Posts Tagged ‘Benefit Sanctions’

Cartoon of the Tories as Pagan Cannibal Cult

June 27, 2017

This is another of the cartoons I drew a few years ago of the Tory-Lib Dem coalition under David Cameron and Nick Clegg and its cheerleaders and propagandists in the media.

As I’ve written in my posts about the other cartoons I’ve drawn of them, the Tories are responsible for misery and deaths in Britain on a massive scale. This has been a direct result of their austerity policy of freezing wages, cutting benefits and their use of the sanctions system within the DWP to throw tens of thousands off benefits every year, often for the most trivial of reasons. Terminally ill patients on their death beds have been told that their benefit has been removed, because they’re ‘fit for work’. Amputees have been asked when they expect their limbs to grow back. People have had their jobseekers allowance removed, because they missed an interview at the jobcentre due to being in hospital at the time. Disabled people with mobility problems have been required to attend fitness for work interviews at offices situated several floors up, with little or nothing in the way of disabled access.

Whistleblowers have also come forward to say that the DWP and the outsourcing companies it employs, such as Atos, have a quota system in which they are supposed to get a certain proportion of claimants off benefits regardless of their actual physical condition. Staff in jobcentres have also been awarded prizes, such as gold stars, sheriff’s badges, Easter eggs and so on for being the clerk, who has got the most people off benefit that week.

The result has been carnage. Mike and other disability bloggers managed, after a very lengthy campaign, to get figures from the DWP showing that for a given period, 13-14,000 people died after being found fit for work by Atos and the DWP. Researchers at Oxford University have found that in 2015, austerity killed 30,000 people. This means that from 2015 to date, in mid-2017, and including Mike’s figures for an earlier period, the Tories and their Lib Dem enablers, have killed 87-88,000 people with their policies.

Over a hundred thousand people are now forced to use food banks as they have no income due to their benefits being removed. Seven million people live in ‘food insecure’ households, where it’s a struggle simply finding the money for this week’s food. Women are going hungry, because if they feed themselves, they’ll starve their children.

Meanwhile, the assault on the state sector continues. The Tories are pushing ahead with the privatisation of the NHS, transferring state healthcare which is free at the point of use into a private, for-profit system like the American system.

And so I decided to draw them as members of a pagan, cannibalistic cult like the Aztecs, or like those of the ancient Canaanites and the demons in ancient Mesopotamian religion.

Thus I drew David Cameron eating a human arm, and George Osborne wearing a human skull as a headdress. I decided to depict Alan Duncan with empty eye sockets and eyes in the palms of his hands, like the sinister Pale Man in Guillermo del Toro’s fantasy film, Pan’s Labyrinth. Behind Cameron and Duncan loom a sculpture of a demon from ancient Iraq, and a human skeleton. Below Duncan and to his right is the figure of an ancient Mesopotamian priest or king. Left of Cameron is a drawing of Eric Pickles, who was one of the ministers in Cameron’s cabinet. I’m afraid the drawing’s a bit smudged, so you may not be able to make him out. And behind and to the left of him is Evan Davies, the BBC presenter. I put him in after he made some comment supporting the Tories or austerity.

And below Davies and Pickles is Andrew Lansley, the Tory-Lib Dem coalition’s wretched health minister. Lansley was responsible for a piece of convoluted legislation way back in 2012, which effectively removes the health minister from his statutory obligation, dating from the establishment of the NHS in 1948, to provide state healthcare. This is one of the major legal foundations for the Tories’ planned eventual privatisation of the NHS. See the discussion of this in Jacky Davis’ and Raymond Tallis’ book, NHS-SOS. And so I gave Lansley a sign saying ‘NHS – For Sale. Apply A Lansley’.

Since I drew the cartoon, Lansley’s been replaced by the equally appalling Jeremy Hunt. Hunt has been responsible for plunging tens of British hospitals into massive debt as part of the Tories’ piecemeal privatisation of the NHS.

Adding insult to injury is the lies the Tories are spinning about this crisis. People, according to them, aren’t going to food banks because they’re hungry. No! It’s because it’s free food. In fact, you can only use a food bank if you have a chit from the Jobcentre to say that you don’t have any money. And when Theresa May was asked by a TV presenter whether it was right that nurses should have to use food banks, she could only reply the weak excuse ‘There are complex reasons.’

There aren’t any complex reasons. There’s a very simple one: the Tories are paying starvation wages. Whey they are actually paying anyone, that is.

