On the same day families of those who died (needlessly?) of Covid-19 told Boris Johnson he could not hide from them, MPs said they were starting to take evidence in their own Coronavirus inquiry.
I would be leaping to sing their praises, but – unlike the Graun – I’m not convinced an inquiry by MPs is entirely independent, and I’ll be keen to find out if anybody offering evidence is turned away.
Johnson is under pressure to order an independent inquiry after 153,000 people signed an online petition.
Obviously these are people with reason to believe the Tory response fell short of the mark (as we all should, in This Writer’s opinion).
Organisers’ complaints can be read in this Metro article, and I would certainly hope that some of them will be asked to submit evidence to the new All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Coronavirus.
Families of those who have died will be able to give submissions in writing, via video call, or in person – if they are invited.
It isn’t a judge-led inquiry and its findings won’t have the weight of one; it’s clear from the comments in the Guardian article that some of the APPG members have already made up their minds.
But it’s a start.
Frontline workers and relatives of people who have died are invited to visit the March for Change website where they may make submissions via a dedicated portal, anonymously if they wish.
Professionals and trade bodies can submit evidence via email.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
This is exactly what Debbie Abrahams was talking about when she said the “healthcare professionals” who conduct benefit assessments must be held to account.
Here’s a lady who is five months away from retirement age and disabled. Whoever carried out her work capability assessment has messed it up, by all appearances, and the DWP has compounded the crime by giving her a load of waffle that it’s not worth appealing.
Of course it’s worth appealing – even such a short time away from retirement – because every successful appeal is more proof that the Tories’ genocidal hate campaign against the sick and disabled must end.
A claim that it “wasn’t worth” appealing is an attempt to stave off that eventuality, because DWP officers know they’re doing wrong.
They’ll all say they were “only following orders” – the Nuremberg defence – when push comes to shove. It will have been their bosses’ responsibility – except of course that responsibility for actually pushing someone off-benefit and into financial trouble lies with the person who made the decision, so that doesn’t work.
But push won’t come to shove with no evidence that it needs to – and that’s why this lady needs to appeal.
I then spoke to a 64 year old lady who was clutching hold of her large empty shopping trolley that she was carrying. She told me that she had failed her ESA medical and also had been told that it wasn’t worth her time appealing. I told her that it is always worth appealing.
She then went on to tell me that her advisor had told her that she had to sign on daily. Yes daily. She’s 64 and disabled.
What sort of job are they expecting her to find? Her advisor told her that there is a job for everyone.
Well I disagree with that. No there isn’t.
She will receive her pension in February. I informed her of her right to appeal, of why she should appeal and that she should do this as soon as possible.
Let’s look at this realistically, no one would employ her and why should she have to find work. Shes disabled and should, if the law hadn’t been changed, be claiming her pension already.
Sure, Jeremy Corbyn was the star of the Labour Party Conference, but if you’re long-term sick and/or disabled, you would have wanted to hear what Debbie Abrahams had to say.
And it was worth hearing:
Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary has called for nurses and other healthcare professionals who write misleading benefit assessment reports to be “held to account”.
Debbie Abrahams said there had been “too many times” when healthcare professionals had written reports that did not “marry” with the evidence they had been given by disabled benefit claimants and what they had been told by those claimants during face-to-face assessments.
Abrahams (pictured, second from right), who was speaking at a fringe event organised by the Fabian Society and the disability charity Scope at Labour’s annual conference in Brighton, said: “Assessments are conducted by clinical professionals.
“We must be holding these clinical professionals to account.”
She said she had heard of “dozens and dozens” of cases, both in her national role and as a constituency MP, of assessment reports “not marrying at all with the detail in the assessment, the medical records that were supplied and so on”.
Corporate ‘partners’: These are just some of the companies that ‘work with’ your representatives in Parliament. Wouldn’t it be better if the relationship was kept at arms-length and your MP wasn’t their employee?
This is an important step on the way towards winning a personal crusade of Vox Political – to clear corruption out of the House of Commons.
The Labour Party will change the law to ban MPs from having second jobs including corporate directorships, employment or consultancy work.
Think about it; this means MPs will no longer be allowed to have dangerous conflicts of interest between their positions as representatives of the electorate and any responsibilities to other employers.
It would go a long way towards meeting the terms of the Vox Political e-petition from last year, which called on Parliament to ban MPs from voting on matters in which they have a financial interest.
It would not help when MPs have shares in particular companies – but those should be declared in the register of members’ interests in any case, and neglect to mention such interests should lead to strict penalties.
I know. The Maria Miller case (to quote a recent example) isn’t going to fill anybody with hope, is it?
A Daily Mail report has stated that the move will infuriate many MPs on both sides of the House, and some Facebook commenters have already trotted out the now-tired line that they’ll believe it when they see it, or Labour won’t be able to push the measure through as MPs would oppose it.
That’s a mistake – a whipped vote in a House of Commons with a Labour majority means an automatic victory – in exactly the same way the Coalition government has continually won controversial votes in the current Parliament (against ardent Labour opposition that has subsequently gone unnoticed by the public – or at least, by many commenters on this site).
The Mail‘s article affected shock at Labour’s temerity in wanting to force this measure on members of other political parties, claiming it is likely to fuel claims that the party is anti-business.
This is, of course, poppycock. How is it anti-business to make sure serving members of Parliament concentrate on their jobs as public representatives, rather than trying to serve two masters at once? It seems more likely that business will revive without their over-rated expertise.
After all, look how well they’ve managed the nation’s finances!
The Mail also quoted some goon who said it meant the electorate would be lumbered with more career politicians who have worked as researchers and special advisors, when there need to be MPs in every party who have had “real world” professional experience.
This too is poppycock. There is no reason a person in any career cannot stand for election and, if returned to Parliament, take a sabbatical from their day job until they are voted out again or choose to return to their vocation.
Ah. I’ve just looked up the name of the goon who made this claim: Tory MP Andrew Bridgen. Need I say more?
Finally, the Mail turned to the Institute of Directors for support. It’s as if the paper really wanted to hammer home how corrupt the system has become, and will remain, if left as it is. Of course, the director general, Simon Walker, said MPs could better serve the public if they have “active links” with the business community.
Well, of course!
How could he influence Parliamentary decisions without a few directors in the Cabinet?
This is a policy that we should all support to the hilt.
I strongly advise you to contact your MP and seek their support for it.
Vox Political supports any move to keep MPs out of the pockets of big business
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Ingeus out of favour: This image was found on a site protesting against Workfare and demonstrates the high regard in which it is held by previous users of the Ingeus service.
Perhaps we’re jumping the gun with the headline but alarm bells tend to go off when you read that “people on sickness benefits will be required to have regular meetings with healthcare professionals to help them with their barriers to work”.
Everyone working on Employment and Support Allowance should already know what everyone receiving it knows – it’s more a bloodbath than a benefit.
This is down to the attitude of the healthcare professionals already working on it – the people who (and God forbid you should ever ask to see their qualifications) automatically sign 70 per cent of claimants as ‘fit for work’, whether they are or not, and tell most of the rest they need to be work-ready within a year.
The result? Mental breakdowns, depression and suicides; physical breakdowns, worsening of existing conditions, and premature deaths. By the thousand.
These are the people who ask claimants when amputated limbs are going to grow back, and who tell people with Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis that they’ll be fit for work within six months.
If you did (God forbid) ask them where they got their qualifications, it was probably the Teaching Hospital of Noddyland.
“People on sickness benefits will be required to have regular meetings with healthcare professionals to help them address their barriers to work – or face losing their benefits [italics mine] – in a two-year pilot scheme in central England which begins in November,” the DWP press release states.
Isn’t this what happened with people on Jobseekers’ Allowance? Suddenly they had to start fulfilling lots of pointless extra requirements or their benefits would be withdrawn? Part of that is a regular meeting in which – as far as we can ascertain – innocent people are harassed, threatened and abused by DWP employees who are themselves, it seems, millimetres away from nervous exhaustion brought on by the pressures of the job.
Claiming benefits, it seems, is now an endurance test: Who cracks (up) first?
Now, for 3,000 people in the work-related activity group for ESA in the Black Country, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Rutland, Staffordshire and Shropshire, there’s no relief even if they have a nervous breakdown and have to claim ESA on mental health grounds.
“People involved in the pilot – who have all been assessed as being able to work at some point in the future – will have regular appointments with healthcare professionals as a condition of receiving their benefit, to focus on helping them move closer to being able to get a job.”
There you go – all judged as able to work in the future. Presumably Iain Duncan Smith has taken a look at their files, glanced into his crystal ball, and declared that he has a “belief” in their fitness to work. If any of these people are reading, please contact this blog if you have a progressive health condition that won’t ever improve.
Because the meeting is a condition of receiving benefit, anyone attending can expect to be treated abominably. This is not about helping you back to work, or even back to health; it’s about kicking you off-benefit and nothing further. The aim, as with JSA, is to cut claimant numbers and thereby cut spending.
“It’s really important we give people who are disabled or have a health condition the support they need to get into work if they are able,” said employment minister Esther McVey who knows nothing about this at all (despite having been minister for the disabled).
“Traditionally, this help has tended to be work-related, but this pilot will look at whether a more holistic approach is more successful in helping people to manage their conditions and so break down their barriers to work.”
The biggest barrier to a person with a disability getting work is the fact that the Conservative-led Coalition government has been closing down employment opportunities for them and removing incentives for employers to take them on.
The healthcare professionals will be provided by Ingeus UK – a welfare-to-work provider that has been involved in the Work Programme – you know, the time-wasting scheme in which jobseekers are taken off the unemployment statistics while they learn simple skills that, in fact, most of them already have.
The company’s website is very slick but contains no information about the number of doctors in its employ.
Oh, and guess what? The company is half-owned by Deloitte, one of the ‘Big Four’ accountancy firms that currently writes British tax law to make avoidance easy for the big corporates. How much tax has Ingeus paid lately?
“Everything we do is results driven”, the site declares.
One wonders what Ingeus will do when the casualties start piling up.
According to PCS, members working for Atos IT Services and in Atos Healthcare voted to support strike action by a proportion of more than 80 per cent. More than 90 per cent supported action short of a strike.
A union spokesperson said: “As we demonstrated in 2012, members have shown they are prepared to support their elected representatives and defend their interests. Atos should be under no illusions that we are prepared to take action.”
If you’re like me, you don’t know they demonstrated anything at all in 2012 – but I have unearthed a previous press release from PCS that mysteriously doesn’t seem to have made it into the news.
This involved the immediate payment of the Living Wage (Labour must have been happy at that) to all PCS members with more than three months’ service; a two per cent pay uplift for members who already received more than the Living Wage in April this year; a £320 “non-consolidated payment” to all Atos IT Services staff and a £3100 “non-consolidated payment” to Atos Healthcare staff; a new pay process (for PCS members only – presumably other Atos staff could go whistle) in Healthcare and IT Services; a PCS and Atos working party to develop a more transparent appraisal system; and development of a joint PCS and Atos plan to promote “respect, dignity and fair treatment for all workers”.
This indicates that Atos workers receive a very low wage for what they do. You may find this surprising, considering the size of the contracts awarded by the Coalition government; in 2011-12 Atos received £112.4 million to carry out 738,000 assessments. That comes out at £152.30 per hour-long assessment.
It also shows that the ministers at the DWP (after this blog was upbraided for insulting gutter vermin with a previous comparison, let’s call them pond scum this time around) and their allies at Atos, including Mr Breton, seem to have no problem with treating their own staff almost as badly as they treat claimants of sickness and disability benefits.
The DWP, in partnership with Atos: Making Work Pay Less.
Public opinion on lobbyists: Note the proximity of the words “corrupt”, “cheats” and “influential”. [Picture stolen from PR Week]
A Parliamentary Bill designed to prevent free speech by gagging political commentators, and to enable the ‘blacklisting’ of trade union members by having their names registered, has won the favour of Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs this evening.
They voted to allow the inappropriately-titled ‘Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill’ to proceed to its committee stage after a debate today (Tuesday).
That stage will last for only a few days, during which it will be examined by a ‘committee of the whole House’ – in other words, the Bill is being guillotined; hurried through Parliament in order to get it onto the statute books after the least possible scrutiny. It seems that the government has something to hide.
Could it be the fact that the Electoral Commission, the organisation that would enforce the Bill’s provisions if it is passed into law, has made it perfectly clear that it is an attempt to stifle political commentary from organisations and individuals: “The Bill creates significant regulatory uncertainty for large and small organisations that campaign on, or even discuss, public policy issues in the year before the…general election, and imposes significant new burdens on such organisations”?
Could it be the fact that new regulations for trade unions mean members could be blacklisted – denied jobs simply because of their membership?
Could it be the fact that the measures against lobbyists – the Bill’s apparent reason for existing – are expected to do nothing to hinder Big Money’s access to politicians, and in fact is likely to accelerate the process, turning Parliamentarians into corporate poodles?
If so, then the attempt has failed, because all of these, and more, were discussed in today’s debate.
But don’t worry – we have the assurances of Andrew Lansley, Leader of the House of Commons, to keep us from losing sleep over it. The man who asked us to believe his so-called reform of the National Health Service would not lead to wholesale privatisation – and look at it now – took a telling question from Glenda Jackson, early in his opening speech.
She said the Bill “has created almost a fire-storm in my constituency. My constituents are appalled at what they regard as a gagging Bill. They wish to see a list of lobbyists that is transparent to ensure that Government cannot be bought — even though that is a debatable issue. They know that the Bill as it stands would prevent democratic voices from being heard.”
Mr Lansley’s response: “I look forward to the Honourable Lady having an opportunity after today’s debate to go back to her constituents, to tell them that the things they are alarmed about will not happen.”
Let’s hold him to that, shall we? Bear in mind that lying to Parliament is an expulsion offence, even if this particular government does not enforce it. David Cameron and Iain Duncan Smith have already defied Parliamentary convention by telling appalling untruths to their fellow MPs and walking back to their jobs; now it seems likely Mr Lansley may have done the same.
High on the list of opposition MPs’ concerns was the fact that the Bill does nothing to prevent lobbyists working directly for commercial concerns from approaching government ministers and trying to influence them.
“Recent freedom of information requests reveal that Treasury officials met fracking industry representatives 19 times in the last 10 months about their generous tax breaks, yet the public are denied any further details of that lobbying on the grounds that it could prejudice commercial interests,” said Green MP Caroline Lucas. “Is the Leader of the House not ashamed that this Bill will drastically curtail the ability of charities to campaign in the public interest on issues such as fuel poverty and energy but do nothing to curb such secretive corporate influencing?”
And Labour’s Chris Bryant had a query of his own: “Every single member of the public affairs team in-house at BSkyB will be able to visit as many Ministers as they want and every single lawyer employed by BSkyB to advance its case will be able to do so without any need to register. The only person who would have to register would be an independent consultant in a company that solely lobbies. How does that possibly afford greater transparency?”
Mr Lansley’s response: “It promotes transparency because if a representative of Sky visits a Minister in order to discuss that business, it is transparent that they are doing so in order to represent the interests of Sky. However, if somebody from ‘XYZ Corporation’, a consultant lobbying firm, visits a Minister in order to discuss somebody else’s business but it is not transparent through the ministerial diary publication who they are representing, that is not transparent. We propose to remedy that by making it transparent.”
Oh, well that’s all right then.
No it isn’t! It’s the complete opposite of all right! Where the public wanted a curb on corporations corruptly influencing the government, it is instead offering to rub that influence in our faces!
“This is one of the worst Bills that I have seen any Government produce in a very long time,” said Lansley’s shadow, Angela Eagle. The last Bill this bad might even have been the Health and Social Care Act 2012, and the Leader of the House of Commons had his fingerprints all over that one, too… This Bill is hurried, badly drafted and an agglomeration of the inadequate, the sinister and the partisan. From a Government who solemnly promised that they would fix our broken politics, the Bill will do the complete opposite.
“The Bill can best be summed up as furious displacement activity by a Government who hope that the public will not notice their problems with lobbying… they are trying to ram through their gag on charities and campaigners… so that they are silenced in time for the next general election, and they are trying to avoid the scrutiny that will show the public what a disgrace the Bill is.”
She said: “Three and a half years ago the Prime Minister, when Leader of the Opposition, told us that lobbying was the next big scandal waiting to happen. He did not tell us then that he was going to do nothing about it for over three years but survive a series of lobbying scandals and then produce a Bill so flawed that it would actually make things worse.
“Under the Government’s definition, someone will count as a lobbyist only if they lobby, directly, Ministers or permanent secretaries and if their business is mainly for the purposes of lobbying. It is estimated that that will cover less than one-fifth of those people currently working in the £2 billion lobbying industry, and the Association of Professional Political Consultants estimates that only one per cent of ministerial meetings organised by lobbyists would be covered.
“It would be extremely easy to rearrange how such lobbying is conducted to evade the need to appear on the new register at all. The Bill is so narrow that it would fail to cover not only the lobbyist currently barnacle-scraping at the heart of Number 10 [Lynton Crosby], but any of the lobbying scandals that have beset the Prime Minister in this Parliament.
“There is a real risk that the proposals will make lobbying less transparent than it is now. The Government’s proposed register would cover fewer lobbyists than the existing, voluntary, register run by the UK Public Affairs Council.”
Moving on to part two of the Bill, she said, “In one of the most sinister bits of legislation that I have seen in some time, this Bill twists the rules on third-party campaigning to scare charities and campaigners away from speaking out. It is an assault on the Big Society that the Prime Minister once claimed to revere… It is clear that these changes will have wide-ranging implications for many hundreds of charities and campaigners, local and national, large and small.
“Some of them have told us that they will have to pull back from almost all engagement in debates on public policy in the year before the election. These changes have created massive uncertainty for those who may fall within the regulations in a way that the Electoral Commission has deplored.
“The changes will mean that third-party campaigning will be restricted even if it was not intended to affect the outcome of an election — for example, engaging in public policy debate. Staff costs and overheads will also have to be included in what has to be declared — something that does not apply in this way to political parties. The Electoral Commission has said that these changes could have a ‘dampening effect’ on public debate. The National Council for Voluntary Organisations has said that the changes will ‘have the result of muting charities and groups of all sorts and sizes on the issues that matter most to them and the people that they support’.”
And on part three, which centres on trade union membership records, she said, “There appears to be no policy motive for the introduction of this new law other than as a vehicle for cheap, partisan attacks on the trade unions, of which only a minority are actually affiliated to the Labour party.
“Officials from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills have been totally unable to explain the problem that this part of the Bill is designed to solve. During a belated consultation meeting with the TUC — it took place after the Bill had been published — BIS officials could cast no light on why part three exists at all. Nor were they able to explain the origin of these proposals beyond their oft-repeated mantra that the provisions contained in part three ‘came out of a high level meeting between the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister’. I think that revelation tells us all we need to know about the grubby, partisan nature of the measures.
“These proposals seem deliberately designed to burden trade unions with additional cost and bureaucracy from a Government who claim they are against red tape. This is despite the fact that unions already have a statutory duty to maintain registers of members. I understand from the TUC that neither the certification officer nor ACAS has made any representations to suggest that that was not already sufficient. The Government have to date failed to provide any evidence or rationale for these changes, so I can only conclude that this is a deliberate attempt to hamper unions with red tape because a minority of them have the temerity to support the Labour party.”
And she said: “I have serious concerns about the implications of these changes for the security of membership data. We all know that the blacklisting of trade union members may well still exist in our country. Blacklisting has ruined many lives and these changes could have some very dangerous implications, especially in the construction industry, where many are afraid to declare their membership of a trade union openly for fear of the repercussions.”
And Graham Allen, Chair of the Select Committee on Political and Constitutional Reform, lambasted the Bill. He said: “If someone wanted to do O-level politics on how to produce or not to produce a Bill, I am sorry, but this Bill would be an F — a fail, big time.
“Read the evidence from the Electoral Commission when I publish it in 48 hours’ time. It is damning evidence from people who should really all be on the same side to ensure this provision will happen.
“We should listen to people. Let us have some consultation; let Parliament do its job, smoke out some of the issues and attempt to resolve them. I have a fantastic all-party committee and we could do that job for Parliament, yet those things have been resolutely held at arm’s length.
“Perversely, we are trying to make a Bill that divides rather than keeps people together.”
It isn’t perverse at all. That is precisely the point of it.
Tobacco, fracking or private health companies seem the most likely choices.
The Conservative-led Coalition has become an excellent practitioner of bait-and-switch fraud, it seems. First it ‘baits’ the general public by promising a new law, reforming part of society that is seen to have fallen below the standards expected here in the UK. Then it ‘switches’ the legislation into something else entirely.
So it is with plans for a new law to end lobbying scandals. It won’t do anything of the sort. In fact, it is likely to lessen the legal burdens on lobbyists.
