A politician aiming to oust Iain Duncan Smith at the next general election has described being motivated by the need to expose the “heartless” reforms he introduced as work and pensions secretary, and their impact on her late mother.
Labour’s Dr Faiza Shaheen said she wanted to win the Chingford and Woodford Green seat at the next general election in part because of the impact on disabled people of the government’s austerity cuts and reforms over the last decade.
Many of these were introduced by Duncan Smith when leading the Department for Work and Pensions between 2010 and 2016.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
Grinning idiots: UKIP leader Gerard Batten shakes all credibility away as he shakes hands with Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (Tommy Robinson) and gives him a position of responsibility in his inner circle.
No wonder Brexit is such a godawful mess when the political organisation that campaigned to achieve it for decades appoints a far-right extremist who was sent to prison after he nearly ruined the trial of a major rape gang as its special adviser on prison reform and rape gangs.
Not only has UKIP leader Gerard Batten allowed Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (also known as Tommy Robinson) into his party; he has also given him a job that can only be seen as an insult to the public.
And the reaction has been exactly what we should expect:
UKIP have appointed Tommy Robinson, the violent criminal and associate of paedophiles, to be its adviser on rape gangs and prison reform. That party really has become a load of: pic.twitter.com/sDeQBUQMLl
To be fair Yaxley-Lennon aka Tommy Robinson does have lived experience of committing crime, violence (including against women) & prisons. And it’s not like #UKIP isn’t a joke already. https://t.co/8WlI0NR6b1
Grayling: What does a fool do to prevent his stupidity becoming public knowledge? He gags everybody in the know.
The Times‘ investigation into the Tory government’s use of non-disclosure agreements (gagging clauses) to prevent outside organisations from saying anything that would damage their reputation continues.
Today the focus is on current Transport Secretary Chris ‘Failing’ Grayling and the disastrous changes to the probation service that he demanded when he was in charge of Justice.
We all know that his ideas were stupid, short-sighted and dangerous because we have seen their result – but it seems we could have found this out much earlier, if he had not silenced every organisation that could have told us at the time.
Chris Grayling’s changes to the probation service were deemed to be a failure, but charities dealing with the fallout were prevented from saying anything that would damage his reputation
After Chris Grayling oversaw a £3 billion overhaul of the probation system in 2015, his reforms were condemned as a failure.
Prison inspectors found that changes introduced when he was justice secretary resulted in criminals being released without anywhere to live and without staff assessing “significant risks” to their partners and children.
Dame Glenys Stacey, chief inspector of probation, said the overhaul meant there was “no real prospect” of preventing prisoners from returning to crime.
The findings prompted criticism from campaigners, politicians and probation staff. Some of the key charities working with former prisoners, however, have appeared to be unconcerned.
The rest is hidden by the paywall but you get the idea.
Labour’s Richard Burgon commented on Twitter…
Gagging charities to stop them speaking out about the disastrous part-privatisation of probation is yet another example of how privatisation in justice has undermined transparency and accountability. https://t.co/vKqVqSsXGS
They happily hide behind a Commons rule that a “closure” motion, stopping a Bill from being talked out, can be called if its sponsor can muster 100 MPs to support it – and the legislation should not pass if it does not have the support of 100 MPs.
But this argument ignores the fact that private members’ bills are always debated on Fridays, when most MPs are returning to their constituencies to carry out the work they have to do there.
The solutions proposed by Mr Bercow are reasonable, and would enhance Parliament’s reputation by ensuring private members’ bills are of a sufficiently high quality and that they receive the same consideration in the Commons chamber as other legislation.
They could also mark the end of interference by MPs with their own interests at heart, rather than those of the public. One wonders what Philip Davies would do with himself then.
The Commons Speaker, John Bercow, has suggested the system by which backbench MPs bring in legislation needs to be overhauled.
At present, private members’ bills receive limited debate on Fridays and they stand little chance of becoming law without government support.
It is common for MPs opposing such a bill to talk at length until it runs out of time.
Mr Bercow said this situation “has not enhanced the reputation of the House”.
