Keir Starmer: I adapted this mock-up of him pretending to be a soldier from a right-wing site that was mocking him.
Isn’t it strange how Keir Starmer is attacking the legacy of Jeremy Corbyn in public while failing to offer anything better than watered-down versions of the former Labour leader’s policies?
Today is Armed Forces Day, so Starmer has rolled out a weak-ass offer to the UK’s serving men and women, under the banner of the existing “Friends of the Forces”.
It comes with absolutely no offers at all – just an undertaking to “listen” to the views of forces personnel.
Shadow defence secretary John Healey said he wanted to hear the views of service men and women. The party’s current position is that the Tory government should devote a chapter of its upcoming defence and security review to military personnel, overhaul the country’s covenant with serving forces, and champion the armed forces in public.
Compare this with Jeremy Corbyn’s five pledges for the armed forces, as described in Labour’s election manifesto last year that Starmer doesn’t seem to have read:
Fair Pay – scrap the public sector pay cap, which has seen a 5.8% real terms pay cut for the starting salary of an Army Private
Decent housing for forces and their families – end the growing reliance on the private rented sector
A voice for service men and women – consult on creating a representative body, similar to the Police Federation
End privatisation – root and branch review of outsourcing and a clear presumption in favour of public delivery of public contracts
Support for forces children – better access to schools with dedicated local authorities admissions strategy for the particular challenge of frequent school moves
Those were solid promises, not wishy-washy offers to “listen”. Corbyn’s plan would have made a difference.
Labour under Corbyn made a great offer to the Forces community. The misinformation ensured it didn’t cut through.
As an Army wife I was really impressed with the 5 pledges and the wider vision.
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.
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.
Theresa May’s Brexit team is said to have raised no objections to a Norway-style transition deal [Image: EPA].
Isn’t it nice to know your government is keeping you fully informed?
That’s sarcasm, by the way.
This smells like a closed-doors agreement that was going to be sprung on us later because David Davis and Theresa May knew it would infuriate pretty much everyone.
It tells us that the EU has dictated the kind of departure the UK will follow, and the Tory team meekly rolled over and accepted it.
That’s not the British way. It’s pathetic. It’s weak.
It’s Theresa’s way.
The UK has already “agreed in principle” to a Norway-style Brexit transition period in which it accepts all EU rules with no power to shape them, a senior figure in Brussels has told The Independent.
A key member of the European Parliament’s Brexit team said British negotiators raised no objections to the plans, which would mean accepting free movement and customs union rules, and falling under the European Court’s jurisdiction.
The suggestion that Theresa May’s team has all but swallowed the transition proposal from Brussels will anger Conservative MPs, who believe it leaves Britain a “vassal state” for some two years after Brexit.
The government is acting like an abusive partner with claimants, whom it can beat at will, and claimants are too scared to be able to do anything to escape due to their chronic ill health or disabilities, says Gail Ward.
So the Tories have finally announced the new criteria for employment and support allowance (ESA) reassessments and while it is good news in one way, it has hidden horrors that many people are totally unaware of.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) skulduggery never ceases to amaze me any more, as it lies to the public that it protects “the most vulnerable in society,” claiming it is saving the public purse by scrapping unnecessary assessments — which cause so much stress that people are literally killing themselves — so they can focus on helping people into work.
Work is their primary focus, I hear people say: “Well what is wrong with that?” Well in theory, nothing at all provided the jobs are there.
Many chronically sick people and disabled people are not well enough to do so. In the last eight years this group has faced the worst of the welfare reforms which have lead to disabled people taking to the streets in protest.
Many disabled people’s organisations and charities have called on the government to stop these cuts, and have even taken their fight to the UN in Geneva, which called it a “human catastrophe” and found that they led to grave and systemic violations of the rights of disabled people.
First they had to deal with transitions to ESA, then the abolition of the independent living fund (ILF). Cuts to care packages have left people abandoned, isolated in their homes, then we have had cuts to personal independence payments (PIP), with many losing the cars they rely on to continue employment or to see family and friends, and now we have the debacle of universal credit.
With more cuts to come next year to families and the two-child cap and many other outrages, it is nothing more than conscious cruelty to those who need the most support.
A new poll published by YouGov make[s] grim reading for May.