Davis and Tallis also point out that the NHS was in budget under the Labour administration the Tories replaced. And state expenditure was actually lower under Labour. But despite massive cuts to the NHS, the Tories are lying that the financial crisis, which they are using as their pretext to cut services and benefits, was all due to ‘high spending Labour’, rather than the 2008 financial crash created by corrupt bankers. And while NHS budgets are being cut to the bone and beyond, they’re also trying to tell the public that real expenditure on the NHS is higher than ever before in real terms.

All lies.

Bloggers such as Stilloaks, Johnny Void, Mike and DPAC have blogged about some of the victims, who have been killed by this murderous policy, and there are lists, art works and videos commemorating them. At present, the people on these lists number 500-600 plus, but this is just a tiny fraction of those, who have died.

Jeremy Corbyn has promised to undo the Neoliberalism and austerity that is killing tens of thousands of people every year. He intends to scrap the fitness for work tests, pay people proper benefits and renationalise the NHS.

So please, vote for him and end the Tories’ reign of death and misery against the poor, the unemployed, the disabled and the lower middle and working classes.

Cartoon: Iain Duncan Smith as Judge Death

June 24, 2017

Here’s another drawing from my series of cartoons attacking the Tory party and their sycophants and cheerleaders against the poor in the media. It’s another cartoon of Iain Duncan Smith, the former head of the DWP and the Tory party, before it was taken over by David Cameron. Cameron’s austerity campaign, launched with the support of the Tories’ coalition partners, the Lib Dems, and their leader, Nick Clegg, has been responsible for the deaths of untold tens of thousands. Many of these are due to IDS’ massive expansion of the sanctions system in the DWP, which has seen terminally ill cancer patients told they are no longer entitled to benefits because they’re fit and healthy. Other disabled and unemployed people were sanctioned because they missed interviews, when they were in hospital. A number of whistleblowers have come forward and revealed that the DWP operates a quota system, in which a certain number are to be found fit for work, even if they aren’t. Several offices were also caught giving prizes and gold stars for the worker, who could throw the most people off jobseekers allowance.

After a long struggle, Mike over at Vox Political got figures from the DWP under the Freedom of Information Act, which revealed that for a specific time, 13-14,000 people died after the DWP decided that they were fit for work. Researchers at Oxford University have also found that in 2015, austerity killed 30,000 people. If we assume this figure has remained constant, then to date, in mid 2017, something like 75,000 people have died – 30,000 in 2015, another 30,000 in 2016, and about half that number, 15,000, this year. Add the 13-14,000 Mike found, and you have a total of 87-88,000. And this may well be an underestimation.

Johnny Void, Stilloak, DPAC and other disability bloggers like Mike have also put up lists of the names of some of the poor souls, who have died in misery and starvation, and the circumstances in which they died. There are 500-600 + people on it. Some of them took their lives as they saw no way out of the poverty and starvation that was being inflicted on them. Mike and the other bloggers are calling this death toll what it is – the genocide of the disabled, and ‘social murder’, following Friedrich Engels discussion of the concept in his The Condition of the Working Class in England.

I’m something of a comics fan, including 2000 AD and Judge Dredd, Mega-City 1’s toughest lawman. And so I decided that one of the best metaphors for the carnage IDS and the Tories have inflicted on the poor and innocent was to show him as JD’s arch-enemy, Judge Death. Or Sydney, as he was also known. Judge Death was an animated corpse, who came from a parallel world in which life itself had been declared a crime, because all crime was committed by the living. Which is close to IDS’ and the Tories’ idea of punishing the poor, simply for being poor.

If you can’t read them, the captions are ‘The crime issss poverty, the sentensssse isss death’, and ‘The Tories – You cannot kill what doesss not live’, paraphrasing Death’s catchphrases ‘The crime issss life, the sentenssse issss death’, and ‘You cannot kill what doesss not live’.

If anyone from the 2000 AD crowd is reading this, please accept it as a twisted homage to the subversive, anti-authoritarian and satirical nature of 2000 AD and its strips, which have made it one of the leading comics for nearly forty years since the late 70s.

Jodie Whiting: Another Victim of the Murderous DWP

June 22, 2017

Mike yesterday put up a piece about the tragic death of another unemployed person, Jodie Whiting. Whiting, a 42 year old mother of nine, committed suicide after the DWP stopped her benefits, according to the coroner’s inquest. She was sanctioned because she missed an appointment for a ‘health assessment’, though she later said she knew nothing about it, because she was in hospital at the time.

