Richard Drax: his ancestors transported slaves to the Caribbean in cramped, unhygienic ships. Now he is opposing a similar (albeit somewhat more comfortable) scheme for asylum-seekers.
When a Conservative MP whose family were pioneers of the slave trade opposes a plan to house foreign asylum-seekers on a “completely inadequate” barge, his colleagues in government ought to take notice.
They won’t, of course.
Richard Drax’s ancestors ran sugar plantations based on slave labour, in Barbados and Jamaica, until the British Parliament banned slavery in 1833. The slaves had been transported from Africa on ships where conditions were appallingly cramped, unhygienic and inhumane.
Now, single men who have already suffered to get to the UK are set to be billeted on the 222-berth barge Bibby Stockholm while they wait for their asylum claims to be processed. It is expected to be in use for 18 months.
It will be moored in Portland Port, near Weymouth, and is said to have been refurbished since the Dutch government used it for the same purpose, when it was described as an “oppressive environment.”
Drax’s constituency includes Portland, so the reason he doesn’t want this seems clear (Not In My Back Yard-ism).
According to the BBC,
he was “very concerned” about the impact on the area which “relies on small businesses”.
That being said, the mere fact of him opposing this should carry some weight.
The plan has been touted as a way to get asylum-seekers out of hotels where their accommodation has been costing the government more than £6 million per day and angering local residents.
But Labour has said it is
“in addition to hotels, not instead of them, and is still more than twice as expensive as normal asylum accommodation”.
So whichever way you slice it, the evidence in support of this new scheme is wafer-thin.
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Over it goes: the toppling of the Colston statue, back in June.
Here’s yet another reason for This Writer to be proud of the city of my birth.
After making controversial history during the Black Lives Matter protests last year, when citizens of Bristol tore down a statue of the slaver Edward Colston and threw it in the docks, the city council has gone a step further.
It has passed a motion to make “reparations” – not just financial but also cultural – for the slave trade in which the city participated and its enduring impact.
As former Lord Mayor Cleo Lake stated, “The contribution of African civilisation, culture and people versus how we have been treated is one of the world’s great paradoxes.”
Bristol is also calling for the UK’s Tory government to set up an all-party parliamentary inquiry to examine how such reparations might be delivered.
This might be a challenging request as although the motion was passed with 47 votes in support, 12 Tory councillors voted against it.
Believe it or not, they said the motion to make amends for an abhorrent past “risks exacerbating some divisions by presenting a binary view of the world when the reality is much more complicated”.
That sounds like doubletalk to This Writer! That is, disapproving speech that is intended to confuse an issue.
I think these Tories simply don’t want to face the reality of Bristol’s – and the UK’s – slave-trading background, with all the harm it has done, or the racism that still pervades this nation as a result.
In opposing the motion, they also opposed community wealth creation strategies to produce more sustainable and equitable growth whilst alleviating systemic poverty, which acknowledges that a just economy is the only way to achieve racial justice.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
Why do villains like this always get away with the harm they do?
Worse, why do they insult us by standing for Parliament – and why do we self-harm by voting them in?
So Richard Drax – allegedly the wealthiest landowner in the House of Commons – is a director of the Morden Estates Company and signed off on the underpayment of 43 workers there.
This has put his firm on a list of 139 businesses … in a government press release headed “Rogue employers named and shamed for failing to pay minimum wage”.
How did Drax’s family get so rich? From recent headlines it seems they profited from slavery:
He has recently been facing calls to pay reparations over the Drax Hall Plantation in Barbados. His ancestors had a slave workforce there for nearly 200 years.
Some people never change, it seems.
Drax himself has said
the “technical infringement” concerned “beaters” – people who drive game birds out of their cover at shooting events. He said they traditionally took part for enjoyment but had been paid a “modest sum”.
Nobody, it seems, has tracked down any of these beaters to ask if the MP’s information is correct. It seems that, because he is an MP, and a landowner, and an employer, he is automatically allotted the last word.
