Tag Archives: respect

After Salzburg we thought it couldn’t get worse for Theresa May. It did

Theresa May: She looks like a horse, bridling at the EU’s rejection of her plan.

Faced with an absolute refusal of her useless ‘Chequers’ plan from the EU, Theresa May has doubled down on her own position – with a public statement that piles embarrassment upon humiliation.

She said this:

And this:

I don’t often swear on This Site but I am sure you will understand me when I say: What a bag of sh*t.

What was she trying to achieve with this broadcast? One look at the two Union Flags behind her and you’re thinking of nationalistic pride. Defiance, perhaps? “Britain stands alone”? The “Dunkirk spirit”?

But this is not defiance. This is petulance.

And it is stupidity:

Commentators from all sides have piled in to pour ridicule on Mrs May’s latest attempt to appear strong:

https://twitter.com/MattTurner4L/status/1043128686164279296

She did insult them; she said she would be a “bloody difficult woman” – right, Angela Rayner?

Right. Tom Pride has put her behaviour in a nutshell:

Is that respect? No.

Her demand that the EU propose a solution to Brexit’s insoluble problems is laughable.

So, what are we to conclude?

https://twitter.com/JJenkinsSJB/status/1043127960084066304

That seems clear.

Leaders and representatives of other political parties had their say, too:

It hasn’t all been condemnation, though. Look at the state of this Express headline:

The facts tell a different story, though:

This is true. Every time Mrs May opens her mouth, she makes the entire country poorer.

And Britons living in the EU remain in limbo. What will happen to them? Or don’t they count to Mrs May?

Add it all up and the effect of her little speech is not Churchillian but evokes lines from Shakespear instead:

“A tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

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If Labour MPs want to avoid censure, they need to show some respect

Rosie Duffield: She’s facing a motion of censure.

Cast your eyes over the following:

Owen Jones is right, of course.

If it isn’t Joan Ryan calling her own constituency party members “Trots, Stalinists, Communists and assorted hard left”, it’s Chuka Umunna calling Labour members and supporters “dogs” (whether he meant his word descriptively or metaphorically is immaterial as it is just as insulting either way) and saying the party is “institutionally racist”, or the “former MP” quoted in this Independent article (and above) suggesting that party members are suffering from mental ill-health.

Party members are furious that they are being treated in such a dismissive way by a small group of MPs who have arrived in Parliament in the belief that they give the orders and the rank-and-file do as they are told – an attitude that is too close to the “plebs” mentality – of a certain brand of Tory – for comfort.

These are the same MPs who have been carrying out almost ceaseless attacks on party leader Jeremy Corbyn since he was elected into the role in 2015 (with a short break after Labour’s huge gains in the 2017 general election), so it should come as no surprise that he is standing by his supporters.

He reminded a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party: “I know what it feels like to be the target of a no confidence vote” [it happened in 2016 – and many of those who heard his speech supported it] but it would be wrong for me to intervene in the democratic rights of any part of the Labour party.”

And he is right. The leader has no power to prevent a “no confidence” vote called by members of individual constituency Labour parties.

And there’s another one happening on Wednesday – against Rosie Duffield, who probably owes her victory in Canterbury, against the Tory who had held that city for the previous 30 years, to the Corbyn surge of 2017.

In return, it seems she has undermined her leader, attending a Parliament Square demonstration that accused her own party of “systemic” anti-Semitism, warning that Labour MPs could “go on strike” if Labour did not adopt the flawed IHRA definition of anti-Semitism with all its examples (as eventually happened last week, despite Labour’s code of conduct being far more fit-for-purpose), and supporting the Jewish Labour Movement that has framed at least one high-profile Labour member with anti-Semitism accusations.

Mr Corbyn told the PLP he could not intervene if constituency members wanted to air their differences. He said: “We will always have some differences of opinion and we must protect the right of criticism and debate.”

But he added: “Our first and overwhelming priority is to deliver for the people we represent and remove this Conservative government from office. We must focus on that priority and turn our fire outwards.”

He also made it clear that he wanted all local meetings to be held in an atmosphere of “respect” – perhaps a reference to Joan Ryan’s comment about “Trots, Stalinists, Communists and assorted hard left”.

One wonders whether the MPs who have been so disruptive, so far, will honour that appeal after Wednesday’s motion of censure.

