No, I’m not singing ‘My Way’: Vox Political’s Mike Sivier at the ‘Austerity’ book launch.
In response to the hordes of readers who have written in, demanding a follow-up to my article about the ‘Austerity’ book launch, it turns out there is a record of it on the Occupy London website.
Yours Truly is in the very last video on the page – but be warned, it is neither a pretty sight nor sound. I had no idea I looked like a hunchbacked no-neck goblin (although I confess I was aware of the hair loss). As for the voice – it’s hard to describe the mixture of feelings when one realises that the appearance of one’s own Bristolian accent comes as a relief.
“O wad some Power the viddie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!”
– as Robert Burns might have said, if he was around today.
Here’s my part of the proceedings. I turn up around the 37th minute – you have been warned:
If you’re reeling from the strangeness of that statement, please be assured that it is the truth.
I have endured austerity on a personal level many times – perhaps most notably when I was studying on a five-month Journalism course in Cornwall, where the county council refused to pay me housing benefit according to the terms of a deal I had done with the organisation then known as the Department of Social Security.
I lived on £7 a week for four months, meaning my diet consisted of Rich Tea biscuits and water. I was probably the poorest man in Cornwall.
Towards the end of that time, however, I was able to get some work experience at a local newspaper. I contacted the county council and gave fair warning that an extremely inclement report would appear in that paper if my case was not reviewed and an appropriate decision returned.
For the last month of my time there, I was probably the richest man in Cornwall.
This was austerity with a reason. I stuck out the hard times because I knew that I would be better for the experience – certainly better-qualified to pursue an intended career in journallism, and better-equipped to make Cornwall Council pay up, too.
So you can see that I am not against austerity if it is self-imposed; if there is a logical purpose to it.
What I can’t abide is austerity imposed from above, by a gang of spoiled rich kids who have overspent their pocket money and don’t want to pay their dues – so they force the less-fortunate to pay up for them. Perhaps I just don’t like bullies.
That’s the kind of austerity being imposed on far too many people in this country today.
It doesn’t make anybody a better person.
It doesn’t make anybody better-qualified.
It doesn’t make anything better at all.
But I didn’t start Vox Political to rail against austerity. I started it because I was seeing a lot of political comment that didn’t make sense to me – what I was reading was not what I was seeing in the real world. The effect of government austerity on the poorest in society – the most vulnerable – was just one aspect of that, but it quickly became one of the most popular.
Perhaps it is because this is the most emotive subject I discuss. Perhaps it’s because my own partner – ‘Mrs Mike’ – is a long-term claimant of disability and incapacity benefits and has been affected by government policies attacking her right to claim.
Perhaps I just happen to enjoy a good argument? Yes, that seems likely too.
I have covered the imposition of the Bedroom Tax and its disastrous effect on people’s security.
I have covered the pointless Work Programme – let’s face it, it’s just a way to make people toil for less than the minimum wage, isn’t it? – and its disastrous effect on people’s hopes.
And I have covered the Work Capability Assessment of people claiming disability and incapacity benefits, and its disastrous effect on people’s lives.
I’m currently waiting for a decision on my appeal against the refusal of my latest information request, calling on the government to reveal how many people have died since the start of December 2011, after taking the assessment. For more than three years, the government has refused to publish any information on these deaths – possibly in fear of a backlash against a punitive system that does more harm than good.
I took a telephone call last week in which I was asked what I would be prepared to accept instead of details that the government does not have. Don’t worry – they weren’t crucial changes, and the fact I had the call means I can be hopeful about the result.
If I get the information I want, I’ll use it to try to persuade the Labour Party into offering to scrap the Work Capability Assessment once and for all.
I’m hoping that the information will prove that the test – which only exists to find ways of pushing people off of a benefit that may be their only source of income – is a threat to the lives of the vulnerable, and no attempt at modification will rehabilitate it. By threatening to keep the test, even in modified form, Labour is asking people to lay down their lives – for nothing.
