The pick of the Tories: Iain Duncan Smith is a creature of odious habits and even worse politics.
The former Tory leader whose ‘reforms’ of social security have led to the deaths of thousands upon thousands of people has been appointed to lend his ignorance to the government again.
Iain Duncan Smith will chair the new Taskforce on Innovation, Growth and Regulatory Reform.
The title of the organisation creates the acronym TIGRR – tiger, get it? But Duncan Smith is no kind of tiger. As benefit claimants know from his time as Work and Pensions Secretary, he’s a little bitch.
This Site has its own acronym for him – RTU. It stands for “Returned To Unit”, the message of shame on the record of armed forces personnel who fail training for promotion up the officers’ ranks – as he is said to have done.
The government has claimed that the TIGRR will “identify and develop proposals across a range of areas that will drive innovation and competitiveness, reduce barriers to start-ups and scale-ups, create opportunities for innovation to make the most of cutting-edge technologies, and support growth and dynamism right across the UK economy”.
But with RTU at the helm it is more likely to reduce competitiveness with new schemes that will be massively expensive while helping nobody (like Universal Credit), create barriers that stop people getting what they need (as he did with all benefits, particularly those for the sick and disabled), and abandon cutting-edge technologies for paper and ink (as DWP workers were forced to do when his plan for Universal Credit to be fully computerised fell on its ass).
He didn’t even help his own government! All his so-called “reforms” created more expense and none of them saved any money at all.
Labour has said it is ready to fight over any reforms that could be harmful – particularly to employment rights.
While This Writer has nothing personal against Andy McDonald, I remember when the party under Ed Miliband, in the dying days of its previous right-wing, neoliberal incarnation, voted in support of RTU to harm benefit claimants and I have a doubt.
The simple fact is that the appointment of this death machine should tell us everything we need to know about what his organisation will do. And it won’t help anybody.
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.
Oops: Theresa May probably looked as shell-shocked as this image after she took her call from Arlene Foster and realised her career is on the brink of disaster.
Is this the stupidest mistake ever made by a United Kingdom prime minister?
Theresa May seemed to be at the verge of signing an agreement with the EU27 on the vexed issue of the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland – meaning she would have met the deadline for Brexit talks to have made enough progress to move onto trading conditions. Here’s an excited Donald Tusk:
Tell me why I like Mondays! Encouraged after my phone call with Taoiseach @campaignforleo on progress on #Brexit issue of Ireland. Getting closer to sufficient progress at December #EUCO.
But what exactly was the deal? Here’s Robert Rea to explain:
Fine. But the DUP, whse support Theresa May's government depends upon, are insistent that N Ireland remains an integral part of the UK, with no "special" status and no "Irish Sea" customs border between it and the rest of the UK
Wait. What? The deal means a different regulatory framework for Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK? But the DUP won’t agree, because it wants Northern Ireland to function on the same terms as the rest of the UK? Isn’t that a big problem?
In other words, in order to reach a border deal, and ensure the DUP are kept on board, the UK may end up with a status which is for all practical purposes pretty much equivalent to being in the customs union, and close to being in the single market
And we’d also need ECJ jurisdiction to make it work. In other words, we might as well remain in the EU, it seems – unless we’re really desperate for worse trading conditions with the EU27 than we currently enjoy.
Of course it didn’t come to that in the end. As Mrs May was settling down to her working lunch with Jean-Claude Juncker, DUP leader Arlene Foster convened a press conference in the UK.
She said: “We have been very clear. Northern Ireland must leave the EU on the same terms as the rest of the United Kingdom. We will not accept any form of regulatory divergence which separates Northern Ireland economically or politically from the rest of the United Kingdom. The economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom will not be compromised in any way.
“Her Majesty’s Government understands the DUP position. The Prime Minister has told the House of Commons that there will be no border in the Irish Sea. The Prime Minister has been clear that the UK is leaving the European Union as a whole and the territorial and economic integrity of the United Kingdom will be protected.