Note also that fellow Tory Richard Jenrick has recently launched a plan for legislation to protect monuments to historical slavers.
If those statues represent the ancestors of colleagues like Drax, the motivation seems clear.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
Cruel Conservative employment and benefit laws, coupled with a relaxed attitude to employers and a policy to push wages below subsistence levels, mean the UK’s government is encouraging the exploitation of workers.
It is hypocritical of the Tories to say they are trying to prevent the slavery they have invited with their policies.
And it seems unlikely that the measures currently available to combat the issue will do much good. The Guardian article quoted below says convictions have decreased by six per cent between 2015 and 2017.
You live in a slave state.
THE REALITY of Theresa Mays “record low unemployment.” “Exploitation & abuse of workers is widespread across the UK economy according to a new report which finds 17 sectors are high-risk for mistreatment ranging from wages theft to slavery.” #TUCNewDealhttps://t.co/Kx5X2sIiea
Exploitation and abuse of workers is widespread across the UK economy, according to a new report, which finds that 17 sectors are high-risk for mistreatment ranging from wages theft to slavery.
Construction, recycling, nail bars and car washes were among the top sectors where the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) said there was slavery. Agriculture, food packing, fishing, shellfish gathering, warehouse and distribution, garment manufacturing, taxi driving , retail, domestic work, and social care were also highlighted in the report.
The authority has new powers to investigate labour abuse in all sectors under the 2016 Immigration Act, and the report marks its first full year of work assessing the nature of the problem in the UK.
Reported cases of slavery have increased 35% year on year, with the UK being one of the biggest destinations in Europe for trafficking of workers for labour exploitation.
A woman and a man at the memorial plaque at Buchenwald concentration camp near Weimar, Germany [Image: Jens Schlueter/Getty Images].
Here‘s a worthwhile article on the Beastrabban blog, making an important point about the way the scope of Holocaust Memorial Day seems to have been limited.
Today is, I believe, Holocaust Remembrance Day, when the world, or at least the Western world, reflects on the Shoah and the calculated extermination of six million Jews.
As we commemorate the sufferings of the Jews during the Nazi regime, we also need to take on board that it isn’t just about anti-Semitism, but about similar horrors that have disfigured human history down the centuries, and murderous, criminal regimes that are perpetrating them today.
Just so. The Nazi Holocaust, the killing of millions of Jews, and the way in which they were murdered, should never be forgotten. But part of this remembrance must involve recognition that similar hate-motivated atrocities can happen – and are happening – even now.
Unfortunately, there are some highly vocal people who seem to want to mask this fact, as we have seen on This Site over the last few days.
Holocaust Remembrance Day isn’t just about commemorating the Holocaust and its victims, but other genocides and their victims that have occurred throughout history. Hitler partly made his decision to go ahead with the extermination of the Jews because of the complete lack of western reaction to the Young Turks’ massacre of the Armenians. He commented, ‘Who remembers the Armenians?’ And before then, the German colonial authorities in what is now Tanganyika had attempted to exterminate the Herrero after they revolted, using similar eugenicist logic.
It is … important to remember the other victims of the Nazi camps as well.
This included the congenitally disabled, who were murdered by Nazi doctors under the Aktion T4 programme with the assistance and supervision of the SS… This prefigured and prepared for the murder of the Jews, particularly in the use of poison gas.
I made the point that disabled people are being persecuted to their deaths by the Conservative government in the United Kingdom – right now – in a response to comments in Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday (January 24).
And what initial response did I receive?
Denial. And denial is one of the ten stages of genocide, as we all know from the Holocaust Memorial Day website. Right?
The Nazis also attempted to exterminate the Romanies – the Gypsies – as they too were considered, like the Jews, to be subhuman and a threat to German society and racial industry.
Other victims of the camps included the mentally ill, neurotics, prostitutes, recidivist criminals, Prisoners of War, and political prisoners, such as trade unionists, Socialists, Communists, Anarchists, gay men, and slave workers from the Slav nations. The last were worked to death in horrific conditions, including building the Nazi fortifications and tunnels in the Channel Islands.
