Tag Archives: The Times

Has Johnson bullied his own mother into withdrawing from a campaign criticising him?

Charlotte Johnson Wahl (right) with Boris Johnson (left). In between is Rachel Johnson, her daughter and his sister.

Boris Johnson really is a despicable runt, isn’t he? It seems now he has been manipulating his own mother for political purposes.

Charlotte Johnson Wahl had signed a public letter, to be published in The Times, criticising the poor provision of treatment for Parkinson’s disease on the National Health Service.

The letter had been organised by the charity Parkinson’s UK as part of its “Get It On Time” campaign to ensure patients can have reliable access to drugs while they are in hospital.

This is a topical issue as the provision of some medications would be endangered after Brexit – particularly the “no deal” departure that Mr Johnson has supported so strongly.

The letter was due to appear in the newspaper this week – but was suddenly pulled from publication.

It has now been revealed that Ms Wahl had informed the charity that she no longer wished her name to be on the letter, after having been contacted by Downing Street.

According to The Guardian: “A Downing Street source suggested Johnson Wahl had not been fully aware that her decision to back the letter was going to result in it being published in a national newspaper.

“’When charities are speaking to members of the public they have a duty to be fully transparent about why they are asking for support, the campaigns they are running, and if the information shared with them is to be used in the public domain,’ the source said.”

This seem utter piffle to me.

For a start, Parkinson’s UK chief executive Steve Ford has made it clear that the organisation always ensures that those whose voices it uses know exactly what they are doing.

“Our priority will always be people affected by the condition, and their voices and views are integral and at the heart of everything we do. As such, we are always open and transparent about how their voices will be represented,” he said.

Furthermore, Ms Wahl is a longtime campaigner in association with Parkinson’s UK for better provision on the NHS for people with the condition, predating her son becoming prime minister, as The Guardian‘s article makes clear.

Diagnosed with the condition when she was 40, she has lived with it for nearly half her life (she is now 77).

Earlier this year, she took part in a protest organised by the charity against the decision to cut the provision of a specialist nurse in west London and has worked closely with Parkinson’s UK to put pressure on politicians.

That was in January, before Mr Johnson was prime minister, and there was no intervention to stop her then!

And the issue Mr Johnson appears to have acted to suppress is extremely serious.

Patients with Parkinson’s who fail to receive the appropriate medicine on time while in hospital, often while being treated for unrelated illnesses, can find themselves left unable to talk or walk.

It seems that Mr Johnson’s policies make such a fate increasingly likely for people living with Parkinson’s.

And now it seems he is denying his own mother a voice to protest against it.

What a vile excuse for a human being, let alone a son.

Source: Boris Johnson’s mother exits Parkinson’s campaign after No 10 intervention | Politics | The Guardian

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Inquiry launched into Corbyn ‘frailty’ claim by civil servants – but it isn’t independent

Not so frail: Jeremy Corbyn looked perfectly healthy when he scaled the wall at a climbing centre in Leeds last October. If senior civil servants have been briefing that he is ‘frail’, perhaps they had an ulterior political motive.

The Cabinet Office has launched an inquiry after senior civil service sources were said to have claimed that the considered Jeremy Corbyn “too frail” to be prime minister – but it won’t be the independent inquiry that Mr Corbyn wants.

The prime minister’s spokesman stated: “The Cabinet Office is investigating this potential breach of the civil service code fully and fairly just as it would any other. If we are able to identify an individual responsible we will take disciplinary action.”

Mr Corbyn, 70, had demanded a “speedy and thorough” independent inquiry after The Times reported that two senior civil servants had claimed that he might have to stand down due to health issues.

In a letter to Cabinet Office secretary Mark Sedwill, he stated that the matter had “undermined confidence in the principle of civil service neutrality”, adding that “such discussions, based on false assumptions, should not be taking place, nor shared with a newspaper”.

He also stated: “For there to be trust in any investigation, there need to be assurances on its scope and independence. In the light of this, I would urge you to ensure that there is a speedy and thorough independent investigation, rather than one carried out by the Cabinet Office.”

In spite of this, the Cabinet Office has launched its own inquiry.

Will we be able to trust the findings of the report – and any action taken on those findings?

That will depend on what those findings are – and the manner in which they are reported.

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Damning #Brexit memo is a wake-up call for us all – including its authors

Theresa May delivers her Mansion House speech, but nobody's listening: Brexit has already made her the laughing stock of the world.