The Speaker highlighted recommendations previously made by the Procedure Select Committee, including:
Moving private members’ bills from their traditional Friday sitting, when MPs often return to their constituencies
Introducing a “peer group review” with the aim of ensuring fewer, higher-quality bills
The UK government is failing to uphold disabled people’s rights across a range of areas from education, work and housing to health, transport and social security, a UN inquiry has found.
The UN committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities examined the government’s progress in fulfilling its commitments to the UN convention on disabled people’s rights, to which the UK has been a signatory since 2007.
Its report concludes that the UK has not done enough to ensure the convention – which enshrines the rights of disabled people to live independently, to work and to enjoy social protection without discrimination – is reflected in UK law and policy.
It is scathing of the UK government’s inconsistent and patchy approach to protecting disability rights and its failure to audit the impact of its austerity policies on disabled people.
It says ministers have failed to show that measures will be in place to protect disability rights when the UK leaves the European Union.
Areas of concern highlighted by the report, which contains more than 60 recommendations for the UK government, include:
The rising numbers of disabled children educated in segregated “special schools” in the UK. The report calls for legislation to ensure mainstream schools provide “real inclusion” for disabled children.
High levels of poverty for disabled people and their families and reduced standards of living as result of multiple welfare reforms and benefit cuts. It calls for a review of benefit sanctions, which it says have a detrimental effect on recipients.
The failure of the UK government to recognise the rights of disabled people to live independently in the community. It calls on ministers to provide sufficient resources to support disabled people to live at home.
In November the same UN committee issued a scathing report on austerity policies pursued by the UK government in welfare and social care, which it described as “systematic violations” of the rights of people with disabilities. The government dismissed that report as patronising and offensive.
Debbie Abrahams, Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, responded to the committee’s observations as follows:
“The UN Committee, in making such a high number of recommendations to a nation state, has found that this Tory government is still failing sick and disabled people. Their damning report highlights what many disabled people already know to be true, that they are being forced to bear the brunt of failed Tory austerity policies. The Committee also expressed concerns about future rights for disabled people after Brexit.
“This confirms what Labour has been saying all along, that the lack of progress on all Convention articles, including cruel changes to social security and the punitive sanctions regime, are causing real misery for sick and disabled people.
“Labour will transform our social security system in partnership with disabled people to ensure that, like our NHS, it is there for us all in our time of need. The next Labour Government will incorporate the UN CRPD fully into UK law and immediately reverse the PIP regulations, as called for by the UN.”
What’s the betting the Tories dismiss this report as “patronising and offensive” too?
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Labour’s Anna Turley MP, standing up for victims of Conservative ‘welfare’ policy in exactly the way some people want you to think Labour doesn’t.
Some readers of This Blog may be unfortunate enough to have witnessed a conversation with a person calling him- or herself ‘Ghost Whistler’ in the comment column of the recent article on Momentum, in which this person has resorted to accusing the Labour Party of complacency in the deaths of benefit claimants. What a despicable distortion.
“Where are the Labour politicians when kids are taking their own lives due to benefit sanctions and DWP bullying?” That’s what this person asked, in a clear reference to the case of David Brown that This Blog covered yesterday (December 7). The implication is, of course, that Labour was complicit in the death.
Clearly this person had failed to do any research at all, as that particular comment was made more than four hours after Labour MP Anna Turley directly challenged the government over that very case, during Prime Minister’s Questions.
She told Leader of the House David Lidington, standing in for Theresa May while she’s off on a junket to sell weapons to Middle East countries: “I know that the whole House will join me in sending heartfelt sympathies and condolences to the family of David Brown, from Eston, who, aged just 18, took his own life.
“The inquest into his death has heard that he did so on the day he was due to sign on at the Job Centre, after saying that he felt ‘belittled’ by staff despite actively looking for work and seeking an apprenticeship. Shortly before taking his own life, he told his mum: ‘The way the Job Centre treat people, it is no surprise people commit suicide.’
