Archive for March, 2015

From Tragedy To Farce, How Universal Credit’s Work Related Activity Is Beyond A Joke

March 31, 2015

Johnny Void here lays bare the time the DWP believes the unemployed should spend each day of the 35 hours they are expected to look for work each week. This is a joke.

For most people, you couldn’t spend up to half an hour each day reviewing and updating your CV. There simply wouldn’t be any point, as there probably wouldn’t be anything new you could add. As for looking for jobs in the local and national papers, well, good luck with that. Newspapers can be expensive, and to take all of them would be extremely hard for those struggling to make ends meet. Furthermore, not all of them actually put in job ads. The Bristol Post used to have a Thursday supplement containing situations vacant, but I haven’t seen that in the paper for some time. As for the trade journals, you’d either have to have a subscription to them already, or live near to a very good library, which took them. Again, more expense. You can also expect that it could be difficult finding enough to talk about job vacancies for half an hour every day. Most likely the answer you’d get would be, ‘Same as I said yesterday. And the day before’. As for setting yourself up as self-employed, that all depends on whether you have a suitable set of skills or professional background. Quite apart from the fact that, as Mike, Johnny and the others have already blogged about, most of the self-employed jobs created through the government’s welfare reforms are really only the poor and desperate reduced to the very last resort of selling off their property. Their ‘businesses’ are fragile, pay much less than the minimum wage, and will mostly likely collapse.

Mr Void also points out that the DWP’s own legislation means that they can’t force you to fill up your day uselessly looking for jobs, if you’ve done all you can do and it simply doesn’t fill up the time. He also puts up the address for the Guidance on Work Related Activity, and provides a link to a site providing up to date information on the Department’s rules.

the void

zac-videogames Someone buy Zac a pint.

The rules on what constitutes work related activity for those claiming Universal Credit would be laughable if they were not backed by sanctions that can plunge people into destitution for up to three years.

As part of Iain Duncan Smith’s obsession with forcing unemployed, sick and disabled people into ever more irksome and pointless activity, unemployed claimants are now expected to spend 35 hours a week looking for a job.  The guidance for Jobcentre decision makers gives an example of a typical day:

“Dave is in receipt of UC. His expected number of hours of work are 35 a week. “On a typical day, Dave spends
1. two hours on-line looking through recruitment sites
2. one hour reading the “situations vacant” pages in the press (local papers,
national papers and trade journals)
3. one hour and a half completing a job application and covering letter

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Current Benefit Sanctions Policy Is Bonkers Says Workfare Industry’s Top Spokesperson

March 31, 2015

The sanctions system is now so corrupt and unviable that even Kirsty McHugh, the chief executive of the workfare companies’ trade association, has condemned them. Johnny Void points out that their attack isn’t based on conscience so much as self-interest. Starving, anxious and deprived people don’t perform well in interviews, and so won’t get jobs. And if they don’t get jobs, the workfare companies don’t get paid. Plus the fact that their condemnation of sanctions seems to be based on the fact that as yet, it’s not them that are doing the sanctioning. They still believe sanctions work, but don’t like the way their applied and the fact that it’s the state, not them, which has the power to do so.

the void

sanction-sabs3Aspects of Iain Duncan Smith’s brutal benefit sanctioning regime are bonkers  according to an astonishing diatribe from the workfare industry’s top spokesperson Kirsty McHugh, Chief Executive of the  Employment Related Services Association (ERSA).

ERSA are the trade body established to lie on behalf of the welfare-to-work companies like A4e and G4S who hold lucrative contracts to run workfare and forced training schemes.  In a frank statement on their website McHugh says that the use of sanctions is based on sending political messages rather than evidence of what works and that a more humane system is needed.

According to McHugh, current rules which mean welfare-to-work companies have no choice but to refer people for a benefit sanction for not carrying ‘mandated activity’  are ‘bonkers’ and that this causes inappropriate sanctions to be applied.  She also backs the recent call for an urgent review of the sanctions regime made by the Work…

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Government Statistics No Longer Reliable Say Charities As Homelessness Epidemic Gets Even Worse

March 31, 2015

Mr Void here attempts to reveal the true extent of homelessness in Britain, while rightly condemning the fact that neither party deems this to be an important issues that needs confronting in the run-up to the election. He gives the background information on how unreliable the official statistics are.