(This is not to say that the TUC believes the UK government is similar to an authoritarian dictatorship. View it instead as the TUC saying this is what the UK government has become under the Coalition)
The Transparency of Lobbying, non-Party Campaigning, and Trade Union Administration Bill apparently features a new, looser definition of ‘campaigning’ that risks including all activities that could be seen as critical of the government of the day – and if any government was likely to crack down on such activities, on any day, it’s this one!
Mr Cameron’s spokesman said this was not the aim, and that the plan was to ensure lobbyists’ allegiances are known, ascertain how much money is spent on third-party political campaigning and ensure trade unions know who their members are. His words may have been sponsored by CTF Partners (look them up).
The proposals are likely to introduce a statutory register of consultant lobbyists, but only firms which say it is their main business need register, only firms which meet ministers and senior civil servants need declare whom they represent, and in-house lobbyists are also exempt – so, from 988 meetings between the Department for Business and lobbyists in 2012, only two were with consultant lobbyists who would have had to declare the meetings under the new law.
An Independent article stated that the plans lack credibility and are regarded as “a bad joke” inside the UK’s £2 billion lobbying industry – so much so that the chairman of Parliament’s Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee recalled its members before the end of the summer recess, to hold evidence sessions on what he has described as a “dog’s breakfast”.
Graham Allen MP (Labour) told the paper, “This flawed legislation will mean we’ll all be back in a year facing another scandal.”
And lobbyists themselves said the industry could gain nothing from flawed legislation. Iain Anderson, chairman of the Association of Professional Political Consultants (APPC) and director of the lobbying company Cicero, said: “This law will only undermine public confidence.”
The planned legislation would also set a cap on the amount any organisation other than political parties could spend during elections, and would end self-certification of union membership numbers for all but the smallest unions, with records checked by an independent officer.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said in the BBC article that “this rushed Bill has nothing to do with cleaning up lobbying or getting big money out of politics. Instead it is a crude and politically partisan attack on trade unions, particularly those who affiliate to the Labour Party”. Bait-and-switch, see?
But she said the plan was much worse than that: “Its chilling effect will be to shut down dissent for the year before an election. No organisation that criticises a government policy will be able to overdraw their limited ration of dissent without fearing a visit from the police.”
If fears are borne out, the new law would have a direct effect on Vox Political and blogs like it. Rest assured that VP will continue criticising government policy and demanding better from the opposition.
They can’t say we overspend – we don’t have any budget at all.
My e-petition calling for MPs to be banned from voting on matters in which they have a financial interest is here, and is nearly at the point where a reply will be required from the relevant government department. Please support it with your signature, if you haven’t already done so.
Here’s a good anti-Coalition soundbite: It’s based on a well-known saying and it tackles the falsehoods put out by Iain ‘Returned To Unit’ Smith.
Sitting in the cafe yesterday, I was discussing the situation in Egypt with a couple of friends. One was getting quite heated because he considered the problem to have been created by the “fundamentalist Islamic government they elected”.
He said something like, “These fundamentalists promised everyone the world. They said they would make everything better, did whatever they could to secure the vote – and then once they were in power they forgot all those promises and did whatever they wanted instead. They got what they wanted from the people and then the people could go hang.”
I couldn’t resist. “So you’re saying they’re exactly like the Conservative Party over here, then,” I replied.
Laughter all around. We laugh because it’s funny and we laugh because it’s true. And because the only alternative is tears.
Let’s not dwell on the Egyptian situation beyond what I said afterwards – that the ‘Arab Spring’ countries seem to need help in establishing the basics of real democracy but there is nobody around who can provide it. They would (rightly) distrust any foreign power that claimed to offer help, but there’s no independent organisation that offers such a service either.
The UK would be one of the last places I would advise Egypt to look. Consider the last general election here. People with a lot of money to spend on it funded a hugely expensive election campaign to get the Conservative Party into power, in order to serve their interests which are to accumulate an even larger share of the available wealth, along with the power that goes with it, while removing and restricting the freedoms of the people from whom that wealth was to be drained.
Those people got involved in politics and worked very hard to make sure they got a government that genuinely serves their interests – selfish and cruel as those interests are. They ended up having to put up with a Conservative-led government, rather than a fully Conservative one, but are now working very hard to finish the job with a propaganda campaign – based on lies – that appears to be swaying public opinion.
