Tag Archives: reason

Robert Jenrick must think we are as stupid as he is

Robert Jenrick: his attempt at misdirection has been hopelessly inept. What a shame he doesn’t even have the wit to realise he has been caught out.

The latest chapter in the Westferry development corruption saga demonstrates clearly the lack of talent on the Tory benches.

Z-list human being (let alone politician) Robert Jenrick is now saying his decision to grant permission for Richard Desmond’s development adhered to “natural justice”, as it allowed the developer to avoid paying a levy that he thought should not apply.

There’s just one problem with that:

Both the local authority and the Independent Planning Inspectorate had already said the development should be refused – because it did not meet acceptable planning standards.

It didn’t matter at the time that Desmond wanted to avoid the £45 million levy – although he should certainly have been made to pay it if the application had not been rush-approved by Jenrick to beat its imposition.

The point is that Jenrick’s decision to approve it was corrupt because it did not meet the appropriate criteria.

That’s why he should be removed from office.

After last December’s election it should be possible to replace him with any number of similarly talentless backbench drones.

Source: Robert Jenrick admits deliberately helping Tory donor avoid £45m tax bill by rushing through housing development | The Independent

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Financial Times gives Labour a huge boost with front page lead on life-changing policies

Plaudits to Skwawkbox for pointing out the fact that the Financial Times has shot itself in the foot with its lead story today (September 2).

The headline states that “Labour would cost companies £300bn” – implying that this is a scare story. But it continues “by shifting shares to staff”.

Brilliant news!

It’s saying that working people, who actually create the profits that the UK’s biggest firms make every day, will actually receive a dividend from those profits under a future Labour government.

That alone is a good reason to vote Labour at any future election.

No doubt the parasites will claim that the move will destabilise UK industry but this is clearly nonsense.

Working people have every right to profit – just as much as bosses and other shareholders – from the work they do.

The Financial Times (FT) has given the ‘above the fold’ half of its front page this morning to policies it presumably thinks will horrify its core readership – but which will be music to the ears of millions of voters hard-pressed under the Tories and their prioritisation, as Corbyn said in his Salford speech this morning, of ‘those who lend and speculate over those who actually make things‘.

The headline may blare about ‘costing UK companies £300bn’ – the FT’s estimate – but it goes on to say ‘by shifting shares to staff’. The article itself can’t help but elaborate a few of Labour’s groundbreaking policies and the way they would revolutionise the life of ‘the many’ in this country:

And it seems the FT digs itself further in by listing other great Labour policies:

The detail of the front-page coverage gives some key information on just a few of Labour’s game-changing policies:

  • Labour in government will give shares to workers in seven thousand of the UK’s biggest employers – entitling them to dividends of up to £500 per year as well as helping the national finances
  • Labour will introduce a right-to-buy for tenants of private landlords at affordable prices, helping to reduce the concentration of property in the hands of a few that has driven up rents and house prices under Conservative governments
  • Shifting power away from ‘bosses and landlords’ and to the people
  • Increasing productivity and long-term thinking by giving employees a meaningful stake

The timing is also hilariously inept for a newspaper trying to undermine Jeremy Corbyn and Labour.

This week, Parliament is in crisis as Boris Johnson’s dictatorial excuse for a government tries to overrule Parliament’s sovereignty in order to push through a “no deal” Brexit that few people want.

MPs may push back, even to the point of demanding a general election.

And on the eve of such a move, the Financial Times has given us all an excellent reason to vote Labour into power.

Tony Blair may be urging Labour to vote against an election on the grounds that Jeremy Corbyn is unpopular – but he is preaching a perspective on the Labour leader that is largely created by the Tory media.

We saw similar claims evaporate during the 2017 election campaign and fearmongers and yesterday’s men like Mr Blair would be better-off keeping their mouths shut.

The message from this newspaper is clear – if not quite as intended: If a general election is possible, bring it on! Labour will walk it.

Source: FT inadvertently gives huge front-page ad to Labour as party of hope and change | The SKWAWKBOX

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‘Can sit in the gutter’ – the petty reasons people are being denied sickness benefits

[Image: Black Triangle Campaign]

[Image: Black Triangle Campaign]

As Damian Green consults on plans to make it harder for people to claim sickness benefits, it seems he will have few options – judging from the reasons his privately-employed, hired work capability assessors are already using to kick away support for the vulnerable.

