Dictator Johnson has gone through with his threat and withdrawn the whip from 21 now-former Conservative MPs.
The list includes extremely high-profile names including Father of the House Ken Clarke and Philip Hammond, who was Chancellor of the Exchequer until only six weeks ago (at the time of writing).
Also out are recent Conservative leadership candidate Rory Stewart, Oliver Letwin, Dominic Grieve, David Gauke and Nicholas Soames (who is entirely forgettable apart from being Winston Churchill’s grandson).
And Guto Bebb, who said he would vote against the government, has also been ejected for going through with it.
Others include: Richard Benyon, Steve Brine, Alistair Burt, Greg Clark, Justine Greening, Sam Gyimah, Stephen Hammond, Richard Harrington, Margot James, Anne Milton, Caroline Nokes, Antoinette Sandbach and Ed Vaizey.
Boris Johnson started his first Parliamentary session as prime minister with 311 MPs and a majority of one. He ends it with just 289 MPs and the stigma of being the first PM since Pitt the Younger to lose his very first Parliamentary vote.
If David Cameron wants to tell us the current definition of child poverty is a bad one, he’s probably right. The problem is, his preferred changes to that definition will probably be worse.
Poverty is currently defined according to whether a household’s income is less than 60 per cent of the national average. So during a recession, when most incomes (apart from those of the very rich) drop, poverty actually appears to decrease.
Now, despite there having been no appreciable rise in incomes across the board, the Institute for Fiscal Studies is forecasting a rise in child poverty from 2.3 million to 2.5 million – that’s 200,000 more children in poverty, as it is currently measured.
For David Cameron, this is a disaster because it shows that – even with the help of the silly sliding-scale definition of poverty, his government is worsening the situation for children across the UK. What an evil man. What an evil government.
His solution, it seems, is to revive plans to change the way child poverty is defined, to ensure that all those children who have fallen on hard times since he came into office (in 2010, not this year – we, at least, can be honest about the effect he is having) may be dismissed from the poverty figures even if they don’t have food to eat or clothes to wear.
The thought of taking action to stop children falling into poverty probably hasn’t even occurred to David Cameron.
It seems he discussed the matter on Tuesday morning with Nicky Morgan, our dunce of an education secretary, Oliver Letwin, the Cabinet Office minister they keep in a back room in case he frightens children, and Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary who models his behaviour on the Nazis – any of his solutions are likely to be final.
(In fact, the £12 billion cuts being planned for the Gentleman Ranker’s welfare budget are likely to be fatal to a huge number of people in any case.)
The Guardian‘s report on this points out that “a little-noticed line in the Conservative party’s general election manifesto said the government would “work to eliminate child poverty and introduce better measures to drive real change in children’s lives, by recognising the root causes of poverty: entrenched worklessness, family breakdown, problem debt, and drug and alcohol dependency”.
So the manifesto plan is: Blame the parents.
What are they going to do, then – sanction them (take money away)?
Already popular organisations are starting to line up against the government. Alison Garnham of the Child Poverty Action Group took an early shot at Cameron’s claim to be running a ‘One Nation’ government (a slogan he stole back from Labour after the general election).
“You can’t have one nation if children’s lives, opportunities and life chances at every turn are shaped and limited by poverty,” she said. “The government’s child poverty approach is failing but the prime minister’s speech [on Monday] simply missed the point and failed to set out what his government will do to prevent his legacy being the largest rise in child poverty in a generation.
“It is no good pulling bodies out of the river, without going upstream to see who is throwing them in – especially, if turns out the culprit is government policy. The right choices that would reduce poverty include protecting children’s benefits with the same triple-lock protection pensions enjoy, fixing the deep cuts to tax credit help for the low-paid, tackling cripplingly high rents, high childcare costs and expanding free school meals.”
These things will not happen under a Conservative government. There’s no profit in it for them because children – unlike pensioners, for example – don’t vote.
So, in simple terms, this is the situation:
Child poverty is rising.
The Conservative Party intends to pretend that it isn’t happening by fudging a new definition of poverty.
The Conservative Party will do nothing to tackle the real causes.
What conclusion can we reach?
The Conservative Government welcomes increased poverty in the UK.
Role reversal: Let us hope that Cameron and his thugs won’t have a chance to restore fox hunting next year, and that his political career will be endangered instead.
They’ll say the purpose is to control vermin, but when it comes to hunting foxes with dogs, the only vermin are the Conservatives and their voters who support this.
According to the Daily Torygraph(and others), the Conservative Party election manifesto will include a commitment to a free vote on repealing the ban on hunting with dogs, if the party wins the general election in May next year.
For many of us, this will provide another reason to vote against the Conservatives and anybody who sides with them on this matter.
The fox population should be controlled – this is true – but it has been demonstrated many times that there are many routine ways of achieving this unpleasant necessity.
Only primitive, bloodthirsty, irresponsible barbarians like the Conservatives would want to turn it into a brutal ‘sport’. According to the report, it seems they want to tell us the Hunting Act, which banned it, was “wrong-headed”.
But – oh, look – the manifesto is being written by Oliver Letwin, the man who (allegedly) told us the National Health Service would not exist after five years of a Conservative government.
When it comes to primitive barbarism, he’s got ‘form’.
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:
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 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 which40% 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.
“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.
“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
“Then there’s Universal Credit, which — if Iain Duncan Smith’s team develop the competency to actually implement the policy — will leave100,000 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.
Bad budgeting: The NHS has spent far more money firing and re-hiring pen-pushers than it is willing to give in increased pay to nurses. In what twisted system is that fair? [Image: BBC]
The Coalition’s ‘reformed’ NHS has been spending a fortune on re-hiring managers it had previously given large redundancy payments – while Jeremy Hunt has been telling us there is no money to give nurses a pay rise.
