Tag Archives: signpost

Starmer’s hollow politics: he wanted another referendum last year – now he’ll accept any rotten Brexit

Keir Starmer: hollow man.

What’s wrong with this?

How strange.

Only last year, Starmer was the one who came up with the Brexit policy that lost Labour the 2019 general election, when he demanded that the party must support another referendum on whether to stay in or leave the European Union.

Now – according to a report in The Guardian (I won’t go to The Sun if I can possibly help it),

Keir Starmer is preparing to risk a party rift by throwing Labour’s weight behind a Brexit deal if last-minute negotiations succeed in the coming days.

In what he hopes will be a signal to “red wall” voters that the party has heard them, multiple Labour sources said Starmer, and Cabinet Office shadow minister, Rachel Reeves – who has been liaising with backbenchers on the issue – are minded to impose a three-line whip in support of a deal, subject to the detail.

They have rejected the idea of abstaining or giving MPs a free vote, fearing it would suggest Labour has failed to absorb the lessons of the pasting it took in last December’s general election.

Tony Benn’s immortal comment about weathercocks and signposts springs to mind.

The late, great Benn said some politicians are like signposts – you always know what they stand for and in which direction they want to travel, politically. Others are like weathercocks; they blow with the wind of public opinion.

Starmer is, therefore, a cock.

His current Brexit dilemma could have been avoided if he – and others in Labour – had only worked out an appropriate Labour Party position on the possibility of leaving the European Union before the 2016 referendum but they didn’t.

For more than four years, these creatures have been “triangulating” – trying to work out what policy would be most popular with the voting public in order to pretend that it was what they genuinely believed.

Last year the position may have been slightly more complicated, as it is entirely possible that Starmer had an eye on bidding for the Labour leadership if the party failed to win an election with Jeremy Corbyn as leader, and his decision to demand a referendum may have had something to do with that.

Yes, I wrote it. Somebody had to, and I’m not the only one thinking it:

Now, it seems he is definitely back to triangulating, pretending he wants the same thing as the general public (in this cse the so-called Red Wall voters who defected to the Tories in the face of Starmer’s election Brexit policy.

And we all know it:

Sadly, those of us with an ounce of intelligence know that Starmer is simply leading Labour into another trap. An endorsement of a Tory Brexit will swap long-term harm to the party for an uncertain short-term election gain, and it will signal a capitulation to the Tory narrative on Brexit.

And there’s no need for any of that. Consider:

The smart choice is to abstain:

Even this is unpalatable for Starmer because of his recent behaviour towards votes on Tory government policy, that earned him the nickname “Keir Abstainer”.

Wise observers will take away just one message: that Starmer and his so-called “Centrist” friends are political frauds:

They simply don’t have any policies other than gaining power for themselves. Once they have it, they won’t know what to do with it.

I can demonstrate this with reference to the following:

Well, Starmer now has power within the Labour Party – for the time being, at least. He obtained it by stabbing Jeremy Corbyn in the back over Brexit, and now he doesn’t know what to do with it.

He is a hollowed-out politician – a fraud. He’ll say anything he thinks can advance him and he doesn’t have any political beliefs of his own at all.

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Fabian doomsayer’s analysis of Labour is twaddle, designed to demoralise new members

The Independent‘s caption for this picture reads: “A little over half of Labour’s 2015 voters say they now support the party led by Jeremy Corbyn”. Gosh. And how many people who didn’t vote Labour now support the party? How many who didn’t vote at all, because the couldn’t support any of the right-wing parties (including Labour at the time) that were on the ballot paper? [Image: Getty].

Why has nobody seen through Andrew Harrop’s transparent and flimsy attempt to trash Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party?

His ‘research’ (if you can call it that) is riddled with false assumptions. In opposition, allow me to offer you this:

Get the picture now?

If you read his piece on the Fabian website, you can drive a truck through the holes in Mr Harrop’s logic.

“The Corbynite left has won the big internal battles but it seems to have no roadmap for winning back lost voters.” And which “lost voters” are these? The Liberal Democrat or Tory voters who had been temporarily won by the silly ‘triangulation’ policies of Blair, Brown and, to an extent, Miliband, that forced nearly five million voters from Labour’s natural constituency out the door? They were never truly Labour voters.

“On Brexit, the greatest political question for two generations, the party’s position is muffled and inconsistent.” Isn’t that because, with a “muffled and inconsistent” position from the Conservatives, there is nothing for Her Majesty’s Opposition to, you know, oppose?

