Tag Archives: reckless

Was Derry car bomb a reaction to Tory arrogance?

Fireball: The explosion on Bishop Street, Londonderry was caught on camera.

Terrorism has reared its ugly head again in Northern Ireland, it seems – although interestingly the mass media are steering away from the word.

A car bomb – in a hijacked pizza van, we’re told – exploded outside a courthouse in Londonderry at around 8.10pm on Saturday (January 19).

Police were informed at around 8pm, leaving less than 10 minutes to evacuate people from neighbouring buildings which included a hotel, Freemasons’ hall, and a youth club. There were no casualties.

The lack of notice has led police to describe the attack as “unbelievably reckless”, and it is these words that the mainstream media have adopted, rather than referring to terrorism.

In fact, there seems a strong attempt to play down the incident:

But investigations have centred on the New IRA, one of a handful of republican groups that have rejected power-sharing and the Good Friday Agreement, and which makes a point of targeting police and courts.

Two men have been arrested. But the incident raises an important question:

Why now?

The timing seems significant as not only has the power sharing system brought about after the Good Friday Agreement stalled, but it seems Theresa May is determined to sideline the needs of Northern Ireland in her Brexit deal with the European Union.

There has been no government in Stormont since early 2017, after a row between Sinn Fein and the DUP over a botched renewable energy scheme.

And of course Brexit has revived concerns over the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, and over NI’s constitutional status.

The Conservative government in Westminster seems conspicuously relaxed about both situations.

Doesn’t the attitude of Theresa May and her government seem deliberately provocative to people in Northern Ireland who were unhappy with the peace process in the first place? I’m not suggesting she is responsible for the actions of other people, but she certainly has a responsibility to prevent any return to the so-called “Troubles”.

Aren’t the delay over restoring the government in Stormont, and the failure to overcome the border controversy, an opportunity for such republicans to claim the peace process has failed and go back to violence?

Isn’t that what happened in Derry on Saturday night?

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DWP appointment hoaxes ramp up stress for the sick and disabled

WCAcartoon

Don’t you just hate it when you get a hoax call from the Department for Work and Pensions?

Mrs Mike had one this week, it seems – from Atos.

“Your appointment for an assessment with a healthcare professional” was the heading, beneath which were the words: “We have been asked by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to carry out an assessment in relation to your benefit claim. We have arranged an appointment for you at [date and place]. It is important that you attend this assessment. If you don’t attend, your benefit may be affected.” And so on. It was dated January 30 and we received in on Tuesday (February 3).

Long-term readers will know that this writer is her carer and attended her first work capability assessment in that capacity. I wanted to do so again but on the day we had the letter I was full of a cold that has been going around, and did not feel well enough to deal with grinding bureaucrats until today (Friday).

Phoning up the number on the letter, I gave Mrs Mike’s details, only to be told that there was no appointment booked for her. The person on the other end of the phone – who was very polite and helpful – suggested that her appointment might not be for ESA but PIP, and provided a phone number so I could inquire.

Let’s cut a long story short. She didn’t have an appointment for PIP, or DLA either.

So the letter is a hoax.

I’ll be attending the assessment centre anyway, in advance of her alleged appointment, just to make sure – and if I find that she is listed for an appointment there, somebody will catch it hot because that means the telephone advisers were wrong.

Whichever way you slice it, somebody is trying to create problems for a woman with a long-term illness/disability – and that is not acceptable.

Suppose somebody else had a letter like this. We all know that they create stress – sometimes to extreme levels – because of the stated threat: “If you don’t attend, your benefit may be affected.” Now suppose they don’t have a carer to phone up and find out they don’t really have an appointment at all. They go to the expense of hiring transport to the assessment centre, get there in good time – and find nobody there.

What happens next?

What are they supposed to think? What are they supposed to do? They won’t know.

Up goes the stress.

There’s also the physical strain to consider. People claim incapacity benefits because they aren’t healthy. Having to attend benefit assessments will add extra strain to their bodies.

People have died because of it. They’re ill; their hearts can’t take the extra load.

wcaassessment

And then Iain Duncan Smith counts it as a “positive benefit outcome” and crows in the Daily Mail about how he is shrinking the welfare state.

That’s not right, though. There is a case to be made that it is a premeditated attempt at worsening a claimant’s condition, with the DWP being reckless as to the result.

According to the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act of 2008, a company or organisation is guilty of having killed a person if its activities have been so managed or organised as to cause a person’s death. Would that not apply in cases like this?

The DWP is laying itself wide open to prosecution under this Act of Parliament, by its behaviour towards the sick and disabled.

There only needs to be one successful case for the floodgates to open.

Please circulate this article freely to anybody who may benefit from it including incapacity benefit claimants, their relatives or carers, and relatives or carers of recently-deceased benefit claimants.

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Britain’s worst idlers – the MPs who wrote Britannia Unchained

I have been saddened to learn of two events that will take place in the near future: The death of The Dandy, and the publication of Britannia Unchained.

The first needs little introduction to British readers; it’s the UK’s longest-running children’s humour comic, which will cease publication (in print form) towards the end of this year, on its 75th anniversary. The second appears to be an odious political tract scribbled by a cabal of ambitious right-wing Tory MPs, desperate to make a name for themselves by tarring British workers as “among the worst idlers in the world”.

The connection? Even at the end of its life, there is better and more useful information in The Dandy than there will be in Britannia Unchained.

