Universal Credit and JSA or ESA – but if they are sanctioned, it can only be applied to UC.

This means that such claimants would be in a better position financially than people on only one of the benefits; if the sanctioned amount was more than the value of the UC element of benefit payments to a particular claimant (it could be zero), then the total sanction could be as low as zero.

The SSAC wants the penalties to apply to both benefits that are being claimed.

Considering the arbitrary nature of the sanction system, This Writer considers the current situation to be a valuable protection for claimants. We have all heard horror stories about people who were sanctioned and subsequently died because the DWP got its decision wrong.

It seems the problem lies in the fact that sanctions are decided on the advice of a DWP work coach – a single civil servant – whose attitude to the job may vary between very extreme positions, depending on who it is.

Work coaches are supposed to help claimants write a “claimant commitment” that sets out their obligations as claimants of the state payments.

The commitment should be accessible, clear, tailored to the claimant’s needs and the state of the local labour market, and agreed by both the claimant and the DWP, and claimants should be properly informed.

In fact, research has shown that some work coaches aren’t using their discretion fairly or reasonably and opt for generic, rather than tailored, actions. Some work coaches were found to be copying and pasting actions from a shared document which had become standard in their local Job Centre.

There were examples of lone parents not being informed of their right to reduced work searches, and re-assessment interviews lasting just 10 minutes.

If brutal sanctions are applied to people on two benefits, on the say-so of the people responsible for such abuses of the rules, then hideous injustices may result.

Suggested examples include sanctions being applied to elderly disabled claimants now looking for work in their 60s and suffering poor health. How would they survive if their work coach turns out to be a “power maniac who enjoys putting the disadvantaged down”?

Ministers have not (yet) approved any suggested changes but we all know the DWP’s reputation for bloodthirstiness. How long will it be before this new opportunity to cause misery is seized?

Read more here: Exclusive: Benefits watchdog wants tougher punishment for jobless and disabled claimants after DWP bungles new sanctions system | Westminster Confidential

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Benefit sanctions: if you’re on new-style JSA or ESA, brace yourself!

Sanction centre: people on New Style ESA and JSA are about to be hit by the most arbitrary and unreasonable process ever foisted on large numbers of the public by a cruel government – the DWP’s sanctions regime.

The Department for Work and Pensions has decided that people on New Style Employment and Support Allowance, and Jobseekers Allowance, have life too easy.

So the DWP has introduced sanctions for those benefits. They came into effect on November 3 – did anybody notice?

The DWP says the rule change means that New Style JSA and ESA claimants who do not meet the responsibilities agreed in their Claimant Commitment, without having a good reason, will lose some or all of their payment.

But those with experience of how sanctions work in other benefits will know that claimants are likely to face unreasonable demands from the DWP that will be followed by a loss of benefits.

Sometimes they may be informed that their benefits are being sanctioned for transgressions that they have not committed or for failing to attend interviews to which they were not invited.

They may also be sanctioned for failing to attend interviews, even if they have provided good reasons. Being admitted to hospital – and therefore unable to communicate with the DWP – is never accepted as a good reason.

Of course, the DWP has not mentioned this. Its statement said: “As is the case for Universal Credit claimants, if someone in receipt of new style JSA and ESA fails to do what they have agreed to in their Claimant Commitment without good reason – such as having or caring for a child, or a change to a health condition – their payments may be reduced for a set period.”

This is particularly amusing – in a bitter way: “Sanctions are only applied as a last resort when a claimant is not engaging with the commitment they have made. If someone disagrees with a decision they can ask for it to be looked at again.”

Experience suggests that sanctions are less likely to be applied as a last resort than as a first response – especially if you are claiming ESA.

Of course it is entirely possible that the DWP will actually police its new system fairly…

But This Writer will believe it when I see it. I may have a long time to wait.

Source: DWP sanction rules will now apply to New Style ESA and Jobseekers Allowance claimants – Daily Record

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Vox Political writer inadvertently aids government NHS hospital plan. Have you done the same?

Johnson: I’m delighted to declare this brand-new hospital open! Nurse: It’s not a new hospital, sir. Johnson: It looks new to me! Nurse: It’s a community centre that we’re using to give people Covid-19 vaccinations. And you’re a twit.

You may have noticed there were no new articles on Vox Political yesterday (August 27).

This is because on August 26 I spent the evening out with friends where certain beverages were imbibed.

It was my first time out on such an evening, really, since Covid-19 arrived here in early 2020, and I soon discovered that I was not in any condition for it.

The hangover was shocking.

So on Friday morning I opened a box of Paracetamol (other painkillers are available) and dived in. I’m astonished to discover that, in so doing, I was opening a new NHS hospital.

I had no idea that’s how it works now!

Sadly, my contribution will not count towards Boris Johnson’s 40 because I am in Wales.

If you’re confused about any of the above, here’s an explanation:

Of course, some people have chosen to satirise this new initiative…

… but I’m above that. I merely want you all to know that I’m doing my bit!

