Workhouse: A former bus depot in Blackburn which is set to become a workhouse for up to 10 inmates.
The finance chief at Blackburn with Darwen Council is to consider more deeply the plan to turn a former bus depot into what could be a 21st-century workhouse, it seems, after a Vox Political commenter raised concerns.
Andy Kay said he did not disagree that, although a few people could be taken off the street by the scheme, it could be setting a precedent for the government to say anyone who claims housing, unemployment or sickness benefit must work in a workhouse or be homeless, in conversation with commenter Helen Pay.
“With what the government is doing already, this idea isn’t far-fetched,” she told This Blog.
“Andy didn’t know if the homeless people were going to be paid wages – but the minimum wage for a young person he looked up and is something crazy like £4. Would many people choose to sort recycling for £4 an hour?
“He also said about accomodation being paid for at housing benefit rates. So when I asked if these homeless people could then be paid the minimum wage and be topped up by the council paying housing benefit – which would be paid to the charity – to live on a recycling site, his attitude completely changed. He hadn’t considered this.”
She told us she had also found it useful, when Mr Kay said the bottom line was to help homeless people, to quote an idea she had submitted to the Royal British Legion: “To supply accommodation to homeless people that involved zero profit being made and was purely about helping people.”
She pointed out: “The ‘charity’ website of Recycling Lives even talks about these homeless people being farmed out to other companies and those companies paying the wages they would have paid – to Recycling Lives.”
Ms Pay added: “I also mentioned personal responsibility for future events – which he seemed to take on board.
“I said I hoped that if he investigated and found Recycling Lives was taking advantage of people that I would read in a newspaper article that Andy Kay had been a whistle blower and put a halt to this scheme.”
Dominic Raab: An overprivileged, lazy rich boy who wants to bully minorities including the sick and disabled.
More Conservatives have voiced their indignation at comparisons between their attitude to the disabled and that of the Nazis in Germany during the 1930s and 40s – despite the fact that there are clear parallels.
The latest outburst was in response to claims by Sioux Blair-Jordan at the Labour Party conference, that if David Cameron enacts plans to scrap the Human Rights Act and replace it with a Bill of Rights, the disabled and sick “might as well walk into the gas chamber today”.
As explained in a Vox Politicalarticle yesterday, Ms Blair-Jordan’s criticism is accurate; clear comparisons can be made between the Conservative attitude to illness and disability and that of the Nazis.
Three examples are the adoption of ‘chequebook euthanasia’ in the work capability assessment ‘medical’ test, with people who have mental illnesses being asked if they have ever considered suicide – those who answer in the affirmative are then challenged over why they did not go through with it, provoking the claimant to consider suicide again; the fact that, after visiting the Auschwitz extermination camp, Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith adopted the slogan over its gate “Arbeit macht frei” (work makes you free) and has used it several times since, to sum up his attitude to claimants; and the fact that, despite many Freedom of Information requests for the number of people who have died under the Conservative Party’s current benefits regime, the Tories – like the Nazis – have hidden the full effects of their policies from the public.
In the light of these facts, the indignation professed by some Conservatives at Ms Blair-Jordan’s comment can only be regarded with contempt.
Look at Dominic Raab. This creep co-wrote a book entitled Britannia Unchained a few years ago, in which he claimed that British workers are “among the worst idlers in the world”, that the UK “rewards laziness” and “too many people in Britain prefer a lie-in to hard work”. At the time, his record of attendance at Parliament was among the worst of all MPs, at a meagre 79.1 per cent.
It seems Mr Raab is the one who prefers a lie-in to hard work – but he would clearly reopen the workhouse for the sick and disabled, given half a chance. It’s just one step from there to turn it into a concentration/extermination camp.
Yet he wants us to accept that “It is delusional, and shows extraordinarily bad taste, for Labour conference to applaud the delegate who equated the government’s common sense human rights reforms to Nazis sending innocent people to the gas chambers. Jeremy Corbyn should apologise immediately for embracing rather than distancing himself from the delegate. It points directly to his unfitness to lead.”
On the contrary – it is Mr Raab who is delusional. Let’s face it, he even describes his government’s fascistic plans to eliminate our human rights as “common sense”. It is hard to accept protestations that the Tories are not behaving like Nazis from someone who is upholding a policy demonstrating that they are.