Their record up to now suggests that they will not.

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Vile Tory ploy portrays McVey as a victim

Esther McVey: She was Theresa May’s second choice for the role of Work and Pensions Secretary – and now the Tories have launched a bogus campaign to distract us from her appalling record [Image: Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA].

What do Tories do when their (second) choice as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions is shown up as a liar and a law-breaker who positively revels in torturing the unemployed, the sick and the disabled?

They dig out an old recording of a Labour frontbencher talking about her, clip it so the words are taken out of context, and use it to accuse their opponents of abuse.

This is low, even for them.

And as inept as ever.

The person they chose to launch their ‘Respect’ offensive (and I use the word with several meanings) was Brandon Lewis, the new Tory Chairman and private landlord who is on record as having shown his own kind of respect for his tenants by voting down a Labour Bill to ensure that all rented properties are fit for human habitation. That shows which side his bread is buttered.

Politics Home explains:

New Tory chairman Brandon Lewis has called on the Labour party to crackdown on abuse in politics by pledging to suspend candidate who breach a new code of conduct.

Mr Lewis… challenged Jeremy Corbyn to tackle the ‘rot’ of violent language being used by senior political figures.

He announced a new ‘respect pledge’ which all Tory candidates will have to sign up to, binding them to “behave responsibly” throughout the election process, and urged Mr Corbyn to follow suit.

Mr Lewis also criticised John McDonnell for previous remarks in which he referred to Tory MP Esther McVey being lynched and called her a “stain on humanity.”

Mr Lewis said: “When we have got people at top of the party, of the Labour party, the Shadow Chancellor, using the kind of actions and language and behaviour they are and endorsing threats against other MPs, physical threats… He has not apologised for that he has simply condoned that.

When it was put to him that Mr McDonnell maintains that he was merely repeating comments made by others, he replied: “If you look at the recording that is what he actually said.”

It’s not good form to start your campaign for respect with a fat lie, but there you are. When you have friends in the media, you hope to get away with it, one supposes.

That seems to be the message from the BBC’s Sunday Politics programme, which ran a segment on the McDonnell claims, including the edited recording of Mr McDonnell’s comments about Ms McVey, from 2014:

Presenter Sarah Smith, discussing the issue with Barry Gardiner, admitted that Mr McDonnell had been quoting other people, but went as far as to say he did so “approvingly”. Mr Gardiner dragged the discussion back to the real political issue – Esther McVey’s suitability for her DWP job.

And after the Labour Party complained about the inaccuracy of the segment, Ms Smith had to eat humble pie:

Still, The Spectator seemed content to hop on the bandwagon, publishing its own perverse version of the story:

Why wouldn’t Labour complain about broadcasters referring to this three-year-old story out of context? It’s an unwarranted attempt to blacken a man’s name – as Ms Smith had to admit in her “clarification”.

The Tories are pressing on with their campaign:

But they’re only preaching to the converted; the only support they’ve received is from Tories.

The rest of us take a different view:

Apologies for the profanity in the tweet quoted above, but I wonder how many readers saw that and thought it was meant seriously, rather than ironically?

Susan, below, nails the Tory credibility problem:

Mention of racist, misogynistic, homophobic abuse instantly brings Toby Young to mind – and raises a pertinent question:

If you need reminding of his behaviour (it has been a few days since Mr Young resigned from the Office for Students), here’s Evolve Politics with a brief refresher:

So, yes – let’s see the Tories sign up Mr Young to their “Respect” pledge. Oh – but he’s not likely to be a Conservative Party electoral candidate, is he? So it won’t count for him. Or perhaps the Tories think their pledge should only apply to Labour candidates and members?

Yes, that seems more likely.

But Labour candidates and members are encouraged to be respectful, and avoid abuse, at every opportunity. Look:

Here are some of the tweets that resulted:

https://twitter.com/ClareClarke51/status/952983465066196994

They’re not friendly – and nobody would expect them to be. But they aren’t abusive either.

And right-wingers? Shall we see the kind of “Respect” they show – for example, in response to the Spectator tweet? Let’s see:

https://twitter.com/caroselambra777/status/952669807404617728

https://twitter.com/CreigiauBear/status/952940612134801408

And so on. Of course, the whole story is a matter of deflection – from Esther McVey’s unsuitability to be Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Debbie Abrahams, has written to Ms McVey, in accordance with Parliamentary protocol, with an offer to “work constructively”.

