Apparently, according to @AdamBienkov, the fact a woman who is not a vicar & who appeared on Newsnight wearing a dog collar & supporting May’s Brexit deal, having previously appeared in many BBC shows, is perfectly normal & if the think otherwise you’re a conspiracy theorist
So the allegation was that “Lynn” was not a qualified vicar, but was definitely a person who had appeared as an actor in BBC productions – but the BBC was denying that there was anything shady about her, and was claiming that anyone suggesting this must be a conspiracy theorist. Here’s what the Newsnight team had to say – and a response that suggests the social media sleuths were way ahead of the game:
“Pastor at her own, minute Facebook church”? That deserves a little extra digging – but here‘s Evolve Politics, a social media news site that has already done the hard work for us:
“Whilst Lynn is not a genuine vicar, she does regularly attend church. However, the church in question is her own.
“Yes… Lynn is … the creator of the “Seeds For Wealth Ministries”, who describe themselves as a religious organisation who can help you “realize, release and walk into your financial freedom in Christ. To Educate, Equip and Empower the saints.”
“Newsnight’s claims that Lynn is “a pastor” are incredibly misleading. Pastors are merely church leaders, and anybody can start their own church with absolutely no registration or official documentation needed.
“Hayter also calls herself a “minister” on her acting profile and on her Facebook page, and anybody is free to become ordained as a minister on the internet!”
“She is, in fact, an actor – and not only that, she has previously worked as a minor cast member on numerous BBC programmes.
“Lynn’s full name is Lynn Marina Hayter, and uses her middle name for her acting work.
“Lynn’s past acting work includes playing a Drunkard on the BBC show Eastenders, playing a “Theatre goer” on the BBC show The Dresser, playing a female beggar in the BBC programme Dickensian, and was cast as a nurse in the BBC show The Chronicles.
“Having been cast by the corporation on numerous occasions, Lynn is clearly a figure well known to BBC producers.
“And… her repertoire extends through many ranges, including – one would assume – the part of a supposedly pro-Tory vicar on a prime time political debate programme.”
So: Not a genuine priest, if by that we mean a member of a recognised church. But a genuine actor, and one known to the BBC. And the BBC is unlikely to admit trying to deceive us, so we have reason to doubt its claims.
Is that enough for an ordinary person to decide the Corporation has deceived us? Consider this:
Lies lies lies. She is a paid actor. It is her job. She is not an ordained pastor – she is a right-wing, Trump supporting fantasist who calls herself a pastor. Using an actor posing as a member of the public to support the government is a RESIGNING matter.https://t.co/y0gS2PkTQBhttps://t.co/cpbB30IM62
The People’s Assembly Against Austerity will be holding a mass demonstration against the government’s austerity measures on Wednesday (July 8) – which is when George Osborne is set to deliver his benefits-bashing ’emergency’ budget.
They have invited Maggie Zolobajluk, who organised the petition in support of my bid to find out how many people have died while claiming sickness/disability benefits, to speak – but not me.
Maggie kindly asked me if I would be able to make it to London and speak instead of her – and I’d love to – but I don’t think it’s possible. The distance is too great, and I can’t justify being away from Mrs Mike – and also the blog, on a day that will affect the way the UK develops for the foreseeable future.
I started drafting out a few words for her to deliver on my behalf – but they turned into a full-blown speech instead. I ended up writing far too much – so, rather than ask her to say it, I’m publishing it here instead.
A previous demonstration, staged by the People’s Assembly Against Austerity in 2014.
I am neither sick, nor disabled – but I choose to side with the sick and disabled against oppression.
It isn’t an entirely altruistic choice. Mrs Mike – as she is known on my blog, Vox Political – has been ill for many years, and we have fought battle after battle with the Department for Work and Pensions over the benefits to which she is entitled.
You’re probably sick of hearing the famous verse by Pastor Martin Niemoller, but he was right. Who’s going to stand up for me, if I don’t stand up for other people first?
Mrs Mike and I are used to winning those battles, and I wonder how much of that success is due to the fact that I am able-bodied. Think about it – if you are battling constant pain, or are a victim of depression, or your condition fluctuates so you simply don’t know if you’ll be able to get out of bed in the morning, or you have any number of the other maladies that may affect the sick or disabled – then the last thing you’ll want to do is argue over tiny details with a gang of suited pedants in Whitehall.
