Tag Archives: society

Daily Heil’s teacher-shaming propaganda campaign is potentially deadly – and racist, too

‘Let our teachers be heroes’: is that because DEAD heroes don’t cause trouble for Tories?

The Daily Mail has scored a spectacular own-goal by not only attacking teachers who are fighting to keep our children safe from the coronavirus, but by doing it in a racist way.

The right-wing rag is supporting Education Secretary Gavin Williamson in his claim that teachers should “do their duty” and get children back into school at the beginning of June – despite the fact that Williamson has offered no evidence to reassure either teachers, parents or pupils that measures will be imposed to make them all safe from infection with the coronavirus.

This Site published information earlier, in which the Department for Education’s own scientific advisor admitted that reopening schools could potentially create hundreds of potential “vectors” – per school – that could then transmit Covid-19 into society at large. He offered no proof that scientific evidence had played any part in the decision to demand that schools reopen. And he admitted that he had not assessed whether the government’s proposals for opening schools safely could be implemented in an effective way.

In short, the plan to reopen schools is a deathtrap. And the Daily Mail supports it.

Not only that, but the paper that supported Adolf Hitler in the run-up to World War Two (he was also a racist) has managed to demonstrate its own racism with the stock picture it used to illustrate its Tory government propaganda piece – by cutting out the children of minority ethnic parentage from the image:

Sickening.

Fortunately, right-thinking people across the UK have been standing up to humiliate the Mail. Here’s just a sample of their comments:

https://twitter.com/Tobysdad41/status/1261247011149529088

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.

https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/mike-sivier-libel-fight/


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Fake news: Lib Dems condemned for campaign leaflets ‘imitating local papers’

You may be getting tired of this image, but it adequately describes the Liberal Democrat offer to the electorate.

This is awkward:

The Liberal Democrats are facing criticism over election campaign leaflets that look like local newspapers.

The party, led by Jo Swinson, has distributed material that mimics local papers as part of its election campaign leading to complaints from newspaper editors.

The Society of Editors has condemned the party for what it says “appears to be a concerted effort by the Liberal Democrats to mislead readers and voters”.

Ian Murray, executive director of the Society of Editors, suggested the move showed the party was taking a hypocritical stance on ‘fake news’.

He said: “It is ironic how it is often politicians who complain about fake news but then set out to at least blur the lines for readers – and in this case voters – by packaging their partial messages to ape independent newspapers.

“If political parties were genuine in their desire, often expressed, to both remove the effects of fake news and disinformation as well as support existing regional and local media they would take steps to ensure their political freesheets look markedly different to real newspapers.”

Indeed. This Writer received one through the door yesterday morning.

News from Jo Swinson’s Liberal Democrats, it thunders. When did Jo Swinson take ownership of the party as well as leadership?

And I wonder why Ms Swinson is being pushed as the bright beacon of the future, after her disastrous performances on the campaign trail and her disintegration in front of the BBC Question Time audience.

There’s a headline article about building a brighter future and a load of quotes from more and more people who are apparently backing the Liberal Democrats.

I’m willing to bet if I compared the quotes and the images with other Lib Dem election communications, I’d find the same things attributed to different images with different names. After all, they’ve done it before…

It’s all extremely propagandish and fake.

Still, at least it wasn’t a local leaflet ordering me to vote for them tactically, using a cleverly-inaccurate bar chart to convince me.

What a nauseating, patronising mob. Every time I receive one of their creepy leaflets I become even more determined to vote for someone else.

Source: Liberal Democrats condemned for campaign leaflets ‘imitating local newspapers’ – Manchester Evening News

Labour’s pre-budget message shows how Tory austerity will make society collapse


Tory Chancellor Philip Hammond is due to announce his latest Budget on Monday afternoon (October 29) – with a new set of austerity measures designed to hammer the poor and cosset the rich.

Don’t believe Theresa May’s pleading that austerity is over! If that were true, Hammond would be restoring services across the country – and you won’t see that in his statement.

No – austerity is here as long as we have penny-pinching Conservatives.

But the Labour Party has released new video messages showing exactly what this means for the fabric of UK society – and it’s not a pretty picture.

See for yourself. Here’s the first:

And now try this:

Get the message? Then please share the videos.