DWP staff have now issued an apology, and the sanction was overturned after she died.

Mike points out that despite his campaign a few years ago to get the DWP to release the figures for the number of people, who have died after having their benefits stopped, the DWP are still sanctioning people. And the results are deaths like these.

Mike also points out that Ms Whiting’s death fits Friedrich Engel’s concept of ‘social murder’, as described in his The Condition of the Working Class in England:

“When society places hundreds of proletarians in such a position that they inevitably meet a too early and an unnatural death, one which is quite as much a death by violence as that by the sword or bullet; when it deprives thousands of the necessaries of life, places them under conditions in which they cannot live – forces them, through the strong arm of the law, to remain in such conditions until that death ensues which is the inevitable consequence – knows that these thousands of victims must perish, and yet permits these conditions to remain, its deed is murder just as surely as the deed of the single individual; disguised, malicious murder, murder against which none can defend himself, which does not seem what it is, because no man sees the murderer, because the death of the victim seems a natural one, since the offence is more one of omission than of commission. But murder it remains.”

Mike in his conclusion makes clear the poor woman’s suicide is exactly what Engels called such deaths – murder it remains.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/06/20/this-was-not-suicide-it-was-social-murder-by-the-tory-dwp/

Ms Whiting’s death is just one of many tens of thousands of people, who have died in misery and poverty due to the Tories’ sanctions regime. Johnny Void, Stilloaks, Mike, DPAC and many, many others have put up posts reporting the deaths, and naming the individuals, who have died and the circumstances of their deaths. The last time I looked, the number of disabled people, who had starved to death or committed suicide after having their benefits taken away was about 500-600 +. And the above blogs and organisations have published lists and short biographies of these tragic victims.

But the actual numbers of people, who have died in total, is much, much larger. From the figures Mike was able to wrestle out of Iain Duncan Smith’s mendacious and obstructive DWP, the figures are in the tens of the thousands. Mike and other bloggers and news organisations, have had to struggle to get these figures. The DWP repeatedly turned down the requests for them under the Freedom of Information Act on the grounds that they were ‘vexatious’. When the Information Commissioner finally forced them to reveal the stats, the DWP did nothing until the very last minute, when it repealed against the decision. When they finally did release the figures, it wasn’t quite those Mike had requested. Even so, these showed that for the period in question, something like 13-14,000 of people had died after the DWP found them ‘fit for work’.

And researchers at Oxford University reported that in 2015 30,000 people were killed by austerity.

An austerity Theresa May is still pursuing, despite her widely reported comment in the papers that it was dead.

This is carnage. This is mass murder. It is what Mike and other bloggers have called it, including Jeffrey Davies, one of the many great bloggers on Mike’s and my websites: the genocide of the disabled.

But the Tories are getting away with it, because those killed are dying in their own homes, by their own hand, or simply through starvation. They have not been herded into death camps, or physically shot or murdered by the DWP. They have simply been allowed to die, in misery and despair.

There are upwards of 100,000 people using food banks, and something like 7 million plus people living in ‘food insecurity’ – that is, they don’t know if their next meal is going to be their last. Or if they will have a next meal. Hard-pressed working mothers, who need benefits to make ends meet thanks to very poor wages, are starving themselves just to feed their children.

This is a national disgrace.
It has to end. Now.
We need another election and a Corbyn victory to end the Tory regime of fear, despair and organised, corporate murder.

End Workfare Now! Part 1

June 20, 2017

This is the text of another pamphlet I wrote a year or so ago against the highly exploitative workfare industry. As the pamphlet explains, workfare, or ‘welfare to work’, is the system that provides industry with cheap, unemployed temporary labour under the guise of getting the jobless back into work by giving them work experience. If the unemployed person refuses, he or she is thrown off benefit.

These temporary jobs go nowhere, and it’s been proven that the unemployed are actually far better off looking for jobs on their own than using workfare. And it’s very similar to other systems of supposed voluntary work and forced labour, such as the labour colonies set up in Britain in 1905, the Reichsarbeitsdienst in Nazi Germany, and the use of forced labour against the ‘arbeitscheu’ – the ‘workshy’, as well as the compulsory manual labour required of all citizens in Mao’s china during the Cultural Revolution, and the Gulags in Stalin’s Russia.