The book’s authors, Priti Patel, Elizabeth Truss, Dominic Raab, Chris Skidmore, and Kwasi Kwarteng, all members of the Free Enterprise Group of Tory MPs, argue that British workers are “among the worst idlers in the world”, that the UK “rewards laziness” and “too many people in Britain prefer a lie-in to hard work”.

They say the UK needs to reward a culture of “graft, risk and effort” and “stop bailing out the reckless, avoiding all risk and rewarding laziness”.

Strong words – undermined completely by the authors’ own record of attendance at their place of work.

Chris Skidmore’s Parliamentary attendance record is just 88.1 per cent – and he’s the most diligent of the five. Kwasi Kwarteng weighs in at 87.6 per cent; Elizabeth Truss at 85.3 per cent; and Priti Patel at 81.8 per cent. Dominic Raab is the laziest of the lot, with Parliamentary attendance of just 79.1 per cent.

To put that in perspective, if I took more than a week’s sick leave per year from my last workplace, I would have been hauled up before the boss and serious questions asked about my future at the company. That’s a 97.9 per cent minimum requirement. Who are these slackers to tell me, or anyone else who does real work, that we are lazy?

Some have already suggested that these evil-minded hypocrites are just taking cheap shots at others, to make themselves look good for promotion in an autumn reshuffle. Maybe this is true, although David Cameron would be very unwise to do anything but distance himself from them and their dangerous ideas.

I think this is an attempt to deflect attention away from the way the Tory-led government has mismanaged the economy, and from its murderous treatment of the sick and disabled. As one commentator put it: “They get a token Asian, a token African, a token Jew, mix in the middle class/grammar school rubbish propaganda, and suddenly they are just ordinary people? No they are not; they are stooges for the ruling elite.”

Britain doesn’t reward laziness among its working class. What it rewards is failure by managers, directors of industry, financiers. These people continually increase their salaries and other remuneration while their share prices fall, their dividend payments are lacklustre and shareholder value is destroyed. What have they given shareholders over the past 10 years? How many industrial or commercial leaders have walked off with millions, leaving behind companies that were struggling, if not collapsing? Does the criticism in Britannia Unchained apply to senior executives and bankers?

Our MPs are as much to blame as big business. They vote themselves generous pay, pensions and extended vacations (five months per year). They never start work before 11am, never work weekends (or most Fridays, when they are supposed to be in their constituencies, if I recall correctly). They enjoy fringe benefits including subsidised bars, restaurants and gyms. They take part-time directorships in large companies which take up time they should be using to serve the public. Only a few years ago we discovered that large numbers of them were cheating on their expense claims. They take more than £32,000 in “Resettlement Grant” if we kick them out after one term – which, in my opinion, means all five authors of Britannia Unchained should be applying for it in 2015.

These are the people who most strongly represent the ‘something-for-nothing’ sense of entitlement the book decries.

Have any of them ever worked in a factory or carried out manual labour? I’ll answer that for you: With the exception of Elizabeth Truss, who did a few years as a management accountant at Shell/Cable and Wireless, none of them have ever done anything that could be called real work.

In fact, the people they accuse work very long hours – especially the self-employed. When I ran my own news website, I was busy for 12-14 hours a day (much to the distress of my girlfriend). Employees also work long hours, get less annual leave, earn less and pay more – in prices for consumer goods, taxes and hidden taxes – than most of Europe. Average monthly pay rates have now dropped so low that they are failing to cover workers’ costs, leading to borrowing and debt.

Are British workers really among the laziest in the world? Accurate information is hard to find but it seems likely we’re around 24th on the world league table. On a planet with more than 200 sovereign nations (204 attended the London Olympics), that’s not too shabby at all.

Interestingly, the European workers clocking on for the fewest hours are German. Those lazy Teutons! How dare they work so little and still have the powerhouse economy of the continent?

If so many are reluctant to get up in the morning, why are the morning commuter trains standing room only? Or have the Britannia Unchained crowd never used this form of travel?

It seems to me that Britannia Unchained is just another attempt by the Tory right to make us work harder for less pay. The Coalition is currently cutting the public sector and benefits to the bone, while failing to introduce policies that create useful employment, and trying to boost private sector jobs. The private sector has cut wages and pensions. The result is higher unemployment and benefits that cannot sustain living costs, creating a working-age population desperate for any kind of employment at all (even at the too-low wages already discussed).

And let’s remember that Conservatives want to remove employment laws to make it easier to dismiss employees. In other words, they want a workforce that will toil for a pittance, under threat of swift dismissal and the loss of what little they have.

Why do they think this will improve the UK’s performance?

We already work longer hours and have less protective legislation than in Europe (such as the European Time Directive). But we are less productive in terms of GDP than their French and German counterparts, who work fewer hours and are protected by the likes of the ETD.

France is more unionised than we are, yet its production per employee is higher.

The problem is poor management and bad leadership. Poor productivity is almost always due to poor investment and poor training. Workers are abused when they should be treated as an investment. They lose motivation and when managers get their decisions wrong, they blame the workers.

Working class people are sick of grafting for low pay and in poor working conditions, to be exploited by the types of people represented by the authors of Britannia Unchained.

Is it any wonder we feel de-motivated?

I started this article by linking The Dandy to Britannia Unchained, noting that one was coming to the end of its life in print while the other was about to be published for the first time. I’ll end by pointing out a quality they have in common.

The Dandy is closing because it represents ideas that are now tired and out-of-date. Britannia Unchained should never see publication – for the same reason.