Seriously, Labour did set out a consistent position. Unfortunately, right-wing Labour MPs with their own agenda seem to have taken delight in trying to confuse the electorate about the party’s attitude – with the help of a salivating press that relishes any opportunity to put Labour out of reckoning, especially when the Conservatives are in such poor shape. Keir Starmer has done the party no good at all by speaking out in public without having discussed matters in private.

“Labour remains strong in urban pockets but is faring very badly in by-elections.” This is a flat lie. Labour has been recording double-figure increases in voter percentages at by-elections. Sure, there have been some losses; that’s democracy – you don’t win every seat.

“If the opinion polls are any guide, it could soon cease to be a nationally competitive political force.” The opinion polls aren’t any guide, though. They’ve been consistently wrong for nearly two years.

“In Scotland there is no sign of recovery.” Scottish Labour has a right-winger – Kezia Dugdale – as leader. She is a huge liability, an obstacle to a left-wing Labour resurgence.

“The real threat in marginal seats is that former Labour supporters will scatter in all directions, while the Tories reach out to everyone who voted Leave.” It is misleading to refer only to “former Labour supporters”. If they are “former” supporters because they don’t like the party now, then they were never really Labour supporters at all. And what about people who didn’t support Labour in the last few elections but have returned to the party now? What about those who haven’t been voting at all, because they couldn’t support any of the right-wing parties (including Labour at the time) who were on the ballot paper? Is Mr Harrop ignoring them because they’ll mess up his propaganda piece?

As for Tories chasing “everyone who voted Leave”, perhaps Mr Harrop hasn’t noticed, but far fewer people would vote Leave again if the referendum was re-run, because they have realised that the Leave campaign fed the British public nothing but a series of lies from beginning to end. And has he forgotten that a significant proportion of Tories also voted Remain? Some might stay out of (misplaced) loyalty, but many may be put off by a party that is turning its back on them (if his claim about Tory policy is accurate).

“The Liberal Democrats now have their sights on the party’s 5 million remainers, and in the recent by-elections they’ve won plenty over.” This may be the only relevant point in Harrop’s entire piece. Yes. The Liberal Democrats are enjoying a resurgence – and Labour isn’t doing its job in response. The response is to point out that the Liberal Democrats are a right-wing party that allied with the Tories for five years and pushed through policies that were hugely harmful to the general population of the UK.

Anybody who votes for a Liberal Democrat, based on the party’s position on Brexit, is voting for a lie. The Liberal Democrats cannot affect the UK’s membership of the European Union – but they will happily ally with the Tories again if they get the chance. Tim Farron has said as much.

“To find a way back, Labour must therefore become the party of this cultural ‘middle’.” This is plain – Mr Harrop is advocating a return to the Blairite ‘triangulation’ that reduced Labour to the hollowed-out shell that lost the 2015 general election so badly.

Mr Harrop is completely wrong.

We’re back to Tony Benn’s “weathercocks” and “signposts”. Mr Harrop wants Labour to be a party of “weathercocks”, going any way the wind blows in a desperate bid for votes from people who – according to the assumption – won’t change their opinions. Labour has tried that plan. It is, in the words of Blackadder, “bollocks”.

British politics is at a low ebb and copying other parties is a sure way to self-destruction.

Labour members should be the “signposts” to a new kind of politics. Jeremy Corbyn has clearly expressed his direction of travel. If you need to be reminded, here it is:

Are these words not clear enough?

Sadly, it seems some in the media are keen to give Mr Harrop’s claims a semblance of credibility that they do not deserve.

Look at The Guardian‘s ‘fake news’ piece suggesting John Healey agreed with the Fabian doomsayer. The strapline has it that “John Healey … says report that party could shrink to 150 MPs is ‘warning’”.

Look at what he actually says, further down the piece, and you’ll see that this is an unwarranted misrepresentation. He didn’t support Mr Harrop’s attempt to undermine Jeremy Corbyn’s new direction for Labour. Instead, he pointed out: “Quite rightly, the Fabian Society say the roots of Labour’s problems pre-date Jeremy Corbyn. They were there in the 2015 election and in the 2010 election.”

In other words, he is suggesting the opposite of Mr Harrop’s claims.

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Mhairi Black rips off Vox Political? Where do I send the bill!

Mhairi Black, ripping off Vox Political in the House of Commons today (Tuesday).