Tory health minister Dan Poulter (the Health Secretary himself was nowhere to be heard) had to admit that 3,950 staff whose jobs were made redundant after May 2010 have since been hired back, in response to a Parliamentary question from Labour’s Julie Hilling. The figures cover a period up to November last year, so the true number may be even more.
These are managers who received large payoffs as part of the £3-4 billion ‘restructuring’ of the National Health Service that began before Andrew Lansley’s Health and Social Care Act was passed by Parliament.
The aim, as revealed in Nicholas Timmins’ Never Again: The Story of the Health and Social Care Act 2012, was defined by Oliver Letwin as “encouraging staff to quit public sector employment while selling their services back through social enterprise”. In other words, after losing their jobs in the ‘old’ NHS – and receiving large redundancy settlements for the inconvenience – managers were to be re-hired at high cost to the ‘new’ NHS.
Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham had this to say: “It’s clear that people who received payoffs are now coming back to the NHS in ever greater numbers. We need to know whether the Prime Minister has honoured his promise to recover redundancy payments from people who have been re-employed by his new organisations.
“The sickening scale of the waste caused by Cameron’s reorganisation is finally becoming clear. It will infuriate people who can’t get a GP appointment or nurses who are struggling to pay the bills.”
He pointed out: “It will be utterly galling for nurses who’ve just had a pay cut from David Cameron to see he’s been handing out cheques like confetti to people who have now been rehired.
“On his watch, we have seen payoffs for managers and pay cuts for nurses.”
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?
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.
Why do we allow this to continue?
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It seems David Cameron didn’t make such a good job of revitalising Conservatism after all.
Three Cabinet ministers have gone to Tory Blogsite ConservativeHome to vent their frustration at the comedy Prime Minister’s refusal to listen to their concerns about Andrew Lansley’s Health and Social Care Bill. “One was insistent the Bill must be dropped,” the blog post by Tim Montgomerie states. “Another said Andrew Lansley must be replaced. Another likened the NHS reforms to the poll tax,” which was disastrous for the Tories in 1990.
So you see, they’re all in it together (as the saying goes) when the going is easy, but once the headwinds start coming in, the rifts start to show.
And now we have three Cabinet ministers splitting from their PM and his Health Secretary. Does anybody remember a time in the mid-1990s when John Major had a similar problem with three members of his Cabinet? He said at the time: “You have three… members of the Cabinet who actually resign… I could bring in other people. But where do you think most of this poison is coming from? From the dispossessed and the never-possessed. You can think of ex-ministers who are going around causing all sorts of trouble. We don’t want another three more of the b*st*rds out there.”
That seems to be exactly what Comedy David has to deal with, though: “Three more of the b*st*rds”. From his point of view, at least.
His loyalty to his Health Secretary (and former boss at the Conservative Research Department) might be praiseworthy in another context. Here, it seems likely to split his party – because, when members of the Cabinet start to rebel, the writing’s on the wall.
Look at Major’s premiership. With him, the problem was Europe. Right-wingers in his Cabinet caused disruption that became an ideological rift, at a time when New Labour was on the rise. Ministers were caught having extramarital affairs and accepting cash for questions. His party became associated with greed and arrogance and the public deserted it, leaving it in the backwaters of British politics for more than a decade.
One only has to glance at the ‘Comments’ column of Mr Montgomerie’s blog to see that the rifts are still there; Cameron only ever succeeded in papering over them.
The Health Bill is hugely divisive: “Abandoning the bill is not an option – it’s philosophically right, and killing it would give Miliband a huge boost,” claims one (deluded, in my opinion) correspondent.
But another says: “It has suffered death by a thousand amendments. It has become an incoherent mess.”
Another simply asks: “Is the bill the new longest suicide note in history?”
Many have taken the opportunity to voice their opinions about other issues; once a split has been identified, they’ll pour all their grievances through the gap.
Europe remains a hot topic: “The Conservatives have already lost the next general election because of the EU and the false promise that Cameron made to get votes for his party. It is quite plain now that he did not intend for there to be a referendum on the EU and has reneged on the voters – they won’t vote for him again,” according to one correspondent.
The popularity (or not) of individual members of the government is still creating splits: “The fact that [Oliver] Letwin was so heavily involved does, and has, worried me,” writes another. “The guy is very bright, but not in a way people on the street would appreciate, or like. He was also heavily involved in ‘bomb proofing’ the Poll Tax legislation was he not?”
The crucial problem for the Conservatives now is the harm this has done to their electability – a problem that was due to worsen with the publication of a report by the right-of-centre thinktank Reform, saying the government’s entire ‘reform’ of public services is being undermined by the Department of Health’s management of NHS changes.
According to The Guardian, “The Scorecard report on 10 government departments with responsibility for different areas of public sector reform also singles out the prime minister for criticism for personally intervening with detailed promises on issues such as waiting times and nurses visiting patients’ beds every hour. The criticisms by Reform will be particularly damaging because they accuse the health bill of causing exactly the opposite of what it is intended to achieve – holding back reform of the NHS and damaging services for patients.”
Tories like power, and they’ll turn on anything that might get in the way. “The plan needs to be to win a working majority in 2015, and prevent Prime Minister Miliband,” as yet another ConservativeHome correspondent put it.
But Mr Cameron likes power too – even the semblance of it that he’s got now. So, even if he can’t get his legislation passed with any degree of confidence in it, he’ll cling on to what he’s got for all he’s worth.
I reckon we’re looking at another three years of ‘lame duck’ leadership before the electorate can take him out and (metaphorically) shoot him.
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