We’re supposed to be shocked by new revelations in the Sunday Times – but the facts have been public knowledge for weeks and months.
How strange to see the Sunday Times publishing an ‘investigation’ into the Tory government’s failure to get to grips with the coronavirus crisis, when This Writer published the same information, weeks ago, on my personal blog site!
The ST piece is behind a paywall so I can’t be sure, but from what I can tell (thank you Owen Jones on Twitter), I covered all the major points.
But there seems to be a huge amount of background detail missing.
Why is nothing said about the fact that the government let all of its strategies to counter a pandemic like the coronavirus fall out-of-date, nearly a decade ago?
Where are the facts about Exercise Cygnus – the test to estimate the impact of a hypothetical influenza pandemic on the United Kingdom that concluded that such a pandemic would cause the country’s health system to collapse, due to a lack of resources. The Tory government of the day refused to buy the recommended equipment on the grounds that it would cost too much.
It seems there’s no new information in it that makes any difference at all.
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.
Bosses of both Jeremy Hunt’s and Boris Johnson’s campaign to become leader of the Conservative Party – and prime minister in the process – have begged party members who have received two ballot papers to use only one of them.
It seems that more than 1,000 people could have multiple forms, according to a BBC report citing a party source.
That’s a lot of temptation for the party whose members are known for doing anything to get what they want.
Cheating in a major vote?
I wouldn’t put it past them.
Better count all the papers once they’re in, Tories. Better get someone independent to do it for you. And that includes the spoiled ones.
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.
Distraction techniques: The Tory media don’t want you thinking about Islamophobia in the Conservative Party so they have been making up false stories about anti-Semitism by Labour members.
The Mainly Macro blog by Oxford professor Simon Wren-Lewis, in its latest article, discusses the shocking and shameful bias of the national press in reporting anti-Semitism and Islamophobia – and comes to some forthright conclusions about the irresponsibility of the right-wing press.
I am waiting for the green light to make a major announcement about my own case, but in the meantime, consider this:
“The antisemitism story was notable for two important reasons. First religious organisations had publicly complained. Second these complaints had been supported by prominent Labour figures. However exactly the same applies to Islamophobia,” the Mainly Macro article states. “But to suggest equivalence between the two stories is misleading. The Conservatives’ Islamophobia problem is a much bigger issue for two reasons.”
The first is that Conservatives including Home Secretary Sajid Javid (who comes from a Muslim background but does not practise the religion) have attacked the Muslim Council of Britain – attacked it, claiming it harbours members with unacceptable views on extremism and is not representative of British Muslims. Labour has not attacked any Jewish organisations but has engaged in discussions with them.
Secondly, the Conservatives ran an anti-Muslim campaign in their attempt to win the most recent London Mayoral election, which was won by Sadiq Khan, a Muslim. As Professor Wren-Lewis notes: “David Cameron even libeled an ex-Imam in his attempts to link Khan to Muslim terrorism.”
So the news story about the Conservative Party and Islamophobia is more serious than that of Labour anti-Semitism because the attitude of the Tory leadership has been demonstrably anti-Muslim. But, as Mainly Macro has it, “the balance on the BBC has been the other way around, with far more coverage of the latter than the former.”
The reason appears to be that “BBC News tends to ‘follow the story’” – meaning it follows up articles in the pro-Conservative national newspapers. They have suppressed the Tory Islamophobia story and – as readers of This Site know – fabricated lies to boost their claims of Labour anti-Semitism.
We are left with an obvious conclusion:
The right-wing press is supporting Tory religious bigotry and racism – and will continue to do so unless you help put a stop to it.
One way of achieving this is to support my campaign to clear my own name of the libellous accusations of anti-Semitism that have been falsely made by the right-wing press.
If we can undermine their claims about anti-Semitism, we will strengthen questions about their silence on Islamophobia.
It seems to be a ‘dead cat’ strategy. When concerns about Tory Islamophobia come up, the Tory press starts agitating about anti-Semitism – metaphorically throwing a dead cat on the table and saying, “Never mind that – look at this!”
It’s not an argument – especially when the ‘dead cat’ on the table isn’t real, such as the false claim of anti-Semitism against me.
The DWP closely monitors media output, and compiles a “sentiment of articles” chart every month to make sure that they receive positive coverage.
Ministers have been doing their best to pretend that they never do anything wrong – and have then done their best to hide the fact that this is what they’re doing.
Doesn’t that tell you everything you need to know about the DWP?
Officers for the Department claimed that the information was “commercially sensitive”, of all things.
That just leads one to ask why. What commercial contracts would this information prejudice?