Theresa May delivers her Mansion House speech, but nobody’s listening: Brexit has already made her the laughing stock of the world.

Members of ‘Big Four’ accountancy firm Deloittes may be waking up to an uncomfortable truth about their friends in the Conservative Government today (November 15) – that a Tory will turn on anyone.

The firm has spent six years helping the Conservatives push their punitive agenda of cuts and privatisation but – after a memo on ‘Brexit’ was leaked to the press – suddenly the Tories don’t recognise Deloittes’ work.

This is despite the apparent fact that the consultant from the firm who wrote the report (titled ‘Brexit update’) was working for the Cabinet Office, according to The Times.

The memo said Whitehall departments were working on more than 500 projects related to leaving the EU and may need to hire an extra 30,000 civil servants to deal with the additional work. That would undo much of the Tories’ work in shrinking the civil service, of course.

It identified a tendency by Theresa May to “draw in decisions and settle matters herself” as a strategy that could not be sustained, and highlighted a split between the three Brexit ministers – Liam Fox, Boris Johnson and David Davis – and the chancellor, Philip Hammond, and his ally Greg Clark, the business secretary as “divisions within the cabinet”. So the Conservative Party is divided again – and we know that divided parties don’t win.

It said major industry players were expected to “point a gun to the government’s head” to get what they wanted after Nissan was given assurances that it would not lose out from investing in Britain after Brexit. We all knew this already.

Perhaps most damningly, it stated that “no common strategy has emerged” on Brexit, despite extended debate among the permanent secretaries who head Whitehall departments.

This is not what the Conservatives want the public to hear, so of course they have disowned the memo, claiming it was “unsolicited”, was not a government memo and the government rejected its contents. They would, wouldn’t they?

The government also tried to smear the memo’s authors by claiming it was a pitch for business – but then, government departments habitually ask firms to submit such work, so this is not proof that the memo was not requested by ministers.

The fact that it fell to Chris ‘Failing’ Grayling – the Transport Secretary – to pass these comments lends them no authenticity whatsoever.

David Davis is the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union – what does he have to say about it? Nothing.

Grayling said he had no idea where the report came from and denied that it had been commissioned by ministers. But then, what would he know about it? He’s the Transport Secretary.

His comments – like “I have a team of people in my department who are working with David Davis on issues like aviation, but I do not see the scale of the challenge that is in today’s newspaper” – are those of a man who is only seeing part of the project, rather than the whole.

Meanwhile, in her Mansion House speech, prime minister Theresa May told an audience of dozing businesspeople that Brexit was an opportunity for the UK to “step up” to a new “global role”.

As what? The world’s clown?

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Tim Yeo loses ‘cash-for-advocacy’ libel case against Sunday Times


The news seems to be full of Parliamentarians – or ex-Parliamentarians – involved in sleaze of some sort at the moment. Here’s the latest example:

Former Tory MP Tim Yeo has lost his libel action over a “cash-for-advocacy” claim which he said trashed his reputation.

Yeo had asked for substantial compensation over three reports in the Sunday Times, in June 2013, which followed a lunch the previous month with two undercover journalists from the Insight team posing as representatives for a solar energy concern in the Far East.

They alleged that he was prepared to, and had offered to, act in a way that was in breach of the Commons code of conduct by acting as a paid parliamentary advocate who would push for new laws to benefit the business of a client for a daily fee of £7,000 and approach ministers, civil servants and other MPs to promote a client’s private agenda in return for cash.

They also contained comment to the effect that he had shown willing to abuse his position to further his own financial and business interests.

Times Newspapers Ltd said that the articles were true, it was fair comment and also responsible journalism on matters of public interest.

Yeo was not at London’s high court on Wednesday when Mr Justice Warby dismissed his case.

He has agreed to pay Times Newspapers £411,000 on account of its legal fees within 28 days, with any further costs to be assessed on the indemnity basis.

Source: Tim Yeo loses ‘cash-for-advocacy’ libel case against Sunday Times | Media | The Guardian

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Tory sycophant of the week: Tim Montgomerie

Tim Montgomerie: Before you suggest that he should open the window and jump, it may be worth noting that he's on the ground floor.

Tim Montgomerie: Before you suggest that he should open the window and jump, it may be worth noting that he’s on the ground floor.

Responses to Prime Minister’s Questions every Wednesday are always interesting, sometimes sinister – and sometimes unintentionally hilarious.