Last week, This Blog urged people who have claimed sickness benefits to tell us the nonsense reasons their claims were denied. Some of them are farcical.

All of the comments that follow are true, and were made by real people. I have anonymised them for obvious reasons.

Let’s start with a person who was denied a home assessment. The reason? “He can get to hospital for cancer treatment.” Have a little think about that. Where else but hospital was this person ever going to get cancer treatment? And shouldn’t cancer automatically qualify him for benefit? Apparently not.

Try this: “Can heat up a tin of beans and make toast” The person concerned had explained that if they actually ate beans on toast they would be hospitalised.

“Can sit in the gutter to rest between short bouts of walking.” According to some assessors it is perfectly permissible to force the sick and disabled into the gutter. That’s where the removal of benefits will put them, in any case.

Another claimant was denied benefit because they were able to propel themselves in a wheelchair. The problem? This person does not have a wheelchair.

“Can watch TV for an hour – 0 points.”

“Able to have a bath unaided – 0 points.”

“Tying shoelaces – 0 points.”

(Bear in mind, folks, that these are comments in work capability assessments, and ask yourself: How is watching TV a usable work skill? How does having a bath or tying shoelaces make a person a more attractive employment opportunity?)

“Was able to answer questions without help from another person.”

Of someone with fibromyalgia: “Moved well for someone with arthritis.” Fibromyalgia is not arthritis.

“Despite us explaining that travelling was often difficult as [this person’s partner’s] seizures cause blackouts, amnesia and confusion they completely ignored this and said he had no problem reading signs and getting to places (untrue). They were also … seemingly oblivious to the fact that “non-epileptic” seizures is a medical term, they therefore dismissed them as not serious.”

“I had the ‘Brought a bag, opened a door’ nonsense. Plus it said I was ‘Neat, presentable and well kempt’ when at that point, I actually hadn’t been able to wash or shave my beard for about two months. And my beard is full on Albert Steptoe, not a trendy lumberjack type!”

“When asked if I went to the shops I said yes, once or twice a month as I have to buy food. That got turned into ‘goes shopping every day and uses public transport every day’. When I replied by letter saying I don’t do these things every day the response I got was ‘maybe not, but you can’. So the need to buy food makes a person ineligible for benefit. Doesn’t that mean benefit should only be paid to dead people?

This one is beyond belief: “Shortly after my father died of a massive brain haemorrhage and whilst my brother was in hospital on a life support machine after a brain haemorrhage): ‘enjoys an active social life visiting … brother in hospital on a regular basis.’ Between those two events I had been diagnosed with a rare and incurable and untreatable disease I knew little about and hadn’t even been assessed by NHS at that point. ‘Has no mental health problems’ – I was clinging on by my finger tips. Incidentally, this assessment was carried out by a consultant psychiatrist with no knowledge of my condition and who promoted Atos by praising the 9-5 hours which allowed him to work on his real passion – making furniture.”

“Refused ESA because I could put a crumpet in the toaster for my daughter.”

“Having a backpack.”

“No problem putting on a coat (that I wasn’t wearing … as it was summer).”

“Can walk around Tesco. This is after I told her I cannot walk around the whole supermarket and that I had recently left my shopping half way through.”

“I got upset.”

“I scratched the back of my head. [They] said I carried two bags of shopping into assessment which was a total lie.”

“My assessor told the DWP that I had never worked and didn’t want to work after discussing with him 20 years in catering and the fact I’d worked since I was 15 and had to give up work due to illness.”

“The DWP … told the tribunal that I hadn’t filled in the application or sent in any medical records. I had sent 20 years worth, registered mail, signed for and had an email confirming they’d received them. The tribunal asked what I had to say to that. I responded ‘How did I get to a tribunal for something I didn’t apply for and how did they receive an assessment from a medical I didn’t attend?’ Then handed them copies/proof of everything I’d said. I was awarded my benefits.”

“At a tribunal they found me fit for work because I could operate my washing machine. I’ve had it for years. All it takes is three buttons – on, cottons, start.”

Here’s a classic that is still being used: “Does not suffer anxiety as they do not rock back and forth in a chair.”