Tackling homelessness is the task of the local authorities, who use informal methods of estimating its extent, and who are only obliged to tackle priority cases. Thus, in addition to the 53,000 odd families now on the streets, there may be a further 40,000 single people, and over a quarter of a million ‘hidden homeless’ couples or single people, sleeping on friends’ couches.

He also explains the root cause of this rise in homelessness in IDS’ welfare reforms, caps on housing benefit, and ‘affordable rents’ which are anything but. He believes that neither party wishes to tackle the true extent of this problem, as they are either in the pocket of the landlords or landlords themselves. And the problem will get worse with the continued destruction of council housing at proper social rents, as well as IDS’ plans to sell off council houses completely.

the void

cause-of-homelessness How private sector evictions are driving homelessness. AST stands for Assured Shorthold Tenancy. Graph from Crisis.

Figures showing that statutory homelessness has soared in England by 27% since this government weren’t elected do not even scratch the surface of the desperate homelessness epidemic.

53,250 families were accepted as homeless in 2014, up from 41,780 five years earlier and the latest official homelessness statistics uncover some stark facts about those without a home.  There are now twice the number of families living in B&Bs than in 2010 and the number who have been there over six weeks has leapt by an appalling 500%.  This is a practice which had almost died out, but as demand for temporary housing has risen over the the last five years there are no longer enough hostels, refuges and other forms of emergency accommodation for the growing numbers of homeless families.

These statistics come after

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The Fight To Save Social Security Won’t Be Over Whoever Wins The Election, Come To The Welfare Action Gathering – 30th May

March 31, 2015

the void

welfare-action-flyerfrom Boycott Workfare

Saturday 30th May, 10.30am-5.30pm, London Welsh Centre (10 minutes’ walk from King’s Cross station)

Faced with policies that are pushing ever more people into precarity and poverty, thousands of us have been coming together to support each other. We are pushing back workfare, standing up to sanctions, challenging the work capability assessment and fighting insecure, unaffordable housing.

If you are concerned about:

  • Job centres being places of intimidation and sanctions,
  • Private providers bullying claimants on ‘welfare-to-work’ schemes,
  • 35 hour jobsearch under Universal Credit,
  • ESA assessments putting sick and disabled people in fear of destitution,
  • Welfare rights for young people being abolished and replaced with unpaid work,
  • Workfare being required to be eligible for social housing,
  • Housing benefit being part of sanctions under Universal Credit,
  • Claimants in work being sanctioned under Universal Credit too…

…then do something about it and come to the Welfare Action Gathering to hear…

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They Are Coming For Our Pensions … And This Is How It Begins

March 31, 2015

Johnny Void here reports on the plans, presented by a former banker, for forcing the elderly to return to work. Mr Void presents the statistics actually showing that only a very few pensioners actually want to return to full-time work, while only about a quarter are interested in finding part-time work.

This isn’t about tapping into the elderly’s particular skills, or showing that senior citizens are still productive members of society. It’s simply about cutting down on pensions. The right has been arguing since the 1990s that the falling birth rate means that there are too few young people to support ‘generous’ pensions for the elderly. Hence the elderly must have their pensions cut.

They also realise that this is political suicide, and so are trying desperately to hide what they are intending to do. Iain Duncan Smith has been on TV this Sunday denying that they have plans to cut anywhere particularly yet, while simultaneously saying they need to make more cuts. And so this piece of research comes along, talking about encouraging old people to take up work voluntarily. Just as so many of the government’s workfare schemes are also supposed to be voluntary.

the void

work-till-you-dieUnpaid work experience and apprenticeships for pensioners could soon be on the way as a report released earlier this month lays the groundwork for an attack on pensions.

The report, entitled A New Vision For Older Workers, was produced by Dr Ros Altmann, a former banker who is occassionally on television.  To anyone who has followed the ongoing destruction of an adequate benefits system for sick and disabled people it is chillingly familiar.