But she has made her opposition to Ms McVey’s appointment to the role an underlying theme, quoting many – if not all – the concerns that have been raised about her.

Here are the relevant parts of what Ms Abrahams had to say:

“As we know from numerous studies more and more people, in work and out of work, are living in poverty. More worrying still is that these numbers are expected to rise over the next few years. But instead of getting the support that they need, they are being driven to destitution as a result of the decimation of the social security safety net by your Government. On top of this the culture you and your predecessors have developed in your department has meant that instead of feeling supported and enabled, people feel demonised and even dehumanised. Your policies are hurting the people they should helpl most.

“The manner in which you quietly pushed back the retirement age for women born in the 1950s has detrimentally impacted on a generation who have worked hard, paid into the system, often for decades, only to be badly let down when they most needed it. So much for “tackling burning injustices”. Your predecessors’ unwillingness to even consider Labour’s cost-neutral or low cost proposals that would make an immediate difference to millions of older women’s lives is unfathomable.

“Sick and disabled people have faced savage cuts in support which at the very least have driven more and more into poverty and isolation, and, at worst, has led to many deaths of disabled people. The Equality and Human Rights Commission has estimated the average cumulative cuts for a disabled adult at £2,500 a year, and the UN Committee on the Convention of the Rights of Disabled People has said this Government’s treatment of disabled people amounts to a “human catastrophe”. Your Government’s failure to make any reduction of the Disability Employment Gap adds insult to injury.

“The incompetent roll-out of Universal Credit (UC) is having a devastating effect on these claimants, causing rent arrears, debt and even homelessness. The poverty that they and their children are facing in 2018, in the sixth richest country in the world, shames us all. I recognise the measures introduced at the Budget to address some of the many issues associated with Universal Credit, but as I said to your predecessor, these are not nearly enough. I set out Labour’s key asks on UC and I look forward to your response on these.

“Of course, as a previous DWP minister, you have personally seen through many of these ill-advised reforms. In fact, we have had exchanges at the Work and Pensions Select Committee on these matters on many occasions. I’d be grateful to know, given the impacts of these reforms, if you now have a different position?

  • You saw through a cut in support to more than 300,000 disabled people when Disability Living Allowance was replaced by Personal Independence Payments.
  • You refused to undertake a second full independent inquiry into the effect of the Government’s punitive sanctions policy.
  • You suggested that the bedroom tax was never about saving money.
  • You originally estimated the number of children to be lifted out of poverty be 350,000 but downgraded this in 2013 to 150,000. Now your Government has refused to publish figures on the impact of UC on poverty, although the Child Poverty Action Group has estimated that by 2022 the number of children living in poverty will increase by one million, directly as a result of cuts to UC.
  • You suggested rising foodbank use was not the fault of Conservative social security reforms although foodbanks across the UK have consistently maintained that the demand for emergency food is as a direct result of social security cuts, sanctions or delays; in UC areas demand is up by an average of 30 per cent.

“Do you still stand by what you said? Do you finally acknowledge the real hurt these so-called reforms have inflicted? Do you recognise that you need to go beyond the measures introduced in the Budget to fix UC and when will you be making a statement to the House on this? Will you guarantee, as your predecessor David Gauke did, that there will be no further cuts to the social security budget?

“Will you look again at the ‘rape clause’? It is fundamentally wrong to include a ‘rape clause’ in our social security system. This, and the wider impact of the two-child policy on the poorest busts the myth of your Government’s support for families.

“I share my colleague Jon Trickett’s concerns, outlined in his letter to the Prime Minister, about your record as a director of J G McVey & Co regarding Health and Safety breaches. Given that Health and Safety at work are DWP responsibilities, how is your role compatible with your record as a director of this company?

“The DWP has a huge impact on millions of lives. It needs compassionate leadership. At a time when your local Mid Cheshire foodbank has seen a 30 per cent increase on food parcels in the previous year you must now fix the botched roll-out of Universal Credit. You much rethink the inhumane cuts that disabled people are facing and provide the dignity and security in retirement that our older people deserve.

