The senior politicians were lured to a luxury Mayfair office (pictured) where they were secretly filmed discussing being paid for telling Chinese tycoons how to make money out of Britain leaving the European Union [Image from the Daily Mail].
But is this the story the Sunday Times dropped for its fake news about a left-wing purge of Labour MPs?
A political storm erupted … over claims that three former Cabinet ministers secretly tried to earn thousands of pounds in a ‘cash for Brexit’ scandal.
The senior politicians were lured to a luxury Mayfair office where they were secretly filmed discussing being paid for telling Chinese tycoons how to make money out of Britain leaving the European Union.
Those targeted were ex-Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, former Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell, and ex-Trade Secretary Peter Lilley. All three … denied wrongdoing.
The latest Westminster sleaze claims follow a three-month investigation by Channel 4’s Dispatches programme.
The debate in the Westminster Hall today (Monday) followed the submission of an e-petition to the Parliament website calling for the legalisation of cannabis, signed by 220,000 people – more than twice the number needed to gain a hearing among MPs.
Labour MP Paul Flynn, opening the debate, said: “I would like to illustrate how this Government—like all Governments—have handled this issue. It is typified by the response we had to this thunderously eloquent petition.
“The Government response begins with the statement that ‘cannabis is…harmful’.
“Cannabis is the oldest medicine in the world. It has been trialled and tested by tens of millions of people over 5,000 years. If there were any problems with natural cannabis, that would have been apparent a long time ago. However, all we have is this wall of denial by Governments who are afraid of the subject, afraid of becoming unpopular and afraid of it being said that they are going to pot.
I am not unrealistic, and I do not expect the Government to make a volte-face on recreational cannabis, but they should explain their position and realise what is going on. However, the case for medical cannabis, including in its natural form, is overwhelming.”
Some of that case was made by other MPs. Conservative (yes, Conservative!) Graham Stuart said: “My constituent B- M- suffers from Crohn’s disease and psoriatic arthritis, and she is allergic to most of the pharmaceutical medicines that are prescribed—in fact, they have given her ulcers. She has found effective pain relief only through cannabis… Sadly, the current situation sees her forced into the company of illegal drug dealers.”
Green MP Caroline Lucas said: “The biggest scandal is that this Government, like successive Governments, have set their face against the evidence… If we look at an evidence-based approach, there is absolutely no correlation between a drug’s legal status and the amount it gets used. In other words, prohibition simply does not work.”
Former Social Security Secretary Peter Lilley (Con), who co-sponsored the debate, said: “There are practical reasons for wanting to move to legalisation. First, attempts to prohibit the sale and use of cannabis have failed. It is readily available and widely used.
“The second point is that they have failed despite the fact that 80 per cent of the effort in the so-called war on drugs goes on trying to prohibit the use of cannabis. If we provided some legal outlets for cannabis, that enforcement effort, the treatment effort and so on could be diverted to tackling hard drugs, which really do harm people, enslave people and, sometimes, kill people.
“Thirdly, keeping on the statute books a law that is widely ignored and impossible to enforce undermines faith not just in that law, but in law and the legal system more generally.
“Finally, legalisation would deprive the criminal world of a large and lucrative market.”
But Mike Penning, minister for policing, crime and criminal justice, wasn’t having any of it. The most he could offer was: “I am committed to working with other Departments and whoever else wants to work with us to ensure that, in the 21st century, where cannabis can be helpful through pharmaceuticals, we will try to make sure that that happens. I am committed to looking at the research and at what work we should be doing. This debate has been enormously useful, but I cannot support the petition.”
And that was the bottom line.
It’s sad to say that the conclusion to be reached after this debate is not one about whether cannabis should, shouldn’t, will or won’t be legalised, but about the usefulness of government e-petitions – and it is this:
We might as well write our petitions on toilet paper and flush them into the sewers. The Conservative Government we have now would pay just as much attention and respect to that as it will to anything coming in via the e-petitions website.
Picture the scene if you can: It’s shortly after 11.35pm on Thursday (June 5) and all my inboxes are suddenly overflowing – with the same message: Iain Duncan Smith will be on Question Time next week.
The implication was that there is an opportunity here – to show the public the homicidal – if not genocidal – nature of the changes to the benefit system this man mockingly describes as “welfare reforms”.
We were given the name of only one other panellist who will be appearing in the June 12 show, broadcast from King’s Lynn: Private Eye editor Ian Hislop. He is certainly the kind of man who should relish a chance to take the politician we call RTU (Returned To Unit) down a peg or two – in fact the Eye has run articles on DWP insanity fairly regularly over the past two decades at least.
Personally I’d like to see him joined by Michael Meacher and Owen Jones, at the very least. A rematch between Smith and Jones would be terrific television (but it is unlikely that the coward IDS would ever agree to it).
All such a panel would need to get started is a question about “welfare reform”. Then they could start at the beginning with the involvement of the criminal US insurance corporation Unum, which has been advising the British government since Peter Lilley was Secretary of State for Social Security. There appears to be a moratorium on even the mention of Unum in the British press so, if this is the first you’ve heard of it, now you know why.