The Holocaust Memorial Day website devotes a couple of paragraphs on a page to these victims of the Nazi Holocaust. The highest estimate of the death figures shows they outnumber Jewish victims by a ratio of nearly two to one.
The website also devotes several pages each to the genocides in Cambodia, Darfur, Bosnia and Rwanda, and mentions the atrocities against Armenians which encouraged Hitler to commit his own.
It omits many other genocides, both recent and historical.
Nothing is said about the indigenous people of America, for example. Those of you who are aware of the HMD website may not even know there is a site for Aztec Natives, which makes the following pertinent point:
“The Mexican people are the descendants and the end product of five centuries of genocide – the greatest Holocaust in human history. Over 100 million of our ancestors, i.e. at least 90% of natives were killed.”
100 million dead, and no commemoration on Holocaust Memorial Day. It seems some groups have stronger public relations people than others.
Genocides have continued to be perpetrated, such as the various crimes against humanity committed by Fascist regimes across Latin America, Asia and Africa, supported by American foreign policy. The persecution of the Rohingya is just the latest of these.
Isn’t it interesting how we can identify the wrongdoings of people in other countries, yet we say nothing about what’s happening in our own? “It couldn’t happen here”, as the saying goes.
It has; it does; it is.
Those who deny it are complicit.
Fortunately, the Beastrabban piece provides a ray of hope. We see that not everybody supports the overwhelming concentration of attention on the Nazi Holocaust, and it is important to note that Jewish scholars are among those leading the way in this regard.
And Jews have been involved in protesting and commemorating them and their victims as well. In Canada, the leader of the mainstream Jewish organisation, Bernie Farber, organised a ‘Shabbat for Darfur’ after that city was attacked by the Islamist Janjaweed Militia in the early part of this century. Farber’s generous action has been bitterly criticised by members of the transatlantic conservative Right, who feel that Jews should concentrate solely on their own sufferings in the Holocaust, and not expand their experience of suffering, persecution and attempted genocide to form solidarity with the other persecuted ethnic and religious groups.
Why not form solidarity with other persecuted groups? We all know there is strength in numbers. Is it because making such connections might reveal uncomfortable truths about events closer to home?
Israeli scholars have also noted that the Holocaust, while horrific, was not a unique event. See Genocide: A Critical Bibliographic Review, edited by Israel W. Charny, the executive director of the Institute on the Holocaust, Jerusalem, and Director of Postgraduate Interdisplinary and Graduate Social Work Programs in Family, Therapy, Bob Shapell School of Social Work, Tel Aviv University. Dr. Charny’s book also includes a chapter on the ethnic cleansing of Israel’s indigenous Arab population, which is definitely unwelcome to the Likudniks.
But it bears out Ilan Pappe’s assertion that Israelis are still decent people, who need to have the situation and issues properly explained to them. But odiously, Netanyahu, Likud and other ethno-nationalists in his ruling coalition are doing all they can to prevent that occurring. As are his little helpers over here in the shape of the Jewish Labour Movement and the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism.
Food for thought, I hope. But I wonder if critics of This Site and This Writer will be able to forgive me for including more groups in my own commemoration of Holocaust Memorial Day than they do.
Okay, an unpaid internship isn’t exactly slavery as the person in the post has to apply for it, rather than simply being sold into it. But it’s still work for no pay, and questions should be asked about the validity of an organisation that offers such work as part of its fight against similar work.
Many Tory MPs used to offer unpaid internships. This Writer always used to wonder if it was a way of ensuring that only the most privileged people – those who could rely on mummy and daddy to pay their bills – were able to take the job, thereby ensuring that the work of government remained the province of the elite.
I wonder how many Tories continue to offer internships on that basis. For that matter, how many other MPs do so?
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You’ll be aware that there have been many legal challenges against Workfare/The Work Programme/Mandatory Work Activity, on the basis that they are slave labour schemes.