Additionally, these pedants have employed private contractors to make sure they judge the severity of a person’s sickness using information that is wrong.
If you’re sick, or disabled, the pressure can be too much to bear. And not every sick or disabled person has an able-bodied partner like me to take up the slack.
So, inevitably, the worst happens.
Only last weekend I learned about Graham Shawcross, of Manchester. Mr Shawcross had lived – and worked – with Addison’s Disease for 40 years before having to claim sickness benefit. It is a potentially fatal condition whose symptoms include exhaustion, muscle weakness, dizziness, fainting and cramps that can lead to adrenal crisis, which can be fatal. But that isn’t what killed him!
No – Mr Shawcross died of a heart attack in February, after being ruled “fit for work” by the DWP in November last year. He had been preparing to present an appeal against the decision – writing out the details several times a day, and talking about it constantly.
His widow said the stress of having to do this – stress that was created by, and only by, the DWP’s “fit for work” decision – was what killed him.
You should be aware that the DWP says it is “irresponsible to suggest a causal link between the death of an individual and their benefit claim”, and “mortality rates among people with serious health conditions are likely to be higher than those among the general population”. We’ve seen that comment in the newspapers very often over the last few weeks.
It’s a statement that falls flat when the DWP’s own position is that the individual was “fit for work” at the time of his death.
Months after Mr Shawcross passed away – and despite being told this had happened by his widow – the DWP initially invited him to an appeal hearing, and then admitted he was seriously ill and deserved Employment and Support Allowance.
It’s a bit late for that now!
How many other benefit denials have been reversed after the claimant has died?
We don’t know – but it’s the subject of my next Freedom of Information request!
The man responsible for this regime, Iain Duncan Smith, is said to be religious so he should understand me when I say people claiming benefit must feel as though they have been crucified by their physical or mental ill-health. Instead of offering relief, Mr Duncan Smith and his department complete the job with a ‘crown of forms’ that push them into an early grave.
One has to question the morality of a supposed Christian who approves of crucifixion!
But then, it seems even leading members of the Catholic Church to which he belongs have tried pleading with him to alter the fatal direction of his policies – there was an article to that effect in the most recent edition of Catholic newspaper The Tablet.
But government ministers say it is “irresponsible” to claim that the benefit assessment system had anything to do with the death.
I wonder if they’ll say that to Mrs Shawcross, who is adamant that the system is what killed her husband. That would be a conversation worth hearing!
I first became concerned about the number of people who were dying while claiming benefits when the DWP itself revealed that 10,600 deaths had occurred between January and November 2011. Note that the official figures did not include December, which is considered to be a season of increased suicides.
This concern became alarm after I learned that Freedom of Information requests by other individuals, calling for updated figures, had been refused for no reason other than that the 2011 statistics had been part of an ‘ad-hoc’, one-off, release.
So I sent off a request, and asked readers of the blog to support it with requests of their own – to show that it was a matter of wider public concern. Only 23 did, but that was enough for the DWP to refuse me on the grounds that I was being “vexatious” – trying to flood the Department with work.
I’m still not sure how that claim can be justified. It’s the same information – all they had to do was put it together and send it off to the people who wanted it. It seems that creating a mailing list of email addresses is too much for a government department with more than 100,000 employees.
The tribunal that turned down my appeal did express considerable sympathy for my position, and suggested that another FoI request should result in publication of the statistics. So I wrote another one.
I won’t go into the details – it’s enough for you to know that, after several months of fighting with the DWP, I won.
The DWP then chose to take the matter to a tribunal, employing an expensive Treasury barrister to make out the case. It seems that, while Freedom of Information requests cannot cost more than £600 – that’s the legal limit – the government can spend as much of your money as it likes, if it wants to withhold the facts.
That’s when Maggie Zolobajluk started her petition, calling on the tribunal to refuse the appeal.
Now, instead of 23 supporters, my request has 230,000.
So David Cameron told Parliament that the figures will be published. What he didn’t tell Parliament was that they would be homogenised, amortised, Age-Standardised Mortality Rates, that show the deaths as a ratio compared with the death rate amongst the wider population – and he certainly won’t tell anyone how many people have died while claiming sickness and disability benefits since November 2011.
And now the Justice Secretary is trying to make it harder for Freedom of Information requests to succeed. It seems the embarrassment they cause is just too much for the administration that once said it intended to be the most open government ever.