“Will the Leader of the House undertake to review that individual case? Will he also undertake to take stock of six years of brutal welfare reform, and look into the way the Department for Work and Pensions treats its most vulnerable constituents, particularly young people?”
If anybody wants to find complacency about this death, they need look no further than Mr Lidington’s reply. After expressing what he described as “unreserved sympathy” for Mr Brown’s family, the Leader of the House contradicted himself thus: “Clearly, human beings in any organisation sometimes make decisions that get things wrong, and I will ask the Department for Work and Pensions to have a look at the particular case that the hon. Lady has described.
“However, I have to say to her that I think the principle remains right that while staff should always behave with courtesy towards people seeking to claim benefits, it is also right for us to expect people who are receiving benefits to be subject to the kind of disciplines that apply to people in work even if they are on low pay. There is a principle of fairness here, which is what lies behind the approach that the DWP takes.”
What’s fair about putting an impressionable young man into the clutches of a woman who clearly had not respect for him at all and from whom he could not demand proper treatment for fear of being removed from the interview by the guards that are now routinely posted at these facilities, his benefit sanctioned on the grounds that his behaviour fell short of the mark?
Who says it is right that jobseekers must be placed under the same pressures as people who are in work? They are not in work. They are seeking work. The two conditions are not that same and it is wrong to pretend that they are.
What will be gained from asking for the DWP to examine the David Brown case individually? This is not an isolated episode. DWP ‘advisers’ are constantly attacking claimants.
Today I read of a young man with severe disabilities that mean he has the mentality of a small child, being called in for a highly-distressing and pointless work capability assessment by the DWP.
The Department later apologised, saying he would not have been invited to an interview if the Job Centre had known the full extent of his condition – a condition for which the same department had been paying benefits for his entire life.
The problem is system-wide. Singling out a single case won’t stop the abuses from happening – unless the DWP intends to give, to the woman who forced David Brown towards suicide, a bonus? That seems far more likely.
The DWP’s response to Mr Brown’s death was an insult to him and everybody else who has died as a result of Conservative ‘welfare’ policy – and, make no mistake, there have been thousands upon thousands; far more than those covered by official statistics, even though they now run into the thousands.
A spokesman said: “Our thoughts are with Mr Brown’s family at this difficult time. Suicide is a very complex issue and there is no evidence of a link between Mr Brown’s suicide and his interaction with Jobcentre Plus.”
That is exactly the same line the DWP always trots out when somebody on benefits commits suicide – in defiance of the facts.
I read that comment on the Channel 4 News Facebook page and was so incensed I penned the following in response: “This is a person who made it clear he was being treated like dirt by a DWP staff member – and actually said, ‘The way the Job Centre treats people, it’s no surprise that people commit suicide’. Then on the day he was due to visit the Job Centre again, he was found dead.
“And the DWP wants us to believe there is no link?
“I’d like to know who made that comment and ask them just what somebody would have to do to get them to accept that there is a link.
“Their comment is an insult – not just to David Brown and his family, but to everybody else who has lost a friend or loved one because of the Conservative Party and its homicidal attitude, and to the public in general who they think they can patronise in this manner.”
All of the above was triggered by a Labour MP’s concern over the death of young man due to his treatment by the benefit system.
But that doesn’t matter because ‘Ghost Whistler’ wants to blame the Labour Party for it.
These deaths aren’t going to stop any time soon – not because Labour isn’t opposing them but because people like ‘Ghost Whistler’ are blaming Labour rather than putting responsibility where it is due, on the Conservatives. ‘Ghost Whistler’ is contributing to the problem, along with anybody else who would rather accuse the wrong people to make some obscure political gesture. This person is such a coward, they won’t even support their words with their own name.
So I’ll tell you what, ‘Ghost Whistler’ – do us all a favour. Take your ill-informed and offensive opinions, take yourself, and take all the other blinkered bigots like you, and toddle off back to whatever slimy hole you call home.
Don’t come out again. Don’t try to infect anybody else with your ignorance. Don’t insult the memory of the dead.