“Encouraging and enabling those who want to work longer is an idea whose time has come” the report declares before trotting out the exact same assumptions that were used to justify the introduction of vicious assessments – and eventually forced training, job search and workfare – for sick and disabled claimants.  Older people want to work according to the report, and of course, work is good for your health.  It then goes on to make dire…

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Wales OnLine Outs Kipper Candidate as Member of Traditional Britain Group

March 31, 2015

Early today I posted Private Eye’s review of William Rees-Mogg’s book, Picnics on Vesuvius, and commented on the career and extreme Right-wing views of his son, Jacob, the Tory MP for part of Bath And North-East Somerset. I mentioned that the extreme nature of his views is shown by his membership of the Traditional Britain Group. This is a far-right organisation that demands the dismantlement of the welfare state, the privatisation of the NHS, the restoration of the feudal social hierarchy, and an end to immigration. They are particularly opposed to Islam, and their members have posted on various anti-Islam, ‘counter-jihad’ sites. They were also seen a few years ago at the fringes of that year’s UKIP conference.

Now the news website, Wales OnLine, has revealed that the Kipper candidate for Dwyfor Meirionnydd, Christopher Gillibrand, is a member of the Group in their article Welsh Ukip candidate is vice president of group which in 2013 made Doreen Lawrence ‘go home’ slurs on Facebook.

The article notes some of the Group’s racist comments and actions over the previous years, such as

* Two years ago in 2013 they objected to Doreen Lawrence being awarded a peerage on their Facebook page. Doreen Lawrence is the mother of Stephen Lawrence, the black teenager murdered by a group of four white racist thugs. Not only that, but they demanded that she and millions of others like her, should be deported to their countries of origin.

* They called the Tory backbencher, Nadhim Zahawi, ‘foreign’, and described the Labour MP, Chuka Umunna, as Nigerian, despite the fact that he’s Londoner, born and bred.

* Their website also carried a video by Marine Le Pen of the French Neo-Nazi party, Front National, talking about the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris.

* At their conference last October, they showed a video presented by a member of the British Democratic Party, called The Irresistible and Happy Political and Cultural Rise of the Front National in France. The British Democratic Party is another Nazi party, founded by Andrew Brons, formerly of the NF. Back in 1970s, Brons was arrested in Brum for goosestepping about in Nazi uniform shouting at the elderly.

* Last June the guest of honour at their annual Black tie dinner was the Vlaams Belang’s MEP, Philip Claeys. The Vlaams Belang are the Flemish nationalist party, who demand a separate Flanders and an end to multiculturalism.

* They hailed the far-right anti-Islam party, the Sweden Democrats, as ‘the resistance in Sweden’, and applauded the ‘record numbers’ of Nigerians and Muslims being expelled from Norway.

The article quotes the Welsh language activist, Simon Brooks, who complained about the lack of Welsh language materials at a UKIP meeting in Wales, who believes that the party’s apparent contempt for indigenous Welsh language and culture is part of their general xenophobia and intolerance. He also stated that they had 21 aims, including the destruction of the welfare state and the restoration of ‘authority’. Plaid Cymru supported Mr Brooks’ comments, and stated that someone like Gillibrand should not be standing for parliament. They also said that they would work for the wellbeing and prosperity of everyone in Wales.

Gilllibrand has made a rebuttal of some of these points, claiming that he has been slandered. He stated that he was not responsible for the Facebook comments about Doreen Lawrence, and said that he did not share or condone the racist comments of the other members.

Jacob Rees-Mogg too condemned the attack on Doreen Lawrence, and hailed her as ‘a wonderful and courageous woman who has contributed to British public life and, in any traditional view of Conservatism, she should be lauded for what she has done.’ He stated that his attendance at their black tie dinner was a mistake.

The article can be read at

Nevertheless, Gillibrand is still vice-president of the Traditional Britain Group. If his disgust at their racism is genuine, then he should have taken issue with it long before it was raised by the press, or done the decent thing and resigned.