Michael Gove wants to include “thinking time” in the cost of handling FoI requests.
What does that even mean?
Parliament’s Justice Select Committee has already stated that including “thinking time” in FoI costs would introduce an unwelcome variable into the system, which relies on everyone having equal access to the facts. The cost of “thinking time” would depend on the abilities of the civil servant dealing with the request.
Not only that, but we should ask what “thinking” has to do with it in any case. When a request is made under the Freedom of Information Act, the only questions a public authority may ask are whether it has the information and can publish it within the £600 cost limit. Questions about – for example – the motives behind the request are immaterial.
What are we to conclude?
That we have a government that intentionally complicates benefit claims for the sick and disabled.
That people who might live decent and, in many ways, productive lives are having those lives cut short because of goverment policy.
That the government does not want the wider population of the UK to know the true number of deaths.
That the government wants to shut down the Freedom of Information system so inconvenient questions like this can no longer be asked.
In short, that the government wants to smother any attempt to question it.
Too many sick and disabled people have been smothered already.
The late Brian McArdle is one of the many, many people who have died because of policies inflicted on the UK by a corrupt government.
It seems some people still don’t understand the threat posed to them by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats who are currently running the UK into the ground.
Yesterday (Saturday) a commenter suggested that it might be a good idea to put up with another four years of the current catastrophe, in the hope that voters will be so sick of the situation by the end of it that they’ll support a properly Socialist government.
That is an attitude born from naivete and a failure to understand the changes wrought by the self-serving wretches we foolishly allowed into government in 2010.
Firstly, if a Tory or Tory-led government is voted back into office next year, the Fixed Term Parliament Act means we’re saddled with them until 2020 – that’s five and a half more years.
Secondly, changes to the electoral system have been introduced which mean that far fewer people are likely to have registered to vote by the time that 2020 election rolls around – and those who are still able to do so will be far more likely to vote for the Conservatives than for any other organisation.
Thirdly, the Tories tried to gerrymander Parliamentary constituencies – during the current term of office – in order to ensure they would be far more likely to win any future election, by reducing the number of MPs to 600 and altering constituency borders to make a majority of people in the new constituencies more likely to vote for them. The only reason this failed is because the Tories’ little yellow partners, the Liberal Democrats, refused to support the change after the Tories stabbed them in the back over their bid to introduce proportional representation. They will try again, if elected back into office next year.
Fourthly, the mainstream media is owned by strongly right-wing, Tory-supporting concerns who feed the general public highly biased ‘news’ items that are intended to prejudice ordinary people against the organisations that gave them the welfare state, the NHS and the human/working rights that make their lives tolerable at the moment. The plan has always been to mislead people into relinquishing those hard-won pillars of the modern UK by supporting the Conservative Party and its plans to abolish them in favour of a private system that will rob them and leave them powerless to prevent further predations.
Fifthly, the Conservative Party has no intention of allowing anyone to consider the possibility of an alternative government as it has spent the last four and a half years turning the British government into a gravy train, creating more wealth for the Conservative Party. The aim has always been to use the deficit and the national debt as excuses to cut services and sell their provision to private companies – who then charge the public higher prices for those services and pay the Conservative Party large donations as thanks for services rendered. The claim that this will lessen the national deficit and debt is a lie – with less money passing through the system, it is more likely that the debt will increase, providing the Tories with an excuse to sell off even more of the hard-won infrastructure of our society.
Finally, the new – corrupt – system that the Tories have created (with or without the collusion of the Liberal Democrats) relies on the creation of an underclass for people to hate, on whom the blame can be placed for the perceived failure of the system to work in the way the Tories have been claiming it would. The chosen scapegoats are the unemployed and the disabled – people who are unable to work in Tory donors’ sweatshops, for varying reasons. The Tories have used their friends in the mainstream media to whip up hysteria against these so-called ‘lazy scroungers’, unhindered by any relationship with the facts; subsidies to the City (London’s financial district) far outstrip payments made to the unemployed, incapacitated or disabled, despite the fact that the City is a profit-making entity that doesn’t need taxpayers’ help and the amount of fraud in the benefit system – the number of people who don’t deserve taxpayer support – stands at less than one per cent. And wasn’t it the bankers who caused our financial woes in the first place? This has led to the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people, whose only fault was needing the help that they, and their fellow citizens, had funded with their taxes in the past. The government is refusing to release figures on the number of deaths and Iain Duncan Smith recently denied that any had taken place.