Yesterday (Wednesday), David Cameron and Ed Miliband were tearing chunks out of each other over the National Health Service, with the NHS in Wales coming under particularly heavy scrutiny.

In the midst of this, Tim Montgomerie, editor of the ConservativeHome blog and comment editor of The Times*, tweeted the following:
141023montie1
He is of course doubly wrong. Firstly, his tweet was made on the same day that a former cancer sufferer who was cured by NHS Wales expressed outrage that Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has smeared the service and demanded an apology from Hunt to the doctors who saved his life.
Secondly, he seems blissfully unaware of the fact that the Tory-led Coalition Government proved – only yesterday – that it can’t look after the economy. This administration’s reason for existence was to reduce the national deficit to nothing by the next general election in 2015. We found out very quickly that this was not going to happen, but yesterday we learned that the deficit is actually rising again, partly because the Tory squeeze on workers’ wages has meant none of the people who have been put to work on a pittance have been able to pay any taxes.
The Treasury’s comment – that the government’s long-term economic plan is working – showed very clearly that the Tory-led Coalition is in no fit state to run the economy.
Therefore, by Mr Montgomerie’s own admission, it is in no fit state to look after the NHS.
It seems that ministers are more likely to benefit from NHS treatment.
*ConservativeHome is a Tory-oriented political blog that is slightly less influential than Vox Political – but still worth reading if you want to laugh at the things these people believe. The Times used to be a newspaper until it was bought by Rupert Murdoch.

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Greatest Coalition Failures: National Health Service

zcoalitionfailNHS

National Health Service staff went on a four-hour strike today (Monday) against a pay freeze which has meant one in five of them have had to take other jobs in order to make ends meet.

Health Secretary Jeremy Misprint Hunt, whose 10 per cent pay rise on his ministerial salary of around £140,000 is safe, said the health service could not possibly afford to add one per cent to workers’ pay. The minimum starting salary for a registered nurse is £21,478; Hunt’s pay rise alone could cover a one-per-cent increase for no less than 65 such nurses, and they are by no means the lowest-paid NHS workers.

The strike has come as The Times newspaper claimed that “senior Tories have admitted that reorganising the NHS is the biggest mistake they have made in government,” with at least £5 billion a year wasted on inefficiencies.

The paper’s online version is hidden behind a paywall, but its front page states: “David Cameron did not understand the controversial reforms and George Osborne regrets not preventing what Downing Street officials call a ‘huge strategic error’, it can be revealed.

“The prime minister and the chancellor both failed to realise the explosive extent of plans drawn up by Andrew Lansley, when he was the health secretary, which one insider described as ‘unintelligible gobbledegook’.

“An ally of Mr Osborne said ‘George kicks himself for not having spotted it and stopped it. He had the opportunity then and he didn’t take it.’

“The admission came during an investigation by The Times that has found at least £5 billion is wasted every year on inefficiences, such as overpaying for supplies, out of date drugs, agency workers and empty buildings, a study carried out for ministers said.”

The report raises several questions. Firstly, if Lansley’s reforms were a mistake, that doesn’t mean Cameron and Osborne would have proposed anything better. Tories are almost universally dedicated to the end of the National Health Service and the worsening of working-class health.

Secondly, if David Cameron did not understand Lansley’s plans, why did he allow them to go through? As Prime Minister, he is responsible for the activities of his government and a lack of comprehension indicates that he is not fit for the role – and never was. Is it possible that Cameron was swayed by the fact that Lansley was his mentor at the Conservative Research Department and he thought he owed a favour?

Thirdly, if Gideon didn’t spot it, what does that say about his abilities as Guardian of the Public Purse? (Actually, here’s a link to an article about his abilities in this regard. Read it and weep, George!)

Finally, and perhaps most importantly: How did the government let the NHS fall into this terrible condition? For the answer, we have to go back, again, to the Coalition Agreement.

22. NHS

The Government believes that the NHS is an important expression of our national values [From this we may conclude that the Tories (and their little LD friends) decided to change the NHS and make it reflect their values]. We are committed to an NHS that is free at the point of use and available to everyone based on need, not the ability to pay [Fail]. We want to free NHS staff from political micromanagement [Fail], increase democratic participation in the NHS [Fail] and make the NHS more accountable to the patients that it serves [Fail]. That way we will drive up standards, support professional responsibility, deliver better value for money and create a healthier nation [Fail].