As for Jacob Rees-Mogg, while I may have been wrong about his membership of the group, it’s clear from the fact that he attended their gala dinner that he is in sympathy with them and their views, even if baulks at their comments about Doreen Lawrence. Neither Gillibrand nor Rees-Mogg are in any way sympathetic to the post-War culture of this country, and the rights, wellbeing and prosperity of its working people. And while Rees-Mogg at least has condemned their racism, Gillibrand still strikes me as profoundly hostile to the welfare of this country’s Black and Asian citizens, and their right to reside and participate in our political, social and cultural life.

Private Eye’s Review of Rees-Mogg Snr’s ‘Picnics on Vesuvius’

March 31, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political has posted a piece criticising the views and career to date of Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Tory MP for part of BANES in Somerset. His constituency includes Bath, and, I think, part of Keynsham, a small town between there and Bristol.

Rees-Mogg is one of the new bugs, who came in with Cameron. Private Eye covered him in their ‘The New Boys’ on-off column. He’s a tall man, with impeccable patrician manners and the same air of condescension towards the lower orders. Which is just about everyone else. Mike cites a description of him as ‘the minister for the early 20th century’. It’s entirely apt. He cuts a strangely Edwardian figure, as if someone from the first few decades of the last century somehow fell through time to emerge nearly a century later, to be bemused by the strange technological devices, manners and ever-so-slightly vulgar social conventions.

He began his political career charging about Scotland, campaigning for the Tories in a Scots mining town. He announced that his platform was to convince the Scots that they vitally needed an unelected, aristocratic Second House. Clearly, his constituents and just about the rest of the country north of the border decided that they didn’t. No doubt he encountered some extremely forthright views while canvassing them.

He has gone to Glyndebourne, the great operatic festival in Kent. While there one sunny day, he got his wife and nanny to stop him getting sunburn by holding a book over his head. I’m as surprised that he actually wasn’t embarrassed to mention this as I am that he actually did it in the first place.

Rather more seriously, the extremity of his right-wing views are shown by his membership of the Traditional Britain group. This is another bunch of rightists, who stand for the restoration of the traditional feudal hierarchy, the absolute destruction of the welfare state and the privatisation of the NHS, and absolutely no immigrants. And particularly not Muslims. They were last seen a few years ago on the fringes of UKIP’s annual conference. You also see them posting on the anti-Islam, ‘counter-jihadist’ site.

Young Jacob is the son of William Rees-Mogg, a former columnist for the Independent and then subsequently the Times. In 1992 Rees-Mogg pere published his magnificent octopus, Picnics on Vesuvius: Steps Towards the Millennium. It was then reviewed and suitably done over by Private Eye in their literary column. Here it is:

Scrambled Mogg

Just before Christmas, William Rees-Mogg wrote his last column for the Independent. Some bolshie sub gave it the derisive headline: ‘Is this the end of life as I know it?’ Henceforth his compositions will be appearing in the Times.

Senior staff at the Independent are heartbroken. From the launch of the paper, they have found him such a dependable guide to the meaning of life, the universe and everything. All you need to do, they discovered, is read Rees-Mogg’s columns carefully and then believe exactly the opposite. It never failed, they say tearfully. Now they don’t know what to think.

At least Rees-Mogg has left behind this treasury of past triumphs, so we can look back and admire the almost supernatural accuracy of his forecasting. On 22nd January 1992, for example, looking into Fergie’s tea leaves, Rees-Mogg wrote: ‘Nor do I believe for a moment that the duchess’s antics, innocent as they seem to be, are doing any damage to the monarchy. the question of the future of the crown is a non-question; it is all got up by the press.’ Put a few ‘nots’ in there, in the right places, and this was an almost uncannily far-sighted assessment.

Or again on 11 march 1991, when base rates were 13 per cent, Rees-Mogg warned ‘any further reduction in interest rates is likely to restart a major house boom’. Indeed! Or rather – not! For those lucky few sharing the secret of how to interpret Rees-Mogg, this was priceless information.

