Tag Archives: Witney

Support the National Health Action Party in its bid to unseat Hunt and Cameron

Fighting for the NHS: Dr Louise Irvine will challenge Jeremy Hunt for his seat in Parliament.

Fighting for the NHS: Dr Louise Irvine will challenge Jeremy Hunt for his seat in Parliament.

Why is the fight against creeping NHS privatisation no longer gaining national headlines in the mass media? Do editors think it is no longer fashionable, or do they think the job’s done and they don’t have to bother any more?

Thank goodness for the Daily Mirror and its report that Dr Louise Irvine is to stand against Conservative Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt at the 2015 election, as the National Health Action Party candidate for South West Surrey.

She joins Dr Clive Peedell, who will challenge David Cameron for his Witney seat.

Both candidatures were announced at the NHAP’s national conference, which took place over the weekend. You probably didn’t even know it was happening, thanks to the priorities of the mainstream media.

The doctors have a hard challenge ahead of them – Hunt’s majority at the 2010 election was more than 16,000 votes. That’s 16,000+ more than his closest rival. Cameron’s was even higher – nearly 23,000 votes ahead of the pack.

But Dr Irvine told the Mirror she was ready for the fight: “I’ve faced Jeremy Hunt in the courts and beaten him twice. Now I’ll face him at the ballot box.

“He needs to be held to account for what he’s doing to our NHS and the way in which he has bulldozed democracy, changing the law to push through hospital closures when he was beaten in court.”

Of course, Dr Irvine’s pledge to stand against Hunt is a deep embarrassment for the Health Secretary – not only did she lead the successful Save Lewisham Hospital campaign, which won a High Court ruling that Hunt acted outside his powers when he decided to cut the hospital’s emergency and maternity units, but she is also a council member of the British Medical Association, which represents 150,000 doctors.

It is a sign that the medical profession at large is entirely opposed to his money-grubbing, postcode-lottery, health-for-profit policies.

Vox Political calls on voters in South West Surrey and Witney to support their NHAP candidates.

In Conservative stronghold seats like these, it seems realistic to expect voters to respond more to respected medical professionals like Drs Irvine and Peedell; there is also considerable distrust in Labour’s will to reverse NHS privatisation – but this may be alleviated if NHAP candidates are in the House of Commons, holding Labour to account.

The Mirror has been running a poll, asking readers whether they would vote for Dr Irvine against Mr Hunt. At the time of writing, 99 per cent of readers would, while less than one per cent support Hunt.

Other candidates announced at the conference include disability rights campaigner Naveen Judah, who challenges Liberal Democrat leader and Tory enabler Nick Clegg for Sheffield Hallam.

Ex-GP Dr Paul Hobday will take on Tory Sports Minister Helen Grant for her shaky majority in Maidstone.

In Truro, Rik Evans will try to topple Tory Sarah Newton, who has a majority of around 400.

Karen Howell, a popular member of the Support Stafford Hospital campaign, will stand for Stafford.

And Dave Ash, of the Keep of St Helier Hospital campaign, will take on Liberal Democrat former health minister Paul Burstow in Sutton and Cheam.

Kent GP Dr Bob Gill will be against Immigration Minister James Brokenshire in Old Bexley and Sidcup; Brighton University mental health expert Dr Carl Walker is standing in East Worthing and Shoreham and Oxford health journalist Roseanne Edwards will stand in Banbury where Tony Baldry has just announced he will not be seeking re-election.

NHA Party co-leader Dr Richard Taylor is hoping to regain his old seat of Wyre Forest, which he won as an independent in 2001 and held in 2005.

Notably no NHA Party candidate is standing for South Cambridgeshire, the seat Andrew Lansley holds with a majority of nearly 8,000. Perhaps this shows that they consider him a spent force who simply doesn’t matter any more.

This blog considers that it would be a valuable victory to unseat the man who spent seven years working in secret on what became the Health and Social Care Act – the legislation that allowed privatisation of the health service on an unprecedented, and entirely unwanted, scale.

Nobody should forget that the Conservative Party won its 300+ Parliamentary seats with a lie – the pledge, carried on posters of an airbrushed David Cameron, that the NHS would be safe under a Tory government.

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Was Mark Wood the last stumbling-block for Atos?


Everybody should know by now that British citizen Mark Wood starved to death four months after a medical assessment by Atos found him fit for work, even though it was only reported widely yesterday.

The ruling on the 44-year-old was made against the advice of his GP and in the knowledge that Mr Wood – who lived in David Cameron’s Witney constituency – had mental health conditions including phobias of food and social situations. He weighed just 5st 8lbs when he died in August last year.

His GP, Nicolas Ward, told an inquest into Mr Wood’s death: “Something pushed him or affected him in the time before he died and the only thing I can put my finger on is the pressure he felt he was under when his benefits were removed.”

In a normal society operating under the rule of law, that should be enough to trigger a halt on all work capability assessment medical tests while the entire system is examined with a view to preventing further harm. This was discussed in Parliament last week (read my live blog) but because this was a backbench motion the government has insisted that it only needs to take the unanimous vote in favour of the move as “advisory” – and has done nothing.

That is not good enough for many of us. Samuel Miller, the campaigner who has been trying to bring UK government discrimination against the disabled to the attention of international organisations like the United Nations has already signalled that he will be demanding action.

On Twitter yesterday (February 28), he wrote: “I’ll inform the UN’s human rights office… as well as write the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP); a corporate manslaughter investigation into Atos and the DWP needs to be opened.

“I’ll also file a criminal complaint against Atos and the DWP with Britain’s Metropolitan Police Service.”

Mr Miller has also been awaiting a ruling from the Information Commissioner on his Freedom of Information request from November 6, 2012, demanding details of post-November 2011 Incapacity Benefit and Employment and Support Allowance claimant mortality statistics. The Commission called on the Department for Work and Pensions to come up with a valid reason for its refusal, under the FoI Act and the DWP has failed to provide one so far.

For Mr Miller, the situation has now dragged on far too long. “I’m not going to wait for a ruling from the Information Commissioner’s Office, which I’m unlikely to win. Due to the tragic starvation death of Mark Wood, I’m going to request that the UN’s human rights office obtain a subpoena from the International Criminal Court prosecutor, requiring that the Department for Work and Pensions release the post-November 2011 IB and ESA claimant mortality statistics that I requested on November 6, 2012.”

He is also awaiting the findings of an inquest into the death of Stephanie Bottrill, the Bedroom Tax victim who died when she walked in front of a lorry on a busy motorway, after leaving a note blaming the government. That hearing has not yet taken place.

Samuel Miller has cerebral palsy and lives in Canada, and yet he is willing to do all this to correct injustice in the UK. He puts most of us to shame.

Of course, I am looking forward to my tribunal hearing, in which I hope to trigger the release of those post-November 2011 IB and ESA claimant mortality statistics. If Mr Miller manages it first, then my hearing will focus on why my request for the information was dismissed as “vexatious”, as this has serious implications for any future Freedom of Information requests.

I’d like to hear from others who are doing something about this – even if it only comes down to contacting their MP.

Or do you think this man’s death should be in vain?

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Mail and Telegraph silent as research proves Rolnik right

[Image: Anti-Bedroom Tax and Benefit Justice Federation]

[Image: Anti-Bedroom Tax and Benefit Justice Federation]

This is how the right-wing media try to stifle popular protest against their masters – by trying to distract attention away from the facts.

There can be no doubt about what today’s big news story is: According to the Daily Mirror, hundreds of thousands of families have been put into rent arrears because of the ConDem government-imposed Bedroom Tax – and, according to the Independent, 50,000 of those people are now facing eviction.

Isn’t that exactly what the United Nations special rapporteur on adequate housing, Raquel Rolnik, was saying at the end of her recent tour of Britain to investigate the effect of the Bedroom Tax (often wrongly described as the spare-room subsidy. A subsidy would give money to people; this takes it away)?

Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (to which the UK is a signatory) includes housing as part of the “right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family”.

But Ms Rolnik said that in Britain “the most vulnerable, the most fragile, the people who are on the fringes of coping with everyday life” were being hit hard by the policy – and called for it to be abolished.

In response, the Daily Mail (in particular) attacked Ms Rolnik – on the grounds that she was “a dabbler in witchcraft who offered an animal sacrifice to Marx”. How this relates to her Bedroom Tax investigation has yet to be explained.

The alleged newspaper published a series of character assassination pieces on the internationally-respected United Nations special rapporteur, in which it criticised her for staying in a £300-a-night hotel (booked on her behalf by the United Nations and nothing to do with her personally), and for being born in a country (Brazil) that it described as “violent” and “slum-ridden” (an accident of birth).

It also quoted some stupid Tory lucky-to-be-an-MP called Stewart Jackson, who said she was a “loopy Brazilian leftie”.

But none of its claims about her mission – or those of the Tory MPs it quoted – were true. All were refuted within a day of being voiced.

Today, the Mail thinks it is more important to tell us that the B&B owners who refused to let a gay couple stay on their premises have been forced to sell up because of lack of business.

That other bastion of Conservatism, the Torygraph, tells us that Conservative MPs are on a mass outing to Chipping Norton today. How wonderful for them.

One couple for whom Chipping Norton isn’t wonderful consists of Toni Bloomfield (25), who lives there with her partner Paul Bolton (42) and his four children.

“I have to pay £98 extra a month since the bedroom tax came in,” she told the Independent. “We’ve got a four-bedroom house and Paul’s four children, aged between two and eight, live with us. Before the school holidays we were struggling and now we’re nearly three months behind on rent.

“The children get free school meals and feeding them through the holidays was tough. Paul and I are only eating in the evenings two or three nights a week to make sure we can put enough food on the table. We’re not working, but not out of choice. Trying to find a full-time job here is a nightmare.”

Chipping Norton is the home of David Cameron, when he isn’t pretending to be the Prime Minister, and lies in his constituency of Witney. If people in the Prime Minister’s constituency can’t get on in life, what hope does anyone else have?

It would be interesting to hear more from Mr Bolton and Ms Bloomfield. What is it like, living below the breadline in the home of the infamous ‘Chipping Norton set’? Do they rub shoulders with Jeremy Clarkson down the supermarket (when they can afford to go)? If so, would they kindly suggest to him that he lay off the drink for a while, as it’s encouraging him to say silly things about standing for election?

The information supporting the story was supplied by campaigning group False Economy, which submitted Freedom of Information requests to local authorities across the UK. Of these, 114 replied, providing the figure of 50,000 tenants threatened with eviction.

As not all local authorities responded, the newspaper stated that the total number of affected council tenants was likely to be much higher.

Separate research by the National Housing Federation swells this number by 30,000 housing association tenants, the Independent states.

Clifford Singer, campaign manager for False Economy, said: “Together with the raft of other benefits cuts the Government has forced through, both this year and previously, the bedroom tax is driving tenants and families who were just making ends meet into arrears, and pushing those who were already struggling with the cost of living into a full-blown crisis.”

The Daily Mirror‘s report estimated 330,000 families to have fallen behind with their rent, including around 165,000 who always paid on time in the past.

The reality of the situation is that it shows how badly wages have slipped since Margaret Thatcher came into power with all her silly neo-liberal drip-down economic theories. The Bedroom Tax is a threat because working people do not earn enough to pay the rent along with all their other overheads. This is why the Housing Benefit bill has blown up to huge proportions; if only the unemployed were claiming it, it would be manageable. Employers are to blame – partly.

And who really benefits from Housing Benefit? Not the tenant! No, the people who really receive Housing Benefit are landlords. This is why some, including this blog, have called for it to be renamed ‘Landlord Subsidy’. So part of the blame must also lie with them and the amounts they charge – especially for council houses, where the money never really leaves the local authority’s bank account; it would go out, only to be paid straight back.

So we can say that the debt into which these people have fallen is not their fault; working people should be paid enough to be able to cope, and the unemployed should be able to rely on the state to support them until they can get back on their feet – without the state, itself, going into debt.

It has been created because, somewhere along the line, somebody has been taking too much money for themselves.

What is really to blame?


Jeremy Clarkson: Politician?

Will 2015 be the Hour for this Man? Jeremy Clarkson is weighing up the possibilities of a career in politics.

Will 2015 be the Hour for this Man? Jeremy Clarkson is weighing up the possibilities of a career in politics. [Picture: The Independent]

Start the week with a snigger: Jeremy Clarkson reckons he might try his hand at politics.

He tweeted that he might stand for Parliament as an independent candidate for Doncaster North – Ed Miliband’s seat.

Nobody should need to be told that Clarkson is a huge supporter of the Conservative Party, and is believed to be a friend of David Cameron, who is a neighbour of his in Chipping Norton. Yes, Clarkson is one of the famous ‘Chipping Norton set’.

The tweet reads: “I’m thinking I might stand in the next election as an independent for Doncaster North, which is where I’m from. Thoughts?”

All right, Jeremy, since you ask.

You are known around the world as one of the “three idiots” on the BBC’s Top Gear, which has become a comedy show about petrolheads, rather than a serious motoring show (and extremely watchable as a result). Every week, there is a feature in which you, Hammond and Captain Slow are set tasks and every week you manage to screw everything up somehow with your dunderheaded ideas. Now, I know that it’s just a TV show, but this is the public perception. Why on earth would anyone vote for you, based on that evidence?

Having said that, you are also known as a supporter of the Conservative Party. Standing as an independent would not disguise this fact, so Tories in Doncaster North would be presented with a choice between supporting the Conservative candidate or supporting you – a high-profile Tory. The law of averages suggests some of them would vote for you, so that means you would split the right-wing vote and give Ed Miliband an even greater majority.

On balance, therefore, this left-wing blog tends to support your idea. Go for it.

Better still, why not follow John Prescott’s advice and stand in Chipping Norton, your current home? I believe the Parliamentary seat is Witney. If you split the right-wing vote there, it might give a left-wing candidate a reasonable chance of gaining the seat and giving your friends and neighbours a halfway-decent MP, for a change!

Protest vote for UKIP leads to ‘Libdemolition’ and leaves the Tories spinning

No wonder he's rubbing his hands in glee: Nigel Farage's UKIP has upset the UK political applecart, leaving the parties of government royally shafted. But is this just a protest vote and will all three mainstream parties act on the enormous hint they've just been given?

No wonder he’s rubbing his hands in glee: Nigel Farage’s UKIP has upset the UK political applecart, leaving the parties of government royally shafted. But is this just a protest vote and will all three mainstream parties act on the enormous hint they’ve just been given?

Does anybody else think this year’s local elections have been the most interesting in living memory?

And it’s all down to UKIP, the little party of “loonies, fruitcakes and closet racists” that could.

Don’t get me wrong – the UK Independence Party represents a threat to good government and nobody in their right mind should be voting for it, but the fact is that people are. UKIP has attracted protest votes from all ends of the political spectrum.

This is the heart of the matter: Disaffected voters – not just Conservatives, but former Labour supporters and Liberal Democrats – have all supported UKIP because it seems to be the largest platform for dissent. They don’t agree with all of UKIP’s policies – in fact, they probably don’t know many, beyond the anti-EU, anti-immigration stance – they just want to register their extreme distrust of the major parties, in their current form.

From the results so far, that distrust is now the main influence on the British political landscape, with the support of around a quarter of all UK voters. People aren’t voting for any party because they approve of its policies; they are voting against parties because of the policies they refuse to give up.

I include Labour in this, even though I’m a Labour member. My party’s attitude to social security (welfare if that’s what you prefer) is an unmitigated calamity. Labour must scrap its current policy and sack its current team, if it is to have a hope of regaining the votes it has lost to UKIP. Then it must build a new policy, based on preventing the causes of unemployment, work-related sickness and disability. The private firms currently infesting the Department for Work and Pensions – Unum, Atos, and whoever else is lurking in there – must be ejected and forbidden from returning because their advice is self-profiting gubbins (and when I say gubbins, I mean for you to insert the cussword of your choice).

With regard to Europe, it is clear that British people want a new settlement with the Union. The people consider European laws to be unreasonably restrictive, and wonder why we allow so many restrictions and regulations into our country from Brussels. Personally, I don’t agree that we should leave the Union altogether – but we absolutely must reassert our sovereignty, and the best way to do that is with a very short word: “No”.

The immigration issue could be tackled very simply. Ask yourself: Would you travel abroad and try to live in a country where you did not have a job, had nowhere to call a home and couldn’t even speak the language? I wouldn’t. But that is the perception of what immigrants from the European Union are doing. Why not just install a very simple rule on anyone who wants to come into the UK to live – that they must have work waiting for them here, and be coming into the country to take up that job. Employers would arrange work permits for these foreign nationals and a system of checks could be employed to ensure that they adhere to the rules. The principle of free movement would be honoured – the difference is that people would be freely moving here for a demonstrable reason.

Let’s have a look at the collapse of the Liberal Democrats.

The South Shields by-election result was no surprise to anyone: Labour held it with an overall majority – that’s more than half the turnout. UKIP came second – that protest vote showing itself strongly in a Parliamentary election – and the Conservatives third. Note that their combined vote would not have toppled the Labour candidate, as it would have toppled the Liberal Democrat in Eastleigh, earlier this year.

And what of the Liberal Democrats? They came seventh, below the BNP and above the Monster Raving Loony Party, with just 352 votes – that’s 1.4 per cent of the turnout and yes, they lost their deposit. On hearing the news last night, I tweeted: “It’s a travesty – the Loonies should demand a recount!”

In the councils, the Lib Dems have also lost support. The current BBC graph, showing the situation after eight councils (of 34) declared, shows that they have lost 15 councillors so far. Expect that number to escalate!

But the real losers of the night are the Conservatives. They were never going to take South Shields, but they managed only one-sixth of Labour’s vote, and less than half of the UKIP turnout. In the councils, they’re 66 members down already and have lost overall control of two authorities.

And they’re panicking. One sign of this was the joyous response from Conservative Central Office to a win at Witney, in the Prime Minister’s constituency. The tweet ran: “Well done Witney @Conservatives – I see you got a swing from Labour & and increased majority in Witney East versus 2011. Well done!” Straw-clutching at its finest.

But that won’t save them from the wrath of their own members – and the knives are already out and sharp. Alexis McEvoy, former Conservative Hampshire county councillor, wrote in the Telegraph: “There is a problem with the people at the top of our political parties. They just don’t listen. They don’t listen to ordinary people or our concerns.

“David Cameron says he’ll have a referendum, but no-one believes a word he says. I don’t believe a word he says, and I’m a lifelong Conservative.

“We stood up for things in the past. We don’t stand up for anything any more.”

Tory MP Sir Gerald Howarth, on the BBC’s live blog: “I think our priorities have to change.”

That goes for all the main parties.