Fewer people think she is competent:
In June, 53% of people said they thought she was competent. That is now down 11 points to 42%. The number of people who think she is incompetent is up from 32% to 41%. That includes 15% of Tory supporters and 26% of Leave voters.
A majority of voters think she is indecisive:
The number of people who think she is indecisive has risen from 50% to 52%. Among Tory voters, a huge 39% have that view.
People are losing their trust in her:
In June, a majority (52%) of voters said May was trustworthy, while just 31% said she was untrustworthy. There has been a huge reversal in this measure over the last 3 months and now 44% find her untrustworthy, compared 35% who trust her.
There is a big age gap on this measure, with people under 50 most likely not to trust her.
Most voters think she is weak:
After disproving her own “strong and stable” slogan during the general election, 52% of voters now view her as weak compared to just 28% who see her as strong. That compares to 46% and 33% respectively in June.
Despite the hard Brexit line she has adopted, more Leave voters see her as strong than week – by 40% to 39%.
Fewer people like her:
There has been a marked 8 point swing in the wrong direction for her in terms of likability since June. 46% of people dislike her now compared with 40% then and 30% like her compared with 32% then.
A huge 71% of 18-24 year olds dislike her. Only among the over 65s does she have a positive rating on this measure.
The People’s Assembly Against Austerity will be holding a mass demonstration against the government’s austerity measures on Wednesday (July 8) – which is when George Osborne is set to deliver his benefits-bashing ’emergency’ budget.
They have invited Maggie Zolobajluk, who organised the petition in support of my bid to find out how many people have died while claiming sickness/disability benefits, to speak – but not me.
Maggie kindly asked me if I would be able to make it to London and speak instead of her – and I’d love to – but I don’t think it’s possible. The distance is too great, and I can’t justify being away from Mrs Mike – and also the blog, on a day that will affect the way the UK develops for the foreseeable future.
I started drafting out a few words for her to deliver on my behalf – but they turned into a full-blown speech instead. I ended up writing far too much – so, rather than ask her to say it, I’m publishing it here instead.
A previous demonstration, staged by the People’s Assembly Against Austerity in 2014.
I am neither sick, nor disabled – but I choose to side with the sick and disabled against oppression.
It isn’t an entirely altruistic choice. Mrs Mike – as she is known on my blog, Vox Political – has been ill for many years, and we have fought battle after battle with the Department for Work and Pensions over the benefits to which she is entitled.
You’re probably sick of hearing the famous verse by Pastor Martin Niemoller, but he was right. Who’s going to stand up for me, if I don’t stand up for other people first?
Mrs Mike and I are used to winning those battles, and I wonder how much of that success is due to the fact that I am able-bodied. Think about it – if you are battling constant pain, or are a victim of depression, or your condition fluctuates so you simply don’t know if you’ll be able to get out of bed in the morning, or you have any number of the other maladies that may affect the sick or disabled – then the last thing you’ll want to do is argue over tiny details with a gang of suited pedants in Whitehall.
Additionally, these pedants have employed private contractors to make sure they judge the severity of a person’s sickness using information that is wrong.
If you’re sick, or disabled, the pressure can be too much to bear. And not every sick or disabled person has an able-bodied partner like me to take up the slack.
So, inevitably, the worst happens.
Only last weekend I learned about Graham Shawcross, of Manchester. Mr Shawcross had lived – and worked – with Addison’s Disease for 40 years before having to claim sickness benefit. It is a potentially fatal condition whose symptoms include exhaustion, muscle weakness, dizziness, fainting and cramps that can lead to adrenal crisis, which can be fatal. But that isn’t what killed him!
No – Mr Shawcross died of a heart attack in February, after being ruled “fit for work” by the DWP in November last year. He had been preparing to present an appeal against the decision – writing out the details several times a day, and talking about it constantly.
His widow said the stress of having to do this – stress that was created by, and only by, the DWP’s “fit for work” decision – was what killed him.
You should be aware that the DWP says it is “irresponsible to suggest a causal link between the death of an individual and their benefit claim”, and “mortality rates among people with serious health conditions are likely to be higher than those among the general population”. We’ve seen that comment in the newspapers very often over the last few weeks.
It’s a statement that falls flat when the DWP’s own position is that the individual was “fit for work” at the time of his death.
Months after Mr Shawcross passed away – and despite being told this had happened by his widow – the DWP initially invited him to an appeal hearing, and then admitted he was seriously ill and deserved Employment and Support Allowance.