Bizarrely, a spokesperson for the Campaign Against Antisemitism got on this bandwagon:
“Sioux Blair-Jordan’s reference to gas chambers was gratuitous and offensive. Over six million Jews as well as others, including the disabled, were murdered during the Holocaust, many of them in gas chambers.”
That is precisely the point. Perhaps this person should be joining Ms Blair-Jordan in opposing the Conservative Party’s behaviour, rather than siding with the oppressors. Perhaps this person should be reminded of the now-too-often-quoted words of Pastor Martin Niemoller, before the Tories come for him, and he finds out there is nobody to stand up for him.
Jeremy Corbyn is to be applauded. He is standing up for the sick, the disabled, and anyone else facing oppression from the overprivileged, spoilt brats who have conned their way into control of the UK.
The new workhouse: A former bus depot in Blackburn is set to be changed into a Victorian-style workhouse, providing accommodation for up to 10 homeless people in return for work.
Following a discussion on Twitter yesterday evening, the following article from the Lancashire Telegraphwas pointed out. Is this building in Blackburn the first of the Coalition government’s new workhouses?
THE semi-derelict former Transdev/Lancashire United bus depot in Blackburn town centre could be brought back into life as a charity and recycling centre, writes Bill Jacobs.
Up 10 otherwise homeless people would live at the site under supervision.
The garage in Manner Sutton Street in Eanam closed in 2011.
It was bought by Blackburn with Darwen Council and now the borough is poised to sell it to a Lancashire-based charity which helps ‘marginalised people back into stable, independent living’.
The charity’s associated social enterprise will run the site as a recycling centre for items such as metal, scrap cars, tyres, plastics, TVs and redundant household items for sale.
The money raised from the recycling operation will help provide the homeless and others on the margins of society with training, education, work experience and employment.
It will also provide accommodation for up to 10 workers who would otherwise be homeless or itinerant.
The dictionary definition of ‘workhouse’ is “a place where those unable to support themselves were offered accommodation and employment”. It is always defined in historical terms, as something that no longer exists.
But doesn’t that description fit the proposed new use of the Blackburn bus depot?
The reality of war: This forthcoming collection, adapting World War One poetry into comics form, might teach Michael Gove a thing or two about factual accuracy.
Michael Gove won’t like what follows.
But then, he probably thinks that comics are a waste of everybody’s time; children should be too busy reciting their times tables and adults should be sweating on the fracking site or slaving at the workfarehouse. Right?
Too bad. Following on from yesterday’s Beastrabban article about the forthcoming graphic story collection To End All Wars, I got in touch with top writer Pat Mills, and he told me about a couple more World War One-related comics projects that are likely to have Mr Gove boiling in his propaganda pit.
“Above the Dreamless Dead from First Second [publisher] … features graphic adaptions of WW1 poems, including my 10-page adaption with David Hitchcock of Dead Man’s Dump [by Isaac Rosenberg],” Mr Mills told me. “Amazing art!”
You can see some of the art above – albeit only the book’s cover. The other poems are:
All the Hills and Vales Along, by Charles Sorley; adapted by Kevin Huizenga
Ancient History, by Siegfried Sassoon; adapted by Liesbeth De Stercke
At the Time of “The Breaking of the Nations,” by Thomas Hardy; adapted by Anders Nilsen
Break of Day in the Trenches, by Isaac Rosenberg; adapted by Sarah Glidden
Channel Firing, by Thomas Hardy; adapted by Luke Pearson
The Dancers, by Wilfred Wilson Gibson; adapted by Lilli Carre
Dulce et decorum est, Greater Love Hath No Man and Soldier’s Dream, by Wilfred Owen; adapted by George Pratt
The End, by Wilfred Owen; adapted by Danica Novgorodoff
Everyone Sang, by Siegfried Sassoon, and Therefore is the Name of It Called Babel, by Osbert Sitwell; adapted by Isabel Greenberg
The General, by Siegfried Sasson; adapted by Garth Ennis and Phil Winslade
Selections from The Great Push, by Patrick MacGill; adapted by Eddie Campbell
I Don’t Want to Be a Soldier, Sing Me to Sleep Where Bullets Fall and When This Bloody War Is Over; soldiers’ songs adapted by Hunt Emerson
I looked up from my work, by Thomas Hardy; adapted by Kathryn Immonen and Stuart Immonen
The Immortals by Isaac Rosenberg; adapted by Peter Kuper
Lamentations: The Coward, by Rudyard Kipling; adapted by Stephen R. Bissette
Next War, by Osbert Sitwell; adapted by Simon Gane
Peace, by Rupert Brooke; adapted by Simon Gane
A Private, by Edward Thomas, and The Question, by Wilfred Wilson Gibson; adapted by Hannah Berry
Repression of War Experience, by Siegfried Sassoon; adapted by James Lloyd
Two Fusiliers, by Robert Graves; adapted by Carol Tyler
War, by Francis Edward Ledwidge; adapted by Sammy Harkham.
Above the Dreamless Dead will be released on September 23, almost exactly 100 years after the outbreak of the hostilities that inspired its authors. First Second books can be found on the web here.
That’s not all. Pat Mills told me of another project that could leave Mr Gove frothing with jingoistic fury.
The Beast mentioned in his article yesterday that Mr Mills produced, with the late Joe Colquhoun providing the art, what’s been hailed as probably the best British war comic ever: Charley’s War. This meticulously-researched, dedicatedly pacifist story ran from 1979 to 1985 in the British weekly Battle and has now been adapted into a series of collections from Titan Books.
Now, the writer has a new project – “in Charley’s War genre” – entitled Brothers in Arms. Illustrated by his Above the Dreamless Dead collaborator David Hitchcock, the piece is currently in search of a publisher. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait too long for it to find a home.
Comics. They might be fun for kids – but they’ll also teach Michael Gove not to mess with history.
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Restoring the balance: We know what’s on the Home Office’s so-called ‘racist’ vans; here’s the response from human rights organisation Liberty.
Those of us who are lucky enough not to live in London have yet to see the amazing advertising vans that have been conveying instructions to Conservative-leaning voters, to treat with hatred, suspicion and contempt anybody who is not a white, Anglo-Saxon protestant.
It seems clear that these vehicles are intended to promote racism and heighten racial tension, setting British citizens against each other – because the aim is to encourage the suspicion that another person may be an illegal immigrant – in the same way Coalition policy on social security set citizens against each other by pretending it was commonplace for individuals to receive more in benefits than in paid work.
According to the Public Order Act 1986, it is an offence for a person to publish threatening, abusive or insulting material if this is intended to stir up hatred against any group in the UK, defined by reference to colour, race, nationality, citizenship or ethnic or national origins, or if it is likely to stir up hatred with regard to all the circumstances.
The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act of 1994 added an offence of intentional harassment – that it is an offence to use threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour, intending to cause a person harassment, alarm or distress. There is a defence that the conduct of the accused was reasonable. This Act was introduced by Michael Howard, who spoke in favour of the advertising vans on the BBC’s Any Questions on Friday.
The Unite union has been seeking legal advice about whether the Home Office-sponsored vans – running a week-long ‘pilot’ scheme that could be expanded to the entire country – incited racial hatred, which implies that their message was intended for domestic consumption, rather than for the benefit (sorry) of illegal aliens.
The message on the vans reads as follows: “In the UK illegally? GO HOME OR FACE ARREST. Text HOME to [a number] for free advice and help with travel documents.”
A stamp in the top-right corner reads: “106 arrests last week in your area.”
The Home Office Twitter account spent the week-long pilot period tweeting messages about the number of illegal immigrants it wished to claim had been detected or turned themselves in – and even transmitted photographs of suspects in a move that is certain to undermine claims that it was not trying to incite hatred.
And spot-checks have been taking place at railway stations, where people who were notably not white were stopped, apparently at random, by immigration officers wearing stab vests who demanded to see identification proving they were in the UK legally. It seems they became unreasonably aggressive when asked what right they had to behave like this without direct cause for suspicion.
Immigration minister Mark Harper has rejected claims that people were targeted because of their race, confirming that the law demands that officers need reason to believe an offence had been committed before stopping anybody.
He said the street operations “involved immigration officers talking to people in the local area and, where there was a reason to do so, asking questions in relation to immigration status”. Are we to take it, then, that his underlings were inviting local people to act as informants, ‘dobbing in’ people they suspected (or possibly, simply didn’t like and wanted to put into trouble)?
All of the above is the latest in the Coalition government’s continuing war against immigrants – let’s drop the word ‘illegal’ from the issue. The national debate is framed around people who come into this country – legally or not – and either take employment here or claim benefits.
The facts appear to show that the hysteria surrounding this has been blown completely out of proportion.