Just one such death should be enough to send the Conservatives out of government forever. Here are 71*:
Terry McGarvey, 48. Dangerously ill from polycytheamia, Terry asked for an ambulance to be called during his Work Capability Assessment. He knew that he wasn’t well enough to attend his WCA but feared that his benefits would be stopped if he did not.
He died the following day.
Elaine Lowe, 53. Suffering from COPD and fearful of losing her benefits. In desperation, Elaine chose to commit suicide.
The late Mark Wood.
Mark Wood, 44. Found fit for work by Atos, against his Doctors advice and assertions that he had complex mental health problems. Starved to death after benefits stopped, weighing only 5st 8lb when he died.
‘Stewardship’: This memorial is to Paul Reekie, the Scottish poet and writer who took his own life in 2010. Letters left on his table stated that his Housing Benefit and Incapacity Benefit had been stopped. The poet’s death led to the creation of the Black Triangle Anti-Defamation Campaign in Defence of Disability Rights.
Paul Reekie, 48, the Leith based Poet and Author. Suffered from severe depression. Committed suicide after DWP stopped his benefits due to an Atos ‘fit for work’ decision.
Leanne Chambers, 30. Suffered depression for many years which took a turn for the worst when she was called in for a WCA. Leanne committed suicide soon after.
Karen Sherlock, 44. Multiple health issues. Found fit for work by Atos and denied benefits. Fought a long battle to get placed into the support group of ESA. Karen died the following month of a heart attack.
Carl Payne, 42. Fears of losing his lifeline benefits due to welfare reform led this Father of two to take his own life.
Tim Salter, 53. Blind and suffering from Agoraphobia. Tim hanged himself after Atos found him fit for work and stopped his benefits.
Edward Jacques, 47 years old and suffering from HIV and Hepatitis C. Edward had a history of severe depression and self-harm. He took a fatal overdose after Atos found him fit for work and stopped his benefits.
Linda Wootton, 49 years old. A double heart and lung transplant patient. Died just nine days after the government found her fit for work, their refusal letter arriving as she lay desperately ill in her hospital bed.
Steven Cawthra, 55. His benefits stopped by the DWP and with rising debts, he saw suicide as the only way out of a desperate situation
Elenore Tatton, 39 years old. Died just weeks after the government found her fit for work.
John Walker, 57, saddled with debt because of the bedroom tax, John took his own life.
Brian McArdle, 57 years old. Suffered a fatal heart attack the day after his disability benefits were stopped.
Stephen Hill, 53. Died of a heart attack one month after being found fit for work, even though he was waiting for major heart surgery.
Jacqueline Harris, 53. A former Nurse who could hardly walk was found fit for work by Atos and her benefits withdrawn. in desperation, she took her own life.
David Barr, 28. Suffering from severe mental difficulties. Threw himself from a bridge after being found fit for work by Atos and failing his appeal.
David Groves, 56. Died of a heart attack the night before taking his work capability assessment. His widow claimed that it was the stress that killed him.
Nicholas Peter Barker, 51. Shot himself after being told his benefits were being stopped. He was unable to work after a brain haemorrhage left him paralysed down one side.
Mark and Helen Mullins, 48 and 59 years old. Forced to live on £57.50 a week and make 12 mile trips each week to get free vegetables to make soup. Mark and Helen both committed suicide.
Richard Sanderson, 44. Unable to find a job and with his housing benefit cut forcing him to move, but with nowhere to go. Richard committed suicide.
Martin Rust, 36 years old. A schizophrenic man who killed himself two months after the government found him fit to work.
Craig Monk, 43. A vulnerable gentleman and a partial amputee who slipped so far into poverty that he hanged himself.
Colin Traynor, 29, and suffering from epilepsy was stripped of his benefits. He appealed. Five weeks after his death his family found he had won his appeal.
Elaine Christian, 57 years old. Worried about her work capability assessment, she was subsequently found at Holderness drain, drowned and with ten self inflicted wrist wounds.
Christelle and Kayjah Pardoe, 32 years and 5 month old. Pregnant, her benefits stopped, Christelle, clutching her baby son jumped from a third floor balcony.
Mark Scott, 46. His DLA and housing benefit stopped and sinking into deep depression, Mark died six weeks later.
