Tag Archives: reduce

Priti Patel takes herself too seriously and that’s why this blunder is so satisfying

Gone is the trademark smirk: perhaps Ms Patel doesn’t think it’s funny when she makes a stupid mistake.

This is so funny I can’t let it pass by.

Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, announced over the weekend…

Without the slightest hint of self-consciousness, This Writer should add…

That shoplifting in the UK has fallen, when compared with the same time last year.

It seems she had forgotten a small detail:

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Labour lowers requirement to trigger selection of new Parliamentary candidates

Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee has reduced the required number of votes needed to trigger the selection of new Parliamentary candidates.

The decision means constituency Labour parties may more easily rid themselves of MPs who members feel no longer have the good of the party at heart.

This may include those who have spoken out against party leader Jeremy Corbyn because they do not share his political views, rather than over any wrong-doing he may be perceived to have carried out.

It may also include those who have deliberately attempted to hinder Labour’s electoral chances while Mr Corbyn is leader.

But the rule change also means members of the party’s right-wing may take advantage too – in order to remove supporters of Mr Corbyn and/or his policies.

Skwawkbox (quoted below) suggests that all those who wish to ensure the Parliamentary Labour Party more adequately resembles its left-wing membership need to get organised now, contacting their CLP secretaries to ensure they can make the necessary arrangements, and This Writer agrees.

The full procedures document can be downloaded here.

Labour members eager for the opportunity to choose a new parliamentary representative now have a green light to start the ‘trigger’ process – and some will face a lower hurdle to successfully force a full selection contest, after the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) agreed a change to the application of the ‘one in three branches’ trigger threshold.

In Labour’s new trigger rules, one in three member branches must vote for a selection contest in order to ‘trigger’ one.

However, the total from which ‘one in three’ will be calculated will be of those branches participating in the vote’, not of all branches in the CLP. Moribund branches therefore cannot be used by supporters of MPs hoping to avoid a selection contest to raise the bar.

Source: Excl: green light for triggers as Labour NEC lowers bar further | The SKWAWKBOX

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Labour retains Newport West – with lower proportion of the vote, triggering media hysteria. Deservedly?

Smiling: Labour’s Ruth Jones [Image from The Guardian‘s coverage of the Newport West by-election].

No.

Labour’s Ruth Jones has taken the Newport West Parliamentary seat in a by-election prompted by the death of the hugely popular Paul Flynn, but fewer people turned out to vote, Labour’s share of the vote fell, and all parties reported unrest over Brexit on the doorstep.

It doesn’t mean Labour is losing popularity, and it is possible that the result shows support for the party’s policy on Brexit, but media spin may suggest otherwise (especially if you caught the BBC’s Politics Live today (April 5).

I tried to encourage a debate about it on Twitter, and the responses were revealing.

My first tweet was deliberately provocative:

And I followed it up with another that was intended to prompt response, claiming: “It’s pretty close to the most recent opinion polls!”

I was referring to polls that put Labour ahead of the Conservatives, with 41 per cent against the Tories’ 36, according to DeltaPollUK, and you can see that I exaggerated slightly.

Some of the responses took that on board:

https://twitter.com/architectishly/status/1114132499100258306

I took a different tack, pointing out that the seat had been held by veteran Labour MP Paul Flynn for 32 years until his death, and that he had huge personal support – and one response showed up the failings in the arguments above:

So there we are: The result is consistent with previous polls on Newport West, with 2017 being an exception – perhaps a response to the pathetic Conservative campaign and Theresa May’s then-complacent belief that she would win a huge majority against Jeremy Corbyn, allowing her to bulldoze her (as we were to learn) dire Brexit plan over us all.

Newport West is a Labour heartland, and the weather did put some of the electorate off voting. The uptick in percentage support for the smaller parties may be a reflection of the lower turnout.

But the result broadly upheld the findings of recent national opinion polls, and suggests that Labour’s Brexit policy is not a vote-loser.

The big question now is, what kind of Labour MP will Ruth Jones be?

Initial evidence is positive – she opposes Tory austerity that has taken £1 billion in investment away from Wales; she opposes Universal Credit and the huge financial harm it represents to her constituents; and Tory cuts mean fear of crime in her city is rising. On top of that, there is huge controversy over plans to build a new motorway in Newport.

Ms Jones said she regretted the low turnout but was hoping to engage with all voters to ensure their voices are heard and that they re-engage with politics.

That could be difficult, considering the bad publicity that has been attracted by Labour’s own treatment of its members recently.

The National Constitutional Committee, which handles disputes involving Labour members, has been dubbed a “National Kangaroo Court”, and the party has been accused of pandering to its critics, rather than listening to members. The most obvious example is the response to often-spurious claims of anti-Semitism against members who are then automatically treated as guilty before any inquiry takes place, with the results of the disciplinary process pre-determined to support the prejudicial behaviour.

Will Ruth Jones support changes that could restore justice to that process? Or will she keep her head down and allow the wrongs to continue – because supporting justice may create adverse publicity?

We’ll be watching.

Could this exhibition challenge dehumanisation and abuse of the homeless?

Real people: The exhibition combines images of formerly-homeless people with a line of text describing their character.

This is a terrific idea because it reminds us that homeless people are human too.

It is easy to de-humanise the people sleeping rough or begging – to view them as obstacles to be passed or ignored.

That seems an easy route to the kind of behaviour that has been connected to the deaths of rough sleepers recently.

But the Inspirational Voices exhibition at Manchester’s Piccadilly railway station will present huge portraits of people who have been homeless, along with a label chosen by the model to represent their personality.

Homelessness charity The Booth Centre, which provides advice on finding accommodation, education and training as well as helping to secure long-term employment, is to be praised for this idea.

And Greater Manchester is leading the way in its monitoring of what happens to the homeless. Labour mayor Andy Burnham has launched an initiative to record the deaths of homeless people after the Westminster government showed it couldn’t care less.

The exhibition will take place in the railway station’s concourse from November 12-18, and will then move to Media City for a week. It would be welcome if we saw it on television, then.

No doubt most people will walk past this exhibition without giving it a second thought.

But if even a minority are influenced by it, some good will have been done.

Huge portraits of former rough sleepers and homeless people will take pride of place at Manchester’s biggest train station.

The Inspirational Voices exhibition aims to challenge misconceptions of homelessness by capturing each person’s individual achievements and hopes.

Source: Huge portraits of homeless people will be put on display at Piccadilly – with an important message – Manchester Evening News

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The DWP has been silencing news stories that criticise its policies – here’s the proof

The DWP closely monitors media output, and compiles a “sentiment of articles” chart every month to make sure that they receive positive coverage.

The DWP closely monitors media output, and compiles a “sentiment of articles” chart every month to make sure that they receive positive coverage.

Ministers have been doing their best to pretend that they never do anything wrong – and have then done their best to hide the fact that this is what they’re doing.

Doesn’t that tell you everything you need to know about the DWP?

Officers for the Department claimed that the information was “commercially sensitive”, of all things.

That just leads one to ask why. What commercial contracts would this information prejudice?

Clearly the Information Commissioner was not convinced by whatever argument the DWP produced, because we have our information now.

This Blog is one of the social media sources that offers almost exclusively negative coverage of the Department for Work and Pensions, and it is interesting to note how the DWP treated one of my biggest stories.

In August 2015 the DWP “proactively briefed” the media about the long-awaited statistics which showed the amount of ESA claimants who had died after being found fit for work.

I had no way of knowing this at the time, but this action was successful in ‘spiking’ coverage in the FT (whose editors should have known better), the Express (this is more understandable) and on ITV.

The DWP’s commentary stated that the most critical initial coverage of the statistics misrepresented their details. This was because the DWP had done its best to present them in a manner that would be misunderstood. Still, it was able to secure corrections in the Grauniad and the Mirror which weakened the story.

We are left with a clear message: The DWP is more concerned with distorting the facts – or preventing them from being known at all – than with the facts themselves.

It does not matter to Conservative ministers that their policies have killed thousands of people.

They just want to make sure nobody finds out about it.

Following a 13 month battle, the DWP have finally been forced to release secret documents illustrating the tactics they use to control and manipulate the media.

The documents reveal that the DWP monitors and analyses both mainstream and social media to reduce and manage negative coverage.

And even more worryingly, the documents show the DWP have managed to kill hundreds of stories by making sure that they are not reported.

Almost every month since March 2014 the DWP communications team has produced “Media Evaluation Reports” detailing the ways and methods that the DWP controls negative stories about them in the media.

The reports give valuable insight into a department that is unhealthily focused on the press coverage [it receives].

The fact that they have managed to kill so many stories that they don’t approve of raises serious questions as to how the department is exercising its influence over the free press.

The role of journalism is to bring people the truth behind the DWP’s rhetoric, not to act as the chief mouthpiece for it.

Source: Secret DWP Documents Prove They Silenced The Media From Running Stories They Didn’t Approve Of | EvolvePolitics.com

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Conservative Government attacks BBC; BBC responds defiantly

The BBC has responded to plans by the Conservative Government to reduce its ability to cater for all licence-payers, with a short statement of defiance. Good for Auntie!

At long last, Corporation executives have realised that the conciliatory position they have held for so long – adopting a broadly pro-Conservative stance in its news reporting, for example – simply won’t stop the Tories from trying to dismantle public service broadcasting in favour of the kind of trash served up by moguls like their friend Rupert Murdoch.

(Isn’t he back trying to buy the rest of Sky TV again, now that the Tories are free to be completely corrupt about it?)

The Tories were set to bring out a Green Paper filled with proposals to cut back the range of services offered by the BBC – for reasons that don’t seem to make any sense at all. For example, George Osborne said the BBC website should be scaled down because it is “crowding out” national newspapers.

This is clearly rubbish. Osborne represents the Party of the Marketplace. It is clear that, if the BBC is more popular than the right-wing newspapers owned by his friends, then it is those papers that should change, to make themselves more acceptable – not the BBC website. That’s the law of the market.

By seeking to hobble the BBC instead, Osborne merely highlights the corruption at the heart of Conservative Government.

Other plans include de-criminalising non-payment of the licence fee, to make it harder for the BBC to collect its funding. Only recently, Auntie agreed to take on the cost of providing free licences for people aged over 75, despite it being a political policy that has nothing to do with the Corporation. The cost is around £650 million – almost as much as that of all the BBC’s radio services combined (£653 million).

Here’s the BBC’s statement:

150716BBCgreenpaperresponse

It looks like the BBC is planning a consultation. Will you take part?

If you’re wondering what’s really behind the Tory plan, let’s add the following, for clarification:

150601-chomsky-privatisation1

Are you getting a clear picture?

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Poll: Votes for 16-year-olds

Abby Tomlinson: The teenage founder of 'Milifandom' is a strong supporter of reducing the voting age.

Abby Tomlinson: The teenage founder of ‘Milifandom’ is a strong supporter of reducing the voting age.

David Cameron has said MPs will be able to vote on whether people aged 16 and 17 should be able to vote in the EU referendum.

Let’s have a poll on it now!

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Tory economic policy has cost every household at least £4,000 – and aims to take more

Bottom of the class: George Osborne based his 'Long-Term Economic Plan' on a spreadsheet error by American economists. [Image: Gaianeconomics]

Bottom of the class: George Osborne based his ‘Long-Term Economic Plan’ on a spreadsheet error by American economists. [Image: Gaianeconomics]

If you’re thinking, “That headline isn’t news”, you’re right.

It is, however, the main point troubling Professor Simon Wren-Lewis in his latest Mainly Macro blog article. He states that Tory chancellor George Osborne started out in a similar position and with a relatively similar policy to Labour’s Gordon Brown, but caused huge damage to household finances, whereas Brown did not.

“The answer, of course, is that the … contexts were different,” writes the learned professor. “Osborne’s austerity happened when the economy was just starting a recovery from a deep recession, and interest rates were at their then Zero Lower Bound (ZLB) of 0.5%… When interest rates are at the ZLB, monetary policy cannot counteract the negative impact of fiscal austerity on output.”

In other words, with austerity shrinking the economy, nothing else Osborne did would have stopped your wages from shrinking too. It is entirely possible that Osborne was perfectly aware of this.

This is how George Osborne probably looked after the fire in his pants caused by his incessant lying about the EU’s £1.7bn bill burned away the rest of his suit. Note that his briefcase is still empty of policies and all he has to offer us is the carrot of false promises [Image: Kaya Mar www.kayamarart.com].

George Osborne: His briefcase is still empty of policies and all he has to offer us is the carrot of false promises [Image: Kaya Mar www.kayamarart.com].

Yet he is planning an even bigger austerity squeeze on your incomes if the Conservatives form a government after this year’s election.

Professor Wren-Lewis dismisses the possibility that Osborne does not understand what he has been doing: “A much more plausible explanation for his actions were that the macroeconomic risks were understood, but were put to one side for political and ideological reasons.

“First the possibility of hitting Labour with a populist concern about the deficit was too great a temptation to resist for a Chancellor for whom political tactics are everything. Second, austerity was a means of implementing an unpopular policy of reducing the size of the state by the back door.”

He adds: “Now you may cynically say that in a contest between economics and politics/ideology, politicians will always choose the latter. However much that is true or false, when that choice costs each household at least £4,000, it would be very strange if that politician survived the judgement of the electorate.”

Perhaps so – but he and his party are banking on the electorate being too ignorant of the facts to realise this. That’s why I put it in the headline.

Campaigning in the centre of a small Mid Wales town yesterday, This Writer asked one group of young people (in their twenties or thereabouts), who quite clearly had limited means, which way they were going to vote. They ignored the question and walked on for several paces, then one turned around and, raising his fist to the air, yelled, “Conservative all the way!”

George Osborne is relying on people like this for his party’s survival.

We have to foil him by educating them.

It is a task that won’t end after the election; in fact, it is a task that may not end in our lifetimes.

But it is the only way to protect ourselves from continual exploitation by an entitled class of layabouts who expect us to do all the work while they have all the privileges handed to them on a plate.

Please share this article if you agree.

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Cameron failed on immigration so you should vote him out

Cripping staff cuts, imposed by the Coalition government, mean our borders are not being protected properly [Image: ITV News.]

Cripping staff cuts, imposed by the Coalition government, mean our borders are not being protected properly [Image: ITV News.]

How nice of David Cameron to put a failsafe into his government that, if he did not manage to get net immigration below 100,000, we should all vote him out of office. He has failed – so, by his own admission, he has to go.

No ifs, no buts – Cameron himself says you should vote him out so it is your duty as a citizen to shun the Conservative Party in the May election.

Isn’t it a shame politics doesn’t work like that? He was on his hind legs at Prime Minister’s Questions just now (Wednesday, March 4), desperately trying to backtrack his way out of the promise he made five years ago.

He said the strength of the UK economy and the benefits system were the reasons why migration had gone up.

Doesn’t he know that the benefits system under his buddy Iain Duncan Smith is our greatest national shame? Or doesn’t he care? Yes – that seems more likely.

As for the economy, it is no endorsement of Conservative/Coalition policy that UK economic activity has been bouncing back after it hit rockbottom on the watch of Cameron’s buddy George Osborne. It fell as low as it was going to go and then picked up – that is the economic cycle and it has nothing to do with anything done by David Cameron’s government.

Cameron went on to claim he wants to keep the economy strong but change the benefits system, while Labour wants to protect the benefits system and trash the economy.

It is true that he wants to change benefits, to ensure that the abuses listed by this blog and many others not only continue, but worsen, along with the despair and deaths of poor people who – in David Cameron’s world – don’t count.

As for economic strength – Cameron seems to be forgetting that Income Tax takings are well below where they should be, while the in-work benefits bill has ballooned, because his ministers have worked very hard to keep wages low and make fat profits for their big business paymasters.

Nor are Labour’s plans for the benefit system as Cameron lied. He said Labour wants to protect benefits but Labour has been criticised by everybody, it seems, over Rachel Reeves’s comment about being “tough on benefits”. They all took this to mean she would continue the Tory line of persecuting claimants.

In fact, she meant she would bring the cost of the system down by improving chances of finding work and helping people get what they needed, but why let the facts get in the way of a juicy lie?

And Labour’s economic plans are expected to do far more to improve our economic performance than anything attempted by George Osborne in the last five years, so Cameron goofed on that claim too.

After that, Cameron resorted to listing commitments he claimed he had met. What does this have to do with immigration? Nothing at all – he was just wasting time.

It’s worth mentioning Labour’s immigration policy, which demands stronger border controls to tackle illegal immigration with proper entry and exit checks – you’ll remember that Coalition cutbacks mean Border Force is understaffed and cannot protect our borders in this way.

Labour wants smarter targets to reduce low-skilled migration but ensure university students and high-skilled workers are not deterred, as they are at the moment; even foreign nationals who study at UK universities have to leave if they can’t get a job here within a very short period of time.

And Labour would outlaw employment agencies who only recruit abroad, while the fines for employing illegal immigrants will be increased.

What’s the verdict on Cameron’s claims about immigration in 2010 and his performance today? It is as Ed Miliband said:

Cameron’s promise on immigration was “not worth the paper it’s written on”.

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David Cameron churns out another Benefit Cap lie

130715benefitcap

Cameron’s heart really isn’t in this election campaign, is it?

Today he’s been rehashing an old lie about the Coalition’s Benefit Cap – that it encourages people into work.

The Cap – for those who have been out of the country or incapacitated in some way since 2012 – limits benefits to £26,000 per family. When it was first put in place, the Tories claimed that this was equal to the average income of British families, and people on benefits should not earn more.

That might seem fair – but the average income of British families – taking everything into account, rather than just wages as the Tories did – is in fact around £31,000. And that was just the first lie!

It wasn’t long before Work and Pensions ghoul Iain Duncan Smith was implicated in another untruth, when he claimed that the mere mention of the Cap sent around 8,000 benefit claimants scurrying into employment. It was another lie; he was reprimanded by Andrew Dilnot of the UK Statistics Authority for that one!

Now Cameron has repeated his assertion that the Tories will reduce the capped figure to £23,000 if elected into office in May – because £26,000 clearly isn’t humiliating enough for unemployed familes and he wants to make them suffer (his words may have varied from this).

According to the BBC, “He said he was responding to public concerns the cap, which sets a maximum limit for state support for individual households, was set at too low a level.” Too low – so he wants to make it lower? The man is demented.

He also rejected calls for Child Benefit to be exempted from the Cap – showing his true colours on the matter of child poverty. Cameron is all for increasing it!

Cameron claimed on Radio 4’s Today programme that the Cap was having the desired effect and that about 40 per cent of households which were no longer subject to the cap had found work. Tory figures are notoriously untrustworthy, though.

Also, when he says a policy is having “the desired effect”, what effect is that, exactly?

“The evidence is that the cap set at £26,000 has worked. Many thousands of households that were subject to that cap have gone out and found work.

“It shows that many who have been subject to the cap have been more successful in finding work than those who have not.”

Does it really? If so many people have found work, then perhaps Mr Cameron can explain why Income Tax receipts have fallen under his leadership?