Boris Johnson appears to be living in a fantasy world in which the UK is still fighting World War II against ‘ze Germans’.
His resurrection of Second World War imagery in response to a comment by French President Francois Hollande was not only inappropriate; it was offensive.
And he did it deliberately, to get a rise out of our EU colleagues and comrades – only a day after Theresa May warned all her cabinet ministers against “any stray word” that could make securing a Brexit deal more difficult.
Downing Street’s defence of his outburst is risible. A spokeswoman said he had not likened Hollande to a Nazi – but nobody had suggested he had.
The claim that he was only “making a theatrical comparison to some of those evocative WWII movies” misses the point – it is exactly that comparison that caused the offence.
With Johnson as Foreign Secretary, the UK must prepare for the hardEST Brexit. EU nations will not tolerate deliberate offence.
Boris Johnson has warned EU leaders not to give the UK “punishment beatings” for Brexit “in the manner of some World War Two movie”.
The foreign secretary said penalising “escape” was “not in the interests of our friends and our partners”.
Tonight’s edition of the BBC’s Newsnight did not feature Conservative or Labour Parliamentary candidates in a debate on welfare – because the Conservative Party pulled out at the last minute, according to a tweet from Labour’s shadow Work and Pensions secretary, Rachel Reeves.
Fellow tweeter Anita Bellows immediately asked: “What have they got to hide?” including this image as an attachment:
The reference is obvious – David Clapson is the benefit claimant whose case was raised by Andrew Marr in his interview with David Cameron on Sunday.
Cameron’s responses indicate that he seems to think it was right for Mr Clapson to die as punishment for missing a single Job Centre appointment (for reasons that have not been disclosed). He refused to accept that the system should be reviewed.
The interview caused outrage among members of the public and now we can see the Conservatives’ reaction.
Like all bullies, they like to torture the weak. When public opinion rises up against them and they have a choice between “fight” and “flight”, they run like rabbits.
David Cameron tries to defend the indefensible on Andrew Marr’s Sunday morning TV show.
Soon-to-be-former Prime Minister David Cameron, the man who once told us a government should be judged on how well it treats the most vulnerable in society, showed us all exactly what he meant in his interview with Andrew Marr.
It means he is quite happy for them to die, as punishment for failing to attend an interview at the Job Centre. Grilled over his attitude, he made it clear that he was perfectly happy to allow the continuation of a system that kills – if it saves money.
AM:. Well you also talked to Evan Davis about the £22 billion of welfare cuts you’ve made so far as if that was easy. Do you accept that has hurt a lot of poor and vulnerable people?
DC: Well it has involved difficult decisions. But of course as we’ve done that we’ve been getting two million people into work, 900,000 people…
AM: Difficult decisions for you; a lot of real pain and suffering for people out there.
DC: Well, we have protected, for instance, the pension, we’ve protected benefits for the lowest paid, we’ve always made sure that we’ve increased spending on disability benefits rather than reduced it. But crucially the 900,000 people we’ve got off welfare and into work – that has actually saved money but it’s also been good for our country and crucially good for them: a job is the best route out of poverty that there is [a lie; more working people are having to claim benefits, because their jobs don’t pay enough, than workless families and pensioners combined].
AM: What about the million people depending on food banks?
DC: Well obviously I want a country where people don’t depend on food banks, we did something-
AM: But why are more people depending on food banks?
DC: One of the things we did was that Labour – because they didn’t like the PR of this – they didn’t advertise or promote the existence of food banks through job centres. We changed that because we thought that was, that was basically sort of selfish and shortminded…
AM: And according to the Trussell Trust, who run these banks, that accounts for just three per cent of people using food banks at the moment so it’s not a significant thing. But can I take you to an individual case, James [he meant David] Clapson.
Clapson, who was a former soldier, worked very hard for a long time then was on benefits, failed to turn up to two job centre interviews, [Mr Clapson only missed one interview] had his benefits removed for a month. He was diabetic, his insulin couldn’t be refrigerated and he died two weeks later.