Clearly the Information Commissioner was not convinced by whatever argument the DWP produced, because we have our information now.
This Blog is one of the social media sources that offers almost exclusively negative coverage of the Department for Work and Pensions, and it is interesting to note how the DWP treated one of my biggest stories.
In August 2015 the DWP “proactively briefed” the media about the long-awaited statistics which showed the amount of ESA claimants who had died after being found fit for work.
I had no way of knowing this at the time, but this action was successful in ‘spiking’ coverage in the FT (whose editors should have known better), the Express (this is more understandable) and on ITV.
The DWP’s commentary stated that the most critical initial coverage of the statistics misrepresented their details. This was because the DWP had done its best to present them in a manner that would be misunderstood. Still, it was able to secure corrections in the Grauniad and the Mirror which weakened the story.
We are left with a clear message: The DWP is more concerned with distorting the facts – or preventing them from being known at all – than with the facts themselves.
It does not matter to Conservative ministers that their policies have killed thousands of people.
They just want to make sure nobody finds out about it.
Following a 13 month battle, the DWP have finally been forced to release secret documents illustrating the tactics they use to control and manipulate the media.
The documents reveal that the DWP monitors and analyses both mainstream and social media to reduce and manage negative coverage.
And even more worryingly, the documents show the DWP have managed to kill hundreds of stories by making sure that they are not reported.
Almost every month since March 2014 the DWP communications team has produced “Media Evaluation Reports” detailing the ways and methods that the DWP controls negative stories about them in the media.
The reports give valuable insight into a department that is unhealthily focused on the press coverage [it receives].
The fact that they have managed to kill so many stories that they don’t approve of raises serious questions as to how the department is exercising its influence over the free press.
The role of journalism is to bring people the truth behind the DWP’s rhetoric, not to act as the chief mouthpiece for it.
Mark Wood starved to death four months after a DWP medical assessment found him fit for work. He lived in David Cameron’s Witney constituency.
There is a recent addition to Twitter which claims to offer a chance to catch up on relevant information, called “While you were away”, or some such. It seems events have transpired to create a similar effect for This Writer.
Yr Obdt Srvt has been helping Mrs Mike with family business that necessitated a trip to Hereford yesterday. Upon our return, late into the evening, certain developments became clear:
A petition on Change.org, launched to support Vox Political‘s demand for the Department for Work and Pensions to publish the number of people who have died while in receipt of incapacity benefits since November 2011, has received nearly 60,000 signatures (at the time of writing); and
The Information Commissioner’s Office has sent a notification that any information on the tribunal hearing triggered by the DWP’s appeal against that demand should be requested from the Information Tribunal. This Writer should write to that organisation in order to be “joined as a party to the appeal”.
The Information Tribunal will be contacted by this writer shortly!
The petition had been gathering roughly 1,000 signatures a day since it was launched last week (after a piece on the DWP’s appeal was published in Ros Wynne-Jones’s Real Britain column in the Daily Mirror). This is a very healthy performance in itself, but it has now gone stratospheric after Ros published notification of its existence in this week’s column, and after Change.org decided to promote it heavily. It’s entirely possible that support from one or two celebrities on Twitter might have helped, too…
Maggie Zolobajluk, who started the petition, is a former CAB adviser who has prepared countless presentations re benefits including the changes and their impact of the Coalitions changes to benefit and housing legislation. She now has a blog, Telling it as it is.
She emailed me to say a press officer at the ICO had told her the tribunal hearing has not yet been listed. He said it will probably be a paper hearing and she may be able to submit the petition to the hearing. He estimated that it would be October before the appeal would be heard.
Firstly, the possibility of a paper hearing (in which all submissions are documentary and no evidence is heard from people attending in person) is extremely unwelcome. The DWP requested this in its appeal and This Writer intends to oppose it. We are entitled to an oral hearing, that will provide the opportunity to cross-examine the DWP representative. It is in the interests of justice to have an oral hearing, yet the ICO seems happy to accept one on paper instead.
Secondly, submitting a petition on the day of the hearing seems a little late. Wouldn’t it be better to send it in at a time before the hearing, in order to give the Tribunal a chance to take action?
Readers of this blog may be interested to know that the DWP hired a Treasury barrister, whose salary has been estimated at £49,000 per year, to prepare its appeal. This seems entirely out of proportion, considering it may reject a Freedom of Information request of the cost of responding exceeds £600.
Just how free can government information be, if it is prepared to waste thousands of pounds in preventing its release?
This matter is nowhere near ending yet – and in the meantime the death count lurches ever-higher.
Postal ballot papers for Hull East. Notice that no Labour or Green candidates are listed.