It’s a bit late for that now!
How many other benefit denials have been reversed after the claimant has died?
We don’t know – but it’s the subject of my next Freedom of Information request!
The man responsible for this regime, Iain Duncan Smith, is said to be religious so he should understand me when I say people claiming benefit must feel as though they have been crucified by their physical or mental ill-health. Instead of offering relief, Mr Duncan Smith and his department complete the job with a ‘crown of forms’ that push them into an early grave.
One has to question the morality of a supposed Christian who approves of crucifixion!
But then, it seems even leading members of the Catholic Church to which he belongs have tried pleading with him to alter the fatal direction of his policies – there was an article to that effect in the most recent edition of Catholic newspaper The Tablet.
But government ministers say it is “irresponsible” to claim that the benefit assessment system had anything to do with the death.
I wonder if they’ll say that to Mrs Shawcross, who is adamant that the system is what killed her husband. That would be a conversation worth hearing!
I first became concerned about the number of people who were dying while claiming benefits when the DWP itself revealed that 10,600 deaths had occurred between January and November 2011. Note that the official figures did not include December, which is considered to be a season of increased suicides.
This concern became alarm after I learned that Freedom of Information requests by other individuals, calling for updated figures, had been refused for no reason other than that the 2011 statistics had been part of an ‘ad-hoc’, one-off, release.
So I sent off a request, and asked readers of the blog to support it with requests of their own – to show that it was a matter of wider public concern. Only 23 did, but that was enough for the DWP to refuse me on the grounds that I was being “vexatious” – trying to flood the Department with work.
I’m still not sure how that claim can be justified. It’s the same information – all they had to do was put it together and send it off to the people who wanted it. It seems that creating a mailing list of email addresses is too much for a government department with more than 100,000 employees.
The tribunal that turned down my appeal did express considerable sympathy for my position, and suggested that another FoI request should result in publication of the statistics. So I wrote another one.
I won’t go into the details – it’s enough for you to know that, after several months of fighting with the DWP, I won.
The DWP then chose to take the matter to a tribunal, employing an expensive Treasury barrister to make out the case. It seems that, while Freedom of Information requests cannot cost more than £600 – that’s the legal limit – the government can spend as much of your money as it likes, if it wants to withhold the facts.
That’s when Maggie Zolobajluk started her petition, calling on the tribunal to refuse the appeal.
Now, instead of 23 supporters, my request has 230,000.
So David Cameron told Parliament that the figures will be published. What he didn’t tell Parliament was that they would be homogenised, amortised, Age-Standardised Mortality Rates, that show the deaths as a ratio compared with the death rate amongst the wider population – and he certainly won’t tell anyone how many people have died while claiming sickness and disability benefits since November 2011.
And now the Justice Secretary is trying to make it harder for Freedom of Information requests to succeed. It seems the embarrassment they cause is just too much for the administration that once said it intended to be the most open government ever.
Michael Gove wants to include “thinking time” in the cost of handling FoI requests.
What does that even mean?
Parliament’s Justice Select Committee has already stated that including “thinking time” in FoI costs would introduce an unwelcome variable into the system, which relies on everyone having equal access to the facts. The cost of “thinking time” would depend on the abilities of the civil servant dealing with the request.
Not only that, but we should ask what “thinking” has to do with it in any case. When a request is made under the Freedom of Information Act, the only questions a public authority may ask are whether it has the information and can publish it within the £600 cost limit. Questions about – for example – the motives behind the request are immaterial.
What are we to conclude?
That we have a government that intentionally complicates benefit claims for the sick and disabled.
That people who might live decent and, in many ways, productive lives are having those lives cut short because of goverment policy.
That the government does not want the wider population of the UK to know the true number of deaths.
That the government wants to shut down the Freedom of Information system so inconvenient questions like this can no longer be asked.
In short, that the government wants to smother any attempt to question it.
Too many sick and disabled people have been smothered already.
Over on Google+, an avid UKIP supporter just challenged This Writer with the words, “UKIP in Wales is growing stronger isnt it Mike.” Yr Obdt Srvt dutifully scoured the local newspapers for corroboration but found this instead (in the Brecon and Radnor Express):
“Ousted members of Brecon and Radnorshire’s UKIP branch claimed the party has blown its chances of a general election victory in the constituency.