The Department for Work and Pensions, under slave-master Iain Duncan Smith, has worked tirelessly to dismiss these challenges – with only limited success, as our courts are populated by judges who still believe in something called justice.
However, the repeal of the Human Rights Act 1998 means the end of the ban on slavery. Conservatives are already making plans to force any young person without a job to work for 30 hours a week in exchange for benefits – or starve.
Do you think that’s acceptable?
Let’s put it another way:
Would you accept it if they did it to you?
Here’s a handy infographic about it for you to share:
Why are we being asked to believe it is such a surprise that the number of working people who have to rely on housing benefit has doubled in the last five years – at huge cost to the taxpayer?
It is all part of the “long-term economic plan” that the Conservatives keep mentioning, every chance they get.
That plan is to provide government support to major employers and to private landlords rather than the people who need it.
We know that the Conservatives have spent almost 40 years working to undermine working people, with policies designed to increase financial insecurity among those who have to work for a living. For example, the humbling of the unions ensured that increasingly meagre pay settlements would contribute to an ever-widening gap between the lowest and the highest rates of pay. Huge amounts of wealth have been transferred from the masses to an ever-smaller ‘elite’, guaranteeing their support for the Tories.
Ever-diminishing pay and rising living costs have meant that increasing numbers of people have had to claim benefits, even though they have been in full-time work. Again, this attacks people on low and middle incomes, rather than those who are paid the most; people in the highest tax brackets have been able to take advantage of legal tax avoidance schemes, some of which have been created by the current Chancellor, George Osborne. That has left those on lower pay scales to subsidise housing benefit through the taxes they pay – another drain on their resources.
Depressed rates of pay for those in work have necessitated government action on benefits for the unemployed, in order to justify claims that the Coalition has been “making work pay”. This has meant below-inflation increases in out-of-work benefits that have made them inadequate to cover living costs, forcing the unemployed to face the possibility of losing their homes and possessions to the bailiffs as their debts mount up. In order to avoid this, they find themselves forced to accept work at ridiculously low rates of pay, if they can find it.
A consequence of all this is that private landlords benefit from increased inflows of housing benefit into their pockets. The law allows them to increase their rents in line with the going rate, with no reference to tenants’ ability to pay; housing benefit is then used to help tenants achieve that amount, but it is the landlord who benefits from the increase – not the tenant. These are people who are already, by definition, well-off – otherwise they would not have been able to buy the property and make it fit to rent out.
The Conservatives’ “long-term economic plan” is to leech wealth from anybody poorer than them and create a new feudalism, with themselves as lords and everybody else as vassals, only able to make a living under conditions granted by the moneyed few; a modern slave-state.
According to The Independent, the cost to the taxpayer of in-work benefits will be £6 billion by 2018-19, nearly triple the £2.2 billion it cost in 2009-10. LabourList reckons the total cost of in-work poverty by 2019 will be more than double that amount, at £12.9 billion.
The total cost of housing benefit has already almost tripled, from £8.8 billion in 1990 to £24.4 billion now – despite the apparent efforts of Iain Duncan Smith’s Department for Work and Pensions. This is because all their cost-cutting efforts have been about finding ways of denying the benefit to people who deserve it.
Helping people earn enough to obviate the need for housing benefit runs contrary to the “long-term economic plan”, you see.
And what do you think this says about where the benefits of economic growth are going?
The Independent article states that the Department for Work and Pensions has claimed the number of unemployed housing benefit claimants has fallen since 2010, arguing that it is better for people to be employed, paying taxes and contributing towards their rents than to be “languishing” on out-of-work benefits, living on government payouts.
Technically, this may seem like a good argument. The minimum wage for full-time work is £11,700 per year, more than the increased tax threshold introduced by the Coalition government – but this means that, with Income Tax at 20 per cent, a full-time worker would lose one-fifth of everything earned above the £10,000 threshold, passing just £340 on to the government. They are likely to receive more than that in housing benefit. And the level of pay is still a pittance.
