Tag Archives: response

MPs launch inquiry into Tory government handling of Covid-19 crisis

On the same day families of those who died (needlessly?) of Covid-19 told Boris Johnson he could not hide from them, MPs said they were starting to take evidence in their own Coronavirus inquiry.

I would be leaping to sing their praises, but – unlike the Graun – I’m not convinced an inquiry by MPs is entirely independent, and I’ll be keen to find out if anybody offering evidence is turned away.

Johnson is under pressure to order an independent inquiry after 153,000 people signed an online petition.

Obviously these are people with reason to believe the Tory response fell short of the mark (as we all should, in This Writer’s opinion).

Organisers’ complaints can be read in this Metro article, and I would certainly hope that some of them will be asked to submit evidence to the new All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Coronavirus.

Families of those who have died will be able to give submissions in writing, via video call, or in person – if they are invited.

It isn’t a judge-led inquiry and its findings won’t have the weight of one; it’s clear from the comments in the Guardian article that some of the APPG members have already made up their minds.

But it’s a start.

Frontline workers and relatives of people who have died are invited to visit the March for Change website where they may make submissions via a dedicated portal, anonymously if they wish.

Professionals and trade bodies can submit evidence via email.

I reckon it’s worth a shot.

Source: Cross-party group of MPs to lead first UK coronavirus inquiry | Politics | The Guardian

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Priti vacant: Patel does a runner from her responsibilities in coronavirus crisis

Doing a runner: Priti Patel is dodging her job again.

The Home Secretary is nowhere to be found, in the middle of a contagion crisis that requires a strong response from the minister for law and order.

The last anyone has heard of Priti Patel is that she has refused to appear before the Commons Home Affairs committee to brief MPs on her ministry’s response to the coronavirus outbreak – no less than four times.

According to the BBC, it seems she has an “acrimonious” relationship with the committee’s chairperson, Labour’s Yvette Cooper.

This should be no surprise. After her Permanent Secretary – the top civil servant in the Home Office – quit saying he would be taking legal action against her for constructive dismissal, it seems hard to believe she can have a harmonious relationship with anyone. Well, anyone normal.

The previous time we heard of her, she had tried to claim credit for giving police “extra powers” for the duration of the lockdown – only to be corrected immediately; the powers existed under a 1980s health-related Act of Parliament and were triggered by Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary.

So she’s flunking another top job. Some may find this unsurprising after her misbehaviour as International Development Secretary, when she tried to run her own foreign policy, holding meetings with Israeli leaders while supposedly on holiday – and was told to resign the instant she arrived home.

And isn’t it ironic that one of the authors of the infamous Britannia Unchained, a book in which she stated that workers in the UK were among the “worst idlers in the world”, can’t seem to do a decent day’s work herself.

Still, she’s living up to this song…

Source: Coronavirus: Patel turns down committee appearance four times – BBC News

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The Tories axed their defence against coronavirus years before it arrived. Deaths were inevitable


Not only has Boris Johnson’s response to coronavirus sparked ridicule around the world, but he is also being pilloried for failing to do anything to prepare for it.

It seems to validate criticisms that he was hoping the pandemic would simply kill off all the so-called “useless eaters” – people on benefits with illnesses or disabilities that make them vulnerable to Covid-19 – meaning that his government wouldn’t have to support them any more.

According to the Huffington Post, the Cabinet Office has been producing a National Risk Register of Civil Emergencies – a list of possible disasters that may face the UK – along with plans to deal with them.

Every such document – every single one – has listed pandemic flu as the most probable and devastating threat to the UK.

The government knew it was coming – but the strategy to deal with it was written in 2011 and is therefore many years out-of-date.

Also out of date is the government’s UK Pandemic Influenza Communications Strategy, the crucial document for getting the right messages across to the public. It was written in 2012 and is wildly inaccurate in its assumptions about how and where people now get their information.

It gets worse.  The guide to dealing with the fatalities of the pandemic, complete with supposed key named contacts, was last published in 2008.

And the dedicated government Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Team based in the Department of Health, and tasked with tackling this type of crisis, vanished around 2011.

That’s right – the Tories got rid of the organisation that would have had the expertise to deal with coronavirus, way back in the first round of austerity-driven cuts.

How short-sighted can these daft toffs be?

The Tories deliberately divested themselves of the latest evidence, policy or science.

HuffPost says this means “the government has had to either make policy up as it has gone along or is having to beg, borrow and steal from other countries who have been better prepared”.

It means that lives have almost certainly been lost unnecessarily.