Mike over at Vox Political has blogged against it, so has Johnny Void and the Angry Yorkshireman of Another Angry Voice, and many other left-wing bloggers. It’s another squalid policy which New Labour and the Tories took over from Reagan and Bill Clinton.

Jeremy Corbyn has promised to get rid of the work capability tests. I hope also that under him, the Labour party will also get rid of this vile policy, so that big corporations like Poundland and supermarkets like Tesco’s will have to take on workers and pay them a decent wage, rather than exploiting desperate and jobless workers supplied by the Thatcherite corporate state.

End Workfare Now!

Workfare is one of the most exploitative aspects of the contemporary assault on the welfare state and the unemployed. It was advocated in the 1980s by the Republicans under Ronald Reagan in America, and in Britain by Thatcher’s Conservatives. In 1979 the Tory party ranted about the need to ‘restore the will to work’. Geoffrey Howe, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, declared that ‘The Government and the vast majority of the British people want hard work and initiative to be properly rewarded and are vexed by disincentives to work’. At its heart is the attitude that the unemployed should be forced to work for their benefits, as otherwise they are getting ‘something for nothing’. Very many bloggers and activists for the poor and unemployed, including Vox Political, Johnny Void, Another Angry Voice, and myself have denounced it as another form of slavery. It’s used to provide state-subsidised, cheap labour for big business and charities, including influential Tory donors like Sainsbury’s. And at times it crosses the line into true slavery. Under the sanctions system, an unemployed person is still required to perform workfare, even if the jobcentre has sanctioned them, so that they are not receiving benefits. Workfare recipients – or victims – have no control over where they are allocated or what jobs they do. The government was challenged in the courts by a geology graduate, who was forced to work in Poundland. The young woman stated that she did not object to performing unpaid work. She, however, had wanted to work in a museum, and if memory serves me correctly, had indeed got a place at one. She was, however, unable to take up her unpaid position there because of the Jobcentre’s insistence she labour for Poundland instead. A young man also sued the government, after he was sanctioned for his refusal to do 30 hours a week unpaid labour for six months for the Community Action Programme. The High and Appeal Courts ruled in the young people’s favour. They judged that the government had indeed acted illegally, as the law did not contain any stipulations for when and how such work was to be performed.

Iain Duncan Smith, the notorious head of the Department of Work and Pensions, was outraged. He called the decision ‘rubbish’ and said, ‘There are a group of people out there who think they are too good for this kind of stuff .. People who think it is their right take benefit and do nothing for it – those days are over.’ This is rich coming from IDS, who was taking over a million pounds in farm subsidies from the EU. Eventually, Smith got sick of the criticism he was taking for the government’s welfare policies, and flounced off early in 2016 moaning about how unfair it all was that he should get the blame, when the notorious Work Capability Tests inflicted on the elderly and disabled were introduced by New labour.

Those forced into workfare are in no sense free workers, and it similarly makes a nonsense of the pretense that this somehow constitutes ‘voluntary work’, as this has been presented by the government and some of the participating charities

The political scientist Guy Standing is also extremely critical of workfare in his book, A Precariat Charter, demanding its abolition and making a series of solid arguments against it. He states that it was first introduced in America by the Republicans in Wisconsin, and then expanded nationally to the rest of the US by Bill Clinton in his Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act. It was part of his campaign to ‘end welfare as we know it’. Single parents receiving social assistance were required to take low-paying jobs after two years. Legislation was also passed barring people from receiving welfare payments for more than five years in their entire lives.

David Cameron, unsurprisingly, was also a fan of the Wisconsin system, and wanted to introduce it over here. In 2007 he made a speech to the Tory faithful at the party conference, proclaiming ‘We will say to people that if you are offered a job and it’s a fair job and one that you can do and you refuse it, you shouldn’t get any welfare.’ This became part of Coalition policy towards the unemployed when they took power after the 2010 elections.’ Two years later, in 2012, Boris Johnson, speaking as mayor of London, declared that he was going to use EU money from the Social Fund to force young adults between 18 and 24 to perform 13 weeks of labour without pay if they were unemployed. In June that year David Cameron also declared that there was a need to end ‘the nonsense of paying people more to stay at home than to get a job – and finally making sure that work really pays. Ed Miliband’s Labour party also joined in. Liam Byrne, the Shadow Secretary for Work and Pensions, declared that

Labour would ensure that no adult will be able to live on the dole for over two years and no young person for over a year. They will be offered a real job with real training, real prospects and real responsibility … People would have to take this responsibility or lose benefits.

