Tag Archives: public relations

Tories mark third anniversary of the Grenfell tragedy with a staggering display of hypocrisy

As it was then: firefighters are pictured dousing small blazes on what remained of Grenfell Tower’s outer cladding, after the fire three years ago. The extent of the damage is clear.

What a strange mob these Conservative brutes are turning out to be! It seems they think everyone can be fooled by a bit of public relations jiggery-pokery.

So on the third anniversary of the Grenfell Tower blaze, they lit up 10 Downing Street in green, took a photo of it and gave us some flowery words about a commitment to uncover the causes of the disaster and ensure it never happens again.

Did it work?

Don’t make me laugh…

Another Twitter commenter added: “Oh do naff off. There are still families who have not been properly housed. There are thousands of properties country-wide cladded with flammable materials. No amount of cosmetic PR will exonerate you.”

Consider this:

And this:

If you’re wondering about the significance of the names, they’ll belong to the people who died.

The Independent tells us of the plight of the Grenfell families who are still living in temporary accommodation, three years after they were put there:

Figures from Kensington and Chelsea Council show that there are still seven households living in temporary accommodation. There are also said to be around 10 households who used to live in the tower who have since requested to be moved again as they were placed into permanent [homes] that [were] unsuitable.

Spike Western, housing paralegal at North Kensington Law Centre, told The Independent the delays stemmed from a failure by successive governments to provide adequate social housing:

“The households who have still to be rehoused permanently following Grenfell are the most vulnerable survivors. They represent either those with particular housing needs, such as those arising from a disability, or those on whom moving permanently is something that cannot be rushed and must only be done when the survivor is ready,” he said.

“The damage has been done, and that is severe lack of investment in social and affordable housing over a long period, meaning there aren’t a whole lot of suitable options.”

Then-prime minister Theresa May had promised them their stay would last a maximum of three weeks.

What a liar. And now she has gone, leaving her successor to handle the mess – or kick this can of worms further down the road.

And once again, people with disabilities are left to suffer the most.

Grenfell went up like a tinderbox because it had been covered with a “flame-retardant” cladding that was the exact opposite. Fire chiefs have condemned the fact that the Tories haven’t exerted themselves to replace the same flammable cladding that covers many other blocks of flats – endangering the lives of thousands, three years after the tragedy:

The National Fire Chiefs Council called for “a fundamental reform of building safety” ahead of Sunday’s third anniversary of the fire that killed 72 people.

A parliamentary committee warned that fixing all serious fire-safety defects in high-risk residential buildings could cost up to £15 billion.

Some 2,000 residential buildings are still wrapped in dangerous cladding, meaning that thousands of homeowners sleep in potential fire traps every night, according to the report by the housing, communities and local government committee.

And bandwagon-jumping Labour leader Keir Starmer has said the fact that hundreds of buildings still bear Grenfell-style cladding three years later is “unforgivable” – but, I don’t know… I’m not sure his heart was in it. He seemed much more comfortable siding with the Tories over the threat to statues of racists and slave dealers than against them over this.

The question in the tweet is a good one for all of us to ask, I think.

Are we really more concerned with the safety of a few chunks of rock than for the lives of thousands of our fellow human beings?

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If Esther McVey becomes PM, will most of the UK’s budget be devoted to making her look good?

Ugh: She might have spent nearly £10,000 of OUR cash in an attempt to prettify herself but it was clearly money for old rope.

On the basis of this revelation, if Esther McVey drops out of the Tory leadership contest it won’t be because of any sexism on the party of her fellow MPs.

It will be because they are concerned about the drain on the national budget caused by her attempts to make herself look attractive.

Who would have thought she would want to spend so much public money trying to make herself seem pretty?

Still, the facts don’t lie: She claimed £8,750 on expenses, over two years, for the services of a photographer and public relations person.

The public will interpret this as an admission that she is more interested in her own image than in matters of importance to the nation.

That should be enough for her colleagues to stop her prime ministerial ambition in its tracks.