Now that is the kind of case that is coming up again and again and again and shows that the welfare cuts have been agonisingly painful for real people out there.
DM: Well we have hardship funds and councils have hardship funds for exactly those sorts of tragic cases but if you’re asking me…
AM: It didn’t work.
DC: If you are asking me, is it right that people who are asked to turn up for interviews or asked to fill in a CV or asked to apply for a job should have to do those things before getting benefits then yes – it’s right that we do have that system in place. But we always, as I put it on the steps of…
AM: But the system has been very very aggressive. Another case [is] of a man who had learning difficulties and filled in his form by hand rather than by computer and was refused benefits. There [are] lots of these cases as you won’t have a review. You should have a review of the system surely?
DC: I look at all of those individual cases and all of those cases can be addressed by the hardship funds and by the flexibilities that are there in the system. But we have sanctions for a reason; people watching this programme…
AM: You don’t get the hardship fund for two weeks.
So there you have it. David Clapson was sanctioned off-benefit for no very good reason (as is typical in the Conservative-run system). David Cameron thinks that is okay. He was unable to receive hardship funds for two weeks. David Cameron thinks that is okay.
He died. Because David Cameron thinks the sanctions and the rules for hardship funds are okay, he therefore must be perfectly comfortable with David Clapson’s death.
David Cameron has also refused to review the system, despite being told that Clapson’s is one of many, many cases and despite saying that he personally examines all such cases.
Clearly he is, therefore, perfectly comfortable with the mass deaths of benefit claimants, the sick and the disabled that have taken place under his government’s rules.
This blog has long argued that any deaths of benefit claimants that have taken place because of failings in the system are regrettable but do not, individually, mean that anybody is personally responsible.
However, this blog has also argued – for many years – that this ceases to be the case when the government is made aware of the deaths and either fails – or intentionally ignores – the need to review and change the system.
In such cases, it becomes clear that the intention is to cause those deaths.
If deaths take place due to the gross negligence of a person or people responsible for an organisation such as a government department, that is corporate homicide.
If deaths take place because such a person has been informed of the risk to life and refused to take action, there is a strong argument to state, that is murder.
(The refusal to take action implies an intention for people to lose their lives.)
Therefore there is a strong argument that David Cameron has confessed that his party has participated in the murder of many benefit claimants.
“If this isn’t intimidation, I don’t know what is – it’s a very clear message to anyone: How dare you protest against us and, if you do, we’ll find you fit for work!” Anti-Atos protester Joanne Jemmett with the sign left by Atos workers outside the assessment centre in Weston-Super-Mare on Wednesday (“Fit enough to protest – fit enough to work!”) at the start of this short film documenting the demonstration there.
Watching the stories stack up in the wake of the national day of protest against Atos last Wednesday has been very interesting.
The immediate response was that Atos has approached the government, seeking an early end to its contract. This deal, under which Atos administers the hated Work Capability Assessments to people on incapacity or disability benefits, would have been worth more than £1 billion to the company over a 10-year period.
Allegedly, company employees have been receiving death threats, both during and after the protests. We’ll come back to those shortly.
The Conservative-led Coalition took this development in the way we have come to expect – spitefully. A DWP spokesperson said that the company’s service had declined to an unacceptable level, and that the government was already seeking tenders from other firms for the contract.
This is what happens when bullies squabble.
Atos is the big bully that has just had a shock because the other kids in the playground stood up to it and made it clear they weren’t going to stand for its nonsense any more. We’re told that all bullies are cowards and it appears to be true in this case – Atos went running to the bigger bully (the government) and said it was scared. The government then did what bigger bullies do; it said Atos was rubbish anyway and set about finding someone else to do its dirty work.