(Oh, all right. For the facts – and the reason we should all be angry about Boris Johnson’s – and, originally, Matt Hancock’s – lie that they were building 40 (now 48?) new hospitals, see the Independent report below, explaining that NHS England is being ordered to declare that any slight building work on already-existing hospitals is to be treated as a new hospital in order to make up the numbers. And when I say “make up”, I mean “lie about”.)

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Every new MP receives briefing on how Tory social security reforms have harmed us – so they can’t say they don’t know

Long-term readers of This Site will remember Mo Stewart, the researcher into the harm being caused to claimants of sickness and disability benefits by successive Conservative governments’ determination to convert the social security system to a for-profit insurance scheme.

Mo spent 10 years researching and writing a book on this subject: Cash Not Care – The Planned Demolition of the UK Welfare State.

After the 2019 general election, she became concerned that the huge new influx of Conservative MPs – along with those from other political parties – were ignorant of the harm that government policies had caused.

So she wrote a briefing paper specifically addressing the issue and sent it to all of them.

Labour’s John McDonnell has apparently offered to arrange a debate on the subject, if possible.

Whether or not that happens, Mo has provided me with a copy of the document so we all have a record of what these MPs should know – and so they won’t be able to plead ignorance.

And here it is:

Social Policy Abused:
The Creation Of Preventable Harm

Executive Summary

The Preventable Harm Project (the Project) ran for ten years and closed in November 2019, with the evidence identified within the Project findings widely promoted during 2019/20. The Project identified the bipartisan political ambition to eventually remove the UK welfare state, to be replaced by private income replacement health insurance. In order to remove the welfare state, it was first necessary to remove the psychological security provided by the welfare state. This was achieved by the adoption of a flawed disability assessment model, and the manipulation of the general public aided by the tabloid press, that successfully demonised claimants of disability benefit(s). Large numbers of suicides linked to the adoption of the Work Capability Assessment are overlooked by the Department for Work and Pensions, and successive Rule 43 ‘prevention of future deaths’ Coroners’ reports, highlighting the link between the Work Capability Assessment and suicides, have also been disregarded. The Work Capability Assessment was fatally flawed by design and should be abolished, and the departmental intimidation of disability benefit claimants should be outlawed.

Introduction: The Creation of Preventable Harm

1. Introduced in 2008 to restrict access to the new Employment and Support Allowance long-term out-of-work disability benefit, the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) is a ‘non-medical functional assessment’ that disregards all clinical opinion. Since 2010, the WCA has been linked to the deaths of thousands of chronically ill and disabled benefit claimants who applied for state financial support when unable to work, yet were deemed to be ‘fit for work’ by the fatally flawed WCA.

2. Twelve years since the adoption of the WCA there is an identified and growing mental health crisis within the UK linked to claimants of disability benefit(s), and a disturbing increase in suicides directly linked to the WCA, as identified by published academic research but dismissed by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

“The worst thing, I find, is realising that I am forced into looking for a life that I want but have no chance of having. I seriously feel I may kill myself because being sick, having next to no money, no life, no future, no cure, constant pain and constant disapproval defeats me.”

An extract from the ‘Fulfilling Potential? ESA and the fate of the Work-Related Activity Group’ project, conducted by Catherine Hale and published by MIND and the Centre for Welfare Reform.

3. In both 2006 and 2007 the government’s own expert medical panel warned the administration not to adopt the WCA, advising that it was ‘not fit for purpose’ due to the predictable negative impact on public mental health. The expert panel’s clinical opinion was disregarded by the DWP. The removal of clinical opinion from disability assessment using the WCA guaranteed that many of those in greatest need were destined to die, as the state removed the financial and the psychological security of a guaranteed income when unfit to work.

4. There have been two official Rule 43 ‘prevention of future deaths’ Coroners’ reports linking the WCA to suicides, with other Coroners expressing concern at inquests due to the identified enforced suffering of the deceased by the DWP. Coroners’ official Rule 43 reports and identified concerns are disregarded by the DWP, whose social policy reforms since 2010 created preventable harm to those in greatest need linked to intimidation. The constant threat of sanctions, which removes all disability benefit income, leaves the chronically ill and disabled community in need of state financial support living in fear of the DWP.

5. Regardless of the Jobcentre being advised that a claimant is unable to attend an interview due to ill health, disabled claimants are routinely met with an ‘institutional reluctance’ to meet their needs, as identified in Coroner’s reports. Jobcentre staff’s decisions to sanction a claimant can cause death by starvation, in C21st UK, when all income is removed for a period of weeks or months. No-one is held to account when some of those in greatest need are starved to death by the state.

6. The WCA is used to limit access to all state disability funding including the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Universal Credit and the War Pensions for older working-age disabled veterans, which is a military medical pension not an out-of-work benefit.

7. The WCA is regularly and inappropriately referred to as a ‘medical assessment’ by the DWP, MPs, academics, policy advisers and journalists. The WCA is not a medical assessment and is totally unrelated to clinical opinion. The adoption of the WCA is identified as being attributed to psychocoercion by successive administrations, to remove what once was the psychological security of the welfare state for anyone who is unfit to work.