High-profile Labour MP Karl Turner’s name has been omitted from 480 postal ballot papers in his Hull East constituency due to what the local council is calling an “inadvertent mistake”.
If that is the case, why were Mr Turner and Green candidate Sarah Walpole only missed off the papers for people who registered to vote after April 1? Doesn’t that imply that somebody removed their names deliberately?
Hull City Council had better check every single ballot paper it is preparing for election day, to prevent any further “inadvertent mistake”. Mr Turner was elected with a majority of more than 8,000, so the potential loss of 480 votes was unlikely to affect him. The loss of who-knows-how-many votes on the day might be a different matter!
Mr Turner told the BBC the mistake was “concerning” because people were “being denied the right to vote and take part in the democratic process”.
He added: “I have had calls from people in East Hull who are going on holiday this week and are angry that they are unable to vote. I have asked Hull City Council to urgently look into the matter and review their processes surrounding sending out ballot papers.”
The campaign is moving from desperation into criminality now, it seems. This Writer does not believe for one moment that those ballot papers were altered by “mistake”.
Expect further incidents like that in the last days of the campaign – and we can be sure plenty of last-minute voters will be locked out of their polling stations again, on the stroke of 10pm, just like last time. This gives Conservative candidates an edge over others because Tory voters are whipped into voting as early as possible.
In other news, it seems more than 70,000 ballot papers destined for Hastings and Rye, in East Sussex, were stolen along with the van that was transporting them there. Hastings Borough Council says it is putting measures in place to ensure that none of the stolen papers can be used, and we are being asked to believe that the loss of the papers was incidental to the theft of the van.
Yeah, right. But opportunism is a wonderful thing. Let’s see what happens there.
Both these events could lead to electoral fraud, which is a crime. Vox Political readers are urged to be alert for any possible “inadvertent mistake” in your own constituency and report anything suspicious to the Returning Officer (usually your local council’s chief executive) and to the police.
Earlier this evening, in my post about Mike’s article asking that we all look out for and care for those, who will be alone, disabled, depressed and vulnerable this Christmas, I told an old Russian joke about the propagandistic nature of the Soviet press, writes The Beast.
The joke’s a pun on the names of the two major Soviet papers, Izvestia, ‘News’, and Pravda, ‘Truth’. The joke ran, ‘There’s no truth in the ‘News’, and no news in the ‘Truth”. I remarked that the situation was actually reversing, and that despite the considerable restrictions on the press in Putin’s Russia, the Russian press seemed to want to present a far more objective picture of the suffering of Britain’s poor than our own, supposedly unbiased, ‘free’ press.
Well, Communism has fallen, but Russian journalists were swift to point out that, at least when it came to the road infrastructure, capitalism still suffered from glaring contradictions as per Marxist ideology. The Russian newspaper, Komsomolskaya Pravda, succinctly summarised this with a joke about Jeremy Clarkson.
‘To see ourselves as others see us’: It is hard to stand on a platform when you can’t even stand – but the social media are giving disabled people a stronger voice and a chance to take the spotlight, rather than the sidelines.
The Labour Party is likely to scrap the hated Work Capability Assessment for people claiming sickness and disability benefits, replacing it with “something that looks very different” – but you haven’t heard anything about it on the news, have you?
Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, Kate Green, said she would be treating with “great seriousness” the Beyond the Barriers report by the Spartacus online campaigning network, which concluded that the WCA is “inaccurate, unreliable and invalid” – but you won’t have heard anything about that on the TV or radio, or read it in the papers either.
Vox Political found it on the Centre for Independent Living’s website, The Fed Online, after being pointed to it by a link on social media. The article – from Friday (April 11) – said Beyond the Barriers was “backed by evidence from more than 1,200 sick and disabled people”, and drew on the best of the systems used by seven other countries.
It said the report “demands a new system that is ‘radical and ambitious’ and ‘inspires, enables and encourages’ disabled people, rather than the current ‘punishing, penalty-based system'”.
Kate Green said she would not want to scrap the assessment immediately, but would want to replace it as soon as possible.
She criticised the points-based format of the current, computer-based test, and its focus on a one-off “snapshot” of each claimant’s condition – which takes no account of fluctuating ailments.
But she also warned that the Department for Work and Pensions has been pushed into a “very fragile” state by its Conservative Secretary of State, Iain Duncan Smith, with his hopeless Universal Credit project and problems with the new Personal Independence Payment and ESA – both of which were related to the work capability assessment.
She said a Labour government would have to be careful not to “knock the whole department over completely” with any changes.