“Claimant stated chronic back pain but on observation was observed to be fit and well. (I have a VISIBLE scoliosis).”

“Claimant stated … suffers from Agrophobia but attended assessment (because they REFUSED a home visit & threatened to cut off my PIP for non attendance).”

“Claimant claims she needs support if forced to go outside but was observed alone for her assessment (my support Worker attended with me).”

“At my tribunal I was denied ESA because, and these are quotes from the DOCTOR, ‘You seem to be able to put your hair in a pony tail, your nails are painted, you have eye make-up on, surely if you suffer from severe morning fatigue you’ll be fine to work afternoons’. I suffer from chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, and illness induced anxiety. And this was 2015! It’s quite unbelievable how rude, unprofessional and belittling these people are. I cried for days afterwards.”

“Was told I ‘showed understanding of my condition’ as evidence that I was lying.”

“My most recent assessment was six weeks ago and the report is filled with so many lies it’s unreal as well as comments such as ‘Carried a sheet of paper in her hand’, ‘Drank water from a disposable plastic cup’. All my money has been stopped because of what this assessor has put in the report, just before Christmas too. Cheers DWP.”

What do you think? Are any of the people who provided these comments fit for work, based on the assessments they mention here?

More to follow tomorrow – if you have been refused sickness/disability benefit for a stupid reason, please tell us about it using the form below.

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Harriet Harman says Labour voters are privately relieved the party lost the General Election – Mirror Online

What a lot of horse… manure this woman talks!

Labour went out of its way to be the party that doesn’t support people on benefits – or at least, that’s how it felt to the people in question. It’s one of the reasons the party lost the general election.

When millions of sick and disabled people are telling Labour the work capability assessment regime that Labour imposed is rubbish, and Labour refuses to even offer to make changes, it’s no surprise that Labour lost the people’s confidence.

“Labour was seen as supporting ‘people on benefits’ but not those who ‘work hard’.

She said: “It doesn’t matter how many leaflets you deliver if the message is not right.”

The fact is, Labour wasn’t seen as supporting “people on benefits”.

People on benefits saw very clearly that Labour politicians were only interested in supporting themselves.

Source: Harriet Harman says Labour voters are privately relieved the party lost the General Election – Mirror Online

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Food bank blow is new low for the Mail on Sunday

Who do you bank with? This piece of public opinion was picked up from Twitter [Author: Unknown].

Who do you bank with? This piece of public opinion was picked up from Twitter [Author: Unknown].

Isn’t it a shame that on of our national Sunday newspapers has chosen to disrupt everybody’s enjoyment of our Easter eggs with a specious attempt to expose abuses of food banks and make operator the Trussell Trust look hypocritical?

Isn’t it also a shame that the Mail on Sunday didn’t make a few inquiries into the procedure for dealing with people who turn up at food banks without having been referred?

The paper’s reporters and editor could have, at least, opened a dictionary and looked up the meaning of the word “charity”.

Under the headline, ‘No ID, no checks… and vouchers for sob stories: The truth behind those shock food bank claims’, the paper today (April 20) published a story claiming that Trussell Trust food banks are breaking their own rules by allowing people to take food bank parcels without presenting a voucher from an approved referrer, and that they are allowing many times more than the maximum permissible number of repeat visits.

Unfortunately for reporters Simon Murphy and Sanchez Manning, both situations are – in fact – allowed, because food banks must be flexible in the way they deal with individual cases. They would have known that if they had done their homework – as yr obdt srvt (who’s writing this) did at several meetings on the organisation of food banks here in Powys.

The paper’s investigation claims that there were “inadequate checks on who claims the vouchers, after a reporter obtained three days’ worth of food simply by telling staff at a Citizens Advice Bureau – without any proof – that he was unemployed”.

It turned out that this person had to fill out a form providing his name, address, date of birth, phone number and the reason for his visit before an assessor asked him why he needed food bank vouchers. In contradiction of the introduction to the story, he explained – not simply that he was unemployed, but that he had been out of work for several months and the harsh winter had left him strapped for cash and food. He said his wife had left her job and was not earning and that they had two children. These lies were sufficient to win food bank vouchers.