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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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Yes, Iain Duncan Smith – Vox Political HAS accused you of ‘outrageous action’. PROVE US WRONG

Iain Duncan Smith can’t prove us wrong. He deliberately refuses to collect the statistics that would confirm his claims – or ours.

Instead, he has claimed that This Blog (and presumably others) has accused him of “outrageous action”, without providing a scrap of evidence against the allegation.

This Writer is delighted that the Gentleman Ranker has tried to defend himself. I am currently working on a book covering this subject and his words may provide an excellent introduction.

The man we like to call RTU (Return To Unit – a Forces description of someone who trained to be an officer but was a washout) was responding to a request for information from Frank Field, chairman of the Commons work and pensions committee.

Mr Field had asked what data the DWP collects on the deaths of benefit claimants, in an attempt to find out whether there is any link between the work capability assessment (WCA) – carried out on claimants of Employment and Support Allowance and the Personal Independent Payment – and suicide, self-harm and mental ill-health.

The issue had been raised in research by Oxford University and Liverpool University entitled First Do No Harm.

This Blog reported on that document’s findings here – and you would be well-advised to refresh your memory of that article before you see the Secretary-in-a-State’s comments.

You should also read Vox Political‘s follow-up article in which a response from the Department for Work and Pensions – attempting to deny the research findings – is comprehensively disproved.

Iain Duncan Smith started writing his letter without a leg to stand on. Here it is – read it for yourself and see if you have any sympathy for his attitude.

Note that he admits the DWP has a “duty of care” to benefit claimants. It has taken years to get him to admit this and it will be very important if – for example – corporate manslaughter charges arise in the future.

Where he says the report’s authors admitted there was no evidence of a “causal link” between the WCA and suicide, he is of course being disingenuous. Iain Duncan Smith would not be satisfied with any evidence other than coroners’ findings that all 590 suicides mentioned by the report were attributed by the perpetrators to the work capability assessment. That was never going to happen.

But the report did examine other causes and eliminated them. While it states there is no direct evidence of a causal link between the WCA and suicide, the deaths certainly aren’t linked to any other cause.

Note also, Duncan Smith’s claim that the lack of a causal link was not reported in the media is not true.

The comment that there is no evidence the people with mental health problems underwent a WCA is covered in This Blog’s follow-up article, but for clarity I’ll repeat it here:

“Jonathan Portes of the National Institute for Economic and Social Research (NIESR) told This Writer that… the DWP’s response ‘reflects a basic misunderstanding of how you do this sort of analysis! Looking at WCA cases would be precisely wrong. You need to be able to control for selection – to do that here, [you] need to look at [the] whole population.

“’Let’s try [an] example. Does Coke make you fat? You can’t just look at people who drink coke & ask if they’re fatter, but if in areas where Coke [is]cheap, [and] people [are] on average fatter, *controlling for everything else*, that does tell you something.’

“So, in order to ensure that the correct cause is ascribed to any particular effect, those who carried out the study had to examine the health of the population as a whole, and eliminate elements that could relate to everybody, rather than just those who took the work capability assessment. They needed to rule out “unobserved confounding” – unseen elements contributing to the results.”

And that is precisely what they did.

Duncan Smith’s assertion that being sent back to work can “promote and protect health, and also reverse the harmful effects of long-term unemployment or prolonged sickness absence” is only accurate if the person doing the work is healthy enough for it – and, by definition, may not be applied to those whose mental ill-health has driven them to suicide.

Inaccurate WCA findings that claimants are “fit for work” or may be “fit for work” within a year of their assessment also mean that many ESA claimants will be sent back into the job market before they are healthy enough. In these cases, there can only be one result: Being sent back to work will make their health worse.

Of course it will; there is a reason they stopped working and claimed ESA in the first place. If that reason still applies, then sending them back to work can only have one result.

Anyone wanting to suggest that a large number of ESA claimants are committing fraud in order to avoid work should remind themselves of the facts: While a TUC survey has shown people think 27 per cent of the ‘welfare’ budget is claimed fraudulently, the government’s own figure is just 0.7 per cent. For ESA claimants it reduces even further, to 0.4 per cent. That’s one person out of 250, rather than roughly one in four – a big difference, especially when one considers the effect on their health of sending an ill person back to work prematurely, as Iain Duncan Smith appears to be advocating.