Worse still, a drop in the number of unemployed claimants does not mean they have all found jobs. Some will have been pushed off the system by the Bedroom Tax, which has made it impossible for some households to meet their rent commitments.
And there is no guarantee that the extra working people are paying taxes either – they might be self-employed (or claiming to be self-employed – see earlier VP articles on the subject) who are not earning anything like enough money to provide for themselves; they might be on zero-hours contracts – technically in work but on health-endangering wages; they might even be on a government-mandated Workfare scheme, in which case their only pay will be state benefits.
Mark Harper, Minister for Disabled People, claimed that the Coalition government had taken action to get the system under control by capping benefits “so no family can claim more than the average family gets by going out to work and we’ve put an end to unlimited housing benefit”.
He added that Labour voted against the cap, and against a general limit on benefits.
Harper’s claim that the system under the previous Labour administration “saw some people claiming £104,000 a year,” is also disingenuous as it related to a handful of people in specific circumstances. None of them are receiving anything like that amount now, and it is unclear whether this had anything to do with Coalition policies.
Labour, on the other hand, has hit the nail squarely on the head by pointing out that the rise in benefit claims is entirely due to the Tory-led Coalition’s failure to tackle low pay, insecure work and the cost of living crisis – although the opposition party stopped short of actually claiming that this was the plan all along.
The party has said that, if elected into office, it would build more homes and cap rents, easing the excessive demand that has made it possible for landlords to demand more and preventing abuse of the rental market.
Many a truth told in jest: This Labour advert was withdrawn after claims that it was in bad taste (although this could be said equally well of the television programme it references) – but it accurately summarises the Conservative approach to the European Union and our place in the world.
Here at Vox Political it has come to our notice that some of you are still thinking of voting ‘Conservative’ in the European Parliament elections. This would be a mistake.
The Conservative Party is trying to hoodwink you into thinking it has a host of great ideas dependent on having a large number of MEPs after May 22, but its own manifesto tells a different story.
Here are just three examples:
1. The lynchpin of the Conservative campaign is the pledge to hold an in/out referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union. The party’s European manifesto states, “The British people now have a very clear choice: if you want a referendum on whether Britain should stay in the EU or leave, only the Conservative Party can and will hold one.”
This has nothing to do with your vote on May 22. It is a General Election promise involving the UK Parliament, not the Parliament of Europe. It is Westminster MPs who would push through the Tory plans for a referendum during the next UK Parliament, not MEPs in Brussels.
The suggestion that the proposed referendum – which is heavily promoted in the manifesto – has anything to do with these elections is a flat-out lie.
Long-term readers should not be surprised that Conservatives are lying again, but this may come as a surprise to Tory adherents. To them, we should say: “Wake up!”
2. One of the “key changes we will fight for”, listed on page seven of the manifesto, is “National parliaments able to work together to block unwanted European legislation”. If this seems like a good idea to you, it may come as a surprise to learn that it is a key feature of the Lisbon Treaty, that was signed by the last Labour government in 2007. That’s seven years ago!
It’s called the Ioannina Compromise, and it means that, if Member States who are against a decision are significant in number but still insufficient to block it (1/3 of the Member States or 25 per cent of the population), all of the Member States must commit to seeking a solution.
It seems likely that the reason the Conservatives are even mentioning it is that this part of the Lisbon Treaty is only due to come into force this year – 2014.
3. One change the Conservatives are determined to impose is the removal of your ability to defend your human rights.
The manifesto states that they will “Undertake radical reform of human rights laws and publish a detailed plan for reform that a Conservative government would implement immediately: we will scrap Labour’s Human Rights Act, curtail the role of the European Court of Human Rights in the UK and make certain that the UK’s Supreme Court is in Britain and not in Strasbourg.”
Conservatives hate human rights laws because they forbid slavery, servitude and forced labour – such as the Tory-led government’s ‘mandatory work activity’ schemes; they provide a right to a fair trial – currently being removed in the UK by the Tories’ restrictions on Legal Aid; and most importantly they oblige nation states to “prevent foreseeable loss of life” such as that caused by the assessment regime for disability benefits, imposed by the current UK government.