“We need a fairer social security system which works for the many, not the few, which provides hope and restores trust between citizens and Government. I am willing to work constructively with you in the best interests of the country. However continuing down the current road will only cause more misery.”

These are the issues – and Brandon Lewis wants his “Respect” campaign to distract you from them.

How would you describe that?

I would call it: Disrespectful.


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A few words about respect

141224respect

Blogger kittysjones put out a very interesting article yesterday (Tuesday) entitled Greens: the myth of the “new left” debunked in which the position claimed by the Green Party – that of being the ‘true party of the Left’ – is disputed. The article states:

“The Green Party do not have an underpinning ideology that can be described as left-wing at all. Some of the links with far-right and fascist ideology are very worrying.The fact that the Greens have themselves chosen to regard the Labour Party as their enemy means that they don’t see a potential ally, yet they manage very well in coalition councils, working amicably side-by-side and cooperatively with Tory and Liberal Democrats.

“Don’t let them fail the people of Britain by voting Green next year and allowing the Tories to remain in government another five years. People are suffering and dying as a consequence of Tory austerity; we need to ensure that ends. Vote Labour. That is the genuinely socialist thing to do.”

What is even more interesting than the article (which provides evidence to support its claims) is the reaction to it by some supporters of the party it criticises.

Here’s one: “You really must be running scared to write what you know to be utter rubbish. Thank you for invoking Godwin’s law because it just makes Liebour look all the more desperate and ridiculous.” The author of this comment was unwilling to put their own name to it, being described merely as ‘A Green Nazi’ – interestingly, because Godwin’s Law is, of course, the application of an inappropriate comparison with the Nazis.

The article does indeed compare Green ideology with that of the Nazis, but it does so on the basis of clearly-referenced evidence; therefore it would be wrong to suggest that the comparison is inappropriate. On the other hand, the commenter’s inability or unwillingness to provide any evidential argument against the assertions, relying on disparagement (“utter rubbish”) and insults (“Liebour”) suggest that in fact they are “running scared”, “desperate” and “ridiculous”.

The author’s response was one to which Yr Obdt Srvt has had to resort many times: “If it’s ‘utter rubbish’ then why don’t you explain how, in what way you disagree, rather than being a fascist and proving my point, by simply stooping to insulting the author?” This reply generally provokes one of only two possible responses: Silence, or invective.

Another comment (this one by ‘Nuggy’ – again, not likely to be their real name) attempted to twist the article into a gross generalisation: “Equating all greens with Malthus is like equating all socialists with Pol Pot or Kim Il Sung.”

It was easily put down by a reference to accuracy: “I equated the cited green policies with the ideas of Malthus.” [italics mine]

There was an (unintentially?) hilarious suggestion that the article was libellous; it isn’t, as anyone with knowledge of the laws of defamation will confirm.

And then there were the insults, first mentioned in a reply to Tim Barnden (at last, someone with a real name!) who asked: “Why are you moderating out most replies Ms Jones? Are you in fact not up for a debate?”

This was a continuing theme on the comment column, and the replies indicate the kind of pressure that was being brought to bear by people claiming to represent the Green Party: “I’m up for debate, just not up for allowing personal abuse and bullying on my site… I have had hundreds of comments from largely abusive green supporters… I am getting some pretty terrible personal abuse from Green supporters. But not much criticism of the content and details in the article, unfortunately.”

The Green Party isn’t the only political organisation whose supporters behave in this way.

Vox Political has received exactly the same responses (in different contexts, obviously) from supporters of the Conservative Party (although admittedly this has tailed off considerably since VP was launched in 2011), Scottish nationalism (including the SNP), and most particularly UKIP.

Many, many examples are available if anyone wants to question the truth of this claim.

It’s simply not good enough.

Perhaps those of you who consider this behaviour to be acceptable (it isn’t) may be persuaded against it if sites like VP and kittysjones parcelled up all your abuse and sent it to the head offices of these political parties as examples of how their supporters represent them?

You see, there are rules to this kind of debate and it seems too many people are breaking them. That’s just damned disrespectful and there’s no reason anyone should put up with it.

So, if you are one of those who types out streams of profanity and hits the ‘send’ button before engaging your brain, it’s time to change your ways.

This site values informed debate. We appreciate it; sometimes it can even be persuasive (in VP‘s case this has occurred several times).