8. Identified in 2008 by the American Association of Justice as being the second worst insurance company in America, the corporate insurance giant Unum (Provident) Insurance have been advisers to the UK government since 1992, and were appointed as the official UK government consultants for ‘welfare claims management’ from 1994. Concerned by the increase in various conditions that could not be confirmed by blood tests or x-rays, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, Unum Insurance adopted a biopsychosocial (BPS) model of disability assessment, which disregards all clinical opinion.

9. Unum advised the UK government as to how to adopt a similar BPS assessment model in the UK, and funded an assessment centre at Cardiff University for this purpose. The DWP adopted the discredited Waddell-Aylward BPS model of assessment for the WCA, which disregards diagnosis, prognosis, past medical history and prescribed medicines. The human consequences of using the WCA is that many of those in greatest need would die, with many driven to suicide with a common perception that anyone claiming to be unfit to work, and in need of state financial support, will be persecuted by the DWP. The Waddell-Aylward BPS model of assessment failed all academic scrutiny.

Policy recommendations

• Since 2009 every clinical authority in the UK have demanded that the WCA should be abolished. This includes the British Medical Association, the Royal College of General Practitioners, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the Royal College of Nurses and the British Psychological Society. Introduced by the private health insurance industry, disregarding clinical opinion was always dangerous. The WCA is fatally flawed and should be abolished without further delay, to be replaced with a disability assessment that considers clinical opinion, with many assessments being paper-based, so that the chronically ill and disabled community are no longer intimidated by the DWP.

Research findings
• In order to remove the past psychological security provided by the welfare state it was necessary to discredit vast numbers of disability benefit claimants, aided by the tabloid press, which helped to manipulate the British public.
• Social policies were adopted with a fiscal priority whilst disregarding health and wellbeing, which policymakers failed to take into account when recommending policies which were harmful.
• Since 2010 the social policy reforms, and the additional austerity measures, were destined to have a catastrophic and often fatal consequence for many of those in greatest need. Thousands of chronically ill and disabled benefit claimants have died when ‘killed by the state,’ with a 2014 NHS Digital Adult Psychiatry Morbidity Survey report that identified that almost 50 percent of ESA disability benefit claimants had attempted suicide at some point.
• Prosecuted disability hate crimes, including murder, increased by 213 percent between 2010-2016, during the coalition government’s term in office.
• The relationship between physical health and mental health is well documented. The numbers of benefit claimants who have perished due to social policies since 2010 will never be known.
• Published in September 2016 ‘Cash Not Care: the planned demolition of the UK welfare state’ provides the results of the first six years of independent disability studies research for the Preventable Harm Project. The book is now recommended reading for various social policy, health and legal courses at universities in the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

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UK already has the highest Covid-19 death toll in the world – and it has hit a new height

You must be sick of seeing this image but this story would require as an alternative the virus represented by deaths-head skulls – and I thought that would be too depressing.

“We’re world beating!” says Boris Johnson.

How hollow those words ring.

They mean This Writer lives in the deadliest country in the world:

The UK has recorded its deadliest day from coronavirus so far, with 1,610 deaths recorded on Tuesday.

It comes as the number of new infections fell, showing early signs that lockdown restrictions are working, with confirmed coronavirus cases within 24 hours dropping to 33,355 – down from 38,598 cases on Sunday, and 37,535 on Monday.

Official data showed one in eight people in England – about 5.4 million – had already had Covid by December last year, with experts claiming the disease was “much more widespread than previously realised”.

A further 1,610 people died in the UK within 28 days of a positive Covid test, Public Health England (PHE) confirmed. This is the biggest UK figure reported in a single day since the pandemic began.

We know, now, that a huge number of deaths from Covid-19 are now being recorded beyond 28 days after a positive test, as the so-called “long Covid” makes itself felt in a big way.

And I regret I will soon be writing about a massive 46 per cent increase in care home deaths. After Johnson and his Tories vowed to protect vulnerable residents, it seems his promise was empty.

That is the grim reality.

Meanwhile, Johnson and his Tories are living in a fantasy – and trying to get you to believe in it too.

Damian Lewis, on the morning media round of UK TV and radio channels, tried to avoid the huge death toll by emphasizing the claim that the Tories have vaccinated more citizens than any other nation.

It isn’t true. Our people haven’t been vaccinated because they have had only one of two necessary shots. After the second jab they will be vaccinated – if, and only if, they have had the injection within the recommended time limit. That’s three weeks, for the Pfizer vaccine.

This issue has been picked up by the media, it seems. The Guardian report of the death toll, above, suggests that the fall in infections is due to the current (attempt at a ) lockdown, rather than to the injections.

It may well be the worst failure of any government in its duty to protect the citizens of a nation since history was first recorded. The enormity of this catastrophe cannot be overstressed.

And it happened because, instead of trying to care for the sick, the government concentrated on filling Tory pockets with public money.

Yet, even after more than a year of Covid-related incompetence, the Tories are still rated highest in political opinion polls. Are we all masochists now? Do we have a death wish?

Source: UK coronavirus death toll rises with highest daily record of 1,610 | Coronavirus | The Guardian

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