It has been a couple of weeks since Jeremy Corbyn, Noam Chomsky, Yanis Varoufakis and others launched the Peace & Justice Project, so Mr Corbyn has kindly made a video to let us all know about developments since then.
It’s self-explanatory so take a look:
The project relies on people power – on members of the public getting involved and contributing to the process.
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.
Sidelong stare: Once it was Jeremy Corbyn who was noted for his world-weary “side-eye” glances in the Commons. Now Theresa May has been driven to do the same, under waves of derisory laughter at her Brexit statement – from all sides of the House.
It really is all going sideways for Theresa May and her twisted political party – thanks to her immediate forerunner’s attempts to end in-fighting among those MPs.
In Parliament on Monday (October 15), she presented what she described as an update on her government’s negotiations with the EU on Brexit. Here‘s the BBC’s coverage of it:
“Prime Minister Theresa May has called for “cool, calm heads” as she insisted a Brexit deal was “still achievable” despite differences with the EU.
“She said it was “frustrating” the two sides could not agree how to guarantee no hard border in Northern Ireland.
“The issue could not “derail” the chances of striking a deal, she said.
“And she sought to reassure critics of her approach that the UK would not end up in “permanent limbo” tied to EU customs rules.”
If that seems reassuring, you need to know that something was missing from the BBC’s report:
"This is the time for cool, calm heads to prevail."
MPs burst out laughing as PM says Brexit talks are in their 'final stages' The Prime Minister faced embarrassing scenes in the opening words of her major statement to the House of Commons. Tories are now just hanging on in the interests of the Tory party. https://t.co/NLfwGnn8yW
They sure are. Let’s enjoy some of that Mirrorversion of events:
“MPs burst out laughing today as Theresa May said Brexit talks were in their “final stages”.
“The Prime Minister faced embarrassing scenes in the opening words of her major statement to the House of Commons.
“Later MPs burst out laughing for a second time when Mrs May said two problems remain – and one MP was heard to quip “Boris!”
“Mrs May addressed MPs as last-ditch bids to get a deal with the EU failed just 48 hours before she meets 27 fellow leaders in Brussels.
“The PM was mauled by her own Tory MPs as she all but confirmed she is refusing to set a firm end date on her “backstop” – backup – plan to keep EU customs rules across the UK.
“But she again failed to guarantee an end date – risking a Tory rebellion.
“Meanwhile Mrs May confirmed the EU is now seeking a “backstop to the backstop” – a backup plan to their backup plan – while talks continue over what she wants to achieve.
“The “backup backup” is needed because the “backup” can’t be negotiated in time in the next few weeks, Mrs May said.
“She added, however, that this “backup backup” will drive a border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
“And that policy was rejected last night when Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab made a failed last-minute dash to Brussels.”
So we’re now involving ourselves in what may become infinite regressions. How many backups of our backups are we going to need?
Our friends on the social media were quick with ridicule:
UK: we want to leave customs union EU: that means border controls, incl Irish border UK: we promise,no controls there EU: so you’ll put them between GB andNI? DUP: no way UK: we’ll keep whole UK in CU ERG:no way UK: just temporarily, while we think of something else Everyone:WTF?
But I fear their decision on whether they can bear to humiliate themselves by supporting a woman who is now seen – internationally – as nothing more than a clown will depend more on their feelings about Jeremy Corbyn than anything else.
This Writer observes that French President Emmanuel Macron may have caught sight of my article quoting a warning that “The British government aims to prevent France and other EU countries from properly preparing for no deal by continuing to falsely engage in the negotiations in bad faith… The British are aware that contingency planning in France has not yet reached operational unit level … because the general French presumption is that the British government is genuinely engaged in good faith, which they are not.” Look at the following and consider what he wants to discuss:
European Council President Donald Tusk has invited Prime Minister Theresa May to address the remaining EU 27 member states on Wednesday night
All in all, it seems clear the Conservative attempt at negotiating a Brexit deal has already failed.
And it’s all because David Cameron called a referendum in the belief that the vote would be to remain in the EU, and that this would silence his Eurosceptic backbenchers once and for all. How wrong could he have been?
Whether or not Mrs May and her government are playing the nasty game outlined in my earlier article is not clear – but one point that came through strongly was the amount of support in the House of Commons for a new ‘People’s Vote’ referendum:
In a relatively short debate, quite striking how many MPs came out today in favour of @peoplesvote_uk – with Dominic Grieve's confession the most striking. & in respect of opposition to Chequers, common cause made by true Brexiters and true Remainers https://t.co/OQENQylCBO
David Davis (L) and Michel Barnier: The body language says it all – we need them; they don’t need us [Image: Reuters/Yves Herman].
It looks like pro-remain site In Facts has got it right – the only progress Mrs May was able to announce in her update to Parliament was conceding that the European court of justice would continue to have jurisdiction over the UK during the “implementation period” of around two years, during which the UK will go through a transition from full EU membership to a completely separate nation state.
So this is a further sign of Mrs May’s – and the Tory negotiating team’s – weakness. Right?
Don’t expect any progress from the next round of Brexit talks, which start on Monday. Theresa May isn’t in a position to make the concrete concessions that will be needed to move the negotiations forward, and the EU won’t trust a nod and a wink from a wounded leader.
The prime minister hoped she could unblock the stalled negotiations with her Florence speech two weeks ago. That now seems almost a lifetime away. Boris Johnson’s exocet missiles, May’s own disastrous speech at the Tory conference and the plot to kick her out as leader have shattered what little authority she had.
The Florence speech involved no fewer that eight u-turns. This was enough for Michel Barnier, the EU Commission’s negotiator, to pronounce there was a “new dynamic” in the talks. But it was always clear that we would have to make more concessions before EU leaders agreed to authorise discussions on our future deal.
