Tag Archives: orwell

The ‘Daily Mail’ Wales – about as real as Brigadoon

Daily Fail Logo

A tweet from a local (Conservative) Assembly member and county councillor has set me off to read a Daily Mail hack-job on the Welsh government and its policies. It makes for bleak reading but I have yet to find any resemblance to the Wales I know.

Has the author, Robert Hardman, ventured any further than the M4 corridor in his researches? It seems doubtful.

The first section attacks the Welsh Government’s purchase of Cardiff Airport for more than the expected value, plus extra millions for investment, saying Bristol Airport attracts six times the custom and the subsidised bus service from Cardiff is going empty.

Perhaps we should not be surprised by this attack. The Mail is a Tory-supporting rag and Tories no longer believe in investment (look at the way George Osborne cut capital projects to shreds, after he became Chancellor) – except when they do (HS2 is costing increasing millions every day, Who benefits, I wonder).

If Cardiff Airport was making losses, then it seems perfectly sensible for the administration to take it over and turn it around. But that won’t happen in a day, or even in a year (nationalisation happened at the end of March 2013) and it is unrealistic of Mr Hardman to pretend that it should.

I live in Mid Wales, where the only airport is fictional (Llandegley International) and the buses are full. We could do with a few more, in fact. Perhaps Mr Hardman could exert some influence on the Westminster government to provide a little more Aggregate External Grant (AEG – the way central government funds local government and regional assemblies) funding to help with that?

Next, Mr Hardman wheels out a few hard-done-by Welsh people, starting with an NHS nurse from Pembrokeshire who has had to pay for a hip operation because of an 18-month waiting list.

It is hard to combat that kind of criticism without knowing all the details. However, my own experience of the Welsh NHS is of being seen promptly for the pre-op and being able to choose the date and time of the operation. Perhaps Mr Hardman is cherry-picking special cases in order to make his point?

Next up: A group of West Wales parents who want their children taught in English as opposed to Welsh. They live in Cardigan, where education is run by Ceredigion County Council, whose main political groups are Plaid Cymru, the Independents, and the Liberal Democrats. Why is Mr Hardman blaming Labour, then?

He wants us to believe the problems are nothing to do with funding: “Wales gets the same subsidies as other parts of the UK which are worse off but receive a better service,” writes Mr Hardman.

He’s wrong, of course.

Take the NHS. Wales has had billions clawed back from its health service by greedy Tories in Westminster, in a transparent attempt to force standards down and direct blame at innocent parties. Mr Hardman’s article buys into that deceit.

When I discussed this with a Welsh NHS surgeon less than two weeks ago, he said there was a huge difference between the service being delivered and the way it is described by politicians, who he described as “snakes”. I cannot help but sympathise with the people who provide the service; their work is what I see.

That is not to say that there are no problems in the Welsh NHS! If I suggested that, I would be guilty of exactly the same kind of blanket behaviour as Mr Hardman. Of course there are problems.

But his use of the Mid-Staffs scandal to bolster his argument gives him away. Mid Staffs did not have a hugely inflated mortality rate; the statistics were manipulated to provide the Tory Health Secretary with the headline he wanted.

Moving on again, we come to a person with what seems to be a genuine grievance about mistreatment of his mother by Welsh hospital staff. Again, I cannot comment on the individual case because I don’t have the details.

All I can do is reiterate that it is wrong to claim that a service covering an entire country of the UK must be entirely abominable, on the basis of one case.

… and I see that Mr Hardman concedes this point, admitting that most NHS professionals are dedicated and conscientious. He blames the Labour-run Assembly Government.

But I have to come back to my main problem with this article: Mr Hardman has not described the Wales in which I live. Why, then, should I believe his criticism of the Labour administration?

The article concludes with a bizarre story about Year Six school pupils being indoctrinated with anti-English propaganda using two dolls. “What, I wonder, is the Welsh word for ‘Orwellian’?” carps Mr Hardman.

It’s the same as the English word, but Mr Hardman needs to revise his definitions. If he wants ‘Orwellian’, he need look no further than the English Tory Party’s ‘bingo and beer’ budget advert.

“The people of Wales deserve better,” Mr Hardman concludes. Yes they do.

Better than his article.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

Join the Vox Political Facebook page.

Vox Political is not supported by a major media group, like the Daily Fail!
This independent blog’s only funding comes from readers’ contributions.
Without YOUR help, we cannot keep going.
You can make a one-off donation here:

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Alternatively, you can buy the first Vox Political book,
Strong Words and Hard Times
in either print or eBook format here:


Back to the Dark Ages as the Tories plan to scrap your Human Rights

A face of evil: Theresa May wants to take away your human rights and leave you at the mercy of government repression.