There is an argument to be made about enforcement of illegal immigration laws, but it is about ‘people smuggling’, cheap labour and forced labour – not about people coming here to take your job or claim benefits that they don’t deserve.
According to Scriptonite Daily, “the UK has a lower immigrant population than almost any ‘developed’ nation, these immigrants are mostly assessed via a Points Based System, only seven per cent are asylum seekers, and only 33 per cent of asylum claims are accepted.
“There is no open door.
“Finally, the immigrant population does not have access to a vast majority of the benefits available to UK citizens, the benefits they do receive are nowhere near the same value as those received by UK citizens and they are a third less likely to claim benefits than UK citizens.”
Owen Jones, speaking on Any Questions, voiced the belief that “the Conservatives, fearful of a threat from UKIP, are using taxpayers’ money to tap into people’s fears and prejudices… What we’re seeing is government-funded vans with ‘Go home’ emblazoned on them. That is a term long-associated with knuckle-dragging racists.
“We’re seeing spot-checks and racial profiling of people at tube stations. We have a woman on the news… she was born in Britain; she was told she was stopped because she ‘didn’t sound British’. And we have the official Home Office [Twitter] account being used to send gleeful tweets which show people being thrown into vans with a hashtag, ‘#immigrationoffenders’.
“Is this the sort of country you want to live in, where the Conservatives use taxpayers’ money to inflame people’s fears and prejudices in order to win political advantage? Because I don’t think most people do want that to happen.”
Moreover, it seems the authorities have created a perfect opportunity to start rounding up anybody deemed “undesirable” by the powers-that-be. Greece is already rounding up people of unorthodox sexuality, drug addicts, prostitutes, immigrants and the poor and transferring them to internment and labour camps.
Will the UK follow suit? Only last week we learned that the Coalition government was planning to expand its ‘residential Workfare for the disabled’, rounding up people with disabilities and putting them into modern-day workhouses where someone else would profit and they would receive benefits alone – because that’s how Workfare works. Now this.
This blog was criticised a couple of days ago, by a commenter invoking Godwin’s Law after an article comparing the new workhouses with Nazi concentration camps.
Every day it becomes easier to make comparisons between the current UK government and the Nazis, or other fascist-style institutions. How long will people watch and accept it before they realise what is happening?
Don’t dribble, David! The spittle on his chin shows us exactly how much calm leadership we can expect from this over-promoted, spoilt, overgrown child.
As the Commons went into recess, both David Cameron and Nick Clegg were desperately trying to reassert their authority – not just over the government but their political parties as a whole.
For Cameron, the last couple of weeks must be like falling into an ever-deepening pit, lined with members of his own party who are criticising him and calling him ugly names.
UKIP – or, as I think I’ll call them from now on, BLIP – humiliated him at the local elections; the EU issue stayed with him when his own Parliamentary party tried to amend the Queen’s speech; Tory grandees including Tebbit, Howe and Lawson spoke against him; he alienated his grassroots party members, who now firmly believe that the Tories in government think they are “swivel-eyed loons”; and this week he alienated them again by pushing through the same-sex marriage bill via a deal with Labour, even though Conservative association members have been saying that his government is now acting against the wishes of modern Conservatives.
(Traditionally, if an amendment to the so-called ‘Gracious speech’ had succeeded, Cameron would have been forced to resign and a new government would have had to be formed. An alternative amendment, put forward by Labour’s John Mann, regretted that there was no plan for a referendum on the Coalitions shameful and abhorrent treatment of the National Health Service. Had Speaker John Bercow chosen this for discussion, matters might have been very different indeed.)
Apparently there has been some kind of campaign to oust Nick Clegg as Liberal Democrat leader, but he is now such an irrelevance to politics that I couldn’t be bothered to look up the details.
It is in this atmosphere that both men (we can hardly call them leaders any more) took to speechifying, as if talking themselves up would make any difference.
It didn’t help that Cameron included one statement that we can all see is blatantly untrue: He said the Conservative Party was a “broad church” and would continue to be, under his leadership. In fact it has become – more than ever before – a minority-interest group, aiming to suck all the money in the country into the hands of the wealthiest party members and their friends in big business, impoverishing the rest. This blog has made that clear from the start.
Cameron said the government was focused on issues that were “squarely in the national interest”. Let’s have a look at some of those issues.
The Huffington Post tells us that it may be possible to use the forthcoming Anti-Social Behaviour Bill to make homelessness a crime – and this has given rise to fears that, in conjunction with the Conservatives’ implementation of laws that make it extremely hard for poorer people to keep up rent payments on their homes, and their support of privately-owned prisons, they are planning to bring back the 19th-century idea of the workhouse, with poor people worked mercilessly to make money for the idle rich. It may seem like fantasy, but there’s something in it!
What about the failure of the Work Programme? Does anyone remember Iain Duncan Smith (Vox‘s Monster of the Year, 2012) wagging his finger and screaming at Owen Jones on Question Time last year – “I didn’t hear you screaming about two and a half million people who were parked, nobody saw them, for over 10 years, not working, no hope, no aspiration. We are changing their lives”. In fact, the government is not changing their lives, unless Mr… Smith admits he meant changing them for the worse.
Parliament’s Work and Pensions Committee has discovered “growing evidence” that organisations involved in the Work Programme are the ones that are “parking” the most disadvantaged people, who had spent the longest period of time out of work.
They’re not interested in helping people; they don’t want to boost the economy by increasing employment. All these firms want is their pay packet from the Department of Work and Pensions. That is what we see.
And we have Michael Gove, failing the youth of this nation with his ridiculous ideas about education. These can be summed up by saying, “State education must never be as good as private education and state pupils must never be allowed to achieve high results”. This is why he interfered with the marking of GCSE exam papers last year (did he do it to A-levels as well?), prompting the Welsh and Northern Irish education ministers to intervene.
Mr Gove’s reaction to that, revealed this week, has been to write to the ministers concerned, suggesting that they should set up their own examination system. A Whitehall source, quoted in The Guardian, said: “The Welsh are determined to keep dumbing down their exams. Leighton Andrews interfered with exam boards last year. He opposes our attempts to toughen things up and made clear he will continue to interfere to make things easier. It’s better that we all go our own way and defend our positions to our electorates.”
For a Conservative Party that is supposedly trying not to be divisive, those words are a shot in the foot.
The Welsh Government, seeing this for what it is, responded tersely: “Wales is keeping GCSEs and A-levels, as is Northern Ireland. We wish Mr Gove well with his plans to rename these qualifications in England.” In other words, it is the English system under Gove that will let pupils down.
This is the landscape we currently inhabit. The government has treated the people abominably and seems determined to continue in the same manner. Sympathy for it is draining away and the people are looking for an alternative.
It’s time for Her Majesty’s Opposition – the Labour Party – to step up and offer that alternative. Not ‘Tory Lite’ or another shade of neoliberalism but a genuine plan to improve this once-great nation’s fortunes.
How many of you were glad to see that Defence Secretary Philip Hammond is resisting plans for further cuts to his budget?
And how many of you were then dismayed to discover he wants the money needed to safeguard defence spending to be taken from the social security budget?
In an interview with the Telegraph, Hammond said the “first priority” must be “defending the country and maintaining law and order” and that further defence cuts are not possible while meeting stated security objectives.
How many of you find that statement extremely sinister?
What does he mean by “defending the country”? It is hard to reconcile this with the defence of every citizen within the UK, because his desire for social security cash (Tories only call it “welfare” because it’s an Americanism and a term that allows them to look down on people in receipt of benefits) makes it clear he has no interest in society’s poorest.
Let’s take it that he means the armed forces must be able to defend Conservative business interests instead. That seems far more likely, especially when one goes on to his next assertion, that the armed forces must be capable of “maintaining law and order”.
He thinks there will be civil unrest.
Hammond is not the only one to have such concerns – Labour’s Baroness Meacher made a statement along similar lines. The difference is that, it seems, he wants to use the armed forces to make sure such troubles are quelled.
Hammond says rising levels of employment mean savings could be made from benefit budgets. This is a clever manipulation of a situation that we all know is not what it seems – for example, 200,000 of the million new jobs the Coalition claims to have brought into existence were re-classified education posts, moved from the public to the private sector. Who knows how many people on Mandatory Work Activity schemes have been knocked off the benefit books, even though they are still paid only Jobseekers’ Allowance?
He is set to announce future plans for army bases – where troops returning to the UK will be barracked. In the light of the fact that cuts to the number of personnel in the armed forces have already been announced, one contributor to the Vox Political Facebook page has already raised a question about what uses may be found for those buildings that may be left empty.
“I have an idea,” she wrote. “Why not put all us scroungers into the empty barracks, and turn them into a modern day workhouses? Thats the way it’s headed!”
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