Labour branches and constituency parties across the UK are being asked to support a series of moves intended to restore democracy in the party – and This Writer couldn’t be happier because they are based on a motion that I drafted.
The summer of 2016 was a long and difficult one for Labour Party democracy. There was the rebellion and attempted coup against Jeremy Corbyn that ended with him being re-elected as party leader with a larger mandate. And there was the election of six new Constituency Labour Party representatives to the ruling National Executive Committee.
All six places went to members of the Corbyn-supporting Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance (although one of the candidates, Ann Black, has since proved to be less loyal than some of us might have hoped) – giving Mr Corbyn a narrow majority.
It seems right-wingers in the Labour Party decided to dispense with the rule book – and party democracy – and introduced a plan to put two new members on the NEC to overthrow Mr Corbyn’s majority. The idea was that Scottish Labour and Welsh Labour would be given representatives on the NEC, who would be nominated by the leaders of those party groups, who are both anti-Corbyn, rather than elected by their memberships who support the party leader.
The resolution to add these new members to the NEC was passed as part of a package of 15 changes to party rules at the national conference in September. They were pushed through against the wishes of delegates who wanted to vote on each matter separately, and who demanded a card vote. Instead, then-NEC chair Paddy Lillis refused both demands – breaking conference procedural rules in the process. The full story is here.
This is where I became involved. I raised the matter with my local Labour Party branch, and wrote a motion pointing out that Mr Lillis broke conference rules, that the changes he imposed are therefore undemocratic and may not be enforced, and that the decision should be nullified.
That motion was supported by Brecon and Radnorshire Constituency Labour Party and is to be considered by the NEC as soon as possible.
I publicised the matter on This Blog, and I know other CLPs have passed similar motions. I was also contacted by Steve Burgess, a Labour member based near Manchester, who raised issues with the wording of my motion and with my opinion of Ann Black, who was present as a speaker at the CLP meeting when it won members’ support, despite her comments in opposition to it (a dialogue with Ms Black followed in the comment columns of This Blog, ending with this article, after I finally lost patience with her).
Mr Burgess thought my motion needed to be modified in order to pinpoint exactly the faults in Mr Lillis’s behaviour and the breakdown in party democracy that followed. He has devised a series of five motions which he urges Labour Party branches to consider passing and taking to their CLPs, and from there to the CLP representatives on the NEC. He has gained the support of Corbyn-supporting group Momentum in this, and his motions can be found on an unofficial Momentum website, here.
The introduction to the page suggests, “These are the most important motions in the recent history of the Labour Party, since [they defeat] a constitutional amendment that undermines the will of conference to direct and veto changes to the supreme ruling executive body which controls everything from expulsions to shortlists and membership in the Labour Party.”
Some might think that I should be offended by what appears to be an attempt to seek credit based on work that I have done. Well, I’m not offended.
It is extremely flattering to have created the basis for “the most important motions in the recent history of the Labour Party”. It is unlikely that they would have appeared as the do – possibly at all – without my original work.
I think Mr Burgess has produced an interesting and exhaustive piece. It’s a little long-winded – I was told my own motion was extremely long, and it is much shorter than the series of five that he has produced.
My feeling is that other BLPs and CLPs may wish to render the actual motions down to the basic demands, with everything else tacked on as supporting information.
I know several CLPs have already submitted motions based on mine; hopefully more will submit motions based on his.
I’m pleased to have started this but I knew that it wasn’t something I could manage alone, so I am delighted that others are doing their own thing with it.
Damian Green: He should be a claimant at a Job Centre – not running them [Image: Getty].
Work and Pensions Secretary – and Tory ‘useful idiot’ – Damian Green has said he wants more private firms involved in the social security system – despite the clear dangers demonstrated by recent attempts.
It is only a few weeks since private US firm Concentrix had to be stripped of a contract investigating tax credit fraud for HM Revenue and Customs, after it wrongly stripped thousands of people of the money they were due.
May we assume that this firm was on a payment-by-results contract that would encourage it into fraud?