“We want to see a sensible Brexit where the Common Travel Area is continued, we meet our financial obligations, have a strictly time-limited implementation period and where the contribution of EU migrants to our economy is recognised in a practical manner.”
We will not accept any form of regulatory divergence which separates Northern Ireland economically or politically from the rest of the United Kingdom. pic.twitter.com/uCBVdfVQTJ
The Guardiantells us: “May was forced to pause discussions to take a call from Arlene Foster. The unionist leader, whose party currently provides the Tories with a working majority in the Commons, told the British prime minister that she could not support Downing Street’s planned commitment to keep Northern Ireland aligned with EU laws.”
Hearing it was the DUP call that sunk today's chances of a deal – Foster held her press conf, 20 mins later May leaves talks with Juncker to call her, goes back into the room and the deal is off
The Guardian added: “In London, Tory Brexiters, including Iain Duncan Smith and Jacob Rees-Mogg, told the Brexit minister Steve Baker, and the prime minister’s chief of staff, Gavin Barwell, that they were also rallying behind the DUP’s stance.”
Here’s the bombshell:
Things have become a lot clearer:
In her infinite wisdom, Theresa May and her Brexit negotiators didn't think it was necessary to keep the DUP in the loop on details of Irish border agreement
This is why DUP issued emergency statement which destroyed EU deal.
This appears to be correct. The Guardian again: “The DUP’s fury had prompted by a leak early on Monday of a draft 15-page joint statement from the European commission and the UK which suggested Britain had bowed to the Republic of Ireland’s demands by accepting that ‘in the absence of agreed solutions the UK will ensure that there continues to be continued regulatory alignment’ with the internal market and customs union.”
The irony is that Mrs May had to ally with the DUP after losing her Parliamentary majority in a general election she called in order to solidify support for her version of – you guessed it – Brexit. To retain her role as prime minister, she made it impossible to achieve the stated aim of the election.
So Jeremy Corbyn was right on the button when he tweeted the following:
The reason for today’s failure in the Brexit talks is the grubby deal the Tories did with the DUP after the election. Each passing day provides further evidence that @Theresa_May’s Government is completely ill-equipped to negotiate a successful deal for our country.
So the £1bn deal with the DUP didn't include supporting a carefully crafted fudge over NI to allow PM to do her Brexit deal by the deadline https://t.co/WBNEYvaakT the phrase 'no surrender' comes to mind!
Has any UK Prime Minister ever been so humiliated in international negotiations as May was this afternoon? A complex done deal between EU and UK scuppered by a phone call to the leader of a tiny party in Northern Ireland.
The Independent has speculated that her failure to reach an agreement over the Irish border could bring Mrs May’s premiership to a crashing end (and not a moment too soon, in This Writer’s opinion):
“In history, some British Prime Ministers have had their premierships wrecked by the “Irish Question”. Others, in more recent times, have been destroyed by Europe. Theresa May is unique in managing to combine both famously intractable and insoluble issues into one lethal cocktail. And so, it seems she is about to swallow the poison.
“The Government is perfectly happy to concede ‘special status’ for Northern Ireland/Ireland in the Brexit talks – anathema to the Ulster Unionists. This is because the Government desperately needs to get onto the second phase of the process – the trade talks for the whole UK – and MPs, without being too crude about it, are happy to sign whatever the EU sticks under their nose and worry about the consequences later.
“In the end, they will risk their support from the DUP to get moving on Brexit. Jobs (Tory MPs’ included) are at stake. After all, ministers such as David Davis always say that “nothing’s agreed until everything’s agreed”, so having now ratted on the Democratic Unionists, they can, in due course, re-rat on the Irish and the EU, after a trade deal is sorted out.
“With a bit of luck, some creative ambiguity and some more bribes and false promises for the DUP, Theresa May might just pull it off. Perfidious Albion would have foxed the Unionists in the wider national (i.e. Tory) interest.