And then there is this:

160211IDSnote-outrageousaction

The handwriting is appalling so This Writer will try to translate: “NB: There are some out there in the media and social media who have used raw figures to accuse the govt of outrageous [sic] action. I would hope that the committee would not seek to follow suit. I note that having introduced the ESA and the WCA, the Labour Party now seeks to attack it as though they had nothing to do with it. Surely the committee should seek to recognise the good intent of those engaged in this difficult area.”

Those engaged in this area have no good intent whatsoever – let’s get that clear from the start. Their intentions are well-covered in previous articles on This Blog, which I will forward to Frank Field and his committee.

As for “some out there in the media and social media who… accuse the government of outrageous action” – I think he means me.

How nice to have official recognition and how clever of him to describe his own behaviour accurately.

Outrageous action? That’s exactly right.

Iain Duncan Smith’s department practises ‘chequebook euthanasia’ – WCA assessors use psychological ‘nudge’ techniques to push the mentally-ill towards suicide in order to reduce the “burden” on society caused by these “useless eaters”.

Even Frank Field – chairman of the work and pensions committee who contacted Iain Duncan Smith over the Oxford University and Liverpool University allegations – has raised concerns about this behaviour:

zTerminal

It is outrageous.

Even more outrageous is the fact that Iain Duncan Smith is trying to deny it.

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The work capability assessment and suicide – a.k.a. ‘chequebook euthanasia’

Too ill to work means too ill to live: Work capability assessors have been asking people with serious illnesses and disabilities why they have not committed suicide.

Too ill to work means too ill to live: Work capability assessors have been asking people with serious illnesses and disabilities why they have not committed suicide.

A new phrase has entered the Vox Political lexicon following yesterday’s article on an Atos work capability assessor who asked a woman suffering with depression why she had not committed suicide: ‘Chequebook euthanasia’.

(That article had itself been prompted by a piece the day before, on the higher possibility of people committing suicide over the Christmas period.)

The article prompted Earl Appleby to tweet, in response: “Little surprise here, alas. The able-bodied driving people with disabilities to suicide is a hoary form of chequebook euthanasia.”

He added: “Binding & Hoche advocated chequebook euthanasia nearly a century ago.”

They certainly did. Professors Karl Binding and Erich Hoche raised the case for chequebook euthanasia in Germany’s Weimar Republic, 80 years ago, in their seminal work The Destruction of Life Devoid of Value.

This article reveals the worst about Binding and Hoche. It states that they considered people with disabilities (and would probably have added those with long-term illnesses) to be “‘useless eaters’ whose ‘ballast lives’ could be tossed overboard to better balance the economic ship of state. In speaking of those with disabilities, and explicitly advocating involuntary euthanasia, Binding and Hoche wrote:

Their life is absolutely pointless, but they do not regard it as being unbearable. They are a terrible, heavy burden upon their relatives and society as a whole. Their death would not create even the smallest gap—except perhaps in the feelings of their mothers or loyal nurses.

“Just like today!

Furthermore, Binding and Hoche drove home the economic argument by calculating the total cost expended in caring for such people. They concluded that this cost was ‘a massive capital in the form of foodstuffs, clothing and heating, which is being subtracted from the national product for entirely unproductive purposes.’

Now look at the case of Abi Fallows, as reported yesterday. This is a person who has asserted that she is unable to work – certainly for the foreseeable future – and has medical evidence to support this. The Atos assessor seized on her admission that she suffered with depression and asked why she had not committed suicide.

Not only was this a device to put the idea in her mind, it also indicates government thinking – one less mouth to feed is considerably less expense on, as Binding and Hoche would have it, “their relatives and society as a whole”.

It should be noted at this time that Ms Fallows’ case is not unique – by any stretch of the imagination. Vox Political has a tiny readership, compared with the size of the UK population, let alone the world (this blog is read in all but a few countries internationally) and yet within 15 minutes of the article’s publication, a commenter named Dominique stated: “They asked me too at my assessment.”

Caroline Hudson told the 4UP Politricks Facebook page: “I got asked that at my assessment. In fact she told me I had been looking for attention and had not meant to kill myself otherwise I would not still be here.”

Fellow blogger Jayne Linney told us: “I was asked the same question by Capita as well as ATOS. I wonder if it’s in the DWP ‘Script’?” [bolding mine]

‘Mary’ added: “I think it’s the system. They are told what questions to ask and what boxes to tick.”