  • We will guarantee that health spending increases in real terms in each year of the Parliament, while recognising the impact this decision will have on other departments  [Vox Political has just spent several weeks demonstrating to the BBC that this has not happened].
  • We will stop the top-down reorganisations of the NHS that have got in the way of patient care. We are committed to reducing duplication and the resources spent on administration, and diverting these resources back to front-line care [Andrew Lansley’s Health and Social Care Act 2012 was the largest top-down reorganisation ever imposed on the National Health Service. It was also gibberish (as top Tories now concede) and has cost the service more money than it could ever hope to save].
  • We will significantly cut the number of health quangos [Clinical Commissioning Groups are quangos – so in fact it seems likely the number has increased].
  • We will cut the cost of NHS administration by a third and transfer resources to support doctors and nurses on the front line.
  • We will stop the centrally dictated closure of A&E and maternity wards, so that people have better access to local services [The Coalition government has never – let’s have that again: NEVER – refused permission for a plan to close A&E wards].
  • We will strengthen the power of GPs as patients’ expert guides through the health system by enabling them to commission care on their behalf [This refers, again, to CCGs. In fact, overworked GPs do not have time to plan and commission services, and have handed responsibility over, in most cases, to private health companies. This has opened the way for a huge amount of corruption, as these companies may commission services from themselves. More than one-third of doctors who are board members of CCGs have financial interests in private healthcare (NHS SOS, p 5].
  • We will ensure that there is a stronger voice for patients locally through directly elected individuals on the boards of their local primary care trust (PCT). The remainder of the PCT’s board will be appointed by the relevant local authority or authorities, and the Chief Executive and principal officers will be appointed by the Secretary of State on the advice of the new independent NHS board. This will ensure the right balance between locally accountable individuals and technical expertise.
  • The local PCT will act as a champion for patients and commission those residual services that are best undertaken at a wider level, rather than directly by GPs [Fail. This hasn’t happened]. It will also take responsibility for improving public health for people in their area, working closely with the local authority and other local organisations [Fail].
  • If a local authority has concerns about a significant proposed closure of local services, for example an A&E department, it will have the right to challenge health organisations, and refer the case to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel. The Panel would then provide advice to the Secretary of State for Health [Fail. The right to challenge seems to have been introduced but has been ineffective].
  • We will give every patient the right to choose to register with the GP they want, without being restricted by where they live [Fail. In fact, the Coalition has given GPs – or rather, CCGs – the right to choose the patients they want, meaning they can exclude patients with expensive, long-term conditions. This has an effect on the promise to provide care to everyone that is free at the point of use, of course].
  • We will develop a 24/7 urgent care service in every area of England, including GP out-of-hours services, and ensure every patient can access a local GP [Fail, for reasons indicated above]. We will make care more accessible by introducing a single number for every kind of urgent care and by using technology to help people communicate with their doctors [The service was launched in 2013 and was a complete and utter failure – it could not cope with demand on any level].
  • We will renegotiate the GP contract and incentivise ways of improving access to primary care in disadvantaged areas.
  • We will make the NHS work better by extending best practice on improving discharge from hospital, maximising the number of day care operations, reducing delays prior to operations, and where possible enabling community access to care and treatments.
  • We will help elderly people live at home for longer through solutions such as home adaptations and community support programmes.
  • We will prioritise dementia research within the health research and development budget.
  • We will seek to stop foreign healthcare professionals working in the NHS unless they have passed robust language and competence tests.
  • Doctors and nurses need to be able to use their professional judgement about what is right for patients and we will support this by giving front-line staff more control of their working environment.
  • We will strengthen the role of the Care Quality Commission so it becomes an effective quality inspectorate [The CQC has been rocked by the revelations of one cover-up after another, involving physical and psychological abuse of clients]. We will develop Monitor into an economic regulator that will oversee aspects of access, competition and price-setting in the NHS [Monitor has been turned into the enforcer of the government’s privatisation initiative].
  • We will establish an independent NHS board to allocate resources and provide commissioning guidelines [This is NHS England, which now takes decisions that would once have been in the hands of doctors. It can intervene in the running of any CCG, forcing changes where they don’t fall into line. It rigidly enforces spending limits].
  • We will enable patients to rate hospitals and doctors according to the quality of care they received, and we will require hospitals to be open about mistakes and always tell patients if something has gone wrong.
  • We will measure our success on the health results that really matter – such as improving cancer and stroke survival rates or reducing hospital infections.
  • We will publish detailed data about the performance of healthcare providers online, so everyone will know who is providing a good service and who is falling behind.
  • We will put patients in charge of making decisions about their care, including control of their health records [Jeremy Hunt wanted to sell your health records to private companies. Although the scheme was put on hold in February 2014, it seems to be running now. Your health records may already be in the hands of private companies].
  • We will create a Cancer Drugs Fund to enable patients to access the cancer drugs their doctors think will help them, paid for using money saved by the NHS through our pledge to stop the rise in Employer National Insurance contributions from April 2011.
  • We will reform NICE and move to a system of value-based pricing, so that all patients can access the drugs and treatments their doctors think they need.
  • We will introduce a new dentistry contract that will focus on achieving good dental health and increasing access to NHS dentistry, with an additional focus on the oral health of schoolchildren.
  • We will provide £10 million a year beyond 2011 from within the budget of the Department of Health to support children’s hospices in their vital work. And so that proper support for the most sick children and adults can continue in the setting of their choice, we will introduce a new per-patient funding system for all hospices and providers of palliative care.
  • We will encourage NHS organisations to work better with their local police forces to clamp down on anyone who is aggressive and abusive to staff.
  • We are committed to the continuous improvement of the quality of services to patients, and to achieving this through much greater involvement of independent and voluntary providers [Fail. The introduction of independent (read: private companies) and voluntary providers has been a costly disaster].
  • We will give every patient the power to choose any healthcare provider that meets NHS standards, within NHS prices. This includes independent, voluntary and community sector providers [Not true. The patient never has a choice].