And the rest of the world is well aware that Boris Johnson has been a bigger danger to the British public than the disease itself, as The Guardian has reported.

Greek newspaper Ethnos described him as “more dangerous than coronavirus”. It said: “Boris Johnson had gone out publicly and essentially asked Britons … to accept death.”

“Boris Johnson is gambling with the health of his citizens,” said the Irish Times.

The HuffPost‘s claim that Johnson had been trying to catch up because his party had rid itself of all its own useful guidance is borne out by The Guardian‘s sources:

Politicians, scientists and commentators greeted the prime minister’s U-turn on Monday night, when he ordered a UK-wide lockdown, as a belated but welcome decision to join the rest of Europe, and much of the world, in a necessary strategy.

The mystery is why it took so long.

After the prime minister’s sudden reversal, one official in Dublin expressed relief. “The Brits were doing their own thing and it looked like we were going to have to live with it. They got there in the end.”

It was a variation of an observation attributed to Winston Churchill about America doing the right thing after exhausting all other options.

Last week the prime minister made an initial concession to physical distancing – a key tactic to slow contagion – by asking people to avoid pubs. But he did not close them and many people, including his own father, Stanley, cheerily said they still planned to go out for a drink. Nevertheless, Johnson expressed confidence such limited measures were working and could “turn the tide” within 12 weeks.

Many outsiders were aghast. The pandemic was out of control in Italy and Spain, killing thousands, and surging across the globe, prompting a scramble to emulate Chinese-style lockdowns.

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, reportedly threatened to close France’s border with Britain last Friday if it did not intensify measures.

Others worried about the fate of friends and relatives in Britain. Giorgio Gori, the mayor of Bergamo, the city hardest hit by Italy’s coronavirus outbreak, flew his two daughters out of the UK, deeming them safer at home.

Let that sink in.

Italy is the country hardest-hit by coronavirus, and the mayor of the Italian city that was hardest-hit flew his own children back there, because he thought they would be safer there than in the UK.

Looking at all the evidence, doesn’t he have a point?

Source: The Government Knew A Pandemic Was Coming But They Didn’t Do Anything To Prepare | HuffPost UK

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Flooding and coronavirus crises reveal Johnson’s ‘Jekyll and Hide’ behaviour

Johnson: the coronavirus is his top priority because it has caused a fall in the stock markets. Ask what he’ll do about the flooding that has damaged uncounted homes and he runs away and hides.

Boris Johnson seems to have a split personality when dealing with the major crises facing the UK at the moment.

But be assured I haven’t made a spelling mistake in the headline: while his attitude to the coronavirus may not qualify him to be a doctor – Jekyll or any other, his flight from responsibility over the floods certainly allows us to dub him Mr Hide.

And his attitude tells us everything you need to know about his priorities.

When the floods hit the homes of thousands of ordinary people across the UK, causing damage costing who-knows-how-much money, he never lifted a finger to help. Because your plight doesn’t count and you don’t matter.

But when the coronavirus triggered the worst week on the stock market since the financial crisis of 2007/8, suddenly he crops up, trumpeting that it is “the government’s top priority”. Because his financier friends’ fortunes are under threat. They matter more than you.

Do you think that’s any reasonable way for a prime minister to behave?

If you agree with me that it isn’t, you can at least take comfort for the fact that Johnson’s first official meeting about the coronavirus won’t take place until Monday. Because he’s still an incompetent halfwit.

Source: Boris Johnson calls emergency coronavirus meeting – for three days time | The Independent

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Please help fund this documentary in response to the BBC’s biased ‘Panorama’ show


Writers from a range of independent media outlets have joined forces to produce a documentary in response to a BBC Panorama programme in which interviewees alleged that The Labour Party is institutionally antisemitic.

They have been conducting research for the last two months and believe the accusation to be totally unfounded – as does This Writer. I produced a series of articles disputing the claims of the documentary and have submitted a complaint to the BBC (which has yet to respond).

But they need funds to get their rebuttal in the can. The money will be used to buy equipment and cover travelling expenses, so film-makers can interview those who have come forward, including former BBC staff and Jewish Labour members who have a very different account from those shown on the Panorama programme.

Interested? Visit IMP Documentary – A response to Panorama. – a Film and Theatre crowdfunding project in Manchester by The Prole Star to find out more.

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Are they joking? UN poverty expert thought Tory response to his report was a ‘spoof’

Philip Alston: He came to his conclusions by listening to people affected by Conservative policies on the poor, sick and disabled. Tories implemented those policies by ignoring the very same people – and now they are complaining because Mr Alston hasn’t done the same.