This was echoed by Ed Balls, who said

A One Nation approach to welfare reform means government has a responsibility to help people into work and support for those who cannot. But those who can work must be required to take up jobs or lose benefits as such – no ifs or buts.

Forced Labour for the Unemployed in History

Standing traces the antecedents of workfare back to the English poor law of 1536 and the French Ordonnance de Moulins of twenty years later, which obliged unemployed vagabonds to accept any job that was offered them. He states that the direct ancestor is the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act, the infamous legislation that, under the notion of ‘less eligibility’, stipulated that those receiving support were to be incarcerated in the workhouse, where conditions were deliberately made much harsher in order to deter people from seeking state
support, rather than paid work. This attitude is also reflected in contemporary attitudes that, in order to ‘make work pay’, have demanded that welfare support should be much less than that received for paid work. This has meant that welfare payments have become progressively less as the various measure to make the labour market more flexible – like zero hours contracts – drove down wages. The workhouse system was supplemented in 1905 by the Unemployed Workmen Act, supported, amongst others, by Winston Churchill. This directed unemployed young men into labour, so that they should not be ‘idle’ and be ‘under control’. Nor were leading members of the early Labour party averse to the use of force. Sidney and Beatrice Webb, two of the founders of the Fabian Society, were also in favour of sending the unemployed to ‘labour colonies’, chillingly close to the forced labour camps which became such as feature of the Nazi and Communist regimes. Weimar Germany in the 1920s and ’30s also developed a system of voluntary work to deal with the problems of mass unemployment. This was taken over by the Nazis and became compulsory for all Germans from 19-25 as the Reicharbeitsdienst, or Imperial Labour Service It was mainly used to supply labour for German agriculature. Because of its universal nature, the Reicharbeitsdienst had no stigma attached to it, and indeed was seen as part of the new, classless Germany that was being created by Hitler. In a speech to the Service’s workers, Hitler declared that there would be no leader, who had not worked his way up through their ranks. Much harsher was the Nazi’s treatment of the serially unemployed. They were declared arbeitscheu – the German word, which forms the basis of the English ‘workshy’. These individuals were sent to the concentration camps, where they were identified with a special badge on their pyjamas, just like those marking out Jews, gay men, Socialists and trade unionists, and so on.

Liam Byrne also harked back to the Webbs to support his argument for workfare as Labour party policy. He stated

If you go back to the Webb report, they were proposing detention colonies for people refusing to take work … All the way through our history there has been an insistence on the responsibility to work if you can. Labour shouldn’t be any different now. We have always been the party of the responsibility to work as well.

The Workfare Scheme

The result of this is that many unemployed people have been placed on the Mandatory Work Activity – MWA – scheme, which requires them to perform four weeks of unpaid work for a particular company, organisation or charity. The scheme also includes the disabled. Those now judged capable of performing some work are placed in the Work-Related Activity group, and required perform some unpaid labour in order to gain ‘experience’. If they do not do so, they may lose up to 70 per cent of their benefits.

This has created immense fear among the unemployed and disabled. Standing quotes one man with cerebral palsy, who was so afraid of being sanctioned for not performing the mandatory work, that he felt physically sick. Mental health professionals – psychiatrists and psychologists, have also released reports attacking the detrimental effect the stress of these tests are having on the mentally ill. So far they have estimated that upwards of a quarter of a million people with mental health problems such as depression and anxiety have had their condition made worse – sometimes very much worse – through the stress of taking these tests.

The system also affects those in low-paid part-time jobs or on zero hours contracts. These must prove that they are looking for more working hours or a better paid job. If they do not do so, they may lose benefits or tax credits. In 2013 the Tory-Lib Dem government made it even harder for people to claim tax credits by raising the number of working hours a week, for which tax credits could not be claimed, from 16 to 24.

End Workfare Now: Part 3

June 20, 2017

Workfare Is Unjust

Workfare unfairly penalises the unemployed. For example, in 2011 the ConDem government made the conditions imposed on benefit claimants and the penalties for avoidance under the Labour government’s New Deal even more stringent. Those performing workfare were required to work for up to thirty hours a week for 28 days. The work performed was to be that which benefited the community. Taken as wages, this meant that claimants were working at a rate of £2.50 an hour, well below the minimum wage. If they turned the job down, or didn’t complete the course of mandatory labour, they had their benefits sanctioned for three months. This was increased to six if they repeated the ‘transgression’. This is unjust, because no-one else in society is expected to work for the minimum wage except convicts in prison.