Unum’s version of an unproven strand of psychology known as biopsychosocial theory informs the current work capability assessment, used by the coalition government to evaluate whether a claimant of sickness benefits (Incapacity Benefit/Employment Support Allowance or Disability Living Allowance/Personal Independence Payment) should receive any money. The assessment leans heavily on the psycho part of the theory – seeking to find ways of telling claimants their illnesses are all in the mind and they are fit for work. This is how Unum wormed its way out of paying customers when their health insurance policies matured – and it is also how Unum received its criminal conviction in the States.
Members of the public have tried to use the Freedom of Information Act to pry updated figures from the DWP. I know of one man who was told that the 2011 figures were provided in an ‘ad hoc’ release and there was no plan for a follow-up; the figures are not collected and processed routinely. The last part of this was a lie, meaning the DWP had illegally failed to respond to a legitimate FoI request.
Having seen that individual attempts to use the FoI Act to get the information had failed, I put in a request of my own and suggested others do the same, resulting in (I am told) 23 identical requests to the DWP in June last year. Apparently this is vexatious behaviour and when I took the DWP to a tribunal earlier this year, it won.
But the case brought out useful information, such as a DWP employee’s admission that “the Department does hold, and could provide within the cost limit, some of the information requested”.
Now, why would the Department, and Iain Duncan Smith himself, want to withhold these figures – and lie to the public about having them? It seems to me that the death toll must have increased, year on year. That is the only explanation that makes sense.
The DWP, and its Secretary-in-a-State, have had their attention drawn to the deaths many times, if not in interviews then in Parliament. DWP representatives (if not Mr Duncan Smith himself) have taken pains to say they have been improving the system – but still they won’t say how many deaths have taken place since November 2011.
If it can be proved that DWP ministers were aware of the problem (and we know they are) but did not change the situation enough to slow the death rate (as seems to be the case), then it seems clear that there has been an intention to ignore the fact that people have been dying unnecessarily. This runs against Human Rights legislation, and a strong case could be made for the corporate manslaughter of thousands of people.
And that’s just ESA!
When we come to PIP, there’s the issue of the thousands of claimants who have been parked – without assessment – for months at a time, waiting to find out if they’ll receive any money.
Universal Credit currently has no budget, it seems, but the DWP is clearly still wasting millions of pounds on a project that will never work as it is currently conceived.
It would be nice to think that at least one member of Thursday’s panel might read this article and consider standing up for the people, but it’s a long shot.
Possibly a million-to-one chance, in fact.
According to Terry Pratchett, that makes it an absolute certainty!
Some commenters on the original newspaper story claimed that Mr Woodcock, whose benefits had been cut, should be grateful for the “free” treatment he would receive from the NHS. The comment is despicable, as it misrepresents the contributory principle of ‘benefits in return for contribution’ (as framed by William Beveridge, who designed the Welfare State) to become “free allowances from the State”.
Glynis has sent us the following report, explaining why this is wrong. Unfortunately she has not said where she found it, so I cannot give it the proper attribution.
“Any discussion of Beveridge today needs to recognise that along with the erosion of the link between contributions and entitlements, the contributory principle has also been the victim of an extraordinary impoverishment of meaning.
“When Beveridge contrasted ‘benefits in return for contribution’ with ‘free allowances from the State’, his aim was to break with previous paternalist models of social protection: the new model turned on workers having an entitlement to the benefits for which they had paid.
“This did not mean that benefits were unconditional (Beveridge was clear that both unemployment and sickness benefits were conditional on making preparations to return to work except where this was ruled out by disability) but it meant that they were part of a deal between citizens and government: a social contract extending across the lifecycle and across generations.
“In contrast, when ‘the contributory principle’ is invoked these days it is often in terms of the policing of the benefit system, referring to little more than the idea that people who have not worked or fail to meet worksearch conditions should not be able to access benefits.
“This attenuation of the idea of contribution is an important development in the political language of welfare in the UK. It arises in part from the way the language of reciprocity came to be turned against the welfare state in earlier decades.
“The political fortunes of the phrase ‘something for nothing’ over the last twenty years are instructive. ‘The something for nothing society’ was introduced into the political discourse of welfare by Peter Lilley at the Conservative party conference in 1993; it was adapted by Tony Blair as ‘the something for nothing culture’ to frame New Labour’s welfare reform agenda in the late 1990’s. Variations on the phrase continue to frame policy statements on social security on both Labour and Conservative sides, reinforcing the message that the main problem faced by social security is one of non-reciprocity, of people taking out who have failed to put in.
“And policy under both the current and previous government has often seemed to have more to do with reinforcing the sense of a system subject to massive abuse than any genuine policy objective. It is hard to imagine Beveridge welcoming ‘lie-detector’ tests for benefit claimants, or proposals to cut benefits for the families of convicted rioters, or the existence of a benefit fraud hotline where people can denounce their neighbours under cloak of anonymity, with only 1.3 per cent of calls leading to the detection of any fraud.
“In the report we subject the ‘something for nothing’ perspective to a reality check and find it severely wanting. Perhaps the most heretical statement that could be made about the UK social security system is that it overwhelmingly does what the public want it to do: however, this would seem to be the case.