At a time when we are all taking a long, hard look at the Conservative government of the last few years, this is damning.

Philip Alston, the New York-based human rights lawyer and United Nations rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, has responded with disbelief after the Tories responded to his report on poverty in the UK.

“I thought it might actually be a spoof,” he said after ministers claimed that his report was “a completely inaccurate picture of our approach to tackling poverty” and that the UK was among the happiest countries in the world.

“The statement is as troubling as the situation,” he said. “There is nothing that indicates any willingness to debate over issues which have generated endless very detailed, totally reputable reports across the political spectrum in the UK. All of these are dismissed.”

Alston’s report compared Conservative policies to the creation of Victorian workhouses. Amber Rudd, the work and pensions secretary, said she felt it was politically biased and alleged that Alston did not do enough research, only visiting the UK for 11 days.

Alston retorted that the government response amounted to “a total denial of a set of uncontested facts”.

Particularly contentious was Mr Alston’s claim that the Department for Work and Pensions had created “a digital and sanitised version of the 19th-century workhouse”.

Tory apologists rushed to rubbish the claim, like historian Dominic Sandbrook, who wrote in the Daily Mail that it was “simply ridiculous” and “an insult to our national intelligence”.

“I think breaking rocks has some similarity to the 35 hours of job search [required per week to receive universal credit] for people who have been out of work for months or years,” Mr Alston responded. “They have to go through the motions but it is completely useless. That seems to me to be very similar to the approach in the old-style workhouse. The underlying mentality is that we are going to make the place sufficiently unpleasant that you really won’t want to be here.

“Is it the case that 14 million people do not live in poverty? Do they contest the child poverty predictions? That is what it seems to be.”

It seems clear that this man will not be backing down.

As long-term readers of This Site will appreciate, that is a stance with which I can sympathise.

And it really is the only position to take with a government of bullies like the Tories, who deliberately (it seems) ignore the facts in order to continue pursuing malevolent policies of hate towards the poor and vulnerable.

Sadly, as I mentioned previously, the UK government may merrily ignore the findings of the United Nations report, without suffering any adverse backlash.

We know the Tories are wrong because we can see the evidence all around us. We know they are driving the entire country to ruin.

But they refuse to see it. Their attitude is symbolic of the pig-ignorance that came into office with David Cameron, back in 2010.

Source: UN poverty expert hits back over UK ministers’ ‘denial of facts’ | Society | The Guardian

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DWP response to Jodey Whiting petition is a ‘joke’ according to her mother

Jodey Whiting, 42, took her own life after her benefits were stopped [Image: Evening Gazette].

Remember when I said I wasn’t the best person to provide a commentary on the DWP’s response to the ‘Justice for Jodey Whiting’ petition?

Disability News Service has found someone much better: Her mother.

The petition demands an independent inquiry into deaths linked to the DWP, after the department ignored its own safeguarding policies no less than five times in the weeks leading up to her suicide in February 2017.

I poured scorn on the DWP’s response to the petition – which had earned more than 27,000 signatures at the time.

According to DNS, Joy Dove – Ms Whiting’s mother – said the DWP response to the petition was “a joke”, and that her message to DWP was: “You have put everything in your response to the petition that you did not do to safeguard Jodey.

“You killed my daughter by not safeguarding her.”

She added: “They should have practised what they are trying to preach now. They are responsible for Jodey’s death.”

She said she was appalled that the DWP response suggested that the £10,000 ICE ordered DWP to pay the family as a “consolatory payment” was “compensation” for her daughter’s death.

Dove said that £9,000 was given to Jodey’s nine children, while the other £1,000 was used to pay off some of the debts she had built up in paying for her daughter’s funeral.

She said: “It’s not about money. I will carry on. They can’t say it’s settled. I signed nothing. I want justice.”

Ms Dove has said she wants to take legal action against the DWP. I would like to see the department taken to court for all the deaths it caused.

Wouldn’t you like that too?

Source: Justice for Jodey Whiting: Mum brands DWP’s petition response ‘a joke’


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NO ‘justice for Jodey Whiting’ as Tory government refuses inquiry into deaths linked to DWP

[Image: www.disabledgo.com]

The Department for Work and Pensions has scorned calls for an independent inquiry into deaths related to its decisions.

Nearly 27,000 people have signed the “Justice for Jodey Whiting” petition after it was revealed that the DWP failed to follow its own safeguarding rules no less than five times in the weeks leading to her suicide in February 2017.