This is just one small, personal battle – one of many.
That is why I was glad to be celebrating the launch of Austerity: The Demolition of the Welfare State and the Rise of the Zombie Economy on Tuesday evening. It is important for everybody who is labouring against this ideology to understand the context in which their own struggles exist; that they are not alone, but part of a wider conflict.
I applaud Kerry-Anne for her work and look forward to the day when I can read the book and remember when the issues it raises became shadows of the past. Let us hope that its publication brings that time a little closer.
That’s what I would have said, had I been asked to deliver a straightforward speech. I wasn’t. What actually happened was more interesting and (dare I say) enjoyable for the many who attended the event. Perhaps I’ll write another article about that later. Would you like that?
In the meantime, the following retailers are stocking Austerity: The Demolition of the Welfare State and the Rise of the Zombie Economy in paperback and ebook versions:
A rocket is fired between combatants in the Israel-Palestine conflict during July. If the UK government recognises Palestine, could this change the way the international community views the situation there?
This will sort out the children from the adults in the House of Commons.
According to Scriptonite: “Backbenchers have secured a vote for the House to recognize the state of Palestine. The title of the debate will be: THE FUTURE OF THE TWO STATE SOLUTION IN ISRAEL AND PALESTINE. The debate will take place on 13 Oct 2014, it will be six hours long and happen in the main chamber. It will be a debate on a substantive motion: ‘That this House calls on the government to recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel.'”
The article warns: “It’s the government, not the House that recognises states. Plus, it’s a BBD [backbench debate] so the motions are non-binding. Essentially, the vote will be an expression of the will of the House.
“If it’s a ‘yes’ vote the government and any subsequent government would be pressured towards recognising Palestine. It would be a PR disaster for the govt. to refuse to recognise Palestine if MPs expressed their will that Palestine should be recognised.”
If any of you are hoping that this will mean the withdrawal of the UK’s support for Israel in the ongoing situation regarding Palestine – don’t get your hopes up.
A backbench debate on sickness and disability ended with an overwhelming majority in favour of the government commissioning a cumulative impact assessment of the effect of ‘welfare reform’ on claimants, and nothing came of it.
The Scriptonite blog has been out in the field, making a documentary about the latest conflict between Israel and Gaza, and blogging about the experience. Be warned – what follows may not be for the faint-hearted. It is posted here without editorial comment as a reminder that Israel/Gaza has not gone away.
“Today we are up early to film in Khuza’a, a town in Khan Younis, Gaza. Around 12,000 people live in this previously vibrant place, with its beautiful buildings in an array of colours. It sits in southern Gaza Strip, near to the Israeli border.
“Now, it is mostly destroyed.
“Crumbling buildings, their innards spilling into the streets, stretch as far as the eye can see. The heat is almost unbearable, the road dissolved to sand, and people are everywhere. They are talking, clearing the street of rubble, sheltering under makeshift tents – their new homes, amid the rubble of their obliterated houses and apartments.
“What happened here, between July 23rd and 25th, almost defies belief. Israeli forces wreaked a havoc the likes of which most of us could never imagine. Human Rights Watch have stated that repeated war crimes were committed by Israel on its brutal attack of Khuza’a. Their report reads:
Israeli forces in the southern Gaza town of Khuza’a fired on and killed civilians in apparent violation of the laws of war in several incidents.
These included repeated shelling that struck apparent civilian structures, lack of access to necessary medical care, and the threat of attack from Israeli forces as they tried to leave the area.
Israeli forces opened fire on civilians trying to flee Khuza’a, but no Palestinian fighters were present at the time and no firefights were taking place.”
“F-16s appeared in the skies at around 4am on the 23rd of July, 2014. First they dropped gas on the town, sending residents fleeing in panic, or choking, stricken in their beds. Those who could not leave their homes were blown to oblivion within them, or shot where they lay. Those who fled were fired on by Israeli troops.