What the report didn’t say was how the details given by reporter Ross Slater would have been used afterwards. The CAB would have booked him in for a further interview with a debt advisor, to which he would have had to bring documentary evidence of his situation. When he didn’t turn up, he would have been identified as a fraud. The food bank would also have taken his details, to be fed back into the referral system. Job Centre Plus would have picked up on the fact that he isn’t unemployed. From this point on, he would have been identified as a fraud and refused further service.

You see, it is true that food banks run on a voucher system, but that is only a part of the scheme. The questions asked of people who need vouchers are used to ensure that they get the help they need to avoid having to come back – that’s why they’re asked. They also weed out abusers like Mr Slater.

If the paper’s editor had looked in a dictionary, he might have seen charity defined as “voluntary provision of help to people in need, or the help provided” in the first instance. However, reading further, he would have seen “sympathy or tolerance in judging” listed as well. It seems the Mail on Sunday would have no such sympathy and would have deserving cases turned away to starve.

It is telling, also, that the paper had to go to Citizens Advice to get its evidence. Far more food bank vouchers are handed out in the Job Centre Plus, where all a citizen’s circumstances are available to advisors. But not one word is said about the fact that the vast majority of food bank referrals are for people in real need and not newspaper reporters.

The paper also stated: “Staff at one centre gave food parcels to a woman who had visited nine times in just four months, despite that particular centre’s own rules stipulating that individuals should claim no more than three parcels a year.”

It continued: “Individuals experiencing severe financial hardship are able to claim food vouchers but there are no clear criteria on who should be eligible. Once received, the vouchers can be exchanged for three days’ worth of food at an allotted centre.

“The Trussell Trust has a policy that an individual can claim no more than nine handouts in a year, but undercover reporters found this limit varied in different branches.”

No – it is far more likely that it varied according to the circumstances of the person who needed the help. Rigid rules, such as one that limits people to only three visits, mean those who need the most help would be cut off while they still needed assistance. People working in food banks would be aware of who these were, and would be more likely to be tolerant towards them.

Meanwhile, the other support services – Job Centre Plus, Citizens Advice, Social Services and so on – would be working to help them. With some people, it simply takes longer. It should be easy for anyone to think of reasons why this may be the case.

This may also explain the situation in which a worker at a Trussell Trust food bank said people “bounce around” locations to receive more vouchers. The assessment system is a way of monitoring these people and determining whether they need extra help.

It is not true that the criteria are not clear – the paper is misleading with this claim. Food banks, the charities running them, and referring organisations all have to agree on the circumstances in which they permit people to receive parcels. You really can’t just walk in the door and expect to get a free handout. That’s why the questions are asked and forms filled out – they will check up on everybody.

Another claim – that “volunteers revealed that increased awareness of food banks is driving a rise in their use” is unsubstantiated, and is clearly an attempt to support the government’s claim that this is the case. But it is silly. Of course starving people will go to a food bank after they have been told it exists; that doesn’t mean they aren’t starving.

And the paper wrongly said the Trussell Trust had claimed that more than 913,000 people received three days’ emergency food from its banks in 2013-14, compared with 347,000 in the previous financial year. This is a misreading of the way the charity records its work, as the Trussell Trust records visits, not visitors. It would be hard to work out exactly how many people attended because some will have visited just once, others twice, a few for the full three times, and some would have required extra help.

The claim that many visitors were asylum-seekers is silly because food banks were originally set up for foreign people who were seeking asylum in the UK and had no money or means of support.

Of course it would be wrong to say that nobody is trying to abuse the system. There are good people and bad people all over the country, and bad people will try to cheat. Look at Maria Miller, Iain Duncan Smith (Betsygate), George Osborne (and his former paddock), Andrea Leadsom’s tax avoidance, Philip Hammond’s tax avoidance, Charlotte Leslie who took cash to ask Parliamentary questions – to name but a few.

The Trussell Trust has agreed to investigate the newspaper’s allegations – but it is important to remember that these were just a few instances of abuse, and only claimed – by a newspaper that is infamous for the poor quality of its reporting.

Nothing said in the article should be used to undermine the vital work of food banks in helping people to survive, after the Conservative-led Coalition government stole the safety net of social security away from them.