Mhairi Black, ripping off Vox Political in the House of Commons today (Tuesday).

We’re told that Mhairi Black, the youngest new MP in Parliament at the age of 20, was still in college when she beat Labour’s Douglas Alexander in the General Election. Was she studying plagiarism?

Take a look at the following part of her maiden speech, made earlier today (Tuesday) and quoted in The Independent:

“After hearing the Labour leader’s intentions to support the changes to tax credits that the Chancellor has put forward, I must make this plea through the words of one of your own, and of a personal hero of mine.

“Tony Benn once said that in politics there are weathercocks and signposts. Weathercocks will spin in whatever direction the wind of public opinion may blow them, no matter what principle they have to compromise.

“Then, there are signposts – signposts that stand true, and tall, and principles. They point in a direction and they say ‘this is the way to a better society and it is my job to convince you why’.

“Tony Benn was right when he said the only people worth remembering in politics are signposts.”

Now read this Vox Political article from yesterday, Labour is a ‘headless chicken’ over tax credits.

This Blog’s piece relies heavily on Tony Benn’s ‘weathercocks and signposts’ analogy to make its point about the interim Labour leader’s attitude to the proposed cut in tax credits. While Mhairi Black’s words weren’t exactly the same, it wouldn’t take a genius to read this piece and – if you’re an admirer of the great man, put together something similar using his words.

Is it really feasible that she could have come to this choice of material, in this context, independently? Nobody else has.

Such similarity – in subject matter, tone, and the material quoted – suggests a rip-off. If this is the case, Mhairi Black should be lucky to get off with a stern warning.

Instead she’s the toast of Twitter!

How disappointing.

Of course, we’ll never know if she didn’t write her speech independently. If this is the case, she’s hardly going to admit it – and This Writer isn’t going to take any further action because it wouldn’t be worth it.

But This Blog is part of my livelihood and if it seems to me that someone is harming that livelihood, then I’ll call “foul” on it.

As for you Mhairi Black – if you did rip off This Blog, shame on you.

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Labour is a ‘headless chicken’ over tax credits

Open mouth, insert foot: Harriet Harman made her Tax Credits mistake on yesterday's (July 12) Sunday Politics TV show.

Open mouth, insert foot: Harriet Harman made her Tax Credits mistake on yesterday’s (July 12) Sunday Politics TV show.

Harriet Harman has softened her position on George Osborne’s ’emergency’ budget; while she still supports his tax credit cuts, she says she is “happy to be overruled” after a backlash from rank-and-file party members (including This Writer).

The statement follows another backlash against a local party official who wrote to others in an attempt to stop Constituency Labour Parties from giving their support to leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn, who currently has the second-highest number of CLP nominations.

The person responsible for the latest attempt to rig the Labour leadership election (the first being the ridiculous ‘Tories for Corbyn’ campaign) – Luke Akehurst – was taken to task by fellow Labour members (including, again, This Writer) on Twitter. Pressed to explain his attitude, he referred us to a blog piece he wrote before the general election which appears to explain much that is wrong about the current attitude of some of Labour’s leading lights.

It’s all about ‘triangulation’, rather than ‘dividing lines’, Mr Akehurst reckons.

He writes: “It involves adopting for oneself some of the ideas of one’s political opponent (or apparent opponent). The logic behind it is that it both takes credit for the opponent’s ideas, and insulates the triangulator from attacks on that particular issue.”

In the words of the late – great – Tony Benn, Mr Akehurst is calling for Labour and its leaders to be ‘weathercocks’ (triangulators) rather than ‘signposts’ (adopting dividing lines against their main opposition). Mr Benn said some politicians are like signposts. They point in the direction they want to travel and say, “This is the way we must go!” And they are constant. Others are like weathercocks; they lick their fingers, find out which direction the political winds are blowing and follow.

Mr Benn would have been witheringly opposed to a weathercock like Luke Akehurst.

Triangulation leaves Labour without any principles of its own – the party ends up wasting time, chasing other people’s policies like (to stretch Mr Benn’s “weathercock” analogy) a headless chicken.

This brings us back to Harriet Harman. Instead of defending tax credits as a way of ensuring a certain standard of living and encouraging people to be good parents – the position of the Labour Party when it introduced tax credits a little over 10 years ago – she thought the wind was blowing in George Osborne’s direction and decided to let it blow her along with it. Big mistake.