The European Court of Human Rights is – as everyone should be aware – nothing to do with the European Union at all. It is part of the Council of Europe, which is composed of 47 European nations. The Conservative Party does not need a majority of MEPs to withdraw from it.
However, such a withdrawal would represent a betrayal of the Conservative Party’s great Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the man who is considered most directly responsible for the creation of the Council of Europe and the court. Dedicated Conservatives should consider this point well. None of the people currently running the Conservative Party have anything approaching the stature of a Churchill, yet they are taking it upon themselves to cut Britain off from his legacy – and they are lying to the public about how they need to do it.
In fact, let’s face it, the Tory European Manifesto for 2014 is a pack of lies.
The Conservatives currently have more MEPs than any other UK party, but any unbiased examination of their claims will lead to the conclusion that they deserve to have none at all.
Energising: Keith Lindsay-Cameron prepares to take his case to the police.
An activist from Somerset is raising his own ‘Shoestring Army’ to crowdsource funds and mount a legal challenge against the government’s new Claimant Commitment for jobseekers, after police said they were unable to arrest Iain Duncan Smith and Lord Freud for breaching the Human Rights Act.
Keith Lindsay-Cameron, of Peasedown St John, near Bath, was advised to obtain the services of a solicitor and raise a legal challenge in the courts after he made his complaint at Bath police station on Friday (May 2).
He said the conditionality regime that is part of the new Claimant Commitment will re-cast the relationship between the citizen and the State – from one centred on ‘entitlement’ to one centred on a contractual concept in which the government provides a range of support only if a claimant meets an explicit set of responsibilities, with a sanctions regime to enforce compliance.
According to Mr Lindsay-Cameron, this amounts to the reintroduction of slavery. Forced compliance – through the sanctions regime – means people will be denied the means of survival if they fail to meet the conditions imposed on them. Deprivation of the means of survival, he claims, also breaches the act’s guarantee that everybody has the right to life and should not be deprived of it.
“The civilian desk receptionist asked my business and I gave her a verbal breakdown – that I had come to accuse Iain Duncan Smith and Lord Freud of crimes under the Human Rights Act 1998,” said Mr Lindsay-Cameron, who is better-known to thousands of readers as the author of the A Letter A Day To Number 10 internet blog.
“The Claimant Commitment contract means the loss of access to any benefits if one refused to sign, and benefit sanctions if one was considered to be in breach of the signed contract. Either way, this amounts to forced labour and therefore slavery.
“I was asked for more details and explained that a sanction – loss of benefits – meant the loss of the means of survival. I said we had not come to ridicule the police or to challenge them, but that they existed as our – ordinary folks’ – doorway to justice and that what I was doing there was asking for their help and that I was personally in the system and that we all needed help.”
But a police inspector told the activist, and the small group who attended to show their support, that officers at his station could not deal with the matter.
“I explained the situation and what the coercion of sanctions meant and that this did not constitute anything normal as a civic obligation under the human rights act – and I pointed out that if he made a mistake, he would not face a loss of a month’s income, nor three months’ for a second error or three years’ loss of income for a third infraction,” said the campaigner.
“He explained to me that, under the law, Iain Duncan Smith and Lord Freud were upholding the laws that they had made and that – whatever I felt about that – they had no case to answer and that his job as a police officer was to enforce the law.
“He said that I would need to obtain the services of a solicitor and raise a challenge in the courts for a judge to decide whether the actions of Duncan Smith and Freud were a breach of human rights.”
He said this process was already under way. The group has bought the internet domain name theshoestringarmy.com and will now start the process of a challenge.
Mr Lindsay-Cameron added that his visit to Bath Police Station was delayed when he stopped to meet a group of homeless people in the churchyard next door, while police were trying to move them on.
“It gave us a bizarre sense of what we were about to embark on,” he said.
“Where do people go, having nothing and welcome nowhere, in the land of the growing dispossessed?”
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