“One woman attempted to flee, carrying her baby son. She reports that an Israeli sniper shot him dead in her arms, and told her to leave him on the ground before they would let her leave.”
It isn’t VP policy to name names usually, but this gentleman’s tone was so aggressive that he deserves to be identified. On his own FB page he describes himself as ‘Belligerent Ruler of the Planet Earth’. You are encouraged to visit if you want to enjoy more of his pearls of wisdom, such as: “Mental. Thankyou very much to the lefty anti-UKIP article someone posted the other week listing me in the top 8 ‘worst UKIP tweeters’ my Twitter following gave me a much needed boost from fellow Kippers!”
He’s right – that is mental. Or maybe they are…
His communication with me was as follows (in fact the first is much the same as a comment he posted to the blog itself): “The UKIP picture you have published as an article was created by a Green Party member/supporter before the European and Council Elections.
“It’s so outdated it’s cringeworthy.”
Let’s just pause for a moment and look at the caption under the image, which states that “Most of the links on this now-infamous meme have been taken down by UKIP members, anxious to hide the embarrassing facts they revealed. The vote in favour of marital rape is not so easily removed as it is recorded on the European Parliament’s official website.” It explains perfectly adequately that matters have moved on since the image was created.
Back to Mr Evans, who asks: “Are you just recycling out info to damage UKIP or are you genuinely just that out of date?!”
Neither. I was using it as a direct example of the way UKIP behaves.
“The picture makes use of 2010 manifesto policies which have long since been abandoned.
“UKIP’s 2015 General Election manifesto doesn’t come out until September. Same goes for the other parties if you hadn’t realised. So how on Earth can you be critical about any parties policies for an election when they haven’t even been released yet?!
“In fact the only certain policies released by UKIP aren’t mentioned anywhere in your article or that picture so are you intentionally trying to be misleading?!”
You will know, Dear Reader, that this ground has been covered very thoroughly already – here, for example, and also here and here.
So Yr Obdt Srvt was very sure of his ground when he responded: “I checked the accuracy of the information contained in the meme and was able to substantiate everything except the claim about cutting education funding to build aircraft carriers.
“Just because this information has since been taken down (to eliminate embarrassment for the party?) that does not make it any less valid.
“Don’t waste my time with the argument about the manifesto.
“And don’t waste my time with suggestions that I am trying to be misleading. It is UKIP that has tried to mislead the public, and it is UKIP that is desperately trying to cover up its policy indiscretions.”
Alas – as noted in my article earlier today, Kippers don’t like to let the facts get in their way. Mr Evans got back to me with the following:
“Eliminate what embarrassment?
“You are referring to past policies as current policies in your article.”
No. He inferred that, but the line “Policies put forward by UKIP or by high-level members of UKIP include…”, although a quotation from a previous article, is as accurate now as it was when it was first typed, a couple of months ago. UKIP, or high-level members, did put forward those policies. There is no reference in today’s article to whether they are from the past or still active.
“2010 manifesto – 4 years ago for the 2010 General Election “2015 manifesto – Released in September this year for 2015 General Election.”
None of the references in the meme – or those that were discovered when VP was researching its allegations – are from this 2010 manifesto, though. Some are from the 2013 manifesto, and some are from the party’s own policy page (now deleted, although the likelihood of eliminating embarrassment is muted by the fact that UKIP cannot say it was left there for so long by mistake and still expect to be taken seriously).
“UKIP have only divulged a handful of policies non of which are detailed on the picture you referenced.”
Perhaps they weren’t relevant to the points being made.
“What you have referenced has been discussed to death on Twitter and Facebook and even the Green Party chap who created it has admitted it is outdated information.”
We’ll get back to Mr Abberton momentarily.
“Nigel Farage party leader said 5 MONTHS AGO that the 2010 manifesto is outdated, unwanted and will not be used again policies wise for the next General Election.