Cecilia Burns, 51. Found fit for work while undergoing treatment for breast cancer. She died just a few weeks after she won her appeal against the Atos decision.
Chris Cann, 57 years old. Found dead in his home just months after being told he had to undergo a medical assessment to prove he could not work.
Peter Hodgson, 49. Called to JCP to see if he was suitable for volunteer work. Peter had suffered a stroke, a brain haemorrhage and had a fused leg. His appointment letter arrived a few days after he took his own life.
Paul Willcoxsin, 33 years old. Suffered with mental health problems and worried about government cuts. Paul committed suicide by hanging himself.
Victim of government persecution: A coroner has agreed that government pressure drove Stephanie Bottrill to suicide.
Stephanie Bottrill, 53. After paying £80 a month for bedroom tax, Stephanie could not afford heating in the winter, and lived on tinned custard. In desperation, she chose to walk in front of a lorry.
Larry Newman suffered from a degenerative lung condition, his weight dropping from 10 to 7 stone. Atos awarded him zero points, he died just three months after submitting his appeal.
Paul Turner, 52 years old. After suffering a heart attack, he was ordered to find a job in February. In April Paul died from ischaemic heart disease.
Christopher Charles Harkness, 39. After finding out that the funding for his care home was being withdrawn, this man who suffered with mental health issues, took his own life.
Sandra Louise Moon, 57. Suffering from a degenerative back condition, depression and increasingly worried about losing her incapacity benefit. Sandra committed suicide by taking an overdose.
Lee Robinson, 39 years old. Took his own life after his housing benefit and council tax were taken away from him.
David Coupe, 57. A Cancer sufferer found fit for work by Atos in 2012. David lost his sight, then his hearing, then his mobility, and then his life.
Michael McNicholas, 34. Severely depressed and a recovering alcoholic. Michael committed suicide after being called in for a Work Capability Assessment by Atos.
Victor Cuff, 59 and suffering from severe depression. Victor hanged himself after the DWP stopped his benefits.
Charles Barden, 74. Charles committed suicide by hanging due to fears that the Bedroom Tax would leave him destitute and unable to cope.
Ian Caress, 43. Suffered multiple health issues and deteriorating eyesight. Ian was found fit for work by Atos, he died ten months later having lost so much weight that his family said that he resembled a concentration camp victim.
Iain Hodge, 30. Suffered from the life threatening illness, Hughes Syndrome. Found fit for work by Atos and benefits stopped, Iain took his own life.
Wayne Grew, 37. Severely depressed due to government cuts and the fear of losing his job, Wayne committed suicide by hanging.
Kevin Bennett, 40. Kevin a sufferer of schizophrenia and mental illness became so depressed after his JSA was stopped that he became a virtual recluse. Kevin was found dead in his flat several months later.
David Elwyn Hughs Harries, 48. A disabled man who could no longer cope after his parents died, could find no help from the government via benefits. David took an overdose as a way out of his solitude.
Denis Jones, 58. A disabled man crushed by the pressures of government cuts, in particular the Bedroom Tax, and unable to survive by himself. Denis was found dead in his flat.
Shaun Pilkington, 58. Unable to cope any more, Shaun shot himself dead after receiving a letter from the DWP informing him that his ESA was being stopped.
Paul ?, 51. Died in a freezing cold flat after his ESA was stopped. Paul appealed the decision and won on the day that he lost his battle to live.
Chris MaGuire, 61. Deeply depressed and incapable of work, Chris was summonsed by Atos for a Work Capability Assessment and deemed fit for work. On appeal, a judge overturned the Atos decision and ordered them to leave him alone for at least a year, which they did not do. In desperation, Chris took his own life, unable to cope anymore.
Peter Duut, a Dutch national with terminal cancer living in the UK for many years found that he was not entitled to benefits unless he was active in the labour market. Peter died leaving his wife destitute, and unable to pay for his funeral.
George Scollen, age unknown. Took his own life after the government closed the Remploy factory he had worked in for 40 years.
Julian Little, 47. Wheelchair bound and suffering from kidney failure, Julian faced the harsh restrictions of the Bedroom Tax and the loss of his essential dialysis room. He died shortly after being ordered to downgrade.
Miss DE, Early 50’s. Suffering from mental illness, this lady committed suicide less than a month after an Atos assessor gave her zero points and declared her fit for work.