The comments (in bold, above) relate only to a few of the calamities that have been forced on the NHS by the Coalition government (you may be aware of others) – and it is important to add that these took place only in England, where the Coalition has control. Health in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is a devolved responsibility but the Tories and Liberal Democrats have tried to influence the provision of services by restricting the amount of money available to the other countries of the UK.

In addition, fears are high that the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the European Union and the United States of America will “lock in” the privatisation of health services, as corporations will be allowed to sue national governments if they impose changes that would affect a company’s profits. These claims have been rubbished by the European Commission and Tory ministers – but they would, wouldn’t they?

In summary: The last four and a half years have witnessed a sustained attack on the National Health Service in the United Kingdom, by a government that won most of its votes on a claim that it would protect and strengthen that organisation. It was a lie that has caused misery for millions – and is likely to have cost many, many lives.

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Scotland: Who did you say was the enemy, again?

camsaltire

Vox Political is indebted to Facebook commenter Martin Ballinger, who draws attention to a short article from The Times:

“Downing Street risked Scottish anger last night by reassuring Tory MPs that
public funds given to Scotland would decrease over time.

“The three party leaders vowed to retain the Barnett formula as part of efforts
to persuade Scottish voters to remain in the Union. However, since last
week’s vote, Tory MPs have voiced anger at the funding model, which grants
£1,600 a head more in public money to Scotland than England.

“A source at No 10 said that Westminster would keep to its promise to retain
the formula, but added that it would reduce as Scotland gained more fiscal
powers.”

On the face of it, this may seem perfectly reasonable. More tax-raising powers for Scotland means less need for the rest of the UK to support it from general taxation – right?

But the Scottish population is just one-twelfth that of the whole UK, meaning the tax burden on Scottish people is likely to be much greater, just to receive the same services as before. Think about it – services for a smaller number of people always cost more than for a larger number; that’s why Labour created systems like the NHS to spread the cost of healthcare as thinly as possible.

It seems that, when the dust has settled, the Scottish people will find out that having is not so pleasing a thing, after all, as wanting.

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DWP’s shame: Facts reveal how ministers duped the press

Lest we forget: We know that, on average, 73 people died every week between January and November 2011 - after undergoing the DWP work capability assessment administered by Atos. Who knows how many are dying now?

Lest we forget: We know that, on average, 73 people died every week between January and November 2011 – after undergoing the DWP work capability assessment administered by Atos. Who knows how many are dying now?

Today the DWP finally released its press release claiming that huge numbers of people who wanted Employment and Support Allowance have been found fit for work instead.

Interestingly, the DWP story differs from that published by the BBC, even though the corporation must have used a version of the press release provided to it in advance.

In the BBC story, released on Saturday, “More than a million others withdrew their claims after interviews” – but the DWP press notice, released today, claims “More than a million others withdrew their claims before reaching a face-to-face assessment”.