“Most people who claim benefits have ‘put in’ in the past and will do so in the future; most benefit claims are short-term; most long-term claims are for disabled people or carers.
“As for the social archetypes that haunt the contemporary welfare discourse – the families in which no-one has worked for generations, the areas where ‘nobody works around here’ – these bear virtually no relation to any identifiable social reality. To see ‘scrounging’ or benefit fraud as the main issues facing social security is about as realistic as seeing the theft of prescription medicines as the main issue facing the NHS.
“If the contributory principle is to play a serious role in future thinking about social security, we need to move away from the ‘something for nothing’ framing and address the ‘nothing for something’ problem of a system in which the great majority of people contribute but see little visible return for their contribution. In doing this, we should be alive to the full meaning of the principle that Beveridge set out when he talked of ‘benefits in return for contributions’.
“Although there were important limitations to Beveridge’s system which were to dog social security policy for decades – especially with regard to gender and disability – his contributory principle was nonetheless intended as a principle of inclusion. To use it to draw new lines of exclusion, as often seems to happen today, would be a poor tribute to his achievement.”
Possibly the most useful part of the above is the comparison with the NHS. Clearly the theft of prescription medicines is not the most important issue facing the health service – it is the effect of the shift to a privately-run healthcare system, its consequent burden on funds and its effect on treatment. Take that information back to the benefit system and there is a strong argument that all this talk of a “something for nothing” culture is an attempt to indoctrinate the public into accepting that they should contribute towards their own unemployment benefits by taking out insurance against losing their jobs – even though they have already contributed towards such a system, simply by paying their taxes. And remember – we all pay taxes; the government gains more revenue from indirect taxation (including, for example, VAT on goods purchased) than from Income Tax.
Rearranging the pack: Both the government and its opposition are having a reshuffle today – but will we get aces, or just another set of jokers?
Today’s the day – doomsday for some, and a new dawn for others. Both the Coalition and Labour are reshuffling their top teams.
We already know some of the names that have stepped down. On the government side, Michael Moore has been sacked as Scottish Secretary, to make way for fellow Liberal Democrat Alistair Carmichael. Apparently Mr Carmichael, referring to the upcoming referendum on Scotland seceding from the Union, has said he is “up for it”.
At least nobody tried to put a Tory in, to represent a country where that party has no MPs at all. It may seem beyond the realm of possibility but with the Government of Idiots (and I refer to the term in its classical sense) it would not be surprising.
Deputy Chief Whip John Randall and Cabinet Office Minister Chloe Smith (who was humiliated on the BBC’s Newsnight last year when, as Exchequer Secretary, she struggled to answer questions about the government’s decision to defer a rise in fuel duty. It seems she had been promoted because David Cameron mistakenly believed she was a trained accountant. This does not bode well for today’s decisions) have both stepped down.
The BBC reported that Ms Smith’s resignation letter stated she had been “only 27” when she became an MP and now wanted to “develop other ways of giving public service” – indicating possible disillusionment with the Coalition government and the way it conducts itself.
Transport Minister Simon Burns has also stepped down – but this is to run for the position of Deputy Speaker, which was left vacant by Nigel Evans after he stepped down to fight criminal charges for sexual assault.
All the pundits are saying the government reshuffle will concentrate on mid-level ministers, with every Cabinet-level Tory secure in their position. What a shame.
Meanwhile, over at Labour, the situation is not so clear. Ed Miliband’s decisions have been unrestricted, and speculation has ranged from whether he will increase Shadow Cabinet representative for women, bring back members of Labour’s old guard (unlikely – he would face criticism along predictable lines from the Tories and besides, this seems to be about bringing in new, more attractive faces), promote people who are loyal to him or (my preference) have a Shadow Cabinet Of All Talents – including critics who happen to be very good at their jobs.
Abraham Lincoln had a Cabinet Of All Talents, if I recall correctly. Some consider this to be part of what made him great.
One person who won’t be a part of Labour’s team is former Minister (and then Shadow Minister) for the Disabled, Anne McGuire. who quit last week after five years in the job.
The Stirling MP was praised by disability campaigners such as Sue Marsh who, in an email, described her as “the one true ally we had on Labour’s front bench”.
And blogger Sue Jones wrote: “Anne will always be remembered by our community for her very articulate attacks on the media’s [mis]representation of disabled people and on the Government’s welfare reforms, in parliamentary debate. I remember her account of private debate, too, on the same topic with Iain Duncan Smith, and such was her ferocity and anger at the profound unfairness of the media’s sustained persecution of sick and disabled people, fanned by Iain Duncan Smith, as we know, that she pinned him against a wall on one occasion.”
But the former Shadow Minister, who is herself disabled, ran into controversy when she agreed to host a fringe meeting at this year’s Labour Party Conference, organised by the right-wing thinktank Reform, and sponsored by the Association of British Insurers.
Entitled ‘New thinking on the welfare state’, the event seems to have been a front for insurance companies to try to influence Labour’s thinking on social security in the future. Similar events were arranged by Reform and staged at both the Liberal Democrat and Conservative conferences.