A face of evil: Theresa May wants to take away your human rights and leave you at the mercy of government repression.

Tory plans to take away your human rights are moving ahead with Theresa May announcing that they would scrap the Human Rights Act and withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights if they win the 2015 general election, “in the national interest”.

In whose interest? Not yours. Certainly not mine. She’s quite clearly confusing minority Tory interests with those of this country. They do that a lot.

If you want to get humour from the situation, Mrs May made her announcement at a conference organised to find ways of winning broader support in 2015. How badly off-track can you go?

There may, in fact, be a reasonable argument for modifying human rights legislation; we have all been appalled when judges have made decisions in favour of defendants because the alternative would “infringe their human rights” – but this is not a good reason to scrap the lot. It’s a reason to give out guidance on how it should be properly interpreted.

But getting rid of these rights altogether shows that the Conservative Party wants to turn government into an instrument of suppression, grinding the workers and the poor underfoot. Better people have already raised concerns that the Coalition is becoming an Orwellian “boot stamping on a human face – forever”; this would make that future a certainty.

It is likely that Conservative members of the Coalition government – most notably Iain Duncan Smith, Chris Grayling, Maria Miller and Mark Hoban – will fall foul of human rights laws, either in this country or in Europe, if the UK continues to abide by them, and this in itself provides enough grounds for us to speculate about why Mrs May wants to get rid.

As everyone in the UK should know by now, the draconian rules of the sickness and disablement benefits system overseen by Smith and his cronies has led to the deaths of thousands of people who had a right to expect a reasonable level of care from their government. If efforts to seek justice through the UK’s legal system fail, then there is likely to be an attempt at international level. The Tories could fend this off by removing the UK from the convention, although it seems likely that the International Criminal Court might then take a position on the matter.

Scrapping your human rights provides the Tories with many more opportunities for evil, though. Let’s look at what we could lose.

The United Kingdom helped to draft the European Convention on Human Rights, just after World War II. Under it, nation states’ primary duty is to “refrain from unlawful killing”, to “investigate suspicious deaths” and to “prevent foreseeable loss of life”.

As you can tell from the behaviour of the Department for Work and Pensions, the Coalition government has been reneging on this obligation – wholesale – since it came into power.

Is killing disabled people – or rather, allowing their deaths when this outcome can be clearly foreseen – in the national interest? Do you have any family members or friends who are disabled? Do you know any who have died as a result of this government’s barbaric policies? What do you think of that, and of the fact that withdrawing from the European Convention and scrapping the Human Rights Act would mean this government would get away with it?

Article 4 prohibits slavery, servitude and forced labour – in other words, the government’s Mandatory Work Activity or Workfare schemes. The government could try to weasel its way out of accusations relating to this, by saying these schemes are labour “considered to be a part of a person’s normal ‘civic obligations'” but the argument against this – that they have not served the interests of the person but of the companies to which they were attached – is strong. These schemes have been worse than useless at getting people into employment but an excellent money-making scam for the businesses concerned, including the ‘Work Placement Provider’ companies that receive government money for very little.

Article 6 provides a detailed right to a fair trial, including the right to a public hearing before an independent and impartial tribunal within reasonable time, the presumption of innocence, and other minimum rights for those charged with a criminal offence. The government’s current attempt to push through laws allowing “secret courts” to hear evidence against defendants – which they defendants themselves are not permitted to know and at which they are not allowed to be present – is a clear violation of this.

Article 8 provides a right to respect for one’s “private and family life, his home and his correspondence” – and of course Mrs May would be in violation with her “Snooper’s Charter” that would allow the government to look at your emails.

Article 10 provides a right to freedom of expression, which means that, if Mrs May has her way, anti-Conservative websites like this blog would be swept away and its author could be imprisoned (for an indefinite period of time, as the protections under Article 6 would no longer apply).

Article 11 protects the right to freedom of assembly and association, including the right to form trade unions. The Tories have always hated the unions, even in their current, very nearly toothless, form. They would relish the opportunity to make unions illegal and remove the rights of all employees.

There are more, but you get the gist. The Human Rights Act of 1998 is the British legislation that makes the European Convention effective in the UK, as far as is possible, meaning that breaches of it may be remedied in British courts, rather than the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

So that’s what Mrs May means, when she says she wants to scrap these laws. If you have been paying attention, you should be terrified.

You may also be questioning her definition of “the national interest”!

It is clearly a controversial move, and this is why the Tories are taking a “softly, softly” approach to it. They’re putting it out now, two years before the general election, to test the waters, and they know they’ll probably get a reaction against it.

Suppose something happens over the next two years that gives them an opportunity to say – and they will – that “restrictive European laws on Human Rights have prevented us from acting in the public interest”? Won’t that sway the opinion of the Daily Mail-reading public against the very rights that protect them?