But from now on, anything else will receive an appropriate response.

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Do you agree with VP that the government has earned our disrespect?

Keith Lindsay-Cameron writes the popular ‘A Letter A Day To Number 10’ and is a friend of Vox Political. His latest missive to David Cameron takes a similar attitude to that adopted by VP yesterday, regarding the respect we should accord to a prime minister – and a government – like David Cameron’s:

141029KL-C29_october_2014

Dear Mr Cameron,

No party has ever brought politics into such disrepute as yours, the disrespect you heap on the nation on a daily basis is outrageous!

Such statements as – “people who are poorer should be prepared to take the biggest risks” as they have “the least to lose” – David Freud.

Iain Duncan Smith – “But essentially Universal Credit as a benefit will be the benefit by 2016 and the remains of the vast, vast majority of the stock will be in place pretty much by the end of 2017.”

Iain Duncan Smith, mocking reporters over his avoiding the bedroom tax debate – “I can’t hear you, I can’t hear you!”

David Scott, a Tory councillor from Tunbridge Wells – “The other area I’m really concerned about is obviously the disabled. I have a number of mentally damaged individuals, who to be quite frank aren’t worth the minimum wage.”

David Freud – “Now, there is a small… there is a group, and I know exactly who you mean, where actually as you say they’re not worth the full wage and actually I’m going to go and think about that particular issue, whether there is something we can do nationally, and without distorting the whole thing, which actually if someone wants to work for £2 an hour.”

Alan Mellins, a Conservative councillor from Maidenhead, on Travellers – “Execute them.”

Then there are the routine lies and falsified figures, election promise lies, welfare lies, economic lies, NHS lies, really, you name it and it’s doubtless been lied about.

Last week in Parliament Square should be held up and remembered as a beacon of what your party is all about, the oppression of the people.

Respect is earned, Mr Cameron, and by heaven the people of this country are due some respect, but you are not. You have earned all the disrespect that can be heaped upon you as a silly, ignorant, rich boy playing at politics, serving vested interests, robbing the nation and worthy of our greatest disrespect!

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/nov/23/lord-freud-welfare-poor-risk

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/universal-credit-iain-duncan-smith-2894737

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/bedroom-tax-fury-running-scared-2786058

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/oct/15/welfare-reform-minister-disabled-not-worth-minimum-wage

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/andy-mcsmiths-diary-exterminating-travellers–not-a-laughing-matter-9811864.html

http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2013/11/pre-election-pledges-tories-are-trying-wipe-internet

http://socialinvestigations.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/nhs-privatisation-compilation-of.html

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National interest? Cameron governs in his own – and that of the rich

znationalinterest

We were discussing David Cameron and the respect due to him for his record in government.

You may recall that the phrase used most often when the Coalition was formed (publicly, at least) in May 2010 was “in the national interest“.

This week, his government’s work has included extending the amount of time new claimants will have to wait for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) from three days to seven days. This will be music to the ears of payday lender companies like Conservative Party donor Wonga.com, whose shareholder Adrian Beecroft has given more than £500,000 to the Tories since 2006.

The Coalition also awarded a contract treating NHS patients with brain tumours to the private healthcare company Hospital Corporation of America, a firm that has been accused by the Competition Commission of overcharging for its services by up to £193 million between 2009 and 2011 – but that has also donated at leave £17,000 to the Conservative Party since it came into office.

According to the National Health Action Party, £10 billion worth of NHS contracts have been awarded to private firms since the Health and Social Care Act was passed in 2012. How many of these have donated money to the Conservative Party, and in what quantities?

Meanwhile, a record five million working people are now in low-paid jobs, according to the Resolution Foundation. That’s around one-sixth of the total workforce. This is a direct result of government policies that threaten people on benefits with the loss of their financial support if they do not take any job available to them – at whatever rate of pay is being offered. The insecurity this creates means firms are free to offer the bare minimum, and keep workers on that rate for years at a time, and pocket the profits for themselves – after donating money to the Conservative Party for making it all possible.

There has been no benefit to the national economy from any of these actions; the deficit that Cameron said he would eliminate is currently at £100.7 billion per year and the national debt is almost twice as high as when he first darkened the doors of Number 10. This is because any improvement in the national finances would interfere with his real plan, which is to dismantle all public services (except possibly national security and the judiciary – albeit a court system available only to the rich) and hand the provision of those services to the private sector in return for fat backhanders from the companies involved.