Source: Esther McVey claimed £8,750 in expenses for personal photographer | Politics | The Guardian

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Zac and Sarah don’t exist – why should we believe anything from the DWP?

'Sarah' - she doesn't exist and her story is a fake.

‘Sarah’ – she doesn’t exist and her story is a fake.

How can we trust the Department for Work and Pensions’ figures on incapacity benefit claimants’ deaths when we’ve had scandal after scandal from it over falsified evidence?

The Department for Work and Pensions has been caught out in another lie – this time over the existence of people in two fake ‘case studies’ used to promote its cruel, unfair and vindictive sanctions regime.

‘Sarah’ was quoted praising the DWP for threatening to withdraw benefits if she refused to complete her CV, while ‘Zac’ praised the new benefit rules, which had allowed him to continue receiving his money because he had offered proof of a hospital appointment.

'Zac' - he doesn't exist either and his story has also been faked by the DWP.

‘Zac’ – he doesn’t exist either and his story has also been faked by the DWP.

There’s only one problem – neither ‘Sarah’ nor ‘Zac’ exist.

The woman posing as ‘Sarah’ was also pictured in another government blog, The Daily Job Seeker, which offers advice on interview tips along with techniques and information about Universal Credit.

The DWP has been forced to admit that their comments were among a series of quotes on leaflets that were “fabricated” for “illustrative purposes”. All references to ‘Zac’ and ‘Sarah’ have now been removed from the various DWP information outlets.

The revelation that the DWP has been lying about its policies, using fake identities, has aroused yet another storm of protest against the Department and its Secretary of State, Iain Duncan Smith, the former Army bag-carrier who, This Blog maintains, should be removed from office as SNLR – ‘Services No Longer Required’.

It seems the DWP is claiming this blockhead had no knowledge of the deception, but it is impossible to accept this claim. The fictional accounts are intended to justify his failing policies and it is impossible to believe that civil servants would have created them if he had not demanded it.

Labour leadership frontrunner Jeremy Corbyn was quoted saying: “It is a damning indictment that civil servants are now being forced to make up quotes to cover for the failed political agendas of ministers, after the numerous debacles of Universal Credit, the work capability assessment, and the delays facing disabled people trying to get personal independence payments.”

Further embarrassment is in store for the DWP, after the industry body responsible for regulating the behaviour of organisations producing public relations material, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), launched an investigation into whether any of its members were involved.

CIPR president Sarah Pinch said: “Falsely creating the impression of independent, popular support is a naive and opaque technique which blatantly disregards the CIPR’s standards of ethical conduct. It is deeply disappointing if public relations professionals allowed it to be published.”

“A naïve and opaque technique which blatantly disregards… standards of ethical conduct.”

Let’s look at the DWP’s planned publication of Age-Standardised Mortality Rates for claimants of benefits including Incapacity Benefit, Employment and Support Allowance, and Several Disablement Allowance.

Firstly, we must ask why these figures are being prepared by the Department for Work and Pensions, and not by the Office for National Statistics (the organisation that has produced other age-standardised figures for the UK Government). Why?

The DWP and its representatives in Parliament have claimed that the creation of ASMRs has been undertaken by the Department, in order to meet “the high standards expected” by the UK Statistics Authority. Has anybody seen evidence that the UKSA has made any such demand?

Considering the ASMRs themselves, they provide a rate of deaths, per a certain number of the population, in comparison with the death rate among the population as a whole. It seems they are primarily used to predict future deaths. But the number of people on ESA is constantly fluctuating, meaning that a ‘standardised’ rate will be misleading – especially as we are led to believe the figures used will cover a 10-year period between 2004 and 2014.

Even if the DWP publishes a year-by-year analysis, the death rate per, say, 1,000 will not tell the whole story as a lower ratio in a year when more people were claiming may mask a higher number of deaths.

And that’s if the DWP is using reliable figures in the first place!

The only way to have factual accuracy from this lying tool of Conservative Party ideology is to have the data on which it is based – the genuine numbers of people who have died.