So they say (and here I’m quoting Owen Jones in his recent analysis): “We’re clearing up Labour’s mess. Labour overspent and now we’re balancing the books. A national deficit is like a household budget. Welfare is out of control and lining the pockets of the skivers. The unemployed person or immigrant down the road is living off your hard-earned taxes. Labour is in the pocket of union barons.”
All of these are falsehoods. They’re lies. But they’re also very effective soundbites that stay in people’s minds and colour their perceptions of the way things are.
And those responsible get away with it, I’m sorry to say, because the people who stand to lose the most are lazy. They can’t be bothered to get involved and make sure the government they get is one that genuinely serves their interests.
Why do you think Her Majesty’s Opposition is filled with neoliberals who agree with the government that our public services should be carved up and handed to private companies, to run them for profit and not in the interests of the people? Why do you think the Labour Party has agreed to stick to Coalition spending plans for the first year of the next Parliament, if it gets elected? Why do you think Labour has stopped opposing social security policies that have been killing an average of 73 people a week (according to figures that are now well out of date, so the average today is probably much higher)?
Labour doesn’t stand up for you any more. That’s why it has had no effective answer to the Tory lies. The masses can’t be bothered to find out the truth – and certainly won’t lift a finger to get involved and stop the corruption that is eating our institutions away. But that is the only way it can be stopped. You stay away and they get what they want.
At this rate, we’ll all be slaves by 2020.
It doesn’t have to be so hard, though. We could all turn the corner, just by devising a few soundbites of our own.
I was thinking this last night, while I was writing a response to Margaret Johnson. Ms Johnson was commenting on a previous article as follows (apologies to anyone who’s offended; they’re her words, not mine): “It was Labour who signed up Atos, engineered so many civil service jobs that were not needed, opened the borders for the rest of the world’s trash to enter our country, brought in more taxes, actively encouraged the demise of manufacturing and the rise of the banks, signed up to allow Europe to rule us, doubled the rate for income tax for the lowest paid, gave GP’s 100K a year to work 9-5 Monday to Friday, got the most revenue in and still left this country in the worse mess ever.”
So we could say something like (and feel free to include ‘Liberal Democrats’ wherever I have mentioned Conservatives):
“It is the Conservatives who employed a private firm, paying £1 billion to ‘A-toss’ disabled people off the benefits they need to survive.” If Labour was doing its job properly it would add: “A Labour government would save that money by throwing Atos out”.
“No wonder the government can’t make anything work properly – they have been sacking all the professionals. More than 600,000 government employees will have lost their jobs by 2015, replaced by amateurs working for the Conservatives.”
“It’s strange that the Conservatives complain so much about immigration from Europe – they signed the treaties that allow it! The Conservative governments of Edward Heath and John Major allowed the free movement of European immigrants into the UK. Now they see it is unpopular, they want to shift the blame.”
“Simplified tax under the Tories mean the rich pay less and the poor pay more.”
“Conservatives destroyed Britain’s manufacturing base in the 1980s – at the same time they created the conditions that led to the banking crisis.”
“Conservatives want to blame Europe for your problems. Who will they blame when Britain is out of the EU and your problems have multiplied?”
Going back to Owen’s examples:
“Conservatives: The only people who think they can clear up a mess by making a bigger one.”
“Conservatives say Labour overspent – but they have always spent more than Labour. You can’t trust them to balance the books.”
“If the Tories handled their household budgets like they’re handling the deficit, they would all have been evicted by now.”
“Privatisation is out of control; the Tories are using taxpayers’ money to line the pockets of greedy bosses.”
“You paid for Iain Duncan Smith’s £39 breakfast. How much do you spend on your own?”
“The Conservative Party is in the pocket of big business and the bankers.”
Of course, the above are just essays in the craft of soundbiting; I’m just a beginner.
So let’s have a competition to see who can invent the best soundbite, challenging the government’s lies with facts!
Please send your ideas in to this blog – but also put them out to the national media as well, any way you can. Try to get anyone opposing the government to use them, because this may lead to them being picked up by the newspapers and TV news reporters as well.
Above all, please try to make this fun. A soundbite is many times more effective if it makes people laugh, and the Tories and Liberal Democrats are silly, silly people. Let’s bring that out.
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