It’s a strategy that has worked in the past. By the time the election arrives, you can expect the Tories to have worked the nation up to fever pitch about it – to the best of their ability.

It’s a trick.

They think you’re turkeys and they want you to vote for Christmas.

Do not let them make a fool of you.

Universal Jobmatch or Jobseekers’ Home-grab?

I predict this result when using the government’s new Universal Jobmatch. Picture from the Thurrock Heckler.

An administration united behind three key principles: freedom, fairness and
responsibility.” – David Cameron, first Coalition press conference, May 2010.

The government’s new online tool, which it claims is intended to make searching for a job easier, came into service on Monday. You might think that’s a good thing.

Think again!

It seems the appropriate term for the new system is “Orwellian”, as it tries to funnel jobseekers into any work that is available – no matter how inappropriate – and monitors responses in order to apply sanctions for any misplaced keystrokes.

These sanctions go up to three years without benefit. Bearing in mind the number of jobseekers who are living in social housing (they’re without jobs; of course they won’t be living in mansions) I think it’s safe to agree with a friend of mine, writing on Facebook: “You watch the homelessness figures skyrocket now!”

To me, that’s what it looks like: Another bid to grab people’s homes. Why the government should be so obsessed with depriving the population of its dwelling-places, I do not know – but I’m not looking forward to hearing the reason.

This is how my friend informed me about the new system:

WARNING: The government have introduced the new Orwellian jobsearch system on the directgov website.

“I was told by my adviser at the jobcentre that after some point next year, account registry will be mandatory for all JSA claimants, after which, they will be able to monitor every job you view, and when you view any job, you will not be able to leave the screen until you select a reason why you did not apply for that job.

It wont give you the details to apply for the job unless you register an account, and if you leave, the cookies will just tell them ‘refused to answer the question’.

They’re removing the Jobseekers’ Agreement. which effectively means they can now force people with First Class degrees or above to scrub toilets for four hours-plus per week, with no gain in pay.

They’re gonna call and spot-check all the jobs they recommend you for as well – even if they recommend you for jobs you know you’ll never get.

One slip-up and you lose your unemployment entitlement. First mistake: 13 week penalty, no pay. Second mistake: six months’ penalty, no pay. Third mistake: THREE YEAR penalty, no pay.

You watch the homelessness figures skyrocket now – because the fact of the matter is, there simply ARE NO JOBS for people. How many people in Pembrokeshire, where I live, unemployed? Thousands. How many jobs for the same area? A few hundred maybe. That’s for an entire SHIRE [county], not a town.”

According to OpenRightsGroup.org, a US company was commissioned to deliver this service – Monster Worldwide, an online recruitment and technology service firm, infamous for many major personal data losses through hacking. According to a Freedom of Information request made to the government, Monster was the only company invited to tender for the contract. The system does not require the consent of the participant – it is mandatory. Job Centre staff and external contractors – we don’t know who – will have full access to all user activities, including correspondence with employers, content of CVs, applications, job searches, feedback from employers, interviews offered and personal profiles.

Job Centre staff will be able to attach job vacancy details to user accounts – and those users must then apply for those jobs. It doesn’t matter how inappropriate those jobs might be – they must apply. Otherwise: sanctions.

It’s a stunning infliction of coercion and repression on a sector of society that has no defence against it. Details on the Jobmatch database remain there for 18 months after a user leaves the system, implying a huge invasion of their privacy. Add to that the fact that this ‘service’ will be integrated with central and local government and private sector databases, showing wages paid, hours worked, credit ratings, electoral roll entries and tax liability – it will be part of a huge tool to check up on you and make sure you don’t have cash you shouldn’t have. Because, at the end of the day, it’s all about keeping you down.

And remember the other Snoopers’ Charter – the one being pushed through by Theresa May? Not only will the government – and who knows who else? – have access to your financial information; it will also be able to check your communications, track your contacts and work out your opinions and sympathies from that. Orwellian: Big Brother really is watching you.

The sanctions do, indeed, run to three years without benefit. Workfare – the mandatory work scheme – is also a possibility. Claimants must be able to give evidence that they spend 35 hours per week doing job search activities.

I wonder how that is going to work?

I don’t think it will.

Users will be unable to provide evidence of every single minute’s work; they will make mistakes; they will get frustrated and intentionally abuse the system. Then they’ll be off the books. Then they’ll be in financial trouble.

Then they’ll be homeless.

Alongside all the people who’ve been thrown out because they couldn’t afford the Bedroom Tax, or because they couldn’t pay their council tax under the new relief schemes that are coming in.

I wonder what the government plans to do with all these houses that will be going spare?

One thing’s for sure, though: I don’t think “freedom” will have anything to do with it.

Or “fairness“.