In addition, the DWP release features a long section on its Disability Confident roadshow, and there is another statistic which claims that the proportion of disabled people in work has reached 45 per cent.

Disability Confident, designed “to encourage more employers to hire disabled people”, “to showcase the talents of disabled people and highlight their tremendous value to the British economy” is, on the face of it, a good idea.

But I wonder if it isn’t a smokescreen to hide how the DWP is pushing thousands of disabled people into saying they are self-employed and taking tax credits rather than ESA, in order to fudge the figures and make it seem as though good work is being done.

Vox Political reported on this before ,and it is worth adding that the BBC itself ran the original report that work advisers were pushing the jobless into self-employment.

Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive…

Of course, the best source of ESA-related statistics is on the iLegal site where the figures behind the press release have been picked apart by an expert who doesn’t have a vested interest in saving ministerial face.

They show that an average of 83 per cent of the 1,078,200 Incapacity claimants who were assessed qualified for ESA between October 2012 and May last year, while 88 per cent of the 1,332,300 ‘repeatedly assessed’ were re-qualifying.

While the DWP and the BBC have claimed 1.8 million people have magically disappeared from the Incapacity/ESA claimant count, the DWP’s own figures confirm that overall numbers have reduced by only 156,630 since May 2010.

The iLegal article makes it clear that “the claimant count is far from a static number; each month thousands of claimants come on and off all benefits”. But it seems clear that the BBC/DWP figure is a conflated total, simply adding up all new claims – rather than claimants – from 2008 onwards.

This is exactly why UK Statistics Authority chief Andrew Dilnot chastised the government after the Conservative Party released an almost-identical press release last year, using then-current (but still inaccurate) figures and not mentioning Disability Confident.

Let’s go back to the number of people found ‘fit for work’ after assessment. Has everybody forgotten the hammering that the government took during a debate on Atos’ handling of the Work Capability Assessment, exactly a year and a week ago today? If you have, don’t worry – you can read all about it here.

The debate demonstrated time after time that the work capability assessment, as devised by the DWP’s Conservative ministerial team and run by its employees at Atos, was not fit for purpose; that the overwhelming majority of those who had been found ‘fit for work’ were nothing of the sort; and that “this is a government that is perfectly happy with a system that is throwing thousands of sick and disabled people to the wolves”.

The government refused to listen. Then-Employment minister Mark Hoban (standing in, conspicuously, for Esther McVey, who was minister for the disabled at the time) said the independent reviews conducted by Professor Malcolm Harrington had identified areas of improvement and appropriate steps were being taken.

This claim was false. Out of 25 recommendations made by Professor Harrington in his year one review alone, almost two thirds were not fully and successfully implemented.

The government also claimed, repeatedly, that Prof Harrington had supported the migration of Incapacity Benefit claimants to ESA. When fellow blogger Sue Marsh contacted him for confirmation, he responded: “I NEVER—repeat–NEVER agreed to the IB migration. I would have preferred that it be delayed but by the time I said that, the political die had been cast. I then said that i would review progress of that during my reviews. The decision was political. I could not influence it. IS THAT CRYSTAL CLEAR?”

I’d say so – to everybody but the Coalition government.

Now:

A good reporter at the BBC would have had all this information to hand. They would have known that the work capability assessment was extremely controversial and had been shown, many times, to be unfit for purpose. They would have known that the government had been slapped down by the UK Statistics Authority after releasing an almost-identical press release last year. They absolutely should have known that other reporters in the same organisation had revealed that the DWP had been pushing disabled people into claiming they were self-employed in an effort to cook the books.

With all that information to hand, it begs the question: Why did they then go ahead with the propagandised misrepresentation of the facts that appeared on the BBC News website on Saturday?

And, before reporters at Business Standard (“A million Britons found lying for illness benefits“?), the Belfast Telegraph, International Business Times UK, Metro, The Times, Channel 4 News, Press TV, Descrier, SME Times, AoI Money, The Mirror, Gloucester Citizen, Huffington Post, Evening Standard, and especially the Daily Mail, whose article was hysterical in both senses of the term, allow me to ask…

What’s your excuse?

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Three letters: F-O-X

liamfox

Has anybody examined the verbal vandalism attempted by former Defence Secretary Liam Fox on the National Health Service this week?

Mr Fox’s known financial interests include receiving £5,000 to run his private office in October 2012 from investment company IPGL Ltd, who purchased healthcare pharma company Cyprotex.