Discussions at the private, round-table policy seminar seem to have centred on ways in which insurance companies could become more involved with social security – what products they could sell to working-class people who fear the loss of income that follows loss of employment.
This is exactly the scenario that the American Unum corporation wanted to create when it was invited into the then-Department of Social Security by Peter Lilley – a weakened state system that either cannot or will not support people in genuine need, particularly the sick and disabled, forcing them to buy insurance policies in the hope that these will top-up their income.
Anne McGuire denied this was the intent of the exercise but it is significant that neoliberal New Labour did nothing to prevent the advance of this agenda during its years in power, including the period she spent as Minister for the Disabled.
People who have suffered under the current benefit regime are demanding – ever more stridently – that Labour should mount a strong attack on the practices of the Department for Work and Pensions, as run by Iain Duncan Smith and his cronies, Mark Hoban and Esther McVey.
Part of this demand is that private organisations such as Unum and Atos, which administers work capability assessments, should be kicked out, and a new, fairer system of determining disability benefits based on a claimant’s medical condition and needs, rather than the greed of private enterprise, should be brought in.
There has been no hope of this with plastic Tory Liam Byrne as Shadow Work and Pensions spokesman, but rumour has it he could be shunted out and replaced by Rachel Reeves. Is this a good move?
The omens are not wonderful. She is yet another alumnus of the Politics, Philosophy and Economics course at Oxford (another notable example of that course’s graduates is David Cameron). Her background is in business. She once interviewed for a job with tax avoiders Goldman Sachs (but turned down the job offer) and has been named by The Guardian as one of several MPs who use unpaid interns.
Unelected rulers? Thomas Watjen of Unum, Thierry Breton of Atos, and Michael Andrew of KPMG. As things stand, it seems whoever you support in 2015, these people will be behind them. Do you want that?
There is a certain kind of person who takes great delight in commenting on political blogs with a variant of the following:
“It’s no use voting! They’re all the same! It doesn’t matter what you vote for – a politician always gets in!”
No doubt you’ll be familiar with their work.
They are extremely annoying. Their insistence that all politicians are the same breed of pond scum does a huge disservice to those in public service who genuinely want to improve the lives of their fellow human beings; the fanaticism with which they disseminate their opinions may be seen as an attempt to stop ‘casual’ voters from bothering, thereby condemning the country to the current status quo.
Also, most annoyingly of all, they may have a point.
Take the three men pictured above. The one on the right is Michael Andrew, chairman of accounting firm KPMG. This is one of the ‘Big Four’ accountancies who are, among other things, involved in rewriting UK tax law for George Osborne at the Treasury, partly to suit their own desires as architects of the largest tax avoidance schemes currently available to corporations and wealthy individuals resident in the UK.
Today, thanks to an illuminating blog article by Tom Pride over at Pride’s Purge, we learn that KPMG has taken over the running of no less than a quarter of all the clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) that Andrew Lansley swore blind would be run by doctors when the Conservative-led Coalition government pushed through the NHS Privatisation Act of 2012 (otherwise known as the Health and Social Care Act).
The pretext for creating these organisations was that doctors were in the best position to commission health services in any part of England, as they had the detailed knowledge required to determine what was needed.
In fact it was well known that GPs would not be able to carry out this important work – it would be too much for them to take on in addition to their ‘day job’, and they simply did not have the necessary skills. Lansley knew this, and therefore knew that his law would open the door for private firms to take over.
This is borne out by an article in GP online which is now almost a year old; so readers should bear in mind that the current situation may be much further advanced. It stated that KPMG had confirmed the firm was working with “just over 50” of the 211 CCGs in England, along with 11 commissioning support units (CSUs).
The article indirectly quoted Tim Rideout, who said CCGs did not have the capacity to commission in an effective way.
This is an interesting revelation from the former chief executive of the NHS in Leicester City who was then seconded to the Department of Health as the senior responsible officer for the development of – guess what? – NHS commissioning boards. If the new commissioning groups don’t have the capacity to work properly, why didn’t he do something about it at the appropriate time?
Oh, wait. Here’s the answer: In March 2012, Mr Rideout was hired by KPMG as an associate director responsible for – who would have thought it? – commissioning.
In the same article, national clinical commissioning lead for England, Dr James Kingsland, said clinicians and GPs should not be involved in complex procurement, and added: “We are seeing a lot of misunderstandings, disillusionment and despondency.”
Mark Britnell, KPMG’s head of healthcare since 2009 – and another former NHS chief executive, was quoted by The Observer in 2011 as stating: “In future, The NHS will be a state insurance provider not a state deliverer”, and that “The NHS will be shown no mercy and the best time to take advantage of this will be in the next couple of years.”
The following day, KPMG released a statement in which he said the quotes did “not properly reflect” what he had said.
So we have a firm moving to take over CCGs, helped by the fact that its roster now includes the man responsible for setting them up in the first place. Going back to Tom Pride’s piece, he states that the situation chillingly reflects the way the Dutch health service was privatised in 2006. Provision of health services is being handed over to private companies, control of the health budgetwas handed over to private consortia made of doctors and consultants, but now those consortia are being taken over by private companies.