“For such an unlucky Prime Minister, it would be a bit of a turnaround – but, as in horse-racing and football, the form book does count for something; the litany of May’s calamities suggest she won’t, in fact, get away with it.
“The DUP could quite conceivably get so angry that they’d scrap their agreement with the Tory-minority Government and resolve to get rid of them. Then May would have to appeal to the Opposition parties, especially Labour, to rescue her in the Commons.
“Fat chance. If Corbyn wants, he could find any number of grounds for voting May out of office, but failure of Brexit is a pretty good one. He could then either cobble together a new Frankenstein coalition or, more realistically, follow the provisions of the Fixed Term Parliament Act to secure a fresh general election. With an eight-point poll lead over the Conservatives, wouldn’t you?
“Of course that would mean the DUP would let in the “Sinn Fein-loving Corbyn” (as they might see it), so they’d have a tough choice, but they might have sufficient fear about what their constituents in Ulster would do to them if they kept the treacherous Tories in power that they’d feel they have nothing to lose.
“In which case we’d have an election in, say, February.
“The incoming government would ask, if it was sensible, to put Brexit on pause while it changes policy, and the EU would happily oblige if there was a chance of reversing Brexit – via, say, a second referendum. Or Corbyn and Keir Starmer could just agree to stay in the single market and some version of the customs union. Arlene Foster might in fact be able to live with that.
“In which case, by spring, it would all be over for May, Boris, Gove and the old gang, and they could get on with their civil war in earnest.”
While we await that development, we’ve had this one. The Guardian, yet again: “The news was then seized upon by Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, who suggested that any promise for Northern Ireland could be replicated for Scotland. That call was followed by similar suggestions from the London mayor, Sadiq Khan.”
Apres nous, le deluge (“after us, the flood”, for those who don’t know their French, or the history of the French Revolution). Others leapt in to demand the same considerations, leading to the following (semi-)satirical comments:
The Coalition government has finally put its cards on the table, calling for the completion of a ‘free trade’ agreement with the United States of America that will end democracy as we know it today.
Do you think this statement is needlessly hyperbolic? In fact, it probably does not make the point strongly enough!
You will lose the ability to affect government policy – particularly on the National Health Service; after the Health and Social Care Act, the trade agreement would put every decision relating to its work on a commercial footing. The rights of transnational corporations would become the priority, health would become primarily a trade issue and your personal well-being would be of no consequence whatsoever.
Profit will rule.
Also threatened would be any other public service that has been privatised by this and previous governments, along with any that are privatised in the future; all would fall under the proposed agreement. So the debate over energy bills would be lost because gas and electricity provision would come under the agreement, along with water and the Royal Mail, among others.
Speaking today (Wednesday), Osborne announced: “We should set ourselves the urgent task of completing the transatlantic trade and investment partnership – the EU-US Free Trade agreement.
“This would be the world’s biggest ever trade deal – together our economies would account for half of global output.
“The Commission estimate it would boost the European economy by 120 billion euros a year – that’s over 500 euros for every family in the EU. It would bring £10 billion pounds a year to the UK alone.
“Some in the European Parliament talk about stalling this Trans-Atlantic Partnership to pursue other agendas.
“But when a quarter of young people looking for work in Europe are unemployed, this would be a complete betrayal.
“We need to create jobs, increase trade, support business growth – we’ve got the European tools to help with the job, let’s get on and use them.”
Did you notice that, for him, it’s all about the money? Yes – he mentions job creation. But these jobs would be provided under terms dictated by the hugely powerful global corporations. Their bosses would take the profits and ground-level employees would be treated like – well, like Orwell’s metaphor for the future: a giant boot, stamping on your face, forever.
You may have heard very little about this – and for a good reason. The architects of the planned agreement want the deal done before anybody realises what is going on and organises robust protest against it.
So let’s give you some of the facts:
The US/EU Trade and Investment partnership (TTIP), called Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) in the US, is a bilateral trade agreement between the US and the EU. It goes much further than any previous EU trade agreement in deregulating, in establishing the rights of transnational corporations and in undermining the ability of governments to control corporations.
It is set to completely change our society, and is already in process, as with the NHS.
‘Trade’ and ‘international trade agreements’ are different. While most people would consider trade to be good thing, international trade agreements give rights to transnational corporations while reducing states’ rights to regulate them, thus reducing democracy.
All free trade agreements include goods, services and intellectual property rights – but the additional elements of the TTIP that are the main part of the agreement are much more far-reaching. These are regulatory harmonisation, investor state dispute settlement and the intention to establish global rules via these trade agreements.
‘Regulatory harmonisation’ means ‘harmonising’ regulation between the EU and US, downwards to the most lax form, across all areas, to suit transnational corporations. This will mean the degrading of regulation on health and safety, food, environment, labour standards, privacy and much more, including financial services regulation. The NHS is now already ‘harmonised’ with the US corporate-access public health model – and this was always the Conservative Party’s plan.
TTIP will also include ‘Investor State Dispute Settlement’ (ISDS), allowing transnational corporations to sue governments directly for the loss of any future profits resulting from any government action, at any level, such as new legislation. Where ISDS is already included in ‘trade’ deals, it is shown to lead either to big payouts from governments to transnational corporations or to deter governments from legislating – the ‘chill’ effect.
In theory, this means that if a national government had banned a product – a toy, perhaps – on the grounds that it was harmful to health because it contained lead – for example – the manufacturer could then sue that government for infringement of the TTIP. The national government would lose, and our children would come down with lead poisoning.
In practice, we can see a classic example in the current lawsuit taken out by Philip Morris, the antipodean tobacco giant, against the Australian government over the law that enforces plain packaging on all tobacco products there. The law was enacted to discourage people from smoking – an act with proven health risks – but it seems likely that Philip Morris will win because Australia’s government has restricted its ability to make massive profits.
TTIP and the TPP are intended to set global ‘trade’ rules which will eventually become the norms for the multilateral World Trade Organisation, but formulated outside of a structure that allows other countries to jointly resist the corporate-dominated agenda.
As with all bilateral ‘trade’ agreements, TTIP negotiations and agreement texts are secret until the negotiations are completed – ensuring that the public cannot protest against them until it is too late.
Trade agreements are effectively permanent.
Although international ‘trade’ agreements are negotiated government-to-government (by the Trade Commission for EU member states), they are promoted and driven by transnational corporations, which benefit from states being bound by international trade law – these are the the same transnational financial service corporations that caused the global financial crisis.
As part of the TTIP, a framework for the ongoing ‘harmonisation’ of all future regulation is being put in place with the setting up of a Regulatory Co-operation Council. This non-elected Council will be able to override national and EU legislation.
‘Public procurement’ – government spending – is a major target in the international trade agenda.
The TTIP is being rushed through, with the aim of completion by the end of this year (2014).
TTIP will include provision for the movement of temporary workers across borders. This will inevitably mean cheap labour, and the undermining of working conditions and labour rights, especially in a context of degraded regulation. These are the jobs George Osborne wants for you!
The Trade Commission has set up a communications ‘spin’ unit to manage public opinion on the TTIP.
Once TTIP negotiations are completed, the European Parliament will only have the right to say yes or no, to the deal, with no amendment allowed. It will then, as with all EU ‘trade’ agreements, be provisionally implemented before it comes to member state parliaments for ratification.
In the US, the government is seeking ‘Fast Track’ provision or Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) from the Congress. If granted, US representatives will similarly only be allowed to pass the agreement or not, without amendment.
You may wish to examine the following documents for further evidence:
Sometimes events coincide to create a coherent pattern, apparently by accident.
So it seemed today, with publicity surrounding the legalised corporate theft of all our images on the Internet, the part-privatisation of the government unit that has been carrying out illegal psychometric experiments on jobseekers… and the publication of my letter to the local newspapers, deploring a previous missive from a Conservative politician who was determined to parrot disproved assertions from his superiors in London, rather than treat us like intelligent creatures and try to connect on an equal footing.