“The local UKIP committee was suspended earlier this month in a row over the selection of its candidate for this May’s general election.”
The article said UKIP’s Welsh Executive had selected Darran Thomas of Rhayader as its B&R candidate, “having taken the decision out of the hands of local party members”.
It said former UKIP Wales chairman John Pratt claimed the party is run as a “dictatorship” by Nigel Farage.
And it said suspended branch chairman Clive Easton, the original choice as candidate for the upcoming general election, said: “Defeat has been snatched from the jaws of victory. I’m devastated to have all my hard work since 1996 snatched away.”
Barring his political persuasion, Mr Easton seems a decent enough human being. He is the UKIP representative who apologised in the newspapers after This Writer received a poison pen letter from a UKIP supporter in Newtown, Powys – a confused gentleman who, despite being in Wales, signed himself “John Bull”.
If he says UKIP is snatching defeat from victory, then there is good reason to believe him.
Meanwhile, the BBC is suggesting that UKIP has “peaked too soon” in its general election campaign.
That’s a little too close to the Spitting Image portrayal of David Steel and David Owen as the Liberal/SDP alliance. Eagerly awaiting a “surge” in voters, their excitement builds unto the Steel puppet ejaculates: “I’ve surged too soon!”
The last spineless character David Cameron met was the jellyfish that stung him in April 2014 – https://mikesivier.wordpress.com/2014/04/18/jellyfish-in-intensive-care-after-coming-into-contact-with-david-cameron/ The label could equally be attached to Cameron himself; he was notoriously unable to sack Iain Duncan Smith from his post as Work and Pensions Secretary in 2012.
David Cameron probably thought he was dealing a death-blow to Labour in Scotland by telling Gaelic Tories that Ed Miliband was “weak and spinless” – and willing to do a deal with the SNP.
In fact, he may have given Scottish Labour a boost.
Think about it; the SNP has been telling everyone that Labour in Scotland is pointless and that the SNP should have the people’s vote – while simultaneously saying they’ll happily do a deal with UK Labour that will put Mr Miliband into Downing Street. They’ve been tying themselves in knots over this for weeks.
Labour backbenchers have been saying they’re suspicious of any such deal, as the SNP would ransom key policy votes in order to gain an advantage for its own aim – independence – and would probably abandon any alliance at the worst possible time for Labour.
Now Cameron comes blundering in, saying things like, “they would wrap themselves in the flag one minute, and the next be prepared to work with a bunch of people who would rip up that flag given half a chance”.
So now, nobody in the Labour Party wants to make a deal with the SNP!
This means anybody in Scotland who votes SNP must do so in the knowledge that their party will not have any say in the future running of the UK.
If they don’t want another five years of Conservatives – and the Scots really don’t want that – but they do want a say in the way the UK is run, then they’ll be far better-off voting Labour.
BLAM! Cameron, shooting his mouth off again, manages to hit himself in the foot. Again.
Incidentally, if Ed Miliband is weak, how does Cameron account for his achievement in changing government policy on bombing Syria – from the Opposition benches? Mr Miliband is the only Opposition leader to achieve this feat in living memory. That is strength – not weakness.
If Ed Miliband is weak, how did he manage to force energy companies into cutting their tariffs? Clearly they believed he was serious in his threat to freeze energy bills.
If he is weak, how did he manage to stand up to the right-wing press – particularly over the smear campaign against his father – but also in general?
If Mr Miliband is weak, why is it Cameron who has lowered himself to name-calling?
He also told the one-day Scottish Tory Conference (presumably there aren’t enough of them to stretch the agenda any further) a bunch of lies about the benefit cap and Universal Credit making work pay when in fact it is depressing wages.
“We’ve won for Britain before – now let’s win for Britain again,” he said – another lie.
Cameron has never won a general election. He needed the help of the Liberal Democrats to get into office last time.
He’ll need a lot more help than that to win a majority this time.
David Cameron should be very happy that UKIP is around to make him look acceptable.
We can’t ever say he’ll look good, but in contrast to the ‘Farage wave’, the spectacle of UKIP being thrown out of the venue where it was supposed to be launching its European election campaign, and the never-ending queue of candidates who are desperate to embarrass themselves publicly – what’s the latest one? “Women should be made to wear skirts because they’re a turn-on for men”? Ye gods… – it’s easy to think that the Conservatives are mild, or at least rational.