“Lord Pearson of Rannoch was the party leader at the time of the 2010 election, he compiled and produced the manifesto.”
Irrelevant, for reasons mentioned above. Now we get to the grit:
“Your comment about ’embarrassing the party’ is more an ’embarrassment’ to yourself. You are referencing outdated information as if it is current policies and information. So what you are in fact doing as you have been informed to this fact by myself is lying to your readers…
“Is this what you are? A person intentionally lying to mislead the electorate? If so please tell me…
“You say that UKIP are misleading the electorate. Feel free to tell me how?
“UKIP have said on numerous occasions, varying members and reps that the 2010 manifesto is defunct and not worth the paper it is written on. It no-longer represents UKIP.
“Yet you are posting it as current information which is misleading.
“You are the liar. You have been informed and if you continue to mislead people with discredited and past policies I will make people fully aware of your willingness to do so and your willingness to mislead people for your political agenda.
“You have been warned.”
Let’s go back to Michael Abberton, the “Green Party chap” mentioned a few paragraphs ago.
He and his meme first came to attention when it was revealed that the police had been sent to visit him after UKIP complained about an entry in his own blog, The Axe of Reason. He said he knew the image had been on Twitter for a while so he had set about seeing if its claims could be verified.
In his blog discussing the police visit, far from admitting he was quoting outdated policies, he states: “All I had done is promote the party policy using links to their own sources – no editorialising, no commenting. And in fairness highlighted those allegations I could find no evidence for.”
Take a look at the date on the blog – May this year. “So outdated it’s cringeworthy“?
Mr Abberton continued: “About fifteen minutes after they left I received a threatening tweet from a party member I had had an exchange with earlier in the day. Though appearing to be no more than a party supporter, he seemed to know that the police had been involved. I copied the tweet and sent it to the police.”
So we have evidence that Kippers are willing to cause a nuisance with the police in order to silence critics who have divulged information that UKIP would rather keep quiet, and we have a Kipper who has denounced Yr Obdt Srvt as a liar (despite the evidence to the contrary) and who has “warned” that he will act against VP if the blog continues in its function, which is to provide accurate information, no matter what he asserts.
For further information on Vox Political‘s attitude to this kind of interference, see the Scriptonite blog on the same matter.
That is why he got this response: “They are not discredited policies. They are not past policies until they are replaced with something else.
“It is UKIP that is trying to mislead – the party’s attempts to shut down its critics are a clear example of this.
“Don’t think for a moment that you can threaten me. I’m fully aware that UKIP and its adherents like to throw their weight around and I am not impressed at all.
“Now you’d better get off my page before I have you slung out of Facebook for threatening behaviour.”
There will be no tolerance of any UKIP member or representative who wants to threaten this blog, Mr Evans.
This story is dynamite. It is also distressing so for those of you who need to, consider very carefully before reading it.
From Scriptonite Daily:
For decades, vulnerable children from care homes and other institutions were booked to order by rich and powerful men, for abuse, rape and even murder. This is the allegation put forward in ‘Nightmares at Elm Guest House’, in an interview with Chris Fay of the National Association for Young People in Care. While the game may be over for former Tory Home Secretary, and David Cameron’s £500-a-day Trade Advisor Leon Brittan – once Brittan falls, the full and almost unbelievable horror of this case must come to light.
I have long left this subject to others to write about. I had a sense that I should remain quiet on the matter until the legal process had concluded. I changed my mind after watching Nightmares at Elm Guest House and reviewing the litany of prior police investigations, court cases and media scandals on the matter. It appears that however close it has seemed, justice has failed to be done for many decades. The establishment has circled the wagons each time, sacrificed a pawn or two to sate the appetites of public and press, then carried on business as usual.
Today, Theresa May announced the latest internal inquiry in the House of Commons, rather than a full scale public and criminal investigation. Leon Brittan may fall, while the entire edifice of this abuse and cover-up remain intact.