These so-called “orphan works” are placed into “extended collective licensing” schemes. Any user wishing to, say, put that silly photograph you uploaded to Facebook onto a T-shirt, only has to perform a “diligent search” for the owner which, when it comes up with a blank, will allow them to proceed with impunity. And they won’t have to pay you a single penny for the use of your work.
What can you do about it? Nothing, unless you can afford costly and cumbersome legal action – despite the fact that, previously, ownership of your creation has been automatic, enshrined in the Berne Convention and other international treaties where it is still considered to be a basic human right.
Would you like to know how the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills describes the changes? Like this: “For the first time orphan works will be licensed for use; these are copyrighted works for which the owner of the copyright is unknown or can’t be found.”
That makes it seem like a good thing; in fact, it’s quite the opposite – as you’ll soon find out.
Meanwhile, we see that the government’s Behavioural Insights Team – otherwise known as the Cabinet Office’s ‘Nudge Unit’ – is being part-privatised after causing immense embarrassment to the government when it was revealed that a psychometric test it had devised for the Department for Work and Pensions to use on jobseekers was not only fake but, in fact, illegal.
The team was established after the 2010 election to – according to the government – find ways of getting people to make better choices themselves, rather than through state intervention.
But the psych test foisted on jobseekers by Iain Duncan Smith’s Department for Work and Pensions was the exact opposite of this. Firstly, workless people have been forced to take the test or lose their benefits. Next, the results have been proven to be a sham – it seems you get the same set of personality results, no matter what answers you enter – so there is no possibility of personal choice. Finally, it turns out that the whole exercise is illegal according to both UK and EU law, as “informed consent” is required before anyone takes part in a test of this kind. This is because the test has been presented as research – a “randomised control trial” (see that use of the word ‘control’? Dodgy!) according to a Cabinet Office blog.
As fellow blogger Steve Walker stated in his Skwawkbox blog on the subject earlier today (which I have reblogged), “the test itself is not the point – what is being trialled here is the supposed effect of going through it on the subjects of the trials – the unemployed people being made to participate”.
Informed consent must be given before people take part in such trials, according to the law. A person cannot be pressganged into it; they must freely make a decision to take part – written, dated and signed – after being informed of its nature, significance, implications and risks.
There is also a data protection issue.
Apparently a competition is to be held to find a business partner for the Nudge Unit. It might be hard to envisage many reputable firms seeking to collaborate with an organisation that is known to have been acting illegally, but even worse is the possibility that this will be the first of many instances where parts of the publicly-owned, operating for the benefit of everybody in the country, civil service will be hived off into private, profit-making ownership by a government of privateers who can’t wait to get their hands on all that lovely moolah – that should belong to the people, not them.
Finally, the letter I wrote last week, in answer to one from the local Conservative Parliamentary candidate, was published today in the local newspaper. It responded, with evidence-based information, to a series of groundless assertions about the bedroom tax, the benefit cap and Employment and Support Allowance, that had clearly been handed down to him from Conservative Central Office. Particularly incendiary was the parroted claim that 900,000 people dropped their claim for ESA rather than take the work capability assessment. This had been disproved and ridiculed on the same day Grant Shapps originally came out with it!
It takes a special kind of contempt for your intelligence to repeat, as fact, a claim that we all know is false. The Coalition government seems to be trying to make a living out of it.
The attitude that we see, time and time again, is “oh, they’ll take what they’re given. As long as we put a nice spin on it, they won’t even notice what’s happening to them”.
What’s happening is, of course, that our freedoms are being stolen from us, and all we’re getting in return is meaningless soundbites.
There is an election tomorrow (as I write this). You can see that certain politicians, currently in office, have no respect whatsoever for you, your opinions or your freedoms. You can’t shift them out yet.
But you can – those of you who are voting tomorrow – send a message to them and, if you have any self-respect, you will.
I hope you get the representatives – and the respect – you deserve.
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