UPDATE: Already the Mail on Sunday is facing a public backlash against its ill-advised piece. A petition on the Change.org website is calling for the reporter who claimed food bank vouchers under false pretences in order to make a political point to be sacked. Vox Political has mixed feelings about this – it targets a person who was sent out to do a job by others who are more directly to blame for the piece, but then he did it of his own free will and this action brings all newspaper reporters into disrepute. Consider carefully.

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Let’s kill the myth that right-wingers merely think those on the left are ‘misguided’

Dominic Lawson: He thinks left-wingers are "driven by hate" while "most Tories... regard the Left as just misguided". He's wondering how else he can patronise you today.

Dominic Lawson: He thinks left-wingers are “driven by hate” while “most Tories… regard the Left as just misguided”. He’s wondering how else he can patronise you today. [Picture: BBC]

Dominic Lawson, writing in the Daily Mail (yes, we’re still having fun at the Rothermere Rag’s expense – any objections? I thought not), has told us: “The tribal left is driven by hate.”

Paraphrasing an article he wrote previously in the Sunday Times, he continued: “It is one of the factors tending to distinguish the left in politics from the right, that the former frequently regard the latter as actually wicked, if not evil; whereas most Tories tend to regard the Left as just misguided.”

That is not my experience.

I have found that right-wingers and Conservatives (who tend to claim the middle ground in politics, while still claiming to differentiate themselves from “you lefties”) tend to fall into insults, invective and profanity – hate speech, if you like, with extreme rapidity. It is they who are driven by hate – in my experience – and not those of us on the left who enjoy a reasoned debate. So nobody in the Conservative Party, the right-wing press, or even offering right-of-centre views on Facebook pages should claim any moral superiority over the rest of us on those grounds.

I have an example to illustrate my case. It developed from the earlier Vox Political post on the Mail‘s attacks against Ralph Miliband and Mehdi Hasan. Those of you who are familiar with it will know it quoted the fact that Mr Miliband Senior – who the Mail claimed was The man who hated Britain – served in the Royal Navy during World War II, while the proprietor of the Daily Mail, Viscount Rothermere, had been a supporter of Adolf Hitler, and the father of the Mail’s current editor, Peter Dacre, had been a fashion reporter at the age of 19, when he should have been doing National Service and fighting the Nazis.

I received the following, from a commenter called Raymond Northgreaves (quoted verbatim): “should he have served in any of HM Forces he would have been given a service number and then can be identified”.

Several possibilities were available as to who “he” might be. I wasn’t willing to make an inaccurate guess – nobody was disputing that Mr Miliband Senior had seen active service, so there was a presumption that it might be somebody else, but that’s all it was – so I asked: “To whom are you referring – Dacre Senior?”

In reply, I received the following, which I again quote verbatim:

“Mark Sivier, Hi! You know to whom I am referring to, so why play the cretin left wing anti human. many of us who are from working class family’s know what the value of labour and what it stood for. Now its taken away the voice from the many, and given it to the Marxist rich. Fact, which you and your left wing friends will never understand, you attend Uni and had to slum it in some dose house, which was beneath your middle class upbringing, and you all took on the “we the working class” are fighting to be??? something that you have never dreamed could happen to GB subjects(sovereignty is in the many and not the one), ‘yes’ subjects, before you jump through a window, screeching your left wing head off, British citizens are the one’s going around bombing and murdering people! My age group know all about DS, from the second world war; the mistake that Winston Churchill made was putting people like him in prison, when he should have executed them all. In my life time, I have never knowingly put my hand in shit, and I am not going to start writing to it The rest of us center of the road people know that the left and right are the one. When you all stand up and defend my homeland, then come back and communicate with me, until then, do what you left do, and renumber, it was Blair, Campbell, Prescott and Reed, that sold us all out to the USA, and made us all murderers to 1.5 million people; they also condoned the murder of 2514 British soldiers by the Roman Catholics, and some 30,000 civilians, of which many of their bodies have never found as yet? You and yours are no better then Hitler or your Icon Starling. pro patria!”

I was going to try to analyse this but, look at it; do I really have to?

Point made, I think.

Are you going to let David Cameron abolish your rights without a fight?

Skewed view: This image (not mine) provides a startlingly accurate representation of the way British Conservatives see Europe. Do you honestly think they can be trusted to honour the human rights that European laws have granted us?