After Florence it looked like May was preparing those concessions. A week ago The Times said she was going to accept divorce costs of £40 billion. She would also spell out a way to “ensure legal force is given to decisions by EU judges on the residency rights of Europeans living in Britain”. The EU summit in two weeks would then agree to let Barnier discuss the transitional deal which the prime minister has finally started to realise is needed to ensure the economy doesn’t fall off a cliff when we quit the EU in March 2019.
A week is an awfully long time in politics. Now The Telegraph is reporting that the UK will not be making any more concessions on money in next week’s talks.
I have complained to the BBC and the UK Statistics Authority about this disgrace.
Today (January 25) the BBC published a scurrilous little screed claiming that “nearly a million people who applied for sickness benefit have been found fit for work”. Needless to say, the figures come from the Department for Work and Pensions and aren’t worth the time it took to type them in.
The story states: “The DWP claims 980,400 people – 32% of new applicants for Employment and Support Allowance – were judged capable of work between 2008 and March 2013.
“More than a million others withdrew their claims after interviews, it adds.”
It goes on to say that disability campaigners had stated that the work capability assessment tests were “ridiculously harsh and extremely unfair”, but says nothing about the fact that an almost-identical story was withdrawn last year after it was found to be riddled with inaccuracies – if not outright lies.
Even more bizarre is the fact that the story does provide the factual reason for claims being withdrawn. They “either returned to work, recovered or claimed a benefit “more appropriate to their situation”.
In other words, these people used the system in exactly the right way, yet the DWP – and the BBC – are pretending that they were trying to fiddle it in some way.
To explain what happened last year, let’s look at a letter from Sheila Gilmore MP to Andrew Dilnot, head of the UK Statistics Authority, and his response. You can find it on page 39 of the DPAC report on DWP abuse of statistics.
The letter from Sheila Gilmore states: “On 30 March 2013 an article by Patrick Hennessy entitled ‘900,000 choose to come off sickness benefit ahead of tests’ was published in the Sunday Telegraph. Please find a copy enclosed. I believe that the headline and the subsequent story are fundamentally misleading because they conflate two related but separate sets of statistics. I would be grateful if you could confirm that my interpretation of what has happened is correct.
“The sickness benefit in question is Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). People have been able to make new claims for ESA since October 2008, but those in receipt of the benefits it replaced – Incapacity Benefit, Severe Disablement Allowance, and Income Support on the grounds of disability – only started migrating across in April 2011.
“The article implied that many of this latter group were dropping their claim rather than having to go through a face-to-face assessment, with the implication that they were never really ill in the first place and had been ‘playing the system’.
“However I have checked the figures published by the Department for Work and Pensions and it would appear that the figure of 900,000 actually refers to all those who have made new claims for ESA since its introduction over four years ago, but who have since withdrawn their application before undergoing a face-to-face assessment. These people were not claiming the benefit before and generally drop out of the system for perfectly innocent reasons – often people become ill, apply as a precaution, but withdraw when they get better.
“Of the 600,000 people who have been migrated from Incapacity Benefit over the past two years, only 19,700 have dropped their claim. This is the figure that should have featured in the headline, but the 900,000 figure was used instead.”
Mr Dilnot replied: “Having reviewed the article and the relevant figures, we have concluded that these statements appear to conflate official statistics relating to new claimants of the ESA with official statistics on recipients of the incapacity
benefit (IB) who are being migrated across to the ESA.
“According to official statistics published by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in January 2013, a total of 603,600 recipients of IB were referred for reassessment as part of the migration across to ESA between March 2011 and May 2012. Of these, 19,700 claims were closed prior to a work capability assessment in the period to May 2012.
“The figure of “nearly 900,000” referenced in the article appears to refer to the cumulative total of 878,300 new claims for the ESA (i.e. not pre-existing IB recipients) which were closed before undergoing assessment in the period from October 2008 to May 2012.
“In your letter, you also expressed concern about the apparent implication in the Sunday Telegraph article that claims for ESA had been dropped because the individuals were never really ill in the first place. The statistical release does not address the issue of why cases were closed in great depth, but it does point to research undertaken by DWP which suggests that ‘an important reason why ESA claims in this sample were withdrawn or closed before they were fully assessed was because the person recovered and either returned to work, or claimed a benefit more appropriate to their situation’.”
What he was saying, in his officialese way, was that the Conservatives had wrongly ‘conflated’ monthly figures into a cumulative total; they had misled the press about the figures’ significance; and the press release (which then mysteriously disappeared) ignored a clear caveat in the DWP’s own report that the reason the claims were dropped each month had nothing to do with fear of medical assessment but were because people recovered and went back to work, or else were switched to another benefit deemed more suitable to their circumstances.
Now the BBC has resurrected this story, with brand new, larger numbers that add in the totals for 2013 without telling you whether these were all new claims, or repeat claims, or a mixture; they are all treated as new.
The claim that 980,400 people had been found fit for work after medical tests – the feared Atos work capability assessments – is also extremely questionable – as the BBC well knows.
Its own Panorama programme, ‘Disabled or Faking It?’, investigated whether the DWP was knocking people off-benefit in order to hit financial targets – in essence, making people destitute in order to show a budget saving. A Channel 4 Dispatches documentary, ‘Britain on the Sick’, proved that this was happening. Both were shown at the end of July 2012.
I have complained to the BBC and to Mr Dilnot about the deeply offensive and defamatory way in which these lies have been resurrected, in order to encourage the general public to hold people who are genuinely ill in hatred, ridicule and contempt. If you believe this cause is just, go thou and do likewise.
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