When private firms like KPMG run all CCGs, the Conservative plan to privatise the NHS will be complete. And the NHS, it seems, will be run by Michael Andrew, head of KPMG, from his base in Hong Kong.
But the rot doesn’t stop there.
Tom Pride correctly adds that the consulting arm of KPMG has been owned, since 2002, by another company – called Atos.
That’s right – Atos. The French firm run by Thierry Breton (pictured, centre).
The firm that Ed Miliband wants to fire from running work capability assessments for the DWP will still be involved in government work – at the Department of Health.
You see how this works? Let a private company inveigle its way into the plans of politicians and there’s no getting rid of it. Like the giant squid, it extends its pseudopods into every government department it can possibly contaminate, planting a sucker onto everything it thinks it can take for itself.
Over at the DWP, as everyone should know by now, Atos have been carrying out work capability assessments on claimants of Employment and Support Allowance. These were dreamed up by an insurance company called Unum, that has been working with the UK government – Conservative, Labour and Coalition – since Peter Lilley invited then-boss John LoCascio in, back in the early 1990s.
Unum is now run by Thomas Ratjen (pictured, left), who is based in Tennessee, USA. Its long-term aim seems to be the ruin of the British social security system, rendering it pointless for anyone to claim benefits. Instead, the plan appears to be to encourage working people to buy Unum insurance policies – which are themselves useless, as lawsuits in several US states have proved, while also giving the company a criminal record.
This blog recently revealed that it seemed Unum was trying to influence the policies of all three main UK political parties. The thinktank Reform, that has been part-funded by Unum, is running a fringe event at all three party conferences, entitled ‘New thinking on the welfare state’. This event was sponsored by the Association of British Insurers, which has Unum among its members.
Labour’s version of this event took place on Monday (September 23), hosted by Anne McGuire, shadow minister for disabled people.
She defended her role in an email today, as follows:
“I don’t know why you have been led to believe that I was hosting an event by Unum. For the record, I was speaking at a round table discussion with organisations which included the European Commission, voluntary organisations, insurance companies amongst others. As it was such a conversation, it was by invitation only as was the event I attended this morning organised though the Shaw Trust and Mencap. It is not unusual to have such events at party conference.
“I also spoke at an open meeting last night on the future of welfare reform and disabled people with many disabled people in attendance and participating.
“I am aware of the strong feelings on Unum and Atos. However I trust that you will appreciate that having discussions with a range of organisations should not be seen as anything other than that and in no way implies an endorsement of any particular company or organisation.”
It simply doesn’t ring true.
Let’s look at the context: This event was organised by a right-wing thinktank (they’re ideologically opposed to state-run social security systems) that has been sponsored by Unum; was about “new” thinking on the welfare state; was itself sponsored by the Association of British Insurers, of which Unum is a member; and representatives of insurance companies – and we’re willing to bet Unum was among them – took part in the behind-closed-doors discussion.
It seems clear that this event was intended to influence Labour Party policy away from providing a well-run and reasonable state benefit system, as was the case in the UK until Peter Lilley in the early 1990s, and towards dismantling that system to make way for a system based on privately-run insurance policies, such as those produced by Unum.
The fact that it is being mirrored at the other two party conferences clearly suggests that the firms involved want to influence all major British political parties in the same way. If successful, this would mean that it won’t matter who gets into office after the 2015 election; Unum will still be in power at the Department for Work and Pensions.
Just as KPMG will still be in power at the Treasury, and at the Department of Health, alongside its owner Atos.
And the three gentlemen pictured at the top of this article will be the unelected kings of the UK because, no matter which way you vote, they will be in charge.
That would be a good place to end this article, but then, dear reader, you might be left thinking there is nothing you can do. There is something you can do.
You can write to your MP, to local newspapers, to the party leaders and the ministers running these government departments and you can bitch like hell about it!
The people of this country deserve elected representatives who are going to run this country by their own decisions, in the best interests of the citizens who voted for them – not employees of a dubious gang of unelected corporations, running this country in their own best interests and treating the citizens like dirt.
Only days after Ed Miliband announced a Labour government would sack Atos, the party’s conference is hosting an event part-funded by the architects of the ‘work capability assessment’ administered by that company – the criminal American insurance giant Unum.
‘New thinking on the welfare state’ is a fringe event taking place at the Labour conference on Monday, September 23, organised by the right-wing thinktank Reform (which has Unum as one of its funders) and sponsored by the Association of British Insurers (which includes Unum among its members). Does anybody doubt that it has been arranged in order to give Unum a chance to influence high-ranking party members? No?
Then consider: This is a private round-table policy seminar, staged by Anne McGuire MP. Rank and file Labour members aren’t invited – attendance is by invitation only. Can you smell a rat? Still no?
The event has already been staged at the Liberal Democrat conference (by Steve Webb MP, whoever he is), and will also be a feature of the Conservative Party conference, courtesy of that turncoat floor-crossing slime Lord Freud. It shouldn’t take a genius to work out that Unum wants to ensure that all three parties have the same social security/welfare policy, going into the next election – and that Unum continues to figure prominently in the formulation of that policy.