It’s also unjust in that it makes the economically insecure even more so, and takes away the way long-accepted social right to refuse to work. At the same time, it gives power over the unemployed to the state’s bureaucrats and the private outsourcing companies. Also, forced labour is offensive against human dignity and does not lead to increased personal development.

Workfare Stops People Looking for Jobs

Spending thirty hours a week on workfare actually cuts down on the available time the unemployed are able to spend looking for work. P.A. Gregg, in their book Job Guarantee: Evidence and Design (Bristol: Bristol University Centre for Market and Public Organisation 2009) actually found that because of this, workfare actually stopped people from getting jobs.

Lowering Incomes over Life

Workfare is also unjust, as instead of giving people the ability to acquire a career, or jobs leading to one, it may instead lower their long-term income by keeping them in a series of low-paid, temporary work. People should have the right to decide for themselves which jobs to take and what they should do when it affects their long term prospects. If the state instead forces them to take a certain course, then it should also be required to compensate them if the course demanded is the wrong one.

Workfare Keeps Wages Low

By forcing people to take low-paid jobs, and making this a threat to force other workers also to take jobs that pay less than they would otherwise take, workfare leads to lower wages. The Labour Party in the UK declared that it was in favour of a ‘national living wage’ above the minimum. However, it then contradicted this intention by stating that those performing workfare would do so at the minimum wage. The Labour party may have meant this to stop those on workfare competing with those in paid employment, though MPs like Liam Byrne have shown themselves to be every bit as spiteful and punitive in their treatment of the unemployed as the Tories. In any case, this policy still puts on pressure to force wages downwards.

For there to be a genuine living wage, politicians should increase and strengthen the ability of the unemployed to bargain for higher wages. It is only when workers really have an effective ability to bargain that employers are either forced to pay a living wage, or decide that the job is unnecessary and the potential productivity too low. Standing concludes from this that ‘The reality is that the utilitarian mindset does not care about the precariat’.

Workfare Labour Replaces Genuine Workers

If the jobs performed under workfare were genuine and productive, it would be unfair to workers in those jobs, and to the short-term unemployed, as the government-subsidized labourers supplied under workfare would replace existing workers, or stop them hiring other unemployed people. In 2011 Tesco collaborated with the Jobcentres to create 3,000 unpaid placements for those on workfare, who would work for the company for four weeks. Homebase and Asda were
also keen to use such unpaid labour. As was Poundland, which also announced that it was taking on benefit claimants, though it denied that this would affect their existing recruiting activity. Whatever those companies said, clearly their use of cheap workfare labour was replacing paid workers and stopping the unemployed from getting permanent jobs with those companies.

Workfare Extends State Power

When the High and Appeal Courts upheld the challenge to performing mandatory workfare by the geology graduate, who objected to having to work in Poundland, and a young chap, who had been sanctioned for refusing it, the Condem government responded by rushing through emergency legislation making the refusal to perform workfare punishable by sanctions. The procedure in which the legislation was rushed through parliament was supposed to be use only in national emergencies. The legislation further contravened accepted notions of justice, in that it acted retrospectively. That is, it punished actions committed before the laws against them had been passed, an idea that strikes at the very notion of justice enshrined across the world in human rights laws. The Labour party, which should have opposed this motion, didn’t. They abstained, and members of the Shadow Cabinet were told that if they voted against the motion, they would have to resign. This demonstrates just how deeply workfare had become embedded as the official ideology of the state and the main parties.

Welfare-to-Work as Corporate Scam

The private companies administering workfare, such as A4E and Ingeus, have profited immensely from this new, growth industry in unfree labour. They are paid £13,500 for every person they manage to put in a long term job. If the job is only short-term, then they receive only half that amount. There is thus considerable pressure for them to choose only those most likely to obtain long term employment, and thus discriminate against vulnerable minorities, including the disabled. The Employment Related Services Association, the trade body for the welfare-to-work industry, complained that more of the people being referred to these companies were those with disabilities, who had been judged ‘fit for work’ according to the tests imposed for the Employment and Support Allowance awarded to the disabled to help them maintain their independence.

The workfare companies also have wide powers in deciding which ‘work placements’ to put people on, and what counts as ‘community benefit’. The DWP permits them to place workers in private companies if this is considered to benefit those firms’ local communities. For a long time the DWP has