This blog would rather have the whole DWP dismantled, with its work turned over to a new organisation – or several. It seems clear that the attitudes of the department’s heads, along with the damaging work ethic they have propogated, make the DWP unsustainable in its current form.
LabourList, the UK’s top political blog, added its support to Beyond the Barriers, with columnist Luke Akehurst stating: “It cogently promotes a viable policy alternative which protects the interests of disabled people without being profligate with public money.”
He continues: “The report calls for: ‘Work for those who can. Security for those who can’t. Support for all.’
“This is the language of Labour’s values. We could do a lot worse than implementing this report’s proposals if we get into government.
“Read the report. Get angry about what the Government has done to disabled people. And get organised to ensure our Party takes these excellent ideas, from disabled people themselves, seriously.”
How sad that Beyond the Barriers – and Labour’s reaction to it – has been ignored en masse by the news media. It seems a sensible response to this issue is unwanted in those areas.
And a senior member of the Labour Party supporting this sensible attitude would be a long way off-script for the right-wing press, whose mogul bosses need to depict Labour as even more crazed than the loonies in blue ties that their papers and TV stations support.
Still, there it is.
This blog now awaits the fevered response from commenters who have remained determined to trash Labour’s policies.
Let’s see you get your ignorance out, in the face of all the evidence.
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A principled stand: Dr Gordon Gancz, of Oxford, is fighting the government’s plan to sell his patients’ confidential records to private companies for profit.
A refreshing change seems to be sweeping through local news media here in the UK, with stories starting to appear about people who are fighting unjust behaviour by the government.
The rest of us should support this.
For example: Workington woman Jeanette Johnston, 29, had a job until recently but has been forced to give it up due to congenital health problems which mean she has already had a kidney removed and will need a heart and lung transplant in the future.
She had been receiving Disability Living Allowance but this was stopped last August after aids including bed ladders were fitted at her home, following recommendations from an occupational health expert.
Jeanette’s tale raises several questions. Why does it take so long for anyone to have the now-legally-demanded medical assessment of their disabilities? Could it be because benefits are stopped until those assessments take place, and it is a chance for the government to claim benefit savings? This seems extremely likely.
Also, Jeanette’s benefit was stopped after living aids were installed in her home on the advice of an occupational health expert. The government has just announced a plan to let employers send occupational health experts to advise workers who are off sick for more than four weeks. Does this signify an intention to deprive people of sickness benefits?
Finally, we should note that Jeanette’s condition is serious, involving a heart condition – and it is entirely possible that the stress of trying to make ends meet could worsen her health enough to hospitalise her or even end her life. Is this the government’s intention? If so, then we should all be asking questions about criminal intent.
Elsewhere – in Oxford – a local doctor is defying plans to collect patients’ confidential information and sell it to businesses.
Vox Politicalhas reported on the plan many times in the past, focusing on patients’ right to ‘opt out’ of the scheme, called variously the Health and Social Care Information Centre, the General Patient Extraction Service or simply care.data by the government.
The records are said to be ‘pseudonymised’ by the government – an attempt at hiding patients’ identities that, in fact, allows anyone buying the information to work out the personal details of everybody on the list if they so choose.
Both of these stories have been reported in the local press, where the online versions have ‘comment’ columns to which readers can post opinions. It seems likely that the papers involved will also have letters pages.
If you believe that the delays caused by the government disability assessment system are dangerous, you can say so – directly, to the newspaper. If you believe that Dr Gancz is right to protect his patients, you can say so – directly, to the newspaper.
I’m not going to urge you to go and do it because – as we all know – the Department for Work and Pensions took a previous comment of this kind as evidence that I was co-ordinating a campaign of harassment against it (new readers: this is not a joke!) and a future such incident would not help anyone.
But it seems likely that a few words of support for these people, in the pages of their local paper, might help rouse other readers into declaring their own opinions.
It is easy to keep people quiet about controversial changes when they think they are the only ones who are concerned; it’s not so easy when people have evidence that others feel the same way.
It’s farewell to your centuries-old right to free speech today, after your Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs won their bid to get the Gagging Bill passed by the House of Lords. It won’t go back to the Commons because the Lords made no amendments.
While you, personally, will be allowed to continue complaining about anything you want, you will no longer have the ability to link up with others to protest government actions in any meaningful way as such action may breach Liberal Democrat and Tory government-imposed spending limits. Your personal complaints will be deemed unrepresentative of the people.
You will still be able to have your e-petition on the government’s website – if you win enough signatures to have it debated in Parliament – ignored by the Tories and Liberal Democrats in the House of Commons.