If you didn’t smell a rat infestation before, by now you’re probably wondering why pest control hasn’t been called.
Ed Miliband knows that any change of the organisation administering work capability assessments is purely cosmetic; the Conservative-led Coalition itself is bringing in other companies to carry out the work, and Capita has already been taken on to carry it out in some areas.
It is the policy itself that must change.
Unum knows all about that policy. The company came up with it in the 1990s as a way to combat claims on its health insurance policies for ‘subjective’ illnesses such as ‘chronic pain’, ‘chronic fatigue syndrome’, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, Lyme disease and others – by aggressively disputing whether a claimant was ill.
It based its new test on the Biopsychosocial Model of illness developed by the psychiatrist George Engel, which is itself an unproved theory. Unum removed the bio- and -social aspects in order to concentrate on the ‘psycho’ – the claim that a person’s illness is all in their mind; that they are imagining it.
This worked very well for the company until the American people realised that they were being diddled out of their insurance money and very large lawsuits were launched that ended with the company having a criminal record in several US states.
Undaunted by this, Unum branched into the UK and cosied up with then-social security minister Peter Lilley, who wanted to cut the number of people claiming disability benefits. Unum saw an opportunity here, with a long-term goal of making state disability benefits useless to the British citizen and forcing them to pay out for the companies duff health insurance policies – which had already fallen foul of the law in America.
That’s why the work capability assessment takes precedence over any evidence your doctor might provide to support your claim, and it’s also why doctors are being actively discouraged from providing any evidence at all; that’s why UK law currently sees a glowing future for people who may be paralysed, but for one finger, as a button pusher; that’s why people with Parkinson’s Disease or other degenerative conditions are being told they will be able to work again in the future; and that’s why thousands upon thousands of people have died as a result of the current policy – especially since the Conservative-led Coalition came into office in 2010.
Meanwhile, Unum has begun a mass-marketing campaign to encourage able-bodied British citizens to invest in ‘Income Protection Insurance’ and a scheme known as the ‘Back-up Plan’. These are only available via the workplace, and it is understood that it has been designed to ensure that the company can resist paying out if anybody should be unlucky enough to have to make a claim.
So you see, the plan is to leave the sick and disabled of this country with no support whatsoever; they can either take out Unum’s insurance policies, pay the company a fortune in premiums and get nothing in return – or they can throw themselves at the mercy of a state which has no mercy and be refused the benefits for which their taxes have been paying ever since they were old enough to pay taxes in the first place.
Either way, Unum wins. For younger readers, it’s like the plot of the prequel trilogy in the Star Wars saga, where the character who becomes the Emperor engineers a war in which he controls both sides. So you see? Those films weren’t as bad as we all thought.
But of course, any person or organisation that intentionally creates a parallel between itself and the most evil character in recent fiction should absolutely not be anywhere near the real-life political decision-makers of this or any other country.
That’s why Mo Stewart, the retired healthcare professional and disability researcher who has spent four years examining the relationship between Unum and the UK government, has contacted Ms McGuire, demanding to know why she is having anything to do with the firm.
She wrote: “Given the amount of evidence against the practice of the dangerous corporate giant, Unum Insurance, and the fact that Labour MPs have exposed their influence with government during debate, the British disabled community are wondering why you would chose to host a fringe meeting by Unum at the conference on Monday?
“‘New Thinking on the Welfare State’ it seems is the title of the meeting, and they should know since Unum have been helping to systematically destroy the welfare state, as welcomed by various governments, since 1994.
“If you were planning to cause offence, you couldn’t have done a better job.
“Keep betraying the British disabled people and you’ll be waiting in the wings for a lot longer before Labour ever return to Government.
“I have spent the past 4 years exposing the links between the DWP, Atos Healthcare & UNUM Insurance. Some of your colleagues are very familiar with my work, which is to be considered by the UN within weeks, and I suggest that if you wish to be taken seriously as the Shadow Minister for Disabled People then you need to be familiar with this evidence.”
This blog wholeheartedly supports Mo Stewart’s position.
If you’d like to do more, feel free to broadcast that facts about Unum as widely as you can. There seems to be a media blackout on mention of this criminal organisation’s involvement with the state, so you cannot rely on the national news media. This means word of mouth – viral networking – is the only alternative.
Spread the word.
Oh, and Ed? Mr Miliband? We’ll all be waiting for you to make a slightly more solid commitment to the British people. You know what it is because we’ve made it perfectly clear already:
New policies on sickness, disability and incapacity benefits that are humane to claimants and rely on real medical evidence – not the opinions of an unqualified ‘decision-maker’ at the DWP.
Expel Unum from any position in which it may influence the government – including fringe events at party conferences. This may mean dismantling the DWP altogether as that organisation appears to have been terminally compromised.
End the work capability assessments. Find a different way to assess people’s ability to work – perhaps one that involves knowledge of what jobs are available and whether employers have any intention to take on people with limited abilities… Something practical, rather than the dribble that masquerades as current government policy.
And, for goodness’ sake, get rid of Byrne (and McGuire… and let’s not forget Stephen Timms) and replace them with backbenchers who actually understand and sympathise with the plight of benefit claimants who have been made to suffer under a needlessly brutal system.