“It’s the system”…

Following up on Earl Appleby’s tweet, Trevor Warner added: “It was Binding & Hoche who laid the groundwork for the ‘Aktion T-4’ program implemented by the Nazis.” T4, according to our old friend Wikipedia, was “a programme of forced euthanasia in wartime Nazi Germany. Under the programme physicians were directed to judge patients ‘incurably sick, by critical medical examination,’ and then administer to these patients a ‘mercy death’.” In this way, 70,273 people were despatched during the programme’s official running time, with a further 200,000+ unofficial deaths attributed to German and Austrian physicians practices who continued its practices until the defeat of the Nazis in 1945.

Technology developed for Aktion T4 went on to be used in the infamous extermination camps.

It could be argued that the Coalition Government doesn’t have any blood on its hands. Nobody goes around the United Kingdom subjecting the sick and disabled to so-called ‘mercy’ killings, after all.

They just subject people – who are already in an unstable frame of mind – to a highly pressurised ‘fitness’ test and then demand to know why, considering their condition, they haven’t killed themselves yet. Then they let those people do all the work themselves.

Perhaps the government ministers who devised this wheeze – or perhaps the shadowy American insurance firm that has been advising them on policy – thought it was an excellent way of clearing the books without anyone ever being able to say they were responsible for the deaths.

Well, you know what?

There is a list including around 70 people who have died since the Coalition government came into office, many of whom committed suicide – after taking the Coalition Government’s work capability assessment.

What’s the law on corporate manslaughter, again?

“An organisation… is guilty of an offence if the way in which its activities are managed or organised causes a person’s death; and amounts to a gross breach of a relevant duty of care owed by the organisation to the deceased. An organisation is guilty of an offence only if the way in which its activities are managed or organised by its senior management is a substantial element.”

The noose is beginning to tighten – and not on benefit claimants.

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Government’s ‘troubled families’ programme is failing; we knew it would

[Image: historyextra.com]

[Image: historyextra.com]

Remember back in April last year, when Vox Political said the Coalition government’s plan to stop children in ‘troubled’ families from playing truant, while finding work for the adults and stopping both from committing crime, was doomed to failure?

If you don’t, it’s not surprising (our readership back then was around a quarter of its current level) – and you haven’t missed much, because the scheme is back in the news as it is (again, unsurprisingly) failing.

The VP article pointed out that the government had been fiddling the figures in its bid to make it seem that 120,000 such families exist in the UK; in fact, “the number came from Labour research on disadvantaged families with multiple and complex needs, rather than families that caused problems,” according to ‘trouble families tsar’ Louise Casey at the time.

The article pointed out that local councils, offered a £4,000 bonus for each ‘troubled’ family they identified and helped (for want of a better word) were shoehorning families into the scheme – whether they qualified or not – just to make up the numbers.

It was doomed from the start.

So today we have figures obtained by Labour’s Hilary Benn, showing that around 106,500 families have been identified for the scheme (according to averages worked out from councils that responded to a Freedom of Information request). Of these, only around 35,500 were engaged by the scheme, which then failed in three-quarters of cases (around 26,600 families).

That leaves 8,878 families who actually came back to the straight-and-narrow – less than one-thirteenth of the target figure.

A success rate this low could have been achieved if the government had done nothing.

(That seems to be a running theme with the Coalition. What else does it remind us of? Ah, yes… The Work Programme. In this context it is extremely interesting that Mr Benn said the biggest obstruction to the scheme was the Work Programme’s failure “to deliver jobs to the poorest people in society”.)

According to The Guardian, “Data from 133 councils out of the 152 participating in the scheme found that almost one in seven families that had been “turned around” were either still on drugs, had children missing from school or involved in criminal acts.

“Another 60 per cent of households deemed to have been successfully helped by the scheme in March still had adults on unemployment benefits after leaving the programme.”

Bearing in mind the £4,000 ‘carrot’ that was waved in front of councils as encouragement for them to take part, you’ll enjoy the revelation that each local authority claimed to have found an average of 812 troubled families – 20 per cent more than central government had estimated.

Again, this is hardly surprising. Government-imposed council tax freezes have starved local authorities of money and £4,000, multiplied by 812, brings an average of £3,250,000 into each local authority that they would not, otherwise, have had.

So much for David Cameron’s plan to “heal the scars of the broken society”.

The Guardian also tells us that the ‘troubled families’ programme was launched by Cameron as a Big Society (remember that?) response to the riots of summer 2011.

In fact it doesn’t matter what the Coalition government does – or, indeed, what Labour plans to do if that party comes into office in 2015; schemes that are imposed on people from above will never succeed.

The problem is that the United Kingdom has become an increasingly unequal society, with money and privilege bled out of the majority of the population (who do most of the work for it) and into the hands of a very small number who have power and – it seems – no responsibility at all.

The vast majority of us are seen as disposable commodities by these exploiters – whose number includes a large proportion of MPs with interests in private business; they use us to make their huge profits and then throw us into unemployment.

Is it any wonder that such betrayal breeds families that turn away from the system and take to crime instead?

When David Cameron slithered into Downing Street he said he wanted to “re-balance” society. In fact, he over-balanced it even more in favour of privilege and wealth.

Now we need a proper re-balancing of society. The only way to solve the problem of ‘troubled families’ – a problem said to cost us £9 billion every year, by the way – is for people to be born into a society where everybody is valued and receives a fair (in the dictionary sense of the term, rather than the Conservative Party definition) reward for their contribution.

That will mean a fundamental shift in attitudes that should be taught to everybody from the cradle upwards.

You won’t get it under the Conservatives or any other right-wing government because they are exploiters by definition.

Will you get it under Labour?

Possibly. But a lot of right-wing Blairite dead wood will have to be cleared out first, and Hilary Benn is not the man his father was.

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Does Cameron really think Scotland will stay in the UK because he wants it?

Why Cameron is on a hiding to nothing: Many Scottish people have not forgotten how British governments have mistreated them. [Image: Ceasefire Magazine]

Why Cameron is on a hiding to nothing: Many Scottish people have not forgotten how British governments have mistreated them. [Image: Ceasefire Magazine]

David Cameron gave a speech today in which he made an impassioned plea for Scottish people to vote for staying in the United Kingdom – and if any of them needed an excuse to do the exact opposite, there it is.

He made his comments from the Olympic Park in London – which says everything you need to know about his relationship with Scotland. Was he afraid of the jeers if he travelled up to Edinburgh?

“I passionately believe it is in their interests to stay in the UK – that way Scotland has the space to take decisions while still having the security that comes with being part of something bigger,” Cameron wittered. But he has been shrinking the state. The UK as a whole is much smaller – economically and philosophically – than it was four years ago and that’s his fault.

“In the UK, Scotland is part of a major global player,” he burbled. But the rest of the world now looks down on the UK because of his unstatesmanlike behaviour when dealing with foreign powers. He has diminished the UK in the international community and the Scottish people are well able to see that.

Appealing for those of us in the other UK countries – England, Wales and NI – to apply emotional blackmail on our friends in Scotland, he gibbered: “From us to the people of Scotland, let the message be this: We want you to stay.”

Cameron must think we all have memories so short we could qualify as brain-damaged. Conservatives have historically used Scotland as the testing ground for every rotten little policy they wanted to try out – remember the Poll Tax? – because of no special quality other than the fact that there are no Conservative MPs there.

I don’t want Scotland to vote for independence because I think Scottish people have contributed hugely towards the culture shared by everybody living on the British Isles – it is possible they have added more to our society than the English who dominate our political lives.

In return, they have been treated abominably – most particularly by English Conservatives – and that is why I can’t see Scotland staying in the Union while an English Conservative is in charge in Westminster.

If Scotland does go, you should all know what will happen next: Wales will become the testing ground for rubbish Tory policies. They won’t try it on Northern Ireland because that province’s history tells them exactly what they’d get in return – and if that isn’t a good enough reason for the Welsh people to go feral and start causing havoc, I don’t know what is!

So well done, David – you have considerably worsened our chances of remaining united.

My only hope is that, if Scotland does secede from the union, its leaders keep the door open, so that there always remains the possibility of some form of reunification on terms that strengthen both countries – when (or if) a reasonable government is returned to office in the UK.

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Public and private debt reach record levels under ConDem Coalition

inflation

Household debt in the UK has reached a record £1.43 trillion, according to the BBC. What a marvellous achievement for Gideon George Osborne to put next to his already-record public net debt of £1.212 trillion (excluding interventions) or £2.184 trillion (including them).

If you’re surprised at that, don’t be – he needs to pretend that there isn’t any money so he can cut any services that are still left in the public domain after the fire sale of the last few years.

The Tory plan was always to increase private debt. Of course it was – if you cut public spending for people on the breadline, then they go into debt. Why do you think Wonga.com’s owner Dawn Capital is such a prolific contributor to Tory Party funds, with £537,000 in known donations this time last year?

The rich are shielded from debt problems in the same way they are shielded from taxation, thanks to the way our tax laws have been rewritten in their favour – all their money is safely tucked away in tax havens and can’t be touched.

On average, each adult in the UK owes £28,489. Some owe much more than that, though. Yr obdt srvt doesn’t owe a bean to anyone, despite being very poor, so that’s already £28,489 to be spread among everyone else. Mrs Mike isn’t in debt either.

The BBC report cautiously suggests that the record debt level “might increase concerns that the UK’s economic recovery [you know, the one they keep talking about on the news and in Parliament as if it actually exists] is based on increased borrowing, rather than growth sustained by rising incomes” – which of course is correct.

According to The Money Charity, total net lending by UK banks and building societies rose by £1.9 billion in September 2013 – that’s just in one month.

Over the four quarters to Q2 2013, they wrote off £3.67 billion of loans to individuals. In Q2 2013, the daily write-off was £7.61 million.

Based on the latest available data, every day in the UK 285 people are declared insolvent or bankrupt – that’s one every five minutes; 84 properties are repossessed; 1,447 people lost their jobs and eight people became unemployed for more than 12 months; 141 mortgage possession claims are issued and 113 mortgage possession orders are made; and 431 landlord possession claims are issued and 319 landlord possession orders are made.

The benefit system helps nobody. It has been redesigned specifically to push people further into debt – the cap on benefit rate increases to one per cent per year means people are two per cent worse-off for every year it continues, while inflation remains at current levels.

It is in this atmosphere that words written in this blog more than a year ago come back to haunt us all: “What do people do for money when the State fails them and they can’t get work? They fall into the debt trap.

“High-interest, doorstep lending to poor people is Britain’s latest – perhaps only – boom industry. In other words, the government’s sick benefits regime is forcing the poor into debt to organisations that will take away everything they have left, in order to make up payments on a loan whose interest rate they probably made up on the spot.

“And when they’ve taken everything, what do you do then?

“Do you really want your kids to starve?”

Who’s ashamed of the big bad ‘B’ word?

Who should be more ashamed that Peter Lumb (left) has been summonsed because he is unemployed and does not have the cash to pay his council tax bill? Mr Lumb himself? Or George Osborne (right) for creating a system in which people like Mr Lumb are thrown away by indifferent employers?

Who should be more ashamed that Peter Lumb (left) has been summonsed because he is unemployed and does not have the cash to pay his council tax bill? Mr Lumb himself? Or George Osborne (right) for creating a system in which people like Mr Lumb are thrown away by indifferent employers?

“Why are you ashamed of being on benefits?”

One of our commenters asked this of another after they admitted that being on benefits made them feel ashamed. It took me completely by surprise as at first I thought it was aimed at me. Then it occurred that it might have been a general question aimed at anybody on benefits. Only then did I see that it was a response to someone else who had said as much.

In the period between reading the comment and realising what it was about, my mind went through several different thought processes which, in the spirit of Douglas Adams, we may call the Why, How and Who phases. The first could be characterised by the question, ‘Why should I feel ashamed?’; the second by the question, ‘How could shame be an appropriate response?’; and the third by the question, ‘Who should feel ashamed?’

Let’s look at the first. I’m on a benefit; I receive Carers’ Allowance. I feel no shame whatsoever for being in receipt of it. Here’s why:

I quit my last (full-time) news reporting job in mid-2007 to become a full-time carer for Mrs Mike. As everyone reading this probably knows by now, Mrs M has been in a great deal of pain for a great deal of time, and her condition has been worsening. In 2007 the government of the day acknowledged this by putting her on Disability Living Allowance (she was already on Incapacity Benefit), and this meant that I could get the allowance if I was looking after her for more than 35 hours a week. I jumped at the opportunity.

Yes – it was an opportunity. You see, conditions at work had been worsening of late. For the hours I was being asked to work, my pay packet had been decreasing, in real terms, year-on-year. Recently the company had decided to move the office where I worked to the far edge of the patch I covered, forcing me to drive 82 miles there and back, every day. I was tired, I felt misused, and I was starting to go into debt.  Swap this for benefits? For me, it wasn’t a decision at all.

Note carefully: My decision to go on benefits made me better-off (I’m not in debt any more) – not because benefits habitually pay more than wages, but because my (former) bosses had been pushing my wages down, in real terms, beyond the point at which I could make ends meet. It was their decision to do so that meant I could not balance my books; it was their decision to move the office that meant I was spending hours every day in transit when I could have been doing something else; it was the same decision that meant I knew I would not be able to cover the patch as well as I wanted to.

I could have made a case for constructive dismissal. This seemed a much more amicable way out.

I don’t think my situation is unusual. Across the UK, millions of employees are probably in the same situation now – or one that is worse. The problem does not lie with them but with their bosses. If any of them had to give up their job for similar reasons, there would be no cause for shame (in my opinion).

The other reason I don’t feel any shame about being on benefits is that I haven’t made that the sum total of my life. I carry out my caring duties diligently – and have gone head-to-head against the Department for Work and Pensions in the course of those duties, as has been reported here many times.

But I am allowed to do other things as well, provided that my earnings do not exceed a certain amount per week. That’s why I was able to work for an internet news service earlier this year (until their funding for me ran out). That’s why I’ve published one Vox Political book already*, with two more on the way.

These are all legitimate – and in fact if the books started bringing in a larger income – enough to support us – I would be overjoyed at the chance to get off-benefit and provide Mrs M with a better quality of life.

What I’m saying is that being on benefits should not put an end to anybody’s ambitions. You might be supported by the state’s (extremely threadbare and fragile, thanks to Lord Fraud’s and Iain Duncan Smith’s interference) safety net, but that doesn’t mean you can’t keep working for what you want to do.

This leads me to the answer I found for the second question, ‘How could shame be an appropriate response?’ The only reason a person on benefits should be ashamed of it is if they are not doing everything they can to get back on track – getting into the career they want and earning a living wage from it.

A wiser man once said that the way forward is dedication. If you are able-bodied and you have an ambition to be… I don’t know… a writer, it’s not going to happen straight away – so get a job frying fish down at the local chip shop if that’s what it takes to pay the bills, or go on benefits if there aren’t even menial jobs around, but make sure you spend all your spare time putting in the effort to get that first writing gig, whether it’s journalism, scripting comics, writing gags for radio or TV comedy shows, scripting full-length shows, staging plays on an amateur level with a view to progressing into professional theatre – whatever. The possibilities are endless and anyone who wants to make a living from pounding keyboards will need to try the lot.

And there’s no shame in working for employers who have different beliefs – political, moral, whatever – than yourself. If their dollar is good, then it’s all good experience and (if you are a writer) possible grist for the mill one day. That’s one reason I saw nothing badly wrong with Mehdi Hasan’s application to work for the Daily Mail.

The shame would lie in giving up; turning away from your ambitions and accepting society’s current label for a benefit claimant – being a scrounger. Being a skiver. Being a burden on society. Or never bothering to try in the first place.

So, finally, ‘Who should feel ashamed?’ Not me. Not anybody who has been dropped by their employer because of the downturn, nor anybody who has been trying hard to climb back onto the employment ladder. Especially not those who have been trying so hard, and for so long, that they have suffered mental health problems as a result.

Some people claiming benefits do have a legitimate reason to be ashamed of it. They are the people who are ‘playing’ the system; the benefit fraudsters, the ones who could do better but can’t be bothered, the ones who pretend they are ill when they aren’t.

They total seven people in every thousand benefit claimants. They are a tiny, tiny minority. But they’re not the only ones who should be ashamed.

It seems to me that a far larger portion of shame lies with employers who deliberately push workforce wages downwards, in order to improve their own salaries (and in some cases, shareholder profits – look out, Royal Mail employees). It lies with employers who treat their people as disposable commodities, rather than assets to be nurtured.

And it also lies with governments, past and present, that allowed these practices to go on – and in fact failed to legislate against them; and with politicians who have worked for the advantage of Big Money, rather than that of the Little People who create it.

That’s where the real shame lies.

Not with folk like you and me who’ve got patches on every pair of trousers they own.

But with the people in the expensive suits.

* Vox Political: Strong Words and Hard Times may be bought here, here, here, here and here, costing £9.99 or £4 – depending on the format in which you wish to receive it.