He was giving his speech at a conference hosted by the right-wing Reform think tank, which wants to reduce public spending and tax to the levels of Ireland and Australia (around 35 per cent of GDP). What’s wrong with increasing GDP so the current – or a greater – amount of spending becomes a smaller proportion of it?
Reform would cut tax in order to allow UK citizens to spend more money on their own and their families’ future social security needs, claiming this would obtain more efficient, high-quality services. Don’t all laugh at once!
And Reform is very keen on cutting what it calls “pensioner gimmicks” like the winter fuel payment that prevents senior citizens from having to choose between heating and eating. These people are not very nice!
Mr Green said:
“To achieve a successful welfare system in the 21st century you need to give more decision-making power to individuals, and give more trust to the voluntary sector and private organisations to deliver services.”
There is no evidence to support these wild claims. In fact, the example of Concentrix shows private organisations are entirely unworthy of our trust in such matters.
Furthermore, individuals on low pay, faced with a choice between eating now, or having a pension/benefit payment at some time in the future, must always choose to service the immediate need. Survival is the first order of business. Mr Green’s assertion is based on a false assumption that people have spare cash.
“The government is a necessary, but not sufficient provider of welfare. It can, and does, act as the guarantor of fairness within the welfare system to set the rules. It can also provide the backbone of the assistance system through more than 700 Jobcentre Plus offices.
We have seen that a Conservative Government is no such thing. Is the Work Capability Assessment, that governs ESA and PIP eligibility, fair? No. It has caused thousands of deaths – both recorded and unadmitted. Is the Jobseekers’ Allowance system fair? No. It demands that claimants waste their time meeting silly requirements when they could be doing something meaningful.
“What it must not try to do is assume that it can provide all the help necessary.”
What does he mean by this? The Department for Work and Pensions does not currently provide any meaningful “help”. It persecutes.
He added: “The first principle is that a welfare state is not enough – we need a welfare system, involving many players – health professionals, employers large and small, a whole range of voluntary organisations.
No. This is a guaranteed route to a corrupt system in which the citizens of the UK are simply there to be exploited by the private sector.
“The second is that for most people the purpose of the welfare system is to help them get into work, stay in work, and progress in work. We should offer work for those who can, and help for those who could.
We have already seen that help is not supplied by the Conservative DWP. As for work – zero-hour contracts, part-time jobs and insecure placements that all force people to claim in-work benefits? No, thank you.
“The third is that we should offer care for the minority who can’t work. Whether through sickness, disability or personal circumstances, there will always be some who simply need help to get through their daily lives.”
And we have seen that there is no care for people who cannot work. Once again, Damian Green has lied about society’s most vulnerable.
No wonder Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Debbie Abrahams, described his words as “beyond ridiculous”.
By “reconsider her position”, I mean Ann Black should resign and make way for somebody who is willing to represent Labour Party members, if she is determined to deny the facts.
Readers of This Blog will know that Ms Black has taken issue with me for sending a motion to Labour’s National Executive Committee, calling for it to nullify rule changes that were wrongly imposed at the party’s conference.
Then-NEC chair Paddy Lillis, who was chairing the conference at the time, broke the conventions under which voting is carried out at the conference – its rules, if you like – in order to deny delegate a chance to vote on 15 rules changes separately, and by card (which gives an accurate number of votes ‘for’ and ‘against’) rather than by hand (which doesn’t).
The package of changes included one that would put members of Scottish Labour and Welsh Labour on the NEC who would not be elected by their respective membership, but nominated by the regional leaders. This would have changed the composition of the NEC in a material way, as the balance of power would have changed from a narrow majority in support of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to a narrow majority against him.
I have reported on these facts, and on the motion that was raised by my local Labour branch and passed at a Constituency Labour Party meeting which Ms Black attended. You can read my report on it here.
Ms Black, it seems, is not happy with the result of that meeting and has been trying to claim that the motion is based on errors ever since. She is either mistaken, or she is deliberately attempting to mislead Labour Party members. If the latter, then I think it is time she handed in her resignation.