You don’t dare betray the British people again.
If you do, you’ll have more than eggs to dodge, whenever you dare show your face in public.
Labour’s shadow ministers, including Stephen Timms (Employment) and Anne McGuire (Disabled People) seem to be in cahoots with right-wing thinktank Reform, according to information that has come to Vox Political.
The fact that members of the UK’s left-wing political party are working with such an organisation is frightening enough, but you should be prepared for that fear to turn into terror when we reveal that Reform is part-funded by the criminal American insurance giant Unum.
That’s right – Unum. The mob who have been influencing British policy on social security from behind the scenes since Peter Lilley invited them in, back in the 1990s. The mob who have been working to turn this country away from what was an excellent nationalised social security system and towards poorly-regulated private health insurance, in order to sell duff policies which offer very little likelihood of ever paying out.
What could possibly have possessed anyone involved with Labour to have anything to do with these corporate pirates?
“Unlike political parties, Reform and other think tanks can accept foreign funds… As a result, a number of foreign companies are now ‘Partners In Reform’ where an annual donation, which now stands at [just] £8,000, allows these companies [UNUM etc] to find representation in Britain’s policy hubs,” an OpenDemocracy report states.
“Reform uses the ‘charitable’ money donated to convene private policy conferences on Health, Education, Social Care, Criminal Justice and Policing, Armed Forces, Welfare and Public Reforms. Through this, the corporate-funded body appears to have gained a high degree of influence over a number of important debates that are central to Britain.”
At the Liberal Democrat conference it will be staged by Steve Webb MP, and at the Conservative conference by the unelected Lord Freud.
Would anybody from Labour care to explain why the Party is in bed with organisations that have decimated the provision of social security, contributed to the deaths of many thousands of ill or disabled individuals, and that intend to con many more thousands of workers out of hard-earned and desperately needed cash in the future, with their inappropriate health insurance policies?
Working people in the UK could be facing a huge drain on their income, if they join an insurance scheme being offered by a discredited American firm.
It seems that the company behind the hated Work Capability Assessment that has denied disability benefits to thousands of genuinely sick and disabled people, has begun a mass-marketing campaign to encourage able-bodied members of the British public to invest in ‘Income Protection Insurance’, and another scheme known as the ‘Back-up Plan’.
This insurance scheme is only available via the workplace, and it is understood that it has been designed to ensure that the company can resist paying out whenever a claim is made.
That is the allegation against Unum Insurance, the American giant that has spent more than two decades advising successive British governments on how to avoid paying sickness and disability benefits to the most deserving claimants in our society.
If you have been contacted in the workplace and offered a chance to take out this insurance, please get in touch. Your experience of this system and insights into its operating procedures could be invaluable.
For those who don’t know the Unum story, you can read some of it here. Unum’s bosses devised their current system to combat the rise of ‘subjective’ illnesses such as ‘chronic pain’, ‘chronic fatigue syndrome’, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, Lyme disease.
The solution devised by the bosses was to reduce the number of successful claims it paid out, by aggressively disputing whether the claimant was ill. So the company skewed its medical examinations to its own favour by questioning illnesses that were “self-reported”, labelling some disabling conditions as “psychological”, and playing up the “subjective” nature of “mental” and “nervous” claims.
The acknowledged basis for this attitude is the Biopsychosocial Model of illness, developed by the psychiatrist George Engel – but it’s a bastardised version, removing the bio- and -social aspects and concentrating on the ‘psycho’. This version of the theory, as used by Unum, has been utterly discredited. It is nonsense, totally disregarding such inconvenient medical procedures as diagnosis and prognosis, or limited life expectancy.
But it proved a great success for Unum – so much so that the UK government sought advice from the company in the early 1990s, when Peter Lilley was running the Department of Social Security. He wanted to reduce the number of disability claimants on his books, and Unum was only too happy to help out. It has been at the heart of disability benefit policy ever since.
We have Unum to thank for the Work Capability Assessment (administered by another private firm, Atos – an IT firm that has no expertise in healthcare, even though that word occasionally appears on its company logo). The recommendations made by Atos representatives, following these assessments, have led to the deaths of at least 73 genuinely ill people every week (according to government figures that are now almost a year old), who have claimed Employment and Support Allowance (formerly Incapacity Benefit). The real figure may be much higher.
The Coalition government considers this to be a great achievement and has now begun expanding the Work Capability Assessment regime to cover claims for Disability Living Allowance, now branded the Personal Independence Payment, with criteria that are much more difficult to achieve.
We can all expect many more deaths to arise from this.
Now, it seems, Unum believes the UK is ripe for bleeding – and that is why it is trying to sell its bogus insurance to working people here.
“Jack Gilligan, who was the Democratic governor of Ohio… said ‘You know there will never be democracy in America when big business can buy both parties and expect a pay-off, whichever one wins. And you know, a touch of that may possibly have spread in this direction.” Tony Benn.
I have been researching the relationship between US insurance giant (and lawbreaker) Unum and successive UK governments – Conservative, New Labour and Coalition – and the minimal research I have managed so far tells me that, if there’s one thing the Labour Party needs to do to ensure its electability in 2015, that thing is the expulsion of Unum and all private insurance firms, their subsidiaries, partner companies, and people who have worked with or for them, from any position of influence. Kick them right out!