But Cameron was keen to project an image of competence at the Conservatives’ campaign launch for the local council elections. This is strange because, with his record of achievement, the things he was saying seem more like stand-up comedy than serious statements of ability.
Try this, about the European Union: “I have a track record of delivery – and believe me, whatever it takes, I will deliver this in-out referendum.” A track record of delivery? Well, yes. He delivered a top-down reorganisation of the NHS that nobody wanted, leading to an inrush of private health companies into the NHS – that nobody wanted. He has delivered the lowest amount of house-building, per year, since records began. He has delivered a withered economic ‘recovery’ that arrived three years later than if he had continued with the plan of the previous, Labour, government. He has delivered all the benefits of that ‘recovery’ to the extremely rich, rather than sharing it equally with the people responsible for it. And he has delivered a new high in employment, with no economic benefit to the country, that has left workers on wages that are so low they are going into debt.
He delivered the bedroom tax.
He delivered a massive increase in the National Debt.
He delivered millions of people into poverty and food bank dependence.
Ha ha ha. Very funny, Mr Cameron.
He told us, “People said I would never veto a European treaty. In 2011 that’s exactly what I did.” Well, yes. But the rest of Europe just went right ahead and carried on without you. You marginalised Britain as a member of the EU and made us a laughing-stock in the eyes of the world.
Ha ha ha. Very funny, Mr Cameron.
“We came through the great recession together; we are building the great British revival together,” he said. But he can’t say that to the many thousands of people who used to be claiming sickness and disability benefits but aren’t anymore because they are all dead. They didn’t come through the great recession. Cameron cut off their means of survival, forcing them into situations in which their health was allowed to worsen until their conditions overwhelmed them, or their situation induced such huge bouts of depression that they took their own lives.
Ha h- no. That’s not funny, Mr Cameron.
“The job is not done. If you want to finish the job we have started, back the party with a plan,” he said. Well, no. The Conservative plan (such as it is) will destroy your employment rights, scrap the welfare state, maintain a huge underclass of unemployed people to use as fodder for work-for-your-benefit schemes (a contradiction in terms if ever there was one) to circumvent the minimum wage, and to claim credit for successes that aren’t theirs.
There is only one reason to support the Conservative Party in this – or any other election.
That is if there is only one other political party on the ballot paper – and that party is UKIP.
Going (unpunished): Maria Miller has made a huge profit from her misuse of taxpayers’ money while in public office. Now is the time for her to face a criminal investigation.
Maria Miller resigned as Culture Secretary today (Wednesday) – after nearly a week of hanging on by her fingernails in the hope that everyone would suddenly forget that she fraudulently claimed mortgage interest on a south London house that she wanted the authorities to believe was her second home (when in fact it was her parents’ first).
During that time she has managed to reignite public disgust at the many expenses scandals in which Parliamentarians have been revealed to have been involved since the Daily Telegraph first lifted the lid on them in 2009.
She has also managed to undermine public support for comedy Prime Minister David Cameron, whose continuing support for her has shown just how weak he must be. He needed Miller because she was a woman in a predominantly male Cabinet, state-educated in a mainly private-school Cabinet, and an avid supporter of Cameron himself in a government that is beginning to realise that he’s a dud. In supporting her, he showed just how precarious his hold on the leadership really is.
Of course, she also generated a huge amount of hatred towards herself. Remember, this is a person who used taxpayers’ money to pay for her parents’ house – a building which she subsequently sold for a profit of more than £1 million.
Miller is not the first Cabinet member to make a million with taxpayers’ cash either – stand up George Osborne, who formerly had us paying for a paddock, a house and other scraps of land in his Tatton constituency on which he falsely claimed expenses, saying they were vital for the performance of his duties as an MP. He later sold the lot for around £1 million, having spent not a single penny of his own on the property – it all came from the taxpayer.
Osborne was protected from prosecution by the Parliamentary Standards Authority – a body that appears not to be as independent as it claims.
Now is the time to report Miller to the police.
A Parliamentary inquiry is not the same as a criminal investigation and it is important for her case to be tested in a court of law. This woman was part of a government that has had no qualms about using the law to take taxpayers’ money away from people who needed state benefits in order to survive; now let us see how she fares when the law turns its attention to her.
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