Robert Barlow, 47. Suffering from a brain tumour, a heart defect and awaiting a transplant, Robert was deemed fit for work by Atos and his benefits were withdrawn. He died penniless less than two years later.
Carl Joseph Foster-Brown, 58. As a direct consequence of the wholly unjustifiable actions of the Job centre and DWP, this man took his own life.
Martin Hadfield, 20 years old. Disillusioned with the lack of jobs available in this country but too proud to claim benefits. Utterly demoralised, Martin took his own life by hanging himself.
Annette Francis, 30. A mum-of-one suffering from severe mental illness, found dead after her disability benefits were ceased.
Ian Jordan, 60. His benefits slashed after Atos and the DWP declared Ian, a sufferer of Barratt’s Oesophagus, fit for work, caused him to run up massive debts in order to survive. Ian was found dead in his flat after taking an overdose.
Janet McCall, 53. Terminally ill with pulmonary fibrosis and declared ‘Fit for Work’ by Atos and the DWP, this lady died 5 months after her benefits were stopped.
Stuart Holley, 23. A man driven to suicide by the DWP’s incessant pressure and threat of sanctions for not being able to find a job.
Graham Shawcross, 63. A sufferer of the debilitating disease, Addison’s. Died of a heart attack due to the stress of an Atos ‘Fit for Work’ decision.
David Clapson, 59 years old. A diabetic ex-soldier deprived of the means to survive by the DWP and the governments harsh welfare reforms, David died all but penniless, starving and alone, his electricity run out.
Chris Smith, 59. Declared ‘Fit for Work’ by Atos as he lay dying of Cancer in his hospital bed.
Nathan Hartwell, 36, died of heart failure after an 18-month battle with the Department for Works and Pensions.
Michael Connolly, 60. A Father of One, increasingly worried about finances after his benefits were cut. Committed suicide by taking 13 times the fatal dose of prescription medicine on the 30th October – His Birthday.
Jan Mandeville, 52, A lady suffering from Fibromyalgia, driven to the point of mental and physical breakdown by this governments welfare reforms. Jan was found dead in her home after battling the DWP for ESA and DLA.
Trevor Drakard, 50 years old. A shy and reserved, severe epileptic who suffered regular and terrifying fits almost his entire life, hounded to suicide by the DWP who threatened to stop his life-line benefits.
Death of a severely disabled Dorset resident, unnamed, who took her own life while battling the bedroom tax.
This blog used to quote, with monotonous regularity, the words of Pastor Martin Niemoller on what happened in Nazi Germany:
“First they came for the socialists,
“and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.
“Then they came for the trade unionists,
“and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
“Then they came for the Jews,
“and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.
“Then they came for me,
“and there was no one left to speak for me.”
In today’s United Kingdom, an extra two lines may be added (perhaps to replace the lines about the Jews):
“Then they came for the unemployed and the disabled,
“and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t unemployed or disabled.”
This is the country where you live.
These crimes are taking place here and now – except they’re not called crimes because, when you have a criminal government, it changes the law to ensure that any such damning definitions are removed.
And you want to excuse the government that has inflicted all this harm? You want to let it continue, because the alternative isn’t Socialist enough for you? Or because you’ve decided the system is corrupt and you don’t want to support it with your vote?
People are dying now.
At the last count, those in just one of the groups threatened by this government were dying at a rate of more than 200 per week.
And you want to let this continue.
What will you do when they come to take everything away from you, and there’s nobody left who could help?
Postscript: The saddest fact of all is that many people won’t bother to read this article because it’s “a bit long”.
*VP has been contacted on Twitter by people who were keen to point out that some of the deaths listed above took place while the Labour Party was in power. They are missing the point. Evidence exists that states Labour was dismayed at the effect its benefit changes had caused, and would have altered the system to prevent further deaths if elected in 2010. That didn’t happen; we ended up with the Coalition instead – and the Coalition has intensified the pressure on vulnerable individuals. It is therefore on the Coalition that blame should currently be targeted – the administration that has demonstrated no remorse for what it is doing and, if reports of plans to reduce ESA payments are true, intends to worsen the situation considerably in the future. Any attempt to divert attention onto Labour’s past can only distract from what the Coalition is doing now.
Gathering against racism: The people of Northern Ireland demonstrating outside Belfast City Hall [Images: Dermot O’ Lymm, as used by Channel 4’s news website].
A guest blog by Jason O’Ruairc
“What do you not trust those who are followers of Islam in doing? I’ll be quite honest. I wouldn’t trust them in terms of those who have been involved in terrorist activities. I don’t trust them if they are fully devoted to Sharia law. I wouldn’t trust them for spiritual guidance. Would I trust them to go down to the shops for me? Of course I would.”
If you live outside Northern Ireland you might not recognise these words, since the events surrounding their utterance have gone largely unreported by the UK media, and a timely bomb in Derry’s Everglades Hotel has served to eclipse the story, if that were needed. So, just in case you missed it, here in summary is what’s going on:
Quoted above are the words of Peter Robinson, Northern Ireland’s First Minister, given in an interview to John Manley of the Irish News, in which Robinson made a show of support for a controversial preacher from Belfast’s Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle. In a sermon that was broadcast on the internet, Pastor James McConnell condemned Islam as a “heathen” and “satanic” religion, and a “doctrine spawned in Hell.” He also stated that he didn’t trust Muslims and that “Enoch Powell was a prophet,” referring to Powell’s famous 1968 ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech.
Violence against ethnic minorities in Northern Ireland is on the increase; according to one report there are two attacks per day, an increase of 43 per cent from 2013. Belfast is now being referred to as the ‘Hate Crime Capital’ of the UK. Given this context, it is easy to see Pastor McConnell’s words as irresponsible and inflammatory. However, more remarkable is the support offered to this supposed man of God by our First Minister, whose job it is to serve the interests of every citizen. Peter Robinson has attended Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle in the past, and says that he will do so again. He is not the only one from his party, the DUP, to do so; notably Health Minister Edwin Poots is also a regular worshipper.
The pastor is reported to be under investigation by the PSNI for a potential hate crime, however, on the BBC’s Stephen Nolan show, aired on Wednesday (May 28), McConnell denied that he had yet been contacted by the police. On the same show he demonstrated a complete ignorance of Islam – for example calling Sharia law “Sharara law” – and he refused to accept that his words were irresponsible, or could be construed by some people as an incitement to violence. In fact, he appeared to be completely out of his depth on every point put to him by Dr. Khalid Anis of the Islamic Society of Britain. Despite being given the opportunity to retract and pour oil on troubled waters like a good Christian, the pastor clung doggedly to his position.
Now, let’s go back to the quote we began with. If David Cameron had come out with the kind of patronising, intolerant, condescending, stereotyping rhetoric that Peter Robinson had, you might imagine that his career as Prime Minister would be swiftly over. But our First Minister, perhaps after consultation with his advisers this time, had no such concerns and instead commenced a half-hearted damage limitation exercise. He almost apologised, saying in a statement that his words had been “misinterpreted,” and accepted an invitation to visit the Belfast Islamic Centre where he made an apology to three people behind closed doors.
On Friday, together with Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Robinson met with the Turkish ambassador to discuss trade opportunities. Turkey is 99 per cent Muslim. I can’t help wondering how the conversation went: was there any awkwardness, or did Peter just pat the ambassador on the head and ask him to nip down the shops for some chocolates? I suppose we’ll never know. Criticism of Robinson’s support for McDonnell has come from many sectors of society. In particular, Muslim healthcare professionals including leading surgeons, have expressed their discomfort with Minister Poots’ attendance at McConnell’s church, some saying that they would be inclined to leave Northern Ireland, and others calling for the First Minister to resign. As I write, Peter Robinson hasn’t resigned.
There have been other political casualties: Hong Kong-born Alliance MLA Anna Lo broke down in tears during an interview as she described the vulnerability she feels every day and the constant racial abuse and attacks she suffers. She has decided to leave politics at the next election, and is seriously considering quitting the country altogether. Unsuccessful UUP local election candidate Colin Houston resigned from the party after being suspended following his haranguing defence of Pastor McConnell on the aforementioned Nolan show, where he shouted: “The Christians are starting to stand up; we’re not having it no [sic] more.” Unfortunately, it wasn’t clear what he and his brethren were not “having […] no more” of. Inexplicably for an Ulster Unionist, he also shouted at George Galloway to go “away back to Britain.” He’d only been in the party for three weeks.
From my summary of the week’s events it may seem as though we live in a sanctioned hunting ground for bigots, who are encouraged by some of our political and spiritual leaders to go out and ethnically cleanse their streets. But despite this pervasive ignorance and prejudice, there is still hope, and I want to finish on a positive note. On Thursday evening a call went out on social media for an ‘Emergency Anti-Racism Rally’ outside Belfast City Hall. I attended the rally, along with thousands of others, and it was heartening to see the support and solidarity for the people of Belfast and Northern Ireland. The fact that so many people came together at such short notice gives some indication of the strength of feeling about the issues of racism and sectarianism in our society. Anna Lo told us that she was going to stay in the country, and was rapturously applauded by all, regardless of their political views. I’m not from Northern Ireland myself; I’m a blow-in from across the water. But my adopted home of over 20 years is the most welcoming, creative, inspiring, and just-plain-brilliant place I’d ever want to live in. I love it here, and I’m not alone in that.
A man who hid in a toilet in order to get near enough to David Cameron to shout, “No ifs, no buts, no public sector cuts” has been sentenced to community service. The public were quick to spot the difference in treatment between this man and Andrew Mitchell, who verbally abused a policeman (an arrestable offence) but was not prosecuted. One wonders what punishment the young man in this photograph would have received for the words here.
One of the best ways to make a point on the internet – satirical or otherwise – is to create a ‘meme’. For the uninitiated, this is a picture that has been modified to make a point, then sent around the net via Facebook, Twitter or other social networking sites. Some of the recent ones have been very good so, while I work on my next piece (probably Cameron selling weapons to the Middle East), I thought I’d put them on show.
David Cameron will always be remembered as the Prime Minister who re-introduced class, and class war, to the UK with his Cabinet of millionaires, and government of aristocrats. Here, Paul Weller gives him the scorn he deserves.
Pastor Martin Niemoller’s famous words about the Nazis get an IDS update here. In a week when Iain Duncan Smith turned the glare of his DWP spotlight onto step-parents, single parents and “broken” families, the targeting might seem a little off, but the words still ring true, and it shows that comparisons with Nazism are still coming thick and fast. The fact is that both the Conservatives (now) and the Nazis (in the 1930s) got into government without getting a majority of the national vote, and then set about policies that were not what they had professed to the public.
Finally, a little background reading. Next time you hear the Insidious Dole-Snatcher – or any of his chums – spitting out these claims as though they’re true, just take a moment to check their veracity. The link is in the image.
The Guardian reported today (August 14) that hate crime against disabled people has hit its highest level since records began, totalling 1,942 recorded incidents in 2011, an increase of more than 25 per cent – that means it’s up by more than a quarter – on the total for 2010.
The Crown Prosecution Service managed only 523 convictions for disability hate crime during the same period – so only a little more than a quarter of the perpetrators were punished for their crime; the rest got away with it.
The number of recorded incidents has risen by 60 per cent since records began in 2009.
Just to give you an idea of what this means locally, in my own police area, Dyfed Powys, there were three recorded incidents of disability hate crime in 2009. In 2010 there were seven.
In 2011 there were twenty-seven.
This is what your votes condone.
It’s the logical result of the government’s effort to demonise disabled people and those who claim benefits on their behalf, and I think we know where government behaviour of this kind leads.
Picture the scene: A street in a typical British town, with two men walking down it. We’ll call them Iain and Chris.
Iain: It’s so much better here, now that we don’t have all those disabled people cluttering up the place!
Chris: Absolutely! With the crips gone, we’re not spending all our tax money paying for them. (Taxes haven’t gone down though)
Iain: And so much more peaceful, after we got rid of all the racial minorities.
Chris: Not half! We couldn’t keep them here – they were a threat to our peaceful British way of life.
Iain: And now that we’ve got rid of the trade unionists, we can all get on with our jobs in peace, too!
Chris: Totally! It’s so much better now that our bosses can pay us as little as they like to work in deplorable conditions.
Iain: So where are you going for your holidays this year – somewhere nice?
Chris: Actually, I’m saving up for a trip to the private healthcare specialist instead. I’ve been having trouble with my back ever since the health and safety laws were repealed and-
Iain: Police! Police! Come quick and take this man away! He’s a dangerous radical and probably a socialist! He dared to complain about our glorious New Britain!
A policeman appears. He’s wearing a jacket emblazoned with the letters ‘G4S’.
Do you really want to live in this kind of Britain?
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