No less inspired was his evaluation of Robert Maxwell on 11 November 1991, concluding: ‘I am glad he was buried yesterday on the Mount of Olives, which is a place of grace. I shall remember him with affection …’ To the initiated, there could hardly have been a more savage condemnation.

Yet is not just for his power of prediction that we must revere Rees-Mogg. Rather, it is for the sheer grandeur of his style, the way he sweeps so impressively from the tiniest detail of his own life to the great questions of history, with scarcely a pause – in fact, let’s admit, with never a pause – between.

Who else would are begin an article (‘Landmarks in a Life Which Has Seen the Shadow of War Lifted’) like this: ‘On my tenth birthday, 14 July 1938, I was given an ice-cream cake with a cricket-bat and ball on top; it was big enough to be shared with the 30 boys in the my house at school. Four months before, Hitler had invaded Austria … Two months after my birthday, Neville Chamberlain flew to Munich’?

At the time, Rees-Mogg was probably alone in realizing which was the critical date of the three. Now we are all privileged to share that thrilling perspective – and there are many such moments here.

Truly, he is a man of destiny. ‘Destiny has a way of making itself,’ he says here in passing of his own marriage. She may have been his secretary, but it was meant.

It is this sublime confidence in himself, as a Mogg and a Wessex man, that permits him to take such long views, not just from year to year, but from century to century, millennium to millennium, into eternity indeed. For Rees-Mogg, it just all joins up.

So what does the great seer foresee? Good news! He foresees dooooom.

Yup, things are going to be OK! Who would have thought it?

According to Rees-Mogg, the world is facing imminent economic and social collapse, what with the slitty eyes beavering away, mugging getting out of hand, overpopulation, nuclear proliferation, Aids and all.

On Aids, says Rees-Mogg with a touch of justifiable pride, he has done ‘special work’. There’s a whole section about it here, and his conclusion is, as ever, that only religion can save us: ‘Christian morality is a strategy for survival’, you see. Condoms are useless. ‘The “unzip a condom” approach to the HIV epidemic reminds me of the filter-tip response to the issue of cigarette smoking and cancer,’ he says scornfully.

There may be those who will say that this remark shows that Rees-Mogg, for his wisdom, is a little out of touch with modern life. After all, they might observe, most condoms these days use the more comfortable button-fastening; zips are hardly ever seen.

But this is petty quibbling. Of the basic truth, that only becoming a Catholic right away can avert the end of the world, there can be no doubt. The millennium is coming, you see. ‘By the year 2000’ is Rees-Mogg’s favourite way of beginning a sentence. ‘As we approach 2000 years after Christ, this ancient human fear of some final calamity is not as unthinkable as it would have seemed 50 years ago,’ he says.

Only a ‘worldwide spiritual revolution’ can help. Only the Pope can resist Islam. Only saints, and sages from Somerset, can lead us now.

Travelling the country, he met some black people once. ‘I was particularly touched by the young black boy, with the scars of handcuffs on his wrists, who said to me: “It6 must be grand to be a lord.”‘

What he seems not to realize is that we all feel like this about him. Our gratitude is bottomless. For as he says, ‘saints are so important in the spread of religious belief. They profess their faith, but their conduct is the real evidence of its truth.’ Yes, indeed.

‘I am certain that we are all eternal spirits, with an eternal purpose, ‘Rees-Mogg tells us. ‘We are all like eggshells filled with spiritual realities we cannot begin to understand, filled indeed with the whole glory of Heaven.’

Some of us hardboiled, some soft, other poached, and a few are scrambled, but we all can, if we choose, entere the new year and eventually the next millennium, hand in hand with Lord Rees-Mogg.

From: Lord Gnome’s Literary Companion, ed. and introduced by Francis Wheen (London: Verso 1994) 293-4.

I don’t share the writer’s hostility to religion, or their apparent hostility to Roman Catholicism, although that may just be an entirely suitable comment on Rees-Mogg’s own, rather sectarian religious beliefs, which clearly discount anyone else’s who isn’t a Roman Catholic. It does, however, show the lofty patricians tone Rees-Mogg’s views, and explains why Rees-Mogg junior is the way he is.

And with any luck, Rees-Mogg fils will be another Tory looking for a job after May 7th.

UKIP candidate in bizarre call for Barack Obama to be kidnapped

March 31, 2015

This is Tom Pride’s perspective on Jeremy Zaid’s call for the kidnapping and trial of Barak Obama by the Israelis.

Colin Crouch on his comment to the story adds a bit more information to this. Zaid used to be the Tory MP for Harrow, until he lost his seat and then defected to the Kippers. He has then subsequently made numerous appearances on radio. You wonder if he’ll still be doing them after making such an outrageous comment. It’s possible the stations will still let him appear as a right-wing contrarian of independent views. Or a swivel-eyed loon the audience can laugh at.

Pride's Purge

(not satire – it’s the UKIP!)

No really, I kid you not.

A UKIP parliamentary candidate has called for US President Barack Obama to be kidnapped:

UKIP Would Be MP Calls For The Kidnapping Of President Obama

Oh Britain – you had your fun at the European elections.

Now please tell me you’re not really thinking of voting any of these cranks into office.


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The Coalition Government Colouring and Activity Book is now available for download as a PDF and in print:

book cover ebbokbook cover print

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Chilling photograph captured in door of Nr 10 as Cameron announces election campaign

March 31, 2015

Clare Rayner appears like Marley’s ghost on Cameron’s doorknocker in order to haunt him for his destruction of the NHS. Now that’s one story that would encourage me to watch ‘Most Haunted’.

In actual fact, there is one metaphorical spectre hanging over the election campaign- it’s Maggie Thatcher. The Tories have taken her policies to their ultimate, vile conclusion, though they weren’t the only party responsible. One of the first things Blair did when he PM was invite her to visit at No. 10. Hopefully, MIliband will start to put the country on the right path after 36 years of crappy Thatcherite rule.

Pride's Purge


A spine-chilling photograph of a ghost has been discovered which appears to show the face of a woman reflected in the door of number 10 Downing street.

The eerie image was captured while David Cameron announced the start of the election campaign to press photographers outside the prime minister’s residence:

cameron rayner

If the picture is enlarged, the face of a woman can be clearly seen on the door of number 10:

cameron rayner 1

If the picture is enlarged further the face becomes clearer:

cameron rayner 2

It looks a lot like agony aunt and NHS campaigner Claire Rayner who died at the age of 79 in 2010:

Raynor cameron 4

Now why on earth would Clare Rayner be haunting David Cameron*?


*Clare Rayner’s last words before she died were: ‘tell Cameron if he screws up my beloved NHS I’ll haunt him’.


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The Coalition Government Colouring and Activity Book is now available for…

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Labour announce tough clampdown on unemployed Lib Dem MPs after election

March 31, 2015

This is one attack on state support for the intentionally idle I could support. I like the idea of Clegg, Danny Alexander and the rest of the Lib Dem Tory enablers being sent to stack shelves in Poundland for food vouchers. In fact, I think they should have been made to do it long before they took office, just to get an idea of ‘how the other half lives’. Unfortunately, it probably won’t happen – they’ll doubtless walk into jobs as company directors or senior management the moment they leave office. But it’s a great idea, nonetheless.

Pride's Purge


A massive crackdown on workshy Liberal Democrat politicians – who under the present government have been used to living a life of luxury doing nothing at all at taxpayer’s expense – will be a central part of Labour’s election manifesto.

The tough new rules are designed to curb the something-for-nothing culture which experts say has become endemic amongst Liberal Democrats over the past 5 years.

Soon to be unemployed Liberal Democrat MPs will be stripped of their state benefits – including an end to tax-payer-funded chauffeur-driven ministerial cars and massive ministerial expense accounts – when huge numbers of them are made redundant after the next election, according to sources close to Labour leader Ed Miliband.

A spokesperson for Labour said they would also be shortly announcing a manifesto pledge to introduce a new US-style ‘work for the dole’ scheme for workshy Liberal Democrats such as Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander – who will be…

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