That’s what the Tribunal hearing on benefit-related deaths is all about.

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Mock indignation from IDS won’t halt the uproar over benefit-related deaths

The latest DWP-related death (to be reported in the newspapers): David O'Mar had collected thousands of football kits, to be given to children in Eastern Europe, before he succumbed to pneumonia after a tribunal said he was fit for work - while he was lying in a hospital bed.

The latest DWP-related death (to be reported in the newspapers): David O’Mar had collected thousands of football kits, to be given to children in Eastern Europe, before he succumbed to pneumonia after a tribunal said he was fit for work – while he was lying in a hospital bed.

The Conservative Government’s stalling tactics when confronted with questions about benefit-related deaths have at last tarnished the image of Prime Minister David Cameron, along with his ministers at the Department for Work and Pensions.

When Debbie Abrahams, a Labour MP whose own image is refreshingly glowing after she stood up for her principles and voted against the Tory ‘Welfare’ Bill last night, asked an Urgent Question of him in the House of Commons yesterday (Tuesday), Cameron was nowhere to be found, having run like a jackrabbit and left others to face the grilling.

His Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, was present – but refused to respond, despite this being an issue of serious concern to the public.

Instead, he sent his minister for employment, Priti Patel, to the Dispatch Box and confined himself to muttered comments from the sidelines. At one point he could be heard very clearly, whining, “Don’t lecture us about it.”

It was a public relations disaster – and on the very last day before the summer recess, meaning people will remember it.

Ms Abrahams asked the Prime Minister to make a statement on his commitment of June 24, to publish DWP data on the number of people in receipt of Employment and Support Allowance and Incapacity Benefit who have died since November 2011, including those found fit for work – to honour This Writer’s Freedom of Information request on the subject, and answer more than 240,000 petitioners who have supported it.

“I am disappointed that the Prime Minister is not here in person to explain why he has not yet honoured his commitment,” she said.

“When will we see the data published?” she asked of Ms Patel. “When are they being prepared for publication?”

“Will the Minister commit to publishing the actual numbers of deaths?”

She also asked how much the DWP had spent on staff and legal fees in the decision to refuse my FoI request – and now to contest the Information Commissioner’s ruling that my question should be answered.

She called on Duncan Smith to reconsider his decision not to publish the details on any of the DWP’s 49 peer reviews into social security claimants who died, including – importantly – changes brought forward by the department as a result of them.

Finally, she asked what assessment has been undertaken of the potential impact on the health status of those on Incapacity Benefit or Employment and Support Allowance, given the measures introduced in the Welfare Reform and Work Bill.

Ms Patel repeated the platitudes we have heard already – that the information will be published “but before doing so the statistics need to meet the high standards expected”.

She added: “We will publish all aspects of the data that we have been asked to publish.”

Rest assured that this writer will hold her – and the Conservative Government – to that!

She did not say anything about the cost of refusing and appealing against my FoI request, about the 49 peer reviews, or about assessments of the health status of those on IB or ESA – despite being challenged several times by different MPs on the first of these issues in particular.

The tone of Ms Patel’s responses left so much to be desire that it attracted particular comment from – among others – the Father of the House, Gerald Kaufman.

In a room where emotions were already running high, due to the nature of the issue being discussed, she began by demanding: “Would Labour Members like to listen to my response before they start chuntering away?”

Her response was immediately branded “arrogant” by Mr Kaufman and a later claim that the Conservative-led Coalition was the first government to publish statistics on benefit-related deaths was labelled “misleading” by Labour MP Dawn Butler.

It is as though the government deliberately set out to cause upset, as Parliament dissolved for its summer recess.

For the record, the last-published statistics on benefit-related deaths were released in July 2012 and conveyed figures for the period January-November 2011, in which 10,600 ESA claimants died. That’s around one every two or three hours.

As Labour’s Kate Green pointed out: “There is huge disquiet among disabled people, as story after story surfaces in the media about disabled people being found fit for work and dying shortly afterwards—last week another story appeared in the Daily Mirror about a disabled man who died two weeks after his assessment.

“The shenanigans in the DWP around the release of the statistics are concerning—and puzzling, if the Department has nothing to hide.”

Mr Kaufman put Ms Patel right in her place when he said: “I say to the junior Minister that she needs to take some lessons from her boss in dealing with questions in this House, because whatever the nature of his replies, he replies with courtesy. She needs to learn about that as well.”

He had already cast doubt on the honesty of the Conservative Government as a whole, remarking witheringly: “I wish my hon. Friend (Debbie Abrahams) every good fortune in awaiting a reply to a letter to the Prime Minister, in view of the fact that in the last five years I have had exactly one letter from him, and that was after I had received a letter from No. 10 signed by somebody who did not exist.”

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The fakery and failure behind the DWP’s new ‘health’ scheme

131109doublespeak

It seems that the Department for Work and Pensions is sticking to the ‘Adolf Hitler’ model of public relations: If you tell a big lie and repeat it often enough, people will believe it. The press release announcing the new ‘Health and Work Service’ is riddled with long-debunked old lies – and one new statement that deserves our scrutiny.

This is the press release used by the BBC in its article on Saturday, telling us that the new, privately-run service is needed to combat the high cost of long-term absence from work.

It seems to be the DWP’s new practice to pass announcements to – let’s call them “trusted” – media outlets before putting them up on the government’s own press website, as a kind of test-run, allowing any credibility problems to be fixed before the government commits itself in an official way.

That’s why the announcement appeared on the government website yesterday (Monday) – two days after the BBC broke the story. Now – in just half the time it took to appear – let’s look at why it’s a load of rubbish.

“As many as 960,000 employees were on sick leave for a month or more each year on average between October 2010 and September 2013, the government has revealed,” the document begins.

Oh really? The DWP reached this figure by applying the findings of a survey, showing the ratio of long-term absences to total days of sickness absence, to findings by the Labour Force Survey showing the total number of days of sickness absence in the UK. That’s 9,000 sick days and 70 absences, applied to an average of 120 million sick days per year. This is based on 2,019 interviews with employees. There’s just one problem.

At the time covered by these surveys, there were around 4.9 million private sector employers.

Considering the huge size difference between the sample surveyed and the body it represents, it seems unlikely in the extreme that the figure is accurate. If it is right, it would be by luck; it’s probably wrong. The figure might as well have been made up – and you should treat it as though it was.

“The government has already taken big steps in getting people on long-term sick benefits back into work as part of the government’s long-term economic plan, with almost a quarter of a million coming off incapacity benefits since 2010-” Let’s stop there and examine the information content of this sentence so far.

The “government’s long-term economic plan” is a phrase that is being shoe-horned into every press release possible and means nothing. There never was a “long-term economic plan”, and there isn’t one now. Have you seen it? Of course not – it doesn’t exist. This is just a comforting nonsense inserted to lull people into false security that somebody knows what they are doing; I suspect the newly-privatised “nudge” unit may have had something to do with this.

As for “almost a quarter of a million coming off incapacity benefits since 2010”, check out this interview with Iain Duncan Smith, published in the Telegraph & Argus in 2010. He said: “I intend to move 1.5 million off incapacity benefit by 2014.”

It’s now 2014. We don’t have up-to-the-minute figures but on November 13 last year, the DWP press office helpfully tweeted us its then-current figure for people moving off incapacity benefits in a handy chart: 156,000.

140211fakes

That is a long way from a quarter of a million, and only around one-tenth of the Secretary-in-a-State’s 2010 target.

“- and almost a million who put in a claim actually have been found fit for work.” This is a bare-faced lie. It relates to a statement that 980,400 people were judged capable of work between 2008 and March 2013, but there are two problems with this. Firstly, it does not take into account the number of successful appeals against the ‘fit for work’ judgement (125,700); when adjusted to account for these, the total drops to 854,700. Secondly, this refers to the cumulative number of ‘fit for work’ outcomes of initial functional assessments since October 2008, and it seems likely that many people will have made repeat claims after being knocked off-benefit by an adverse decision. We do not know how many people have done this. Therefore the figure is meaningless.

So far, the DWP has told us that working people get sick (no surprises there), that it has failed to reach its target for clearing people off incapacity benefit and that its work capability assessment system is failing to push as many off-benefit as it should, because it is riddled with errors.

How does this connect with the creation of a new ‘Health and Work Service’, dedicated to ensuring that people who spend more than four weeks at a time off work with an illness get back into their job with a minimum of difficulty?

It’s obvious, isn’t it?

This is a scheme to ensure that people are discouraged from claiming incapacity benefits; the idea is that a drop in new claims, coupled with the number of uncontested ‘fit for work’ decisions, might lead to a larger drop in the number of active claims – which means the amount of money being paid out in benefits would also drop.

Inclusion of the word ‘health’ in the title of the new service is misleading, as it seems unlikely that consideration of an employee’s physical condition will have anything to do with the aim of the exercise.

Look at what the release has to say: “The Health and Work Service will offer a work-focused occupational health assessment and case management to employees in the early stages of sickness absence.”

It continues: “The work-focused occupational health assessment will identify the issues preventing an employee from returning to work and draw up a plan for them, their employer and GP, recommending how the employee can be helped back to work more quickly.”

Health doesn’t get a look-in.

No, what we’re most probably seeing is an expansion of the “biopsychosocial” method employed in work capability assessments, in an attempt to convince sick people that their illnesses are all in their minds. Don’t expect this approach to be used for people with broken limbs or easily-medicated diseases; this is for the new kinds of ‘subjective illness’, for which medical science has not been prepared – ‘chronic pain’, ‘chronic fatigue syndrome’, fibromyalgia and the like.

People with these conditions will probably be sent back to work – with speed. Their conditions may worsen, their lives may become an unending hell of pain and threats – I write from experience, as Mrs Mike spent around two years trying to soldier on in her job before finally giving up and claiming her own incapacity benefits – but that won’t matter to the DWP as long as they’re not claiming benefits.

That is what we can all expect from the new ‘service’.

It will be a fake, necessitated by failure.

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Goodbye, Baroness Thatcher – perhaps now we can put ThatcherISM to rest as well

The Iron Lady: This is probably the most iconic image of Margaret Thatcher from her tenure as Prime Minister of the UK. "The lady's not for turning," she warned. Unfortunately for Britain, she kept her word.

The Iron Lady: This is probably the most iconic image of Margaret Thatcher from her tenure as Prime Minister of the UK. “The lady’s not for turning,” she warned. Unfortunately for Britain, she kept her word.

It isn’t every day that a former Prime Minister dies – and even rarer that we witness the death of one who affected the UK in such a fundamental way as Baroness Thatcher.

As I write this, the outpouring of tributes and discussion of her achievements in the mass media are in full swing – mostly concentrating on what their editors would define as the ‘good’ she did for our country. Most of the TV channels and papers are run by right-wingers, of course – so you can expect them to be dripping with adulation.

However, as I commented on Facebook yesterday evening, street parties broke out in Brixton and Glasgow, celebrating her demise (I understand celebrations took place in Leeds and Liverpool, and possibly many other cities, towns and villages across the UK). They had bands, they have people handing out milk (remember, she was the ‘Milk Snatcher’ before she was PM), they were chanting “Maggie, Maggie, Maggie – dead, dead, dead” and popping champagne.

There was a humour – a sense of wit – about it, not only in what was going on (the milk, for example) but also the locations (there were riots in Brixton during her tenure, and Scotland was where the hated Poll Tax was piloted).

But I said it is also tragic “that a person should do so much harm in her life, and be so hated by the people she was elected to represent – more than 20 years after she left office – that her death is marked by spontaneous celebration and, literally, dancing in the streets”.