When one looks closer, we are facing the unfolding nightmare that politicians, pop stars and media figures have been supplied vulnerable children to rape and abuse, by members of the social services, over decades. It is beginning to appear quite certain, that a significant number of children’s homes and institutions for young people, have been complicit in abuse on an industrial scale. It is also apparent that a persistent cover up has meant people have been silenced, threatened and perhaps even killed to maintain the silence, and the networks of abuse.
The reason for us all to pay attention and for independent journalists and parties to maintain the pressure on this story – is simple. It is likely that the networks and foul individuals involved have been allowed to fester, largely unchallenged, by the institutions intended to hold them to account. The police, parliament, the press – all compromised and capitulated. When members of these institutions were brave enough to come forward, they faced the full force of the establishment. So it’s on us to stand up and be counted, so that this time, justice is firmly and finally done – in honour of each of the children abused repeatedly by the so called great and good of the UK establishment. We do not know the guilt of any of those suspected, but we must ensure claims are fully investigated and where guilt is found, appropriate consequences are delivered.
Vox Political‘s comrade-in-blogging at Scriptonite has stepped into the fray, siding with fellow bloggers against UKIP’s attempts to censor us and curtail our freedom of speech.
It’s impossible to reblog Scriptonite, but the article begins: “The UK Independence Party (UKIP) dropped all pretense as a Libertarian party this week when they brought in police and lawyers to threaten bloggers who shared a ‘fact check’ leaflet of UKIP’s policies. Our response needs to be defiant, let’s get this leaflet around the country and the world” [meaning the image at the top of the article].
The most notable part is the following, which indicates the strength of feeling currently prevalent in the blogosphere about UKIP and the appalling behaviour of its members and supporters: “Unless you believe that the nation is truly full of bigots and homophobes who want to get rid of their NHS and light a bonfire of their rights – clearly the message about what UKIP really stands for is not sinking in. This rancid excuse for a party still doing well in the polls and is gifted more time on flagship BBC shows like Question Time than other alternative parties like the Green Party, despite the Greens having a sitting MP. This is why bloggers must remain free to do the job that the mainstream media is clearly failing in: To expose Farage and the UKIPpers for what they really are – the same old establishment party of which the majority are sick to death.”
Undoubtedly the Scriptonite piece will prompt ‘Kippers’ into the same squawks of outrage they have made on other blogs (including this one). If you are one of those people, please take note of the following:
You are mistaken.
We are not lying about your party or its policies.
You are not members of a bold new political force but dupes of a privileged establishment that is using you to distract voters from the real issues.
UKIP is a dangerous joke, intended to be at your – and our – expense.
You will not persuade us with arguments about the veracity of our facts.
You will not intimidate us with threats of legal action.
You have no influence here.
We have the facts – and you can’t stop us using them.
As Maria Miller is rightly hounded out of office and hopefully into the courts for her egregious abuse of privilege, many are pointing out that she is but one rotten cog in a thoroughly rotten machine. So if we want real change – the prosecution of Maria Miller is where we start, not where we stop.
“Maria Miller is in her job and she is doing a good job as culture secretary.
“Also, she went through this process and the committee found that she had made a mistake in her mortgage claims. She paid back money. She made an apology and that’s the right thing to do.”
Were it not for the relentless pressure of the news media and public campaigns – that would have been the end of the matter for Maria Miller. She cheated, she tried to cover it up, and she kept her job and her profits. For Maria Miller, crime paid.
In contrast, when 22 year old Sacha Hall helped herself to several bags of waste food left out by Tesco after its refrigerators failed – she was immediately arrested, charged with handling stolen goods, and taken to court and given a 12 month conditional discharge. Tesco even admitted there was no value to the food as it was heading to the landfill.
There is truly one rule for them, and one for everyone else.
The Crooked Cabinet
But Miller is unlikely to be held to account by her cabinet colleagues when we have one of the most corrupt cabinets in UK history.
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