The evidence is beyond question. David Cameron said he would govern in the national interest but has used his time as prime minister to further enrich his already-wealthy business donors, and consequently his own political party, through the impoverishment of working people and those who rely on the State for support.

What sort of respect is due to a man like that?

By custom, here in the UK, the prime minister is given a degree of respect due to his or her position as the head of the government – but respect must be earned and we judge our politicians on their actions.

Cameron has earned nothing from the British people other than our disgust. He is a liar, at the head of a government whose mendaciousness seemingly knows no bounds. And he is a thief; every benefit claimant who has had their payments sanctioned or their claim denied had paid into the system – via direct or indirect taxation – and had a right to expect the support they had funded.

He should be in prison.

Unfortunately, we (the people) do not currently have the wherewithal to put him there. We have to register our opinion in other ways.

This means he gets no respect at all. He is not the prime minister – he is the Downing Street squatter. There is no need to make way for him when he passes – Dean Balboa Farley was right to run into him. There is no need to pay attention to the things he says – if you get a chance to talk to him, just talk over him as though he wasn’t there. He is a pariah; he should be shunned at every opportunity.

He has disrespected and dishonoured the highest public office in the land. He deserves no better.

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Tories unleash flagship scheme ahead of conference – to abolish your rights!

Slavery in the UK: This image was part of a campaign against it - but the Conservative Party wants to extend it to include you.

Slavery in the UK: This image was part of a campaign against it – but the Conservative Party wants to extend it to include you.

One has to marvel at the twisted logic of modern Conservatives; right before their last party conference in the run-up to the general election, they can normally be expected to be trying to bribe us all with tax cuts and benefits (maybe they will come later).

Instead they are promising to remove the safety net that keeps us free of exploitation by – what a surprise! – the Conservatives and their friends.

It’s not a new plan – Vox Political reported on the policy back in March last year, when Theresa May announced that they would scrap the Human Rights Act and withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights if they win the 2015 general election. They aren’t saying anything different now.

Back then, she claimed it would be “in the national interest”, and now Injustice Secretary Chris Grayling is saying more or less the same thing, dressing it up as an attempt to return power to the UK.

He told the Daily Telegraph: “Decisions like ‘do prisoners get the vote?’ or ‘can you send brutal murderers to prison for their whole lives?’ seem to be outside our control. I want our supreme court to be supreme. Decisions that affect this country should be taken in this country.”

He did not mention all the other rights you are likely to lose if the Conservatives are allowed to get away with this.

The European Convention on Human Rights was co-drafted by the UK – in fact by the Conservatives’ greatest Prime Minister, Winston Churchill – just after World War II. It states that nation states’ primary duty is to “refrain from unlawful killing”, to “investigate suspicious deaths” and to “prevent foreseeable loss of life”.

VP commented in March 2013 that “the Coalition government has been reneging on this obligation – wholesale – since it came into power”. Look at the Department for Work and Pensions’ work capability assessment for Employment and Support Allowance, and the thousands – possibly tens of thousands – of deaths related to it.

Article 4 of the Convention prohibits slavery, servitude and forced labour, so removing it would give the Tories free hand to impose their Mandatory Work Activity or Workfare schemes on us – despite the fact that these schemes are worse than useless at getting people into employment. The real reason for them is that they are a money-making scam to ensure the businesses involved support the Conservative Party.

Article 6 provides a detailed right to a fair trial, which is something Mr Grayling has been working hard to take away from you for a considerable period of time. It’s where you get the right to a public hearing before an independent and impartial tribunal within a reasonable time (the Coalition’s secret courts have removed this right already), and where the presumption of innocence until proven guilty is enshrined.

Article 8 provides a right to respect for another person’s “private and family life… home and… correspondence”. This has been violated, of course, by the Tory-led Coalition’s recent Surveillance Act.

Article 10 provides a right to freedom of expression, so removing it would allow the Tories to censor the Internet and remove blogs such as Vox Political, leaving only their own propaganda.

Article 11 protects the right to freedom of assembly and association, including the right to form trade unions. Obviously the Tories would love to ban the unions, but removing this would allow them the ability to ban anti-government demonstrations and it is probably why Boris Johnson bought his water cannons.