It would indicate that she got onto the Welsh Labour Grassroots ‘Left Slate’ under false pretences and should make way for somebody who actually represents the views of that organisation, including respect for democracy.
Her latest comment to This Blog was received on Thursday, when This Writer was at a meeting of a local organisation, of which I am vice-chair of its board of trustees. The meeting was 30 miles away from my home and took all day. By the time I got back, I was too tired to do anything but put up a few articles and call it a day. I spent yesterday (Friday) working to get caught up on the blog, and also dealing with other matters (don’t forget that I am a carer and this site is a spare-time occupation).
In the meantime, I received a message on Facebook from a Labour member elsewhere in the country, who has been communicating with me because he is interested in submitting a motion to his own CLP, similar to mine. He told me he had been in communication with Ms Black and she had said she had submitted comments to my blog but I had not published them.
Is it paranoid of me to take this as an implication that I only publish comments that support my own opinions? That would be outrageously offensive.
You can see from the foregoing that I have been busy, and you can also see – from the comment columns attached to other articles – that I publish comments of all kinds, reserving the right to respond if I think it is necessary.
This is the first chance I have had to respond to Ms Black, so I think I’ll make her a special case. After all of the foregoing, I’m sure you’ll want to know what she had to say – and I certainly have a few things to offer in reply. She begins:
Life is too short to pick up all the errors online and elsewhere, but here goes:
Oh, I’m in error online and elsewhere, am I? How interesting that she frames her comment with such an assertion from the start.
1) Lifting the motion from a website. I said this because someone in Lewes submitted a motion with text identical to that on voxpoliticalonline, right down to mis-spelling Christine Shawcroft’s name as Shawcross. Clearly they had the same origin. I don’t believe Mike gave his surname at the Brecon meeting, but accept that he wrote the motion and Lewes lifted it, rather than both lifting from the voxpolitical original. Interestingly after I’d corresponded with Lewes they amended their motion to keep the sense but correct most of the inaccuracies in Mike’s version;
This refers to her claim, voiced at the CLP all-member meeting, that I lifted my motion from another website. I commented on this in an email to branch members, who knew that I had published the motion on Vox Political. As a result I received a rather incredulous reply from one member, asking: “She thinks you plagiarised yourself?” Yup.
She accepts now that I wrote the motion and the website where she read it was my own. She says she was confused by a motion that went to Lewes CLP(?) that was exactly the same, including the misspelling of Christine Shawcroft’s name (which is simply a typo. I try to ensure everything is right but sometimes errors creep in).
She says Lewes has since amended its motion to remove the inaccuracies in mine – presumably these are limited to the misspelling of Ms Shawcroft’s name and, possibly, an amendment of the claim that the CAC committee’s conditions are rules, even though they are de facto rules for the running of conference, as we have discussed already. If that’s what she wants to call an error, I think she’s in a minority.
2) I took no part in running the meeting, either to curtail or extend discussion – I’m not a member and would not dream of intervening;
Nor did I suggest that she did. She was a guest speaker whose speech was primarily a long attempt to justify the actions of the NEC over the summer – the moratorium on meetings, the ‘purge’ of party members in the run-up to the leadership vote, and so on.
3) Ditto the vote on the motion, where I gave my views, but as always it’s up to local members to decide;
Again, I did not suggest otherwise. Was it appropriate for her to comment as part of a discussion among CLP members, where she was not a member? I didn’t have the chance to call for her not to take part on the day – I tried but was not able to be heard. It seemed to me that her comments as an NEC member might carry more weight with members than they deserved. As it turned out, I need not have worried.
4) However where Mike says that there was “a huge amount of support”, the vote was recorded as 17 in favour, 11 against, two abstentions. I can understand why calls for a card vote at conference were seen as having “a huge amount of support” if that’s your definition;
Yes, the vote was recorded as 17 for the motion, 11 against, and two abstentions. In fact, one of the ‘against’ votes was intended to be for the motion but the lady doing the voting was 96 and was not able to get her hand up in time. I was only made aware of this fact at a branch meeting on Wednesday, otherwise I think the vote should have been run again to allow her vote to be recorded accurately. The motion had nearly twice as much support as opposition.