Osborne’s tax credit raid will make working people and parents significantly poorer than they are now – and this is even after five years of being hammered by cut after Tory cut.

Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has said the rise in the minimum wage heralded by Osborne in his budget to offset his benefit cuts would raise £4 billion for families, while they would lose £12 billion in government help.

The freeze in working-age benefits, tax credits and local housing allowance will deprive 13 million households of £260 a year, on average.

And Harriet Harman supported it. That position does not correspond with Labour Party principles. It’s the position of a headless chicken.

Look at what has happened now: Harman has been forced to backtrack, with a spokesperson saying she had been “setting out an attitude that we are not going to oppose everything”. Headless chicken.

Sadly, Labour’s leadership candidates offered a mixed response. Liz Kendall fully supported Harriet Harman’s position – most probably because she is a closet Tory.

Andy Burnham’s spokesperson (!) said he did not support the tax credit cuts but added that he “will not offer blanket opposition and, where we agree with a government policy, we won’t oppose for the sake of it”. Headless chicken.

Yvette Cooper said she opposed the cuts because they would “hit working families, reduce work incentives and push more children into poverty”. On the fact of it, that’s good. However, she would be another extension of the New Labour disaster, which was all about ‘triangulation’, as Mr Akehurst’s article illustrates. Headless chicken.

The only ‘signpost’ among the lot of them – the only one with solid Labour principles – is Jeremy Corbyn. He said he was “not willing to vote for policies that will push more children into poverty” – and when he said it, he didn’t mean he might change his mind tomorrow, or whenever it becomes expedient. He means he is not willing to push more children into poverty – ever. Signpost.

We need more people like Jeremy Corbyn leading Labour – and fewer like Harriet Harman.

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Conservatives in chaos over food bank stance

Credit where it's due: The vast majority of reasons for people being referred to food banks are attributable to the Department for Work and Pensions. Could that be why the DWP is so desperate to silence the food bank charities?

Credit where it’s due: The vast majority of reasons for people being referred to food banks are attributable to the Department for Work and Pensions. Could that be why the DWP is so desperate to silence the food bank charities?

Tories – what are they like?

The answer is, of course, even they don’t know – as evidenced by their current confusion over food banks.

David Cameron has enthusiastically backed their work at a Christian faith group’s Easter reception (and so he should, having sent so much of it their way), and Treasury minister David Gauke also praised them in an interview on Channel 4 News last week.

But the DWP says leading food bank provider the Trussell Trust is guilty of “misleading and emotionally manipulative publicity seeking”, with the rise in food bank use being the result of the charity’s leaders “aggressively marketing their services” and “effectively running a business”.

At least one commenter on this blog has been completely taken in by the DWP’s prattling, claiming that demand for food banks has not risen at all since Cameron came to office. No, it’s clear to this demented individual that opening a food bank anywhere is like opening a supermarket – if there isn’t one nearby already, people will flock through your doors.

This, of course, completely misconstrues the way food banks are used and assumes that anyone can walk through their doors, claim food poverty and take away a packet of supplies whenever they want. It doesn’t work like that.

Food banks operate on a referral system. As Trussell Trust chairman Chris Mould put it in an Observer report: “You can’t get free food from the Trussell Trust by walking through the door and asking for it; you must have a voucher. More than 24,000 professionals – half of whom work in the public sector and health service, the police, and in social services – ask us to give this food to clients of theirs because they’ve made the decision that this individual or family is in dire straits and needs help. We’re not drumming up demand.”

This is absolutely correct and no amount of negative campaigning by the DWP can change it. In fact, Mr Gauke spent some time crowing about the fact the DWP rules have been altered to allow “signposting” to food banks by Job Centre advisors, in his Channel 4 News interview (although claiming credit for government employees sending people to someone else, rather than providing help themselves, is in itself a mean-spirited shot in the foot).

Once again, the Conservatives are getting stuck in the mire while trying to claim the moral high ground.

Not only have they created a poverty-driven starvation threat that organisations like the Trussell Trust have been forced to step in and fight, but the Tories have also tried to vilify those good people for laying the blame where it belongs.

It is a situation so twisted, there can be no wonder the Tories are tying themselves in knots.

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Shame on you, Job Centre! Getting people off the dole isn’t getting them into work!

austeritydolequeue

One of Vox Political‘s many astute commenters made an extremely good point about government schemes to get people (a) off the dole and (b) into work. They said the fundamental question we should be asking the DWP is: “How many people have you turned into productive taxpaying workers who do not claim any benefits at all?”

It is as though they were prescient and could predict the way the debate has developed this week, firstly with the bogus DWP press release that has allowed some of us to suggest that we should judge the DWP by results, not targets; and now with the declaration by the Commons Work and Pensions committee that Job Centre Plus staff should be rewarded for the number of people they get into work, not just the number they get off the dole.

It seems this is an idea whose time has come.

Employment minister Esther McVey’s time – like that of her boss Iain Duncan Smith – has been and gone. Do not expect her to do anything about this.

Job Centre staff are currently given incentives to get benefit claimants off the dole, and this has led to wholesale abuse of the system of sanctions which can mean people are banned from claiming benefits for three whole years after a third ‘offence’.

People have been sanctioned because the dates on which they applied for jobs did not tally with the number of jobs they were supposed to seek every week – as the Job Centre week starts on Tuesday.

They have been sanctioned for arriving late at their signing-on appointment – because a job interview overran.

They’ve been sanctioned because they didn’t apply online for a job, as advised, because the job had ‘expired’.

They have been sanctioned while on Workfare because signing on – as advised by the Job Centre – made them late for the placement.

They have even been sanctioned for failing to apply for jobs, after they had succeeded in getting a job.

The Work and Pensions committee has diplomatically described this as a “haphazard” approach to assessing claimants, saying many were referred for sanctions inappropriately, or “in circumstances in which common sense would dictate that discretion should have been applied”.

Common sense has no place in a Job Centre overseen by a Conservative-run DWP. The people who work there are under the cosh, just as much as the claimants. They have a target to meet – five per cent of jobseekers off the books every month, unless I am mistaken (perhaps readers could provide the correct figure if I am).

Sanctioning rates in the year to October 2012 stood at 4.2 per cent, so staff were failing to hit this target – but after a sterner regime was introduced in that month, sanctioning increased to five per cent.

The system has been particularly cruel on younger claimants. In the year to October 2012, the sanction rate for those aged 18-24 was eight per cent, per month.

The number of sanctions in the year to 30 June 2013 was around 860,000 – the highest number in any 12-month period since statistics began to be published in their present form in April 2000.

The committee also said the DWP needed to monitor financial hardship suffered by claimants who lose their benefits. This could include publishing information on the number of claimants “signposted” to food banks by Job Centres and the reasons given for this action.

It is as if Dame Anne Begg (who chairs the committee) has been reading this blog. Readers will know that part of Vox Political‘s Freedom of Information request about incapacity/ESA claimant mortality referred to the well-being of those who had been thrown off-benefit altogether.

I can tell you now that the DWP does not monitor what happens to these people, nor does it have any plan to do so in the future. They are thrown to the wolves.

Dame Anne was quoted in The Guardian, saying: “JCP must be very clearly incentivised to get people into work, not just off benefits.

“The processes by which JCP currently establishes claimants’ needs are haphazard and prone to missing crucial information about a person’s barriers to working, including homelessness and drug dependency. A more thorough and systematic approach to assessing claimants’ needs is required.”

She added: “Whilst conditionality is a necessary part of the benefit system, jobseekers need to have confidence that the sanctioning regime is being applied appropriately, fairly and proportionately and the government needs to assure itself that sanctioning is achieving its intended objective of incentivising people to seek work.”

This is exactly what Vox Political has been saying since Rachel Reeves described Labour’s compulsory job guarantee policy on finding work for claimants, last week. Reeves’ words were derided by visitors to certain blogs who said she was as bad as the Conservatives. Now that some flesh is appearing on the bones of her strategy, we can see that this was undeserved.

According to the BBC, ministers cited the recent fall in unemployment to say the system was working, but they failed to mention what their intention was.

Was it working in getting people into jobs?

Or was it only working in getting people off-benefit, as claimed by the committee?

If people were going into jobs, were they real jobs, or fake “self-employed” jobs of the kind that the BBC itself investigated last year, intended only to get claimant numbers down?

What about the rise and rise of Workfare schemes, in which claimants are knocked off the unemployment statistics but continue receiving an equivalent amount to JSA – from the DWP – for a full week’s work, effectively subsidising commercial firms?

It seems likely that ministers will be reluctant to answer those questions.

While institutions like the BBC are determined to broadcast inaccurate stories based on falsified figures supplied by those ministers, it seems they have no incentive to do so.

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