The Human Rights Act 1998 (brought in by the Labour Party) is the UK legislation that makes the European Convention binding on this country, meaning that breaches of it may be remedied in British courts, rather than the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. It is only appeals against the decisions of the British courts that go to Europe.

Grayling doesn’t like the idea of impartial foreigners ruling on whether his government’s politically-motivated human rights violations are legal.

That’s why he said; “I want our supreme court to be supreme. Decisions that affect this country should be taken in this country.” He wants absolute power over you.

Dominic Grieve, the former Attorney-General who got the sack during the summer, described the Tory attack on human rights as “incoherent”. It is widely believed to be one of the reasons he got the push.

The Tories are also determined to tie this policy in with anti-European Union rhetoric, even though the ECHR is nothing to do with the EU.

The Guardian‘s story on Grayling’s announcement includes a coda in which Savid Javid, our Sontaran* culture secretary, tried to reassure people that Britain could still prosper if it leaves the EU, despite the possible loss of hundreds of billions of pounds worth of trade deals (as reported in this blog previously).

But that’s another fact they’d rather you did not know. Misdirection is the only way forward for modern Conservatives.

Remember “There will be no top-down reorganisation of the NHS”?

*It’s a Doctor Who reference. Look up pictures of Javid and a Sontaran and you’ll spot the resemblance.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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DWP despotism – you DO have a right to compensation

Honest appraisal: The national opinion of DWP service is reflected in this comment, delivered direct to Iain Duncan Smith by 'pigeon post'.

Honest appraisal: The national opinion of DWP service is reflected in this comment, delivered direct to Iain Duncan Smith by ‘pigeon post’. (Picture: Kevin Marman)

How many times have we all heard of someone being sanctioned by the Job Centre for failing to turn up at an interview, when they were never even notified that it was taking place?

How many stories have we heard of benefit claims being delayed, causing needless hardship to people who had no other means of support by putting them into debt and under threat of eviction?

How many people have died because the pressure they suffered as a result of mistaken decisions to cut off their benefit, made by DWP officials?

I think we all know the answer to that: MANY.

But the overriding feeling seems to be that there’s nothing to be done about it and the Department for Work and Pensions is a law unto itself.

As it happens, this is not true.

The new ‘Claimant Commitment’, announced by the Department recently, places more stringent requirements on jobseekers, that must be met before they can claim their meagre pittance. The announcement made no mention of any reciprocal commitments on the part of the administrators – but they do exist, and they cover every service the DWP is supposed to provide.

Officials offered up the following after Vox Political submitted a Freedom of Information request:

“In general terms, there is one overriding responsibility: to ensure that the claim is received into an environment where a decision can be made which will be correct from the outset… Parliament and Ministers set the policy; the officers and employees create the administrative processes all claims must go through; decision makers bring the process to a close. Ministerial responsibilities are listed on the Department’s page on the gov.uk website: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-workpensions.

“At individual level, these responsibilities are translated into objectives and personal performance is measured against their effective delivery. There are a range of consequences for individuals failing to deliver, from informal performance improvement plans to dismissal. You then have reputational damage. Whether it is benefit specific or across-the-board under performance, be it perceived or real, this will be picked up by the press and Parliament, with Ministers and senior officials having to defend and explain themselves.

“Ultimately there will be a cost to all this because of the re-work involved in correcting decisions; in overpaying claimants because of official error; in retraining decision makers; in improving processes. That is not good for the department or the country.”

That last sentence is absolutely true. One has to wonder if the offical writing those words was aware that DWP decisions that, for example, cost the country £66 million in a single year in Employment and Support Allowance appeals, have sullied the Department’s reputation to a point where it may never recover.

The letter then points to a document detailing the ways in which people may be recompensed for loss of income as a result of such failure by the DWP, its ministers, officers and employees. It’s at http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/financial-redress-for-maladministration.pdf

This document is 17 pages in length, but you don’t get to the good stuff until page five. This starts by saying: “The Department and its operational businesses aim to provide its customers with a service which is easy to access; treats them well; delivers on time and provides them with the right results.”