That didn’t stop him from trying to starve what’s left of the publicly-owned part of our health service of the ever-dwindling portion of taxpayers’ cash earmarked for it.

He demanded that NHS funding should not be ring-fenced after the 2015 general election, saying its performance does not justify the favour.

He told The Times: “I think we’ve tested to destruction the idea that simply throwing lots more money at the health service will make it better.

“The increase over the last decade has been phenomenal and yet a lot of our health indicators lag behind other countries, particular things like stroke outcome or a lot of cancer outcomes.

“We’ve become obsessed with throughput and not outcomes and that has been hugely to the detriment of the patients in our system.

“If you treat the National Health Service itself as being the important entity, and not the patients, then you’re on a hiding to nothing.”

There’s a lot of material in there that isn’t worth the time it took to cut and paste it (from the Guardian article) – but it needs to be addressed because there will be people in this country who believe it.

Firstly: Ring-fencing the budget does not mean it has remained at pre-2010 heights. In fact all parts of the NHS have had to cut budgets by four per cent, year on year, in order to meet the so-called ‘Nicholson challenge’ to cut £20 billion from the overall budget by 2015. In addition, while David Cameron has insisted that his government will have increased that budget by £12.7 billion by 2015, figures up to 2013 show a decrease in funding.

They haven’t been “throwing lots more money at the health service”; they’ve been starving it. This came after a decade of, yes, record investment – which resulted in record levels of public satisfaction as it met ambitious targets to cut waiting times and improve patient care.

It was only after the Conservative-led Coalition government came into office that NHS providers began to be cut and squeezed into downsizing, mergers, centralisation and closures. The aim is to reduce the NHS in England to a very few short-staffed, demoralised and overloaded central units, covering only those services deemed unprofitable by private sector providers – including the company that gave Mr Fox his five grand.

He’s not alone – 78 per cent of his fellows in the Parliamentary Conservative Party, including Prime Minister David Cameron and Andrew Lansley, the former Health Secretary who pushed through the unwanted legislation that made this possible, also have financial or vested interests in private healthcare.

You’ll have noticed that Mr Fox did not declare that he had received money from a company associated with private healthcare when he made his comments. The fact is that his fellow Tories, when discussing the then-Health and Social Care Bill, didn’t declare theirs either.

Since the Bill became law, it seems MPs have been falling over themselves to talk the NHS into the grave. But consider this: They all have a financial interest in doing so. If they succeed in their plan to turn over taxpayers’ money to private firms and let the public service wither away, then they are likely to receive dividends from the various companies in which they are involved.

This is known as ‘obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception’ or, more commonly, fraud.

Mr Fox already had to resign his cabinet position because of an inappropriate business relationship.

Now he is making the same mistake again – and risking more than his reputation.

(Much more information on the Tory-led privatisation of the NHS is available in NHS SOS, edited by Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis and published by Oneworld. To find out how you can work to reverse the damage being done to the most cherished organisation in the UK, please visit www.keepournhspublic.com and www.nhscampaign.org.uk)

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Former Tory’s full-page rebuke ad fails to hit the mark

Not worried: This comedy double-act won't be worried about 'Martin' and his full-page advert attacking them in The Times - his criticisms are so wide of the mark that they make his look more stupid than they do.

Not worried: This comedy double-act won’t be worried about ‘Martin’ and his full-page advert attacking them in The Times – his criticism is so wide of the mark that it makes him look more stupid than them!

We need to have a few words about Martin.

It probably did us all a lot of good to learn that a disillusioned Conservative voter calling himself by that name has coughed up around £16,000 to publicise his opinion about David Cameron and George Osborne’s leadership of the UK.

He made his points in a full-page advert in The Times newspaper yesterday, taking the form of a letter to the comedy Tory double-act. It’s just a shame that most of it is an unrelenting flow of bilge.

But then, he is a Tory.

Most of his bile is reserved for the web of regulations which he seems to believe is stifling the economy, and the civil servants who run it. Health and Safety regulations, in particular, come in for a battering.

Martin wants the Coalition to eliminate “whole departments of government whose sole function seems to be to ensure that our children never learn that fires burn you and who, never having climbed a ladder for a living themselves, instruct everyone else on how to both place a ladder, operate a hand tool and wear a harness when cleaning windows. They do all this at great cost to the economy and for no real benefit.”