The Liberal Democrats and Tories have even managed to rub salt into the wound by creating a register of all the corporate lackeys who will still be able to influence their policies – freelance lobbyists employed by large companies for the specific purpose of swaying government policy. Lobbyists who are company employees will not be listed as the government says their purposes for meeting MPs should be obvious.
This means the new law will do nothing to restrict the power of corporations to write government policy or prevent lobbying scandals such as those involving former Tory MP Patrick Mercer, along with Tories Peter Cruddas and Liam Fox.
The new law protects in-house corporate lobbying operations from official scrutiny, while preventing the public from enjoying the same privileges of access to the government. That is what your Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs have fought so assiduously to obtain, over the eight months or so that this legislation, “one of the worst… any government produce[d] in a very long time”, has spent being digested by Parliament.
In a Commons debate in September, Glenda Jackson MP warned that her constituents “know that the Bill… would prevent democratic voices from being heard”.
In response, Andrew Lansley – the Conservative who gave us the hated Health and Social Care Act 2012, another incredibly poor piece of legislation – said; “I look forward to the Honourable Lady having an opportunity… to go back to her constituents, to tell them that the things they are alarmed about will not happen.”
@UKJCP immediately resurrected itself as @DeadParrotJCP and @Director_UKJCP. We’ll see how long they last.
Let us not forget, also, that the third part of this law cracks down on trade unions, enforcing strict rules on membership records to ensure, it seems, that it is possible to ‘blacklist’ any trade unionist who finds him- or herself seeking work.
With free speech flushed away, you may still resort to public protest – but the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) has that covered.
ACPO is an organisation that has tried to put ‘agent provocateurs’ into legitimate protest groups and promoted ‘kettling’ to stop peaceful protests (as used in the student protests early in the current Parliament), among many other reprehensible activities.
Considering its track record, it seems clear that ACPO wants to use water cannons against legitimate political protests, on the assumption that the increasing imposition of ideologically-imposed austerity on the country by the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives will lead to more political protests, as people across the UK finally realise that the Tories and their corporate lobbyist friends are actually working against the wider population.
ACPO’s report on water cannons makes it clear that “it would be fair to assume that the ongoing and potential future austerity measures are likely to lead to continued protest” and “the mere presence of water cannon can have a deterrent effect”.
The Home Office response? “We are keen to ensure forces have the tools and powers they need to maintain order on our streets. We are currently providing advice to the police on the authorisation process as they build the case for the use of water cannon.”
So there you have it. Take to the streets in peaceful protest and your police service will assault you with water cannons, with the blessing of your government.
There remains one option open to you – your vote. You could get rid of the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats at the next general election in 2015.
But that leads us to ask why the government has launched its attack on free speech and free protest.
Perhaps it wants to control the information you receive, on which you base your voting intentions?
We already know the unelected Conservative and Liberal Democrat government is using the predominantly right-wing media for this purpose. For example: George Osborne made a great deal of fuss earlier this week, alleging a huge resurgence in the British economy. With help from Tory mouthpiece the BBC, he was able to put out the headline figure that the economy grew by 1.9 per cent in 2013 – its strongest rate since 2007.
Osborne also claimed that Britain is doing better than all comparable economies in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and that the upturn is due to his imbecilic “expansionary fiscal contraction” policy, otherwise known as austerity.
All of these claims are false, or intended to create a false impression.
Firstly, his 1.9 per cent of growth started at a much lower level of output than would have been the case if Osborne had not imposed austerity on us all and stopped the 2010 recovery dead. GDP would now be 20 per cent higher than its current levels if not for this single act of stupidity from the stupidest Chancellor in British history.
Secondly: The US economy recovered from an eight per cent fall after 2008 to a five per cent rise above its previous peak by the third quarter of 2013. Germany is the only major European country to enjoy growth of two per cent or higher, after an initial recovery based on increased public expenditure – not austerity. Even France has nearly reached its pre-crisis peak. The UK remains two per cent below its previous economic peak.
Finally, Osborne did not even get to this miserable excuse for a recovery by imposing austerity. He quietly adopted a stimulus policy to avoid going back into recession. What do you think ‘Funding for Lending’ is? Or his mortgage guarantee scheme?
If George Osborne, Home Secretary Theresa May, ACPO and the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition in Parliament had their way, you would not have access to any of these facts.
You would be led to believe that the governments policies are working, exactly the way the government says they are working.
You would not have any reason to believe that the government is lying to you on a daily basis.
You would be tranquillised.
Would you vote against a government that tells you such wonderful things, even when your own circumstances might not reflect that story (real wages fell by seven per cent in the private sector and five per cent in the public sector between 2007-13)?
David Cameron is betting his career that you won’t.
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