Does anybody reading this believe any part of that statement accurately describes the DWP’s service? Is it easy to access, or is the preferred method – telephone – run by a private company that puts claimants on hold for long periods of time unnecessarily, racking up their telephone bill in the knowledge that they have little spare cash to spend on the call, and this will put them out-of-pocket?

Does it treat them well, or do Job Centre staff abuse people terribly – like, for example, the ‘advisor’ who told a woman she had to attend an interview in a town many miles from her home, to take place two days after she had undergone surgery on her leg that meant she could not walk, and refused to reschedule it to accommodate her health?

Or what about the claimant who was told he had failed to attend an appointment and must reclaim his benefit? He had never received notification of any appointment, either by mail or telephone, and therefore had no idea what the ‘advisor’ was banging on about.

Does it deliver on time? I can answer that with Mrs Mike’s experience of her appeal against the Department’s decision to put her in the work-related activity group for ESA. The appeal was submitted in March, after she had received expert advice telling her she had been put in the wrong group. A decision was made, wrongly supposing that she was claiming a deterioration in her condition and that a second work capability assessment was required. She was never notified of the decision and no appointment was ever made for the WCA; in the meantime, the benefit – which only lasts 12 months – expired. She was not contacted to prepare her for this, nor was she told what she could do about it.

This example also answers the final question that arises – does it provide the right results? No, it doesn’t. The decision maker was wrong to say she was claiming deterioration since her original assessment. She was saying the assessment had resulted in the wrong decision at the time it was made. Another assessment can only ascertain her condition on the day it takes place and will be useless in determining her appeal. The correct decision was for the matter to go to a tribunal, and it is likely that, had this happened (and this depends on the DWP telling her when it was happening), the matter might have been resolved, long before the money dried up.

All of these examples serve to support the next part of ‘Financial Redress for Maladministration’: “Unfortunately, we don’t always get things right first time. The term “maladministration” is not defined, but is sometimes used to describe when our actions or inactions result in a customer experiencing a service which does not match our aims or the commitments we have given. It applies to situations in which we have not acted properly or provided a poor service. For example: wrong advice, discourtesy, mistakes and delays.”

Wrong advice, discourtesy, mistakes and delays.

Have you fallen foul of a DWP sanction? Was it due to any of these four reasons? If so, then you could be entitled to compensation. The Department describes this as redress, which usually comes in four forms: a “sincere and meaningful apology”, which is nice but doesn’t pay the rent; an explanation of what happened and/or went wrong – ditto; putting things right, “for example a change of procedure/revising published material”, which will help others in the future but does not solve any financial problems suffered by the claimant; and a special payment, known as financial redress.

You can make them pay.

Here’s where it gets tricky, though – there is no statutory framework for making such payments; they are discretionary, a matter of judgement – and the judgement is made by a DWP decision maker.

The difficulty with this should be clear to everyone – if they can’t make a correct decision on a simple benefit claim, they certainly shouldn’t be trusted to administer compensation payments for their own wrong decisions!

Still, there are guiding principles that can help with a case. The very first of these states that “Individuals should not be disadvantaged as a result of maladministration” – so, if you have lost benefit and this has put you into dire straits financially, you have a strong case.

“The purpose of the Special Payment Scheme is, wherever possible, to return the individual to the position they would have been in but for the maladministration”, the document says. In other words, anyone wrongly sanctioned should be able to get back all the benefits they have not been paid, plus any payment to cover, say, overdraft fees incurred as a result of the wrong decision.

It’s a really interesting document. I strongly advise you to look it up.

And, if you have suffered at the hands of these people, I strongly advise you to make a claim.

That goes for relatives of claimants who have died after adverse benefit decisions by the DWP. In fact – especially for them. If their relatives are unaware of this, tell them about it.

The only measure this government and its ministers understand is money.

Make them pay.

*If you have found this article useful, you may wish to consider picking up the book, Vox Political: Strong Words and Hard Times. The site is not professional and receipts from the book are its only means of support. Its 350 pages contain a great deal of information that should be just as useful as this article, and it may be bought here, here, here, here and here – depending on the format in which you wish to receive it.

Our upstart politicians have an important lesson to learn: Respect.

vote

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.

We’ll start with the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013, which received Royal Assent last week. Under this act, any image that does not contain information identifying the owner (or has had that information stripped away) will become available for exploitation by commercial organisations.

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.