It’s very easy to mock Health and Safety regulations when it comes to the small stuff, but the simple fact is that ‘light touch’ enforcement of these rules has inflated the numbers of people on sickness, incapacity and disability benefits. Does Martin want his money to pay for his silly one-page ad campaign, or to pay for more of these people to sit at home, doing nothing, when they could be at work, helping to restore the economy?

His comments are so naive, one has to wonder if he has any experience in this field at all. I do – as has been chronicled many times in the past. Mrs Mike – my partner – used to work at a factory where Health and Safety monitoring was so lax as to be nonexistent – in fact, supervisors actively bullied workers into cutting corners. This regime was supported by Gordon Brown’s ‘light touch’ enforcement of regulations which meant the firm was always given prior notice of ‘surprise’ inspections, allowing time to put safety equipment in place before inspectors arrived.

Eventually – we believe – the repetitive nature of the work, in poor conditions that forced her to adopt an unhealthy posture, damaged my partner’s body. At first she tried to soldier through, but ended up taking so much time off work (in agony, I must add) that the company decided to sack her. She tried to get help from her union, but the shop steward seemed to be in cahoots with company bosses and failed to represent her in a reasonable way.

Now, thanks to the policies of the Coalition government for which Martin presumably voted, she is facing the possibility of having her Employment and Support Allowance cut off by officials who seem to think that her progressively-worsening condition is going to be cured by August, despite there being no evidence whatsoever to support the assumption.

Is this what Martin wants? The relaxation of what little Health and Safety regulation there is, creating a legion of people who are unable to work due to injury, and who are forced into poverty because government policy is determined to say that the damage is all in their mind, rather than admit the facts?

But then, he is a Tory.

Moving on, it becomes clear that Martin would fit in very well as part of Michael Gove’s Education Department, because what he really wants to do is destroy the Civil Service – the professional organisation that actually ensures government runs smoothly and prevents politicians from making fools of themselves on a daily basis. For every briefcase full of secrets that is left in a taxi, there are dozens of other cock-ups that are prevented by a paid officer’s quick thinking, I assure you!

He wants to “get rid of at least one in four of all the senior civil servants who earn more than two-to-three times the national average wage. The remainder can work harder for their lavish salaries and index-linked pensions or go also. And yes, by Civil Servants I mean everyone paid more than 50 per cent of their compensation – directly or indirectly – from the public purse.”

What a disaster that would be for the United Kingdom. Martin is calling for the elimination of the vast majority of the expertise that has been learned over years of service to the national interest (note that I say ‘national’ interest, rather than the interest of any particular political organisation). In one stroke, he would knock one of the most professional and experienced administrative systems in the world back to amateur status – much as Mr Gove is attempting in his own department, to the great despair of most of those working in it.

But then, he is a Tory.

His parting shot, at Cameron and Osborne’s counterparts in the Labour Party, is also wide of the mark. While his opinion that the two Eds could not do a better job is his own, his assertion that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown “got us into this mess by exploding government spending for little positive benefit” is utterly incorrect. For the vast majority of Labour’s 13 years, government spending was less, per year, than during the previous 17 years of Conservative rule. It was only after the banking crisis that government spending increased – due to necessity – and we’ve already discussed whether Martin would have been able to take out his expensive advert if he didn’t have a bank account. Conservatives have been trying to sneak falsehoods like this under our Radar for more than three years, now, and it is up to all of us to be vigilant against it and remind everyone of the facts.

But then, Martin is a Tory.

Some of his comments are right on the money, though. He starts: “I realise… you really cannot afford the time to actually think about us mere taxpayers and citizens.” Absolutely correct – they’re too busy thinking about important people like the bosses of the big firms they are helping to avoid paying UK tax.

On cutting the civil service, he writes, “that DOES NOT MEAN reclassify them as consultants at greater cost – it means TOTALLY eliminating their costs, direct or indirect, from the public purse”. It is true that – for the most part – employing consultants is a huge waste of time and money.

He wants the banking system sorted out (don’t we all?); he wants money spent on capital projects that benefit British firms, rather than “bolting together foreign-bought trains in a new UK factory”; and he rightly says, “let’s cut out this soundbite about the one million new jobs you have created. It is offensive to those desperately looking for employment. Unemployment is appalling, youth unemployment is worse, and your policies encouraging unpaid work experience smack of a clever form of slavery”.

Liam Byrne, please take note of the last comment, remember that it comes from a Conservative, clear your desk and quit as Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary.