Tag Archives: Today

Cabinet minister Michael Gove made a RAPE joke* on national radio. Where’s Nusrat Ghani?

A week in politics really is a long, long time. At the start of this week, Nusrat Ghani was demanding an emergency debate in Parliament over Clive Lewis’s use of the phrase “Get on your knees, bitch”. Here at the end, Michael Gove has made a comment that is arguably far worse and neither she nor any other Conservative has anything to say.

Mr Gove is a Cabinet minister – the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

It is not appropriate for him to make such a comment, and an apology after the event –

– is not enough.

The fact that he spoke those words means he thought it was acceptable to do so – belittling the experience of every woman who has ever fallen foul of Mr Weinstein’s unwanted attentions.

Worse still, this attitude to rape seems to be a family trait as Mr Gove’s wife, Sarah Vine, has also made a comment that is staggering in its insensitivity:

Has she apologised?

Fortunately for our national character, plenty of people have come forward to criticise Mr Gove’s appalling remark, even if the government won’t. Let’s start with the only question worth asking:

https://twitter.com/AGayLabourLefty/status/924180579456835584

At the very least, as mentioned above, Nusrat Ghani should have something to say:

But the silence has been deafening.

Appraisals of Mr Gove’s own character are fair comment after his own words:

There has been criticism of Radio 4 for allowing it and failing to apologise afterwards:

And there is speculation on the thinking behind it:

Yes he did.

And he has put Theresa May in an untenable position. She has a very small pool of talent (if you can call it that) from which to draw her Cabinet ministers, and Mr Gove – like Boris Johnson – is most likely only a member because he can command the support of a significant number of Conservative backbenchers.

If she sacks him, then he’ll take that support away with him and Mrs May’s position as prime minister will be weakened – it would only take a moment of spite for Mr Gove to undermine her on a crucial issue, possibly triggering the end of her government.

But if she doesn’t, then she is tacitly supporting his words and betraying rape victims – not just those who have made allegations against Mr Weinstein, but everywhere. That could be just as damaging for her.

As for Mr Gove himself, the future of his career is looking rocky, because we now have the perfect answer to every policy announcement, every speech and every opinion he puts forward:

“Nobody cares what you say any more, Mr Gove. You think rape is funny.”

*This is an oxymoron, of course. Let us all be clear that here is nothing remotely funny about rape (unless you are a Conservative Cabinet minister, it seems).


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Boris Johnson sinks beneath his own wishy-washiness in radio interview disaster

Boris Johnson in one of his more sane moments.

Do you enjoy a breakfast waffle? If you were listening to Radio 4’s Today programme, you got one whether you wanted it or not – from that master of baffled-gab, Boris Johnson.

In 20 minutes, he managed to reverse his ‘go whistle’ position on paying to exit the EU, back-stabbed his boss Theresa May (with a side-swipe, which makes it seem more impressive than it was), and demonstrated that he both supports and opposes Donald Trump – at the same time.

Let’s start with Brexit because he got into a real pickle over it. You will recall that he said, in Parliament, that the EU’s proposed bill for the UK to leave the political bloc were “extortionate” and that it could “go whistle”.

Today anchor Mishal Husein asked, what did he mean when he said the EU could “go whistle” over the Brexit bill?

“I was being asked about some very large sums of money… that the EU suggested we were on the hook for, and that’s not a number I recognised…” he began stumblingly (and inaccurately).

“Of course we will meet our obligations. We are law-abiding, bill-paying people. The UK has contributed hundreds of billions over the years.”

Oh! So he’s happy to pay?

“I’m not saying I accept Mr Barnier’s interpretation of what our obligations are, but we will meet our obligations as we understand them.”

He wouldn’t say how much he was prepared to pay before the sum became “extortionate”, adding: “I’m not going to get into a financial haggle…”

“Can they ‘go whistle’ if it’s more than £30 billion?” asked Ms Husein, obviously enjoying his discomfort.

And he collapsed. His response was waffle about getting “the best possible value for the UK taxpayer”.

https://twitter.com/RobDotHutton/status/900982065600102400

Then he seemed to realise what he had done, because he claimed that he would give an absolutely precise answer. Here it is: “We should pay not a penny more, not a penny less, of what we think our legal obligations amount to.” Waffle.

And on the possibility of a two-to-three-year transition period, he started with more waffle about the government’s position. Pressed on what he thinks, he said: “There are several transition periods that are envisioned.” More waffle.

He went on to waffle that the UK would be “getting out with confidence and determination and doing it in a timely, orderly and effective manner”.

“What business would want us to achieve is speed and efficiency,” he added, with the relish of a man who had reached the end of his pre-scripted lines.

“The crucial thing is certainty,” he said, oblivious of the irony in the fact that he wasn’t offering any.

 

If that amount of waffle is making your stomach turn over, let’s consider something else:

The backstabbing side-swipe against Theresa May came during a discussion of the political situation in Libya, where an intervention supported by the Tory-Lib Dem Coalition government of 2010-15 left the country with two rival parliaments and four governments (according to the Telegraph).

Calling for unity, he said: “Politicians… need to suppress their own selfish interests, compromise for the good of the country.”

The Torygraph took this as a message for Theresa May, telling us he was saying her “disastrous” decision to call a snap election “shows the risk of going to the polls too early”.

Twitter commentators pointed out that the comment could be applied equally to Mr Johnson himself, who campaigned for Brexit in the belief that his political career would benefit from it (it didn’t).

https://twitter.com/RobDotHutton/status/900979718111068160

https://twitter.com/washyourmouth1/status/900979779146579968

Mr Johnson criticised US President Donald Trump over his comments following the Charlottesville rally in which an anti-fascist protester was killed, saying he was “totally wrong” to suggest that white supremacists, neo-Nazis and racists were “fine people”.

Despite this, the foreign secretary confirmed that the UK will still be welcoming Mr Trump on a state visit – at a future date that has not yet been set.

So he was both supporting and opposing Mr Trump, at the same time.

And Mr Johnson was mistaken on whether international students are included in official migration figures (they are; he said they weren’t)…

… and had to backtrack: “I am content with the success we are having in attracting international students”.

He said he was glad they were not overstaying their period in the UK and were “doing the right thing”. In that case, why include them in migration figures? They haven’t immigrated into the UK; they’re here for a specific purpose and then they leave.

“That is the way they are currently counted,” he dissembled.

The snap verdict, from Twitter, was damning:

https://twitter.com/KatyJMc/status/900982395196911616


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Employers should never be allowed to dictate the minimum wage

130829milibandstatesman

Here’s an interesting development: Ed Miliband announced today that a Labour government would link the minimum wage to average earnings, after the Low Pay Commission proved itself woefully inadequate for the job.

Employers’ organisation the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) immediately leapt up to scream that politicians should not set wages, completely missing the point that, under Miliband’s plan, politicians wouldn’t.

CBI chief policy director Katja Hall gave verbal evidence of her inability to understand a simple issue when she told Radio 4’s Today programme: “The system we have at the moment has been really successful and that system involves the setting of the minimum wage by an independent Low Pay Commission… They have done a really good job and we think it’s much better the job is left to them rather than given to politicians.”

… Really?

The Miliband plan would not give the job to politicians. It would make the minimum wage a percentage of the average wage.

Mr Miliband said it was a “basic right” that hard work should be rewarded with fair pay.

He also took time to talk to Today, saying: “This gets at what is a terrible scandal in this country… that we still have five million people in paid work, unable to make ends meet.”

Perhaps the reason the CBI doesn’t like this idea is the fact that the average wage includes its own members’ massively over-inflated salaries. Under the proposed scheme, every increase in their own paycheques would require a similar raise for the lowest-paid workers in the country.

There is no reasonable argument against that, but it is what they are arguing against, nonetheless.

Perhaps politicians’ next target should be the CBI itself.

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Who will ‘Help to Work’ really help?

140428IDSshrug

The government’s latest draconian measure – to drive people who have been living off the state for more than three years into all the nonexistent jobs that ministers insist are waiting for them – was launched today. (Monday)

Help to Work forces jobseekers to sign on every day, commit to six months of voluntary work, or sign up to a training scheme (the last two effectively removing them from the government’s unemployment figures without getting them a job) – or face having their Jobseeker’s Allowance docked for increasing lengths of time.

It’s clearly a scam to fiddle the joblessness statistics but, dear reader, you’re intelligent enough to have worked it out before you even started reading this.

Of course, voluntary work must be offered without coercion – otherwise it’s slavery – and for this reason leading charities have already announced that they will boycott the mandatory work placement part of the scheme.

Particularly disturbing – and we should be grateful that they highlighted this – is the fact that this aspect would lead to jobseekers doing more than double the 300-hours’-maximum community work than convicted criminals, who are ordered to carry out certain tasks as punishment for their offences.

The Guardian used the government’s own data to prove that Help to Work does not increase anybody’s chances of getting a job, and is more likely to put people off signing on for the benefits to which they are entitled – a ‘punishment’ effect that the government is desperate to play down.

Esther McVey, speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme in support of the scheme, said instead that it would be particularly useful for “people who have been away from the marketplace and the workplace for long periods of time”, and specifically mentioned those suffering from mental illness.

All right then, let’s ask this:

How well would this scheme fare in trying to find a job for a man aged 60 with no academic qualifications worth mentioning (left school at 14 and has lied about further education achievements), whose working life consists of a failed Army career that lasted less than six years, followed by irregular stints selling arms, working in a property company and selling gun-related magazines, in between periods on the dole. He has been funded by the taxpayer continuously since 1992 – a total of 22 years ‘parked’ at our expense. There are concerns about his state of mind, with fears that he suffers from paranoia and delusions.

Could Help to Work really find a job for a man like this?

Let’s hope so – because, if there’s any justice, Iain Duncan Smith will be looking for a job after next year’s general election.

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Iain Duncan Smith: Big on belief – lacking in truth

Strong beliefs: But is Iain Duncan Smith about to say a prayer - or is he eyeing up his next victim?

Strong beliefs: But is Iain Duncan Smith about to say a prayer, or eyeing up his next victim?

I believe that Chris Huhne really wasn’t a crook
I believe Britannia Unchained is a readable book
I’m prepared to believe that the government isn’t leaking
And that Boris Johnson sometimes thinks before speaking
Yes I believe J Hunt is clever
Norman Tebbit will live forever
And that GM foods will make us healthier
And there were WMDs out in the desert.

I believe that Cameron means what he says.
And that Michael Gove got good ‘O’ Level grades.
And I believe our courts are great;
That the NHS is safe:
And the economy’s professionally-run…
And that George Osborne knows how to do his sums.

And I believe that the Devil is ready to repent
But I don’t believe IDS should be in government.
(With apologies to Rowan Atkinson)

Early to bed and early to rise… means you have a chance to hear the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions put his foot down his own throat on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Needless to say, I missed it. It’s a shame, because the letter of complaint I was to write to Andrew Dilnot of the UK Statistics Authority would have been slightly different if I had.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

In yesterday’s article, I mentioned the need to query a claim attributed by the BBC News website to the Department for Work and Pensions. True to my word, I wrote – and sent – the following:

A report on the BBC website has stated, ‘More than 12,000 people have moved into work after being told about the benefits cap, the government says.’

“It continues: ‘The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) said that 12,000 claimants have found jobs over the last year, after being contacted by job centres. The job centres warned them they might have their benefits capped if they did not find employment.’

“I am writing to ask you to investigate this claim, as I believe it may have its origins in a previous statement that you have already shown to be false – relating to a claim that 8,000 people had found jobs because of the benefit cap.”

I went on to quote Andrew Dilnot’s letter containing his verdict on the ‘8,000’ claim – that it was “unsupported by the official statistics” in two documents, one of which “explicitly” stated that the figures were “‘not intended to show the additional numbers entering work as a direct result of the contact’”, while the other noted “Once policy changes and methodological improvements have been accounted for, this figure has been no behavioural change.’”

I also drew attention to the comments made by John Shield, the DWP’s Director of Communications, at a meeting with the Commons Work and Pensions Committee last Wednesday (July 10) when he seemed to be saying that Mr… Smith ignored his officers’ advice and went ahead with a false statement.

I now dearly wish I had known about the part of the Today interview in which Mr… Smith discussed his own opinion of the affair.

The Huffington Post reported it as follows: “Challenged over the fact his statement was not supported by officials statistics published by his own department, Duncan Smith said: ‘Yes, but by the way, you can’t disprove what I said either.'” We’ll come back to that in a moment!

“‘I believe this to be right, I believe that we are already seeing people going back to work who were not going to go back to work,’ he said.

“‘I believe that this will show, as we move forward ,that people who were not seeking work are now seeking work.'”

“The work and pension’s secretary was mocked by Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, Anne McGuire, who tweeted that ‘I believe’ was ‘a substitute for facts in IDS world’.”

Well, maybe his Roman Catholic upbringing makes him a creature of strong beliefs.

Unfortunately, his beliefs don’t hold a candle to the facts – and yes, we can disprove what he said!

The blog alittleecon takes up the story: “Ipsos Mori undertook telephone interviews with 500 of the 8,000 people who had found work since the announcement of the benefit cap to try to show that people had been motivated by the cap to find work.

“The problem is that they did not find that. Remember, IDS originally tried to claim that all 8,000 had moved into work because of the benefit cap. The survey found though that 15% of them hadn’t even heard of the benefit cap, and another 31% only knew a little about it. Only 57% remembered being informed that the cap would affect them, and of these, 71% were already looking for work.

“About half of those who remembered getting a letter about the cap took action afterwards. For 31%, this meant looking for work (although half of these were already looking). This means of the 500 surveyed, only around 45 people started looking for work because of the cap that weren’t doing so before. 45!!

“Looking at the results then, and if we assume the survey was representative of all 8,000 people, far from being able to say all 8,000 found work as a direct result of the cap, the best that can be said in reality is that about 720 people started looking for work and found it after hearing of the cap that weren’t looking before. Not a particularly impressive behavioural change.”

There can be no doubt about this. Ipsos Mori is a reputable polling agency and its figures are trustworthy.

It doesn’t matter what Iain Duncan Smith believes, his figures were wrong – plainly wrong.

He has no business peddling them around the TV and radio studios as though they’re set in stone.

He has no business mentioning them at all.

And, if he is determined to keep pushing his falsehoods on us, claiming they aren’t lies because he believes in them, then he has no business being a Cabinet Minister.

Lib Dem denial machine moves into full swing

Some Tory drone - I think his name was 'David Cameron' released an image earlier today, claiming 24 million people were £600 better-off as a result of this month's changes. This is what the poster SHOULD have said.

Some Tory drone – I think his name was ‘David Cameron’ released an image earlier today, claiming 24 million people were £600 better-off as a result of this month’s changes. This is what the poster SHOULD have said.

We have all seen the Liberal Democrat Party losing its grip on reality during its years in Coalition with the Conservatives.

One of my favourite examples of this was the claim that the Lib Dems had mitigated the hated Health and Social Care Bill (as it was then) – Andrew Lansley’s NHS privatisation effort – to ensure that rampant privatisation would not take place, and that they could therefore vote in favour of it with a clear conscience.

Earlier this year, of course, we all learned about SI 257, the statutory instrument that would have imposed mandatory marketisation on nearly every NHS service, without the requirement of a Parliamentary debate or vote. Clearly the Lib Dems had been hoodwinked. There was a massive public campaign against this betrayal and SI 257 was withdrawn, but only to be replaced by something that was so vaguely-worded that it is almost as bad (possibly worse, in fact).

Now, they’re crowing about the fact that the Personal Allowance – the amount a person can earn before paying Income Tax – has risen to £9,440. Apparently this means people on low incomes are now £600 per year better off than they were at the time of the last general election, in 2010.

But wait! What about all the benefit changes – by which I mean cuts – that came in at the same time? We’ve all seen the figures that show they will make low-earners £891 per year WORSE-off.

Put those together and, no matter which way you slice it, people earning less than £9,440 will be up to £291 worse off than in 2010.

Meanwhile, the top rate of Income Tax has fallen from 50p in the pound to 45p, for people with incomes of more than £150,000 – that means people earning more than £1 million will be £100,000 better-off.

Danny Alexander was on Radio 4’s Today programme, trying to talk up the changes. He said the Coalition “is working hard to help those on low and middle incomes” – into poverty?

Other changes mean the amount pensioners can take home every year will no longer rise with inflation but has been frozen, meaning they will be worse-off this year. It has been dubbed the “Granny Tax”. They do get a rise in the state pension, by 2.5 per cent – but that only equals £110 per week.

And Mr Alexander was also keen to talk about the so-called “Tycoon Tax”, which imposes a limit on the amount of tax relief people can claim by investing in business or donating to charity.

This – again – avoids the possible consequences of such a measure. How many businesses and charities will fall into difficulty because benefactors no longer have the financial incentive to help them out? I’m not sure, so I am unwilling to condemn it immediately – but I fear the worst.

One conclusion we can draw from this – and previous changes – is the obvious:

Liberal Democrats ignore their mistakes.

The denial machine is not only in full swing – it’s in danger of overheating.

IDS – the most vile product of ‘welfare UK’

The parallel here should be obvious to anyone who's seen the newspapers today.

The parallel here should be obvious to anyone who’s seen the newspapers today.

Dept. of ‘Giving Them A Taste Of Their Own Medicine’: The Daily Mail’s front page today is itself, of course, entirely vile.

It is an attempt to make us believe that every single benefit claimant in the UK is as evil as Mick or Mairead Philpott, who were convicted yesterday of killing six of their own children.

The claim is the kind of utter nonsense we have come to expect from the paper commonly dubbed the ‘Daily Heil’ or (as in the image above) the ‘Daily Fail’ – and it has sparked widespread fury.

We all know that it is ridiculous to claim that everybody on social security benefits is evil.