Skewed view: This image (not mine) provides a startlingly accurate representation of the way British Conservatives see Europe. Do you honestly think they can be trusted to honour the human rights that European laws have granted us?

You do realise what David Cameron means when he says he wants to re-negotiate our membership of the European Union, don’t you?

For a start, he means he wants to abolish laws that protect the human rights your ancestors fought tooth and nail to win for you.

He won’t make any deals in your interest. That’s not in his nature.

If he gets his way, you could lose the right to:

  • Written terms and conditions of work, and a job description – and the right to the same terms and conditions if transferred to a different employer.
  • Four weeks’ paid leave from work per year.
  • Not be sacked for being pregnant, or for taking time off for ante-natal appointments.
  • Come back to work after maternity leave, on the same pay, terms and conditions as before the leave started.
  • Health and safety protection for pregnant women, new and breastfeeding mothers.
  • Parental leave.
  • Equal treatment for workers employed through an agency.
  • Tea and lunch breaks during the working day for anyone working six hours or more
  • One day off per week.
  • Time off for urgent family reasons.

In addition, Cameron could relieve employeers of the legal obligation to ensure the health and safety of their workers, including undertaking risk assessments, acting to minimise risks, informing workers of risks, and consulting on health and safety with employees and their representatives. In his cost-cutting brave new Britain you’d just have to take your chances.

Health and safety representatives from trade unions could lose the right to ask employers to make changes in order to protect workers’ health and safety, and they would lose their protection against unfair treatment by their employer for carrying out their duties in relation to this.

The ban on forcing children less than 13 years of age into work could be lost, along with the limit on the hours children aged 13 or more and young people can work.

Children who could then be forced into work, regardless of the effect on their education, would have no rules protecting their health and safety, and the rules that say they can only be employed doing “light work” could also be abolished.

Protection from discrimination or harassment at work on grounds of gender, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation – direct or indirect – could be dropped.

And the right of disabled people to expect their employers to make reasonable adjustments for them at work could also be abolished.

These are just your rights at work!

Cameron himself has said, as leader of the Opposition: “I do not believe it is appropriate for social and employment legislation to be dealt with at the European level. It will be a top priority for the next Conservative government to restore social and employment legislation to national control.”

And as Prime Minister: “Complex rules restricting our labour markets are not some naturally occurring phenomenon. Just as excessive regulation is not some external plague that’s been visited on our businesses.”

To find out what he meant by those words, we must turn to the former leader of the British Conservative MEPs, Martin Callanan, who said: “One of the best ways for the EU to speed up growth is to … scrap the Working Time Directive, the Agency Workers Directive, the Pregnant Workers Directive and all of the other barriers to actually employing people if we really want to create jobs in Europe.”

Of course, they distort the facts. These rules aren’t barriers to employing people at all; they are structures within which people may be employed responsibly.

The Tories want to ban responsibility in the workplace. They want a return to dangerous employment conditions, abuse of workers and the removal of any legal protection from such abuse that they may have.

They will tear apart your rights at work.

So, if you are living in the UK and you’ve got a job, please take a moment to consider what this means for you. You might agree with the Coalition on its benefits policy that has led to thousands of deaths of sick and disabled people; you might agree with its bedroom tax and too-low benefit cap that has led to a rapid rise in debt and homelessness among the unemployed and those on low wages.

But now you know they’re coming for you, too.

What are you going to do about it?

Are you going to sit on your thumbs and do nothing – just meekly wait for them to rock up and tell you they’ve abolished all your rights at work and you can now go and slave for them in appalling conditions with absolutely no legal protection at all?

In other words, when it’s you that’s threatened, are you going to let it happen, just like you let it happen to the sick, disabled, unemployed and low-waged?

Or are you going to take action and make a difference?

It doesn’t take much. You could write to David Cameron and to your MP at the House of Commons. You could email them – just look up the addresses on They Work For You, or you could add your name to the letter being created by Unions Together. Yes, I know Mr Cameron says the unions are a bad thing, but in this case the enemy of your enemy is your friend.

As the leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party, Glenis Willmott MEP, says: “Our rights at work are not ‘red tape’ to be slashed away. Don’t let Cameron and the Tories get away with this great European scam.”