The DWP also destroyed a report on other safeguarding failures – in only 18 London job centres – rather than allow it to become public after a Freedom of Information request was submitted for its release.

But this department of the Conservative government has shown its contempt for the thousands who have demanded justice, with a response to petitioners that shows the Tories don’t think they are worth a proper answer.

Here it is – with a few comments from myself in bold. I’m not the best person to provide a commentary but the arrogance of the Tories means I cannot let it pass:

“DWP has apologised unreservedly for the failings in the case of Ms Whiting and recognises the importance of safeguarding.” Recognising its importance and actually carrying it out are two different things. An apology costs nothing, and we already know that the Tories consider the death of any claimant to be a “positive benefit outcome”. “The Government has no plans to hold an inquiry into deaths of claimants.” Because the result would be damning?

“The case of Ms Whiting is undeniably tragic and complex. Her case has been looked at in detail by the Independent Case Examiner (ICE) who regrettably found several failings in the way her case was handled. We aim to maintain a very high level of customer service and one mistake is obviously one too many.” Why, then, do we have records of not just one death – not mistake, let’s call it what it is – too many, but dozens; possibly hundreds, with thousands more unexplained and reports suggesting that the number of DWP-related deaths stretches to the hundreds of thousands? “Unfortunately, in this instance the expected standard of customer service was not achieved.” And what about the many other – so many other – cases? “The Department has apologised unreservedly for these failings and awarded the family compensation.” Yet these deaths continue to happen and we have evidence that DWP staff are ignoring safeguarding procedures. Why are they doing this?

“We currently have no plans to hold an independent inquiry into deaths relating to actions taken by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). The ICE did not find any evidence of misconduct by Civil Servants or Ministers.” Was the ICE made to sign a non-disclosure agreement stipulating that they may not do anything to suggest criticism of the DWP, as has been found to be the case with other people and organisations? “The DWP supports people with a wide variety of needs and staff are trained to identify signs of vulnerability which may include offering extra help with people’s benefits should they need it.” This is not borne out by the evidence. And identifying signs of vulnerability is not the same as offering help. “The safeguarding of claimants is a priority and the department has a number of processes in place, including a home visiting service to check on people’s well-being, or offering help with completing forms, as well as signposting to specialist support provided by other organisations we work closely with.” Again, the evidence suggests the opposite of what is being said. There have been cases of severely ill people being interrogated by DWP representatives while they were in hospital – is this what is meant by “a home visiting service to check on people’s well-being”? As for “help with completing forms”, is this why nobody trusts the DWP to do so?

“Claimants of working age who wish to apply for Employment and Support Allowance because their health or disability impacts on their ability to work are usually required to attend a Work Capability Assessment.” Yes indeed – and this assessment system was proven to be a failure many years ago. It is based on a bastardised form of the “biopsychosocial” model of illness that asserts that whatever the claimant’s illness, it is all in their mind and not real at all. “If a claimant fails to attend the assessment, our decision makers must check the claimant’s records for any history of mental health or other vulnerability.” In practise, mental health is never considered a reason for allowing a benefit claim. Questions may be asked, but no points are ever awarded for mental ill-health. “Where there are issues noted on the claimant’s record, decision makers are required to consider whether the claimant would benefit from a home visit.” Yet there are recorded instances of claimants being ordered to travel many miles, to assessment centres that are much further away than necessary, and then being forced to crawl upstairs because there are no lifts, with no help from any staff members. Is this the way the DWP “supports people with a wide variety of needs”, or trains staff “to identify signs of vulnerability”?

“We are committed to safeguarding vulnerable claimants and, in the tragic case where someone dies, ensuring that we respond swiftly and sensitively.” With an apology – and an overpayment demand? “In response to this case, we have changed guidance so that our staff update a claim where someone has sadly died within 48 hours, making sure we stop all unnecessary contact as quickly as possible.” But the petition does not refer to the case of Jodey Whiting alone. It demands a wide-ranging inquiry into many deaths suffered by those who relied on the DWP. “We keep our safeguarding guidance under constant review to ensure it provides the highest standard of protection to vulnerable people.” Again, reviewing this guidance and practising it are two very different things.

“Whilst the Department absolutely recognises that in this particular case errors were made and the appropriate level of service was not met, we would emphasise the thousands of decisions that our staff make every day which result in claimants receiving the health and disability benefits that they need, as well as the assistance they require.” It seems that many of those decisions are made by tribunals that find against the DWP after benefits have been denied to claimants.