And we all know that you don’t have to be an evil person to receive social security benefits – look at the current government!

In fact, let’s look at the Secretary of State responsible for social security benefits – he likes to call them “welfare”, possibly because it gives him a feeling of superiority over their recipients. This is interesting in itself, because he used to be one of them.

Iain Duncan Smith was on the dole for several months during 1981, after leaving the Scots Guards, where he famously enjoyed a career as a bag-carrier for a higher-ranking officer. Did he get out by finding a job? Hard to tell. What we do know is that he married the very wealthy Betsy, daughter of a very wealthy man, the following year. In other words, he got off benefits by marrying into money. That’s not evil in itself, but how many of us have that option?

I don’t propose to rehash the hypocrisies of Iain Duncan Smith in full here, but I will quote three relevant paragraphs from the Edinburgh Eye piece I reblogged earlier today, as follows:

“He has four children, yet argues that families with more than two children ought to be sanctioned: in 2009 he took six months paid leave without notice to care for his wife when she was desperately ill, yet has instigated changes in benefit to ensure that neither sick people nor their carers will be supported. In 1981, jobless and unqualified, he took full advantage of the welfare safety net to claim benefits for months while looking for suitable work, yet in a recession as bad as that of thirty years ago he claims graduates are “snooty” if they don’t agree to work for Poundland for free. While attending further education for two short periods, IDS gained no qualifications, and asserts that shelf-stackers are more valuable than scientists. While benefiting hugely from MP expenses, Iain Duncan Smith tells many untruths about the cost of people claiming disability and welfare benefits.

“Iain Duncan Smith has made many speeches in favour of law and order. Yet when IDS’s workfare sanctions were ruled unlawful by the courts, instead of accepting that millions taken unlawfully would have to be repaid and that people unlawfully made to work for commercial organisations for free had a claim to minimum wage for their hours (or, if determined to fight lawfully for welfare, proceding to the Supreme Court for a further appeal) IDS decided to have emergency legislation passed making his unlawful sanctions retroactively lawful.

“Iain Duncan Smith lives in a large and comfortable home which he does not own and which it’s doubtful he pays market rent for, yet has instigated the bedroom tax. The idea behind the “bedroom tax” is that the housing shortage can be remedied not by building more social housing or by preventing bankers from gambling on house price rises, but by forcing people who live in social housing and have a “spare room”, to move out into private rented accommodation of a more suitable size. This won’t save money at any level (Iain Duncan Smith calls this the ending the spare-room subsidy).”

And there remains the matter of the 73 people per week, on average (and that average was reported nearly a year ago, so it may well have risen massively since then), who are dying as a result of the pressures put on them by the merciless Employment and Support Allowance assessment regime for people who have long-term sicknesses or are disabled.

If the Philpotts are a “vile product of welfare UK”, then is Iain Duncan Smith – who admits he has been on the welfare system, equally vile?

This week, he was in the news because he claimed on the BBC’s Today programme that he could survive on £53 per week if he had to, after market trader David Bennett said the bedroom tax meant he must now live on that amount.

Almost immediately, a petition by Dom Aversano appeared on the change.org website, calling for him to put his money where his mouth is.

His reaction? “This is a complete stunt which distracts attention from the welfare reforms which are much more important and which I have been working hard to get done. I have been unemployed twice in my life so I have already done this. I know what it is like to live on the breadline.” (Quoted from the Wanstead and Woodford Guardian).

In other words, this slimeball is trying to slither out of it! Could this possibly be because he knows the benefit regime he has instigated is much harsher than the system he enjoyed in 1981 (and again in 1989) and he knows he would not fare well as a part of it?

The report of this story in The Guardian seems intentionally hilarious. It states: “The Daily Mail [that rag again] reported Duncan Smith as saying: ‘It was a shock – absolutely awful. I felt pathetic. I remember telling my wife. We looked at each other and she said: “God, what are we going to do for money?”‘”

The report continues, straight-faced: “Duncan Smith’s wife, Betsy, is the daughter of the 5th Baron Cottesloe who served as lord-lieutenant of Buckinghamshire in the 1980s and 1990s. Duncan Smith and his wife, who sent their children to Eton, moved into Lord Cottesloe’s 17th-century Old House in the village of Swanbourne in Buckinghamshire in 2002.”

What were they going to do for money, indeed!

He is a man who has played the system for all he could take and then changed it to make sure nobody else could enjoy the benefits he received. He is a man who talks a good fight but runs away from supporting his words with real action.

If ‘welfare UK’ has any ‘vile product’ at all, then it must be Iain Duncan Smith.

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