Even taking the vote as recorded, it’s 56.67 per cent in favour against 36.67 per cent against – almost as large a majority as Jeremy Corbyn’s “landslide” first Labour leadership election victory. I think support for my motion was big enough – don’t you?
5) Mike and other speakers for the motion said that it was nothing to do with Scottish and Welsh representation on the NEC. Which raises the question of why he put them into his motion and why they are mentioned in most of the commentaries here and elsewhere about rule changes at conference.
This comment seems to be suggesting that the motion is about eliminating the nominated representatives to the NEC, and the illegitimacy of the way the vote was carried out is simply a means to that end.
It seems to me that this is nothing more than an ad hominem attack – Ms Black is suggesting that my motives are other than I have presented them – in an attempt to undermine support for me, as the person putting forward the motion, because she cannot defeat the logic of the motion itself.
What a nasty, underhanded way to behave! Is that the behaviour we would expect from a member of Labour’s highest authority? I don’t think so.
I could argue, in opposition, that Paddy Lillis intended to gerrymander those undemocratic, nominated-rather-than-elected, members onto the NEC and denied delegates their right to a card vote, taking each of the 15 rule changes separately, in order to achieve that. Such a suggestion would have more validity than Ms Black’s, because the facts strongly support it.
We have seen evidence, since I wrote my motion, that the 15 rule changes were not sent to the NEC as a package, but as separate measures; that the CAC members were misled into believing they were to be taken as a package; and that there is no precedent at all for new rules to be forced through as a ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ package at an annual conference, meaning the claim from the platform that it was standard practice is a lie.
None of the above changes the facts as laid out in my motion – that Mr Lillis broke the rules (or conventions, if you like) under which votes are taken at conference, meaning the result of that particular vote is therefore his will and not the will of the conference, and should be disregarded.
I mentioned Scottish Labour and Welsh Labour representation on the NEC in the motion in order to make absolutely sure that there could be no doubt about the package of measures to which I was referring. If I had not, it seems possible (if not downright likely) that attempts would have been made to confuse those measures with some other conference vote, or otherwise render my motion invalid or void.
I have no wish to deny Welsh Labour or Scottish Labour an opportunity to have representatives on the NEC – but I do believe those representatives must be democratically elected by the memberships of Welsh Labour and Scottish Labour, not unelected nominees of the regional parties’ leaders (or, in the case of Scottish Labour, the leader herself, having taken it upon herself to seize the seat on the NEC that was offered to her).
There are serious and legitimate concerns here, but it’s helpful to get the facts straight first.
It is indeed – but Ms Black was trying to distort them.
I think she needs to reconsider her position, as a matter of urgency – not just regarding this matter, but also her position on the National Executive Committee.
Looking at the recent controversy over the NEC’s support for a report attacking members of Wallasey CLP, that contains accusations of criminal behaviour without solid evidence to support it, I wonder how Ms Black voted on that matter?
This behaviour should not be tolerated. We need representatives who will actually represent us, rather than peddling lies and distortions.
Am I right?
Send me your opinion using the comment box below. Please indicate whether you are a Labour member or not.
How pleasant to hear this said in a Parliamentary debate, with not a single word of denial from the Conservative Government:
“Last week there was an amazing sequence of events. On Monday, the Secretary of State told me that he could not publish … data because they were not kept, and told me to stop scaremongering; on Wednesday, the Prime Minister said that they would be published; and this was swiftly followed by the Government saying that they were appealing against the Information Commissioner’s ruling, stating that publishing these data would lead to ‘probable misinterpretations’ and ‘was too emotive…and wasn’t in the public interest’. What an absolute shambles!”
This was part of the speech by Debbie Abrahams, Labour MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, in a debate on ‘welfare reform and people with disabilities’, called by her to set the scene for any measures against the disabled that George Osborne is considering for his July budget. As the Government prepares to cut £12 billion from the annual social security budget next week, there are real concerns that – in addition to potentially slashing tax credits for the working poor – they will cut further support for working-age people with disabilities.
She was referring, of course, to the government’s increasingly confused response to This Writer’s request for an honest answer to the question, ‘How many people have died while claiming Employment and Support Allowance between November 2011 and May 2014 (the date of my request)?” But wait! She continued:
“I could not disagree more. This is definitely in the public interest. As a former public health academic, I am more than aware of the strict criteria for establishing causality, but there are no grounds for not publishing numbers of actual deaths as well as the Government-proposed standardised mortality ratios, including those who died within six weeks of being found fit for work. Will the Minister now confirm when these data will be published?“
Dear reader, it falls to This Writer to report that not one word came back from the Government benches – not even when the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Justin Tomlinson (who?) got onto his hind legs to give the Government’s response to the debate.
You can sign the petition demanding that the Government end its appeal against the order to publish the statistics, and provide the figures to the public, on the Change.org website.
She also asked when the Government will publish redacted information on the circumstances of the deaths of claimants who died while sanctioned, and what changes the DWP instigated in the light of reviews of these deaths – and whether the significant surge in suicide rates for both men and women since 2010— particularly for working-age men—is being analysed by the DWP. No response.
The Government doesn’t have anything to say to the sick, disabled or vulnerable, and even less to say about them.
Ms Abrahams began her speech by pointing out, “It is poignant that this debate falls on the very day that the Independent Living Fund closes. A further £1.2 billion is being cut from support for people with disabilities. Such cuts were a hallmark of the Tory-led coalition, and many are concerned that not only will this increase but the cuts will get worse under this Government.
“I … want to draw attention to the punitive and dehumanising culture that has been part of the delivery of these welfare reforms, which set the tone for the leadership within the Department for Work and Pensions and the Government’s wider tone on social security.”
Here’s a quick precis of the facts: She said that, by 2018, £23.8 billion of support would have been taken from 3.7 million people with disabilities, according to Demos. The measures include:
Indexation of social security payments was changed from the higher retail prices index to the lower consumer prices index
There was also a 1% cap on the uprating of certain working-age benefits.
People on incapacity benefit were reassessed.
The time that disabled people in the work-related activity group are able to receive the employment and support allowance was limited.
Disabled people in receipt of disability living allowance are being reassessed to determine whether they are eligible for the personal independence payment.
Disability benefits are approximately 15% of average earnings. With the recent changes—the 1% uprating and the indexation to the consumer prices index—they will fall even further below those in Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Luxembourg, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Serbia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
People with disabilities are twice as likely to live in persistent poverty as non-disabled people: 80% of disability-related poverty is caused by extra costs. This has implications for disabled people’s families – a third of all families living in poverty include one disabled family member.
Since the Government’s new sanctions regime, the rate of sanctioning of people on IB and ESA has doubled.
She said part of the Government’s strategy has been the “invidious” spreading of a culture of blame and fear.
“In the 1980s we saw the unions being targeted; today the focus is on the poor and the vulnerable.
“The narrative associated with the so-called welfare reforms has been one of divide and rule, deliberately attempting to vilify people who receive social security as the new undeserving poor.
“The Government have spread a culture of pejorative language, such as “shirkers” and “scroungers”. They have intentionally attempted to demonise social security recipients, including disabled people.
“The innuendo that people with a disability or illness might be faking it or are feckless is, quite frankly, grotesque… Unfortunately, the regular misuse of statistics is another way that the Government are trying to harden the public’s attitude.
“The facts are that, in an ageing population, the largest proportion of social security recipients are pensioners and not, as is often implied, the workshy.”
Additional: It has been pointed out to me that Mr Tomlinson stated: “We will be publishing them [sic] the mortality stats—I know the hon. Lady is keen to see them soon; we would all like to see them as soon as possible.” Since he did not define the form those statistics would take, nor did he provide a firm date on which they would be published, it seems clear that what he did say was as near to nothing as makes no odds.
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