“As previously stated, the DWP has apologised unreservedly for the failings in the case of Ms Whiting.” As previously stated, the petition is not only about the case of Ms Whiting and this response is an insult, not only to her but to the many others who have died as a result of – at best, incompetence, and at worst…

Malice.

An independent inquiry would have ascertained the answer. Perhaps a Labour government will order it.


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Labour right goes bananas at NEC result – and provides a lesson for the left | The SKWAWKBOX

It seems the reaction of the Labour right and its media allies to the overwhelming victory of the ‘left slate’ in the NEC elections has been an object lesson in how to portray oneself as a sore loser.

It’s worse than pathetic – it’s hilarious. Take a look at the Skwawkbox article:

Monday’s outstanding result for the grassroots-left ‘slate’ of candidates – a clean sweep of all nine positions – in the elections for Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) was a huge boost for the morale and plans of Labour’s huge pro-Corbyn majority and the Labour leadership.

Conversely, it was a massive blow to the Labour right and its media allies, who reacted – with utter predictability – by focusing on the success of Peter Willsman and treating the illicit recording of his outburst during a July NEC meeting as if narratives that it was antisemitic were not false, when the reality showed the opposite.

Source: Labour right goes bananas at NEC result – and provides a lesson for the left | The SKWAWKBOXVisit our JustGiving page to help Vox Political’s Mike Sivier fight anti-Semitism libels in court


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Labour’s odd response over Labour Against Anti-Semitism data breach. Guilty conscience?

Sometimes, when you make a complaint to a large organisation, its representatives try too hard to hide information – and end up giving more away.

Consider the case of the Labour Party and Labour Against Anti-Semitism. You’ll be familiar with the situation: LAAS had used an email list of Constituency Labour Party secretaries to which the fringe group should not have had access.

So party members wrote to the party, asking for those involved to have their party membership suspended while a detailed investigation into their conduct is held, with the possibility of expulsion if they are found guilty of crimes.

Now read on, as Martin Odoni of The Critique Archives, who drafted the complaint letter template, details the response he received and explains what is wrong with it:

Following up on that complaint I lodged with the Labour Party over the weekend about the misdeeds of the fringe group Labour Against Anti-Semitism, I today received a reply from Tim Dexter of the complaints unit. Here is the text; –

_____

Dear Martin,

Thank you for your email.

I want to assure you that the Labour Party takes its responsibilities in handling sensitive data extremely seriously and we would never provide third parties with any sensitive information they are not entitled to.

LAAS are a completely separate organisation to the Labour Party. They are not affiliated to the party and do not hold any status within the party.

If you have concerns about how they have obtained your data I suggest in the first instance you ask them where they obtained the information from. If they are unable to provide a satisfactory response then you should consider raising a complaint with the ICO, information on how to do this can be found at the following website: https://ico.org.uk/make-a-complaint/your-personal-information-concerns/personal-information-concerns/personal-information-concerns-report/

I never implied that the Labour Party itself was leaking sensitive data to anybody – the thought had never even crossed my mind come to that – so this is the classic example of a guilty-sounding, unsolicited denial that, far from allaying suspicions, instead raises suspicions that were not there in the first place.

The bit about LAAS being a separate organisation is not really the point. I did mention it myself in the original complaint, come to that, and I was asking quite explicitly for the party to take action against them for operating in Labour’s name without permission. Mr Dexter displays startlingly little interest in that idea, or concern about the damage LAAS could do to the party’s reputation.

Some of LAAS‘ members … most particularly Euan Philipps, are members of the Labour Party. Even if they treat their capacity as LAAS members as a completely separate business, when they do what they do in the name of the Labour Party, that non-afiliation status should not afford them any protection. But Mr Dexter appears happy to let Philipps et al have it both ways.

I never suggested that LAAS has hold of my contact data at all. I am certainly not aware of receiving any communications from them. I was drawing the party’s attention to LAAS using contact data of an NEC member against his explicit instructions. Use of such data when ordered to delete it by their subject is expressly illegal. Furthermore, LAAS‘ attempt to use his request to damage his reputation over social media might also be illegal under defamation laws. Again, Mr Dexter appears to be utterly disinterested in this.

I can only conclude that the Labour complaints team are perfectly comfortable with members of the party being engaged in illegal behaviour when acting in the name of Labour. Given how over-zealous the complaints team are about going after members who criticise Israel, that seems to be a decidedly uneven attitude.

Either that or the complaints team did not pay proper attention to what I wrote.

I shall send a follow-up complaint to the Labour Party soon.

Will you do the same?

Source: Well… this is an odd response from the Labour complaints team | TheCritique Archives

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