That comment thread has now been read by more than 15,000 people (usually I get one or two thousand through my Facebook door). A question I posted has received more than four times as many votes saying she harmed the country as say she improved it (47 – 11).

What DID she achieve?

According to Paul Krugman’s blog, it’s debatable whether she achieved anything, in terms of the economy.

“Thatcher came to power in 1979, and imposed a radical change in policy almost immediately,” he wrote. “But the big improvement in British performance doesn’t really show in the data until the mid-1990s. Does she get credit for a reward so long delayed?”

Good question. In fact, her two-and-a-half terms in office constituted an extremely rocky road for those of us who had to live through them (and I was one)! My opinion is that this is because she was not interested in improving Britain’s NATIONAL prosperity.

No – the Thatcher crusade was ideological. She wanted to thrust her form of Conservatism so far down everybody’s throat that it would take decades for any other way to be accepted – and she succeeded beyond her wildest dreams.

Let’s look at the policies that most clearly demonstrate this ideology.

She sold off Britain’s council houses. The cheap, rented social housing that accommodated those of us who earned the least were sold wholesale during her premiership – and not replaced. Mrs Thatcher is said to have had a dream to create a Britain full of homeowners. Sadly, this is not what happened. Instead, the majority of council houses were sold off to private landlords who then rented them out again – at higher cost. The lack of replacement council houses meant that the country’s poor had no alternative but to rent at the higher level, meaning they had less disposable income than before the sell-off. The rise of housing associations to fill the social housing gap has meant an extra layer of bureaucracy between the tenant and their elected representatives, who can now claim that any abuse of power by landlords is nothing to do with them.

She broke the unions. Some say this was vitally important, as the unions had become too powerful and were able to bring the country to its knees whenever they felt like it, calling strikes on a whim – and there is mileage in this. But it’s also possible to say that business bosses and members of the Thatcher government provoked confrontation in order to justify the erosion of union power – this is certainly true in the case of the mineworkers’ strike of 1984-5. There is an argument that National Coal Board chairman Ian MacGregor was paid millions of pounds to engineer the confrontation. The result was that the unions were stripped of many of their rights, meaning working people had nobody left to stand up for them in wage negotiations. It is a direct result of this that workers’ wages have risen by just 27 per cent over the last 30 years, while bosses’ salaries have multiplied by 800 per cent, and the gap between the country’s richest and poorest has grown, massively.

She stripped the UK of its manufacturing industries. What can be said about this? Thatcher saw much of Britain’s private industry as uneconomical, unprofitable. She oversaw a switch to service industries and finance – boosting this with bank deregulation. It is this move, which took place in the USA at around the same time, that led to the financial crisis of 2008 and the austerity measures which the current Coalition government is using to hammer the poorest in the modern UK.

She privatised national utilities. The share sell-offs were, on the face of it, intended to make it possible for every British citizen to buy shares in the companies that provided power, telecommunications, water and so on. In practice, the poorest couldn’t afford it, and those on middle incomes saw the shares as a short-term investment, believing they would be able to sell their shares on for many times the amount they paid, a few months later. This has led to the vast majority of shares in the privatised utilities falling into the hands of – you guessed it – the very, very rich. Another publicised intention of the sell-off was that, as private companies, these organisations would deliver a better service at a lower price. This was a fantasy; it never materialised. Look at British Rail (which I admit was privatised after Mrs Thatcher left office, but is a great example of the trend): Not only do users pay much more for their tickets now than when it was publicly-owned, but the subsidy paid to the private rail companies by the government has multiplied massively as well. Result: Rich shareholders become very much richer. Poor users struggle to cope with rising prices.

Can you spot the trend here?

She changed taxation to make the poor pay more. I refer, of course, to the infamous Poll Tax. Mrs Thatcher claimed in 1989 that a flat-rate tax for local services – with everybody, rich or poor, paying the same amount – was fairer. The public – who had already been fooled by the council housing sell-off, the public utility sell-off and the breaking of the unions, and were therefore sick of being hoodwinked – claimed otherwise and refused to pay. The public won and Mrs Thatcher was consigned to the waste basket of politics soon after. The current Coalition government is working hard to ensure that this policy is carried out, with the so-called ‘Pickles Poll Tax’ – the council tax support scheme that ensures everybody pays council tax. Meanwhile, efforts to ensure the rich pay less are going ahead, with Corporation Tax cut by a quarter during the lifetime of this Parliament, and the ‘Millionaires’ Tax Break’ cutting the top rate of Income Tax from 50p in the pound to 45p.

She kept Britain out of the Euro (or more accurately, European Monetary Union). This was her one sensible policy, history has proved. There is much to be said in favour of a free-trading zone where countries can trade amongst themselves at favourable rates – but monetary union cannot be a workable part of that, when the countries involved are at hugely varying stages of development. Mrs Thatcher was right to oppose it and the fact that the UK is not mired in the current Eurozone crisis, except as a member of the EU with trading interests to protect, is to her credit.

By now, dear reader, you are probably wondering how Mrs Thatcher lasted so long, if her policies were all so divisive, and so clearly trained on impoverishing the lower classes. The answer is simple: She was excellent at public relations. The fact that she was the UK’s first-ever female Prime Minister was a huge publicity boost for her, and she built on it by nurturing an image of herself as ‘The Iron Lady’ – a Prime Minister of firm convictions who knew that what she was doing was absolutely right for Britain (“Right for the goolies of Britain,” as Graeme Garden joked on Radio 4’s I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue at the time). The PR-reliance was clear from the start – the Conservative Party hired the Saatchi & Saatchi agency to run its 1979, 1983 and 1987 election campaigns. It is notable that this partnership dissolved during the 87 campaign and Thatcher’s premiership ran out of steam shortly afterwards.

To sum up, I’ll leave you with the comment I placed on the New York Times website, in response to that paper’s piece about Mrs Thatcher’s death:

“Having lived through the Thatcher years and the changes her government perpetrated on British society, allow me to assure you that there is little reason to heap praise upon her.

“The entire thrust of her thinking was to ensure that the rich and powerful became richer and more powerful, and the poor – especially those with intelligence and/or ability – would be denied any chance of prosperity or success.

“What’s the American Dream all about? Life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness? Everybody created equal, with opportunity for each according to their ability or achievement, regardless of social class or circumstances of birth?  The Thatcher government is a rejection of all those aspirations, as is the current Cameron government, which is its natural successor.

“The Thatcher government deprived people of their liberty by creating a large underclass of unemployed people and using the threat of unemployment to depress workers’ wages.

“As a result, they did not have the disposable funds to take advantage of the sell-offs of national utilities such as British Gas and British Telecom.

“She sold social housing but did not build any to replace it.

“She used the police as a tool of political repression, rather than as guardians of the law.

“She used taxation in a similar manner, crippling the poor with punitive measures such as the hated Poll Tax – a flat-rate charge, effectively a tax cut for the rich, but a huge tax hike for the poor.

“That was her fatal error, of course.”

Goodbye, Baroness Thatcher. Hopefully your passing will trigger a reassessment of your career, so that we can all move on from the political nightmare your policies created for the vast majority of middle- and working-class people whose only political mistake lay in entrusting their future to you.

Why are you complaining? The economy is running exactly according to plan!

Celebrating Britain's ruin: The Bullingdon boys rave it up in Davos - David 'Flashman' Cameron (centre, facing us), George 'Slasher' Osborne (left, back to us), Boris 'Zipwire' Johnson (right, back to us)

Celebrating Britain’s ruin: The Bullingdon boys rave it up in Davos – David ‘Flashman’ Cameron (centre, facing us), George ‘Slasher’ Osborne (left, back to us), Boris ‘Zipwire’ Johnson (right, back to us)

Confirmation has come through from the Office for National Statistics that the UK economy shrank in the last months of 2012.

It’s no surprise – you only had to look at the shop sales figures for December to know that something was going wrong.

The poor performance has negated the effects of the growth bump in the previous quarter, when the economy improved by 0.9 per cent, boosted by the London Olympics.

The official Treasury line is: “While the economy is healing, it is a difficult road.” Healing? Total growth for the whole of 2012 has flatlined. Again. If the economy was a hospital patient it would need a sharp electric shock to get it going again (but we’ll come back to that)!

The total economic growth since the Conservative-led Coalition government came into power is 0.4 per cent; less than that recorded during the first quarter of the Parliament when the government was still working under Labour Chancellor Alistair Darling’s spending rules.

“Today’s GDP figures are extremely disappointing, but not surprising. We warned the UK Govt their cuts were too deep, too fast,” said Carwyn Jones, the Welsh Government’s First Minister.

“UK Government cuts to capital investment in major infrastructure projects is causing damage to our economy. A new plan for growth and jobs should now be a major priority for the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer.”

Economist Danny Blanchflower tweeted: “-0.3% lack of growth comes as no surprise but is appalling this was made in #11 Downing Street. The question is what is Slasher going to do?

“Given that the coalition in June 10 predicted growth would be +6 per cent and we now have +0.3 per cent we are entitled to know what went wrong. One-twentieth won’t do.”

Sky News ran with this: “Osborne says Britain faces a difficult economic situation and that he will confront problems to create jobs.”

Comedy Prime Minister David Cameron received early warning of the figures, and responded by having a slap-up meal with his Bullingdon chums Gideon George Osborne (the man responsible for the mess) and London’s comedy mayor Boris ‘zipwire’ Johnson.

Osborne later responded: “We can either run away from these problems or confront them, and I am determined to confront them so that we go on creating jobs for the people of this country.” What jobs?

In fact, this is the very predictable result of the Conservatives’ ideology-led dogma, that put a project to shrink the state ahead of prosperity.

The Tories have always wanted to pin the blame for our debt woes on the state. They suggest that we are in crisis because public spending got out of control, and that this is what happens when the state gets too big.

But this is a fantasy, unsupported by any sound economic analysis and designed to pursue a reckless plan that puts the economy and long-term recovery at risk.

The image of a bloated state getting fatter on taxpayers’ money while crowding out a budding private sector is nothing but propaganda, and here’s why: Before the credit crunch, public sector debt was less than 40 per cent of national income – it was the private corporate sector that was out of control, with debt at almost 300 per cent of national income.

The Tories wanted to say the private sector was being crowded out by the public sector, but in fact, it was being propped up by it.

Those of us who listened to the experts knew that cutting would make things worse, rather than better, but we heard yesterday that Osborne is now ignoring the advice of his former bosom-buddies at the IMF and intends to keep chopping away at the carcass, presumably until there’s nothing left at all.

The same experts, last year, were warning of a double-dip recession – or what legendary economist John Maynard Keynes called the “death spiral”. Now we’re facing a TRIPLE-dip. We haven’t just entered the death spiral; we’re well into it!

Osborne’s solution is to cut benefits and wages so that people have less money to spend on the UK economy. With less money in circulation, shops will close and businesses will go to the wall. Foreign investors will turn away from a nation where they will see there is no profit to be gained. Creditors will start to worry and our credit rating will suffer. By the next election in 2015, there may not be any life in UK business worth mentioning.

Does anyone remember when David Cameron said, “The good news will keep on coming”?

He’s a public relations man, you see. His skill is in saying the opposite of what he means, in order to make a message palatable to the public. You could say he’s not very good at it, because his greatest feat was to persuade the British public to reject his Conservatism a little less harshly than that if all the other Tory leaders since John Major – which is what made it possible for him and Osborne to put us all in this mess by forming a dirty backroom deal with the Liberal Democrats.

I’d like to talk to some of the people he persuaded to vote for his squalid little gang of cutthroats. What would they have done, if they had know what would happen?