Any government that fraternises with these vampires puts corporate profits above the well-being of its citizens. That is clear from what I have read. I want to go into certain aspects in detail, but before that, you deserve to know the details, so I’ve written a little story for you:
Once upon a time, a big insurance company had a little problem. It had been making money hand-over-fist by investing people’s premiums in high-interest portfolios, but interest rates were falling and new kinds of ‘subjective illness’ had arisen, for which medical science was not prepared – ‘chronic pain’, ‘chronic fatigue syndrome’, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, Lyme disease.
The solution devised by the bosses was to reduce the number of successful claims it paid out, by aggressively disputing whether the claimant was ill. So the company skewed its medical examinations to its own favour by questioning illnesses that were “self-reported”, labelling some disabling conditions as “psychological”, and playing up the “subjective” nature of “mental” and “nervous” claims.
“Sickness is temporary,” they said. “Illness is a behaviour – all the things that people say and do that express and communicate their feelings of being unwell. The degree of this behaviour is dependent on the attitudes and beliefs of the individual, as well as the social context and culture. Illness is a personal choice.” In other words: “It’s all in the mind; these people are fit to work”.
Around the same time, a small country had a big problem with people claiming out-of-work benefit because they were ill. This was not a problem because they were lying about being ill – fraud amounted to less than one per cent of claims. Nor was it a problem because too many people were claiming – benefit levels were among the lowest of any countries nearby, and claims were on a par with those other countries.
No, the problem was that the man running the system, whose name was Peter**, wanted to make money out of it.
So he hired the boss of the big insurance company, whose name was John***, and asked him to help out. John said, “We have a great test that you can use! Instead of asking whether someone can do their job, you assess their general capacity to work, with a series of – we call them – descriptors. One could say the person ‘Is unable to cope with changes in the daily routine’, ‘Is frightened to go out alone’. Then the results get passed on to different people – adjudication officers – who judge whether they deserve your benefit. But the clever bit is that these officers aren’t doctors – the customer might be saying they’re sick but medical evidence has nothing to do with what the test is about! We’ll train your adjudicators – for a price. We’ve even got a sexy name for the test: It’s bollocks!”*
Off went Peter to try it and, lo and behold! The rise in claimants came to a halt, as if by magic. But it wasn’t magic. It was bollocks.
Meanwhile, the insurance company was making out like a bandit. Not only was it now at the heart of the small country’s government, it was able to make money from the claimants as well. Before the new rules came into effect, it advertised for customers, saying the new system meant “if you fall ill and have to rely on state incapacity benefit, you could be in serious trouble!”
Before long, the big insurance company found it was even bigger, with a quarter of all its post-tax income being paid by people in the small country.
Meanwhile, back at home, people had started to complain about the big company. It was a big, NASTY company, they said, because it had forced them to accept less when they claimed than their policies offered. The government there found that the big company had relied too much on in-house professionals; had constructed doctors’ or examination reports unfairly, for its own benefit; had failed to evaluate claimants’ conditions in their totality; and had placed an inordinate burden on claimants to justify why they should receive the benefits for which they had paid. Many claims were found to need re-examination.
That did not make a scrap of difference to the people running the sickness benefit system in the small country that had asked for the big nasty insurance company’s help. An election had happened and Peter had been asked to leave, but the new people in charge, Frank**** and Tony*****, were keen to capitalise on what had gone before and transform their welfare system into a new marketplace – a source of revenue, profitability and economic growth.
With help from the big nasty insurance company, they decided that the solution was not to cure the sick – or even to prevent their sickness in the first place – but to convince them that work is therapeutic, aids recovery and is the best form of rehabilitation. In other words, bollocks*. This way, with the help of the big nasty company’s bollocks* tests and adjudicators who based their decisions on bollocks*, they could say the problem was with the person who had the illness. Their behaviour and beliefs became the focus of the government’s moral judgement and action. If they did not change their ways, then sanctions would be used as a “motivational tool” – and people would be starved back into work.
And that, dear child, has continued to this very day! People claiming sickness or disability benefits in the small country, which is called the United Kingdom, have to take a test in which medical evidence plays a tiny role, run by people who are not doctors and judged by people who are not doctors. Many of these decisions have been found to be unfair, and have often been found to have failed to evaluate claimants’ conditions in their totality – which is why people with terminal cancer have been found fit for work. Many claims have been found to need re-examination.
You can see the hand of the big nasty insurance company at work, can’t you!
That is because the big nasty insurance company, which is called Unum, has been at the heart of the small country’s government ever since it was first invited in. And they intend to live happily ever after, at the public’s expense.
“A lot of people think that disabled people don’t have sex, but this is not true, because the government are screwing us hard.” Francesca Martinez, The News Quiz, BBC Radio 4, January 11, 2013.
*I should apologise for the fault in my computer. Every time I try to type – I’ll just cut and paste it in here – “the biopsychosocial model” or any combination of those words, it comes out “bollocks”. Sorry!
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