Here’s the sticking-point, though – as the BBC identified in its article: “The government was furious with Atos for leaking information it believes to be commercially confidential… If Atos wants to pull out early, some other companies may pay less to take those contracts on than they otherwise would.”
I should clarify that companies don’t actually pay for contracts; they offer to carry out the work at the lowest prices they think are viable, in competition with other firms. The government chooses the company it feels is best-suited to the work. In this situation, it seems likely that the possibility of death threats may put some firms off even applying.
So let’s come back to those threats. A spokesperson for the organisers of Wednesday’s demonstration tells us that pickets took place outside 93 Atos centres, across the UK. Most of these were very small – averaging 30 people or less (I can confirm that in Newtown, Powys, a maximum of 15 people attended at any one time). Brighton and London were bigger, but 12 demos had only one person present.
“That is really funny because, as you have seen, Atos are saying they had to close down all their centres for the day – up and down the country – because of huge hoards of scary, threatening disabled people issuing death threats,” the spokesperson said.
“All demos were peaceful and no trouble or arrests were reported.”
In the spokesperson’s opinion: “Atos have been planning to step down for a long time because they weren’t making enough profit and just used our tiny little demos as an excuse.”
Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and sister group Black Triangle issued a joint statement: “The bizarre exit strategy Atos have developed in identifying apparent physical threats on Facebook despite the growing lists of real deaths caused by the WCA regime is an outrageous insult to all those who have died and all those who have lost family members through this regime.
“It is an insult to those left without their homes, without money and needing to go to food banks.
“It is an insult to every person who has suffered worsening physical and mental health through this inhuman regime.”
The statement also poured water on any government claim that other companies had been put off bidding for the contract:”The alphabet corporations – G4S, A4E, SERCO, CAPITA – are already lining up to take over the multi-million profits and the mantle of the new Grim Reapers. The misery imposed by this Government and the DWP will continue as long as its heinous policies continue.”
I would strongly urge all readers to put their support behind the remainder of the statement, which asserted: “The Work Capability Assessment must also end.
“The reign of terror by this unelected Coalition Government which has awarded itself pay rises and cut taxes for those earning more than £150,000 while piling punishment, poverty, misery and premature death on everyone else in its policies of rich against poor must end.
“Make no mistake – we will continue to demonstrate against ATOS, now delivering the complete failure of PIP in which claims are being delayed by up to a year.
“We will demonstrate against any other company that takes over the WCA contract.
“We will continue to demand the immediate removal of the WCA, and the removal of this Government.”
In my article on the Bedroom Tax evictions taking place in my home town (yesterday) I made it clear that too few people are bothering to pay attention to the evils of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition government. That article received a huge response, garnering almost four times the readership of other recent posts within just 24 hours.
The situation described in this article is much worse – people aren’t being evicted from their homes; they are being forced off of the benefits that have kept them alive, pushed – by the government! – towards destitution, despair and death through either suicide or a failure of their health that their Atos assessment results deny should ever take place.
Today’s article should have more readers, after the success of yesterday’s – but we’ll have to see, shan’t we? If fewer people read it, we’ll know that they all just looked up for a moment, thought, “Oh, that’s interesting,” and went back to whatever distraction keeps them happy in the face of impending government-sponsored pain.
Any attempt to inform the public will fail if the public stops paying attention.
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This dribbling liar wants to abolish your human rights and replace them with an exploiter’s charter, designed to make it easy for his friends in business to work you until you drop and pay you a pittance for it. He thinks you’re stupid enough to vote for it. Are you?
It seems certain people are starting to think in some extremely self-defeating ways – opening themselves up to exploitation by our government of millionaires.
Look at this, from a Facebook thread started by a person asking when it became normal for working people to be asked to do 14-hour shifts. He said it seemed that companies were cutting down on staff and doubling everyone’s hours up, because it is cheaper, and voiced the opinion that making anyone work that long is barbaric.
In response, another person wrote: “A job is a job. I’d do anything to get one. Even if it was 14 hours a day… No one wants to hire complainers. There’s plenty of people who would work for pennies.” Worst of all (because it shows a lack of awareness that is staggering: “I’d rather keep my family fed, clothed and warm than worry about me.”
This person clearly did not understand that they were buying into a situation in which employers can reduce pay and increase hours as they please, exploiting workers to the limits of their endurance, because “there’s plenty of people who would work for pennies”. Not only is were they accepting the conditioned helplessness against which this blog warned in early 2012 (Stand up, you slaves! – published in Vox Political: Strong Words and Hard Times, available now in print and as an ebook), but this is exactly the sort of treatment the Human Rights Act, the minimum wage and the European Working Time Directive were set up to prevent.
Just think about that. The Prime Minister of the UK wants to remove the human rights of its citizens. If ever there was a reason not to vote Conservative, it’s that.
He’s arguing that abolition is necessary to make it impossible for “people who are a threat to our national security, or who come to Britain and commit serious crimes” to “cite their human rights when they are clearly wholly unconcerned for the human rights of others”.
This is a legitimate concern but it does not require the scrapping of a law that protects people from exploitation in many, many other ways. Besides, concern over this single issue may be addressed by amending the legislation (admittedly not a simple matter as it would involve negotiations with Europe, and this is unpalatable for Conservatives as it suits their purposes for the EU to appear unreasonable).
Do you want the Human Rights Act scrapped?
This would legalise “inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” (although not torture itself, which would still rank as an assault offence against a person), including poor working conditions.
It would legalise servitude and forced labour – which would be handy for Conservatives who have been forcing jobseekers into such situations for several years, contrary to article 4 (2) of the European Convention on Human Rights (which the UK Human Rights Act ratifies in British law).
You would lose the right to a fair trial. Coalition plans, under inJustice Minister Chris Grayling, mean you are likely to lose this right anyway, but the UK would be in contravention of the HRA and the European Convention if it puts these plans through and the Act is not repealed.
There is an article regarding retroactivity – nobody may be punished for an act that was not a criminal offence at the time it took place. It is a matter of debate whether this could be used to combat the Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Act that was brought in so hastily in March, to retroactively legalise the government’s Workfare/Work Programme schemes (the kind of forced labour that the Act also seeks to prevent). Thousands of people were owed millions of pounds in illegally-removed benefit before the Act was passed. It meant that this money would not have to be paid. Isn’t that punishing somebody for an act that was not criminal when it took place?
You would lose your right to privacy in your family life, home and correspondence. Again, this would be useful for a government that wants to poke around your emails, as Theresa May wants with her snooper’s charter.
You – and I – would lose the right to freedom of expression. We would no longer be allowed to hold opinions, receive and transmit information and ideas, that run against the wishes of the government of the day. This blog would be banned.
(Actually, some of you may think this is a good idea – but do you really want the government to tell you what to think? Do you want people to be imprisoned, or heavily fined, for holding a different opinion?)
You would lose the right to free assembly and association, including the right to form trade unions. So any congregation of a large group of people would be illegal, and groups of workers would lose any legal right to have their collective interests represented in an organised way to management. This opens the door to exploitation in a big way.
The prohibition of discrimination on grounds of sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status would be lost – meaning, for example, that nobody could object to the so-called ‘racist vans’ that were patrolling London recently, telling Conservative voters that the government was being tough on illegal immigrants.
There are others. It is worth looking up the Act, and the Convention, just to see exactly what protections they provide – and what the Conservatives want to take away from you.
They say they would produce a ‘Bill of Rights’ protecting the freedoms they want to keep. These would naturally include only those rights they believe would not interfere with their plans to render you powerless, with no right of redress against their exploitation of you.
Think about it hard.
Are you really so stupid that you’ll let a proven liar distract you, just because he has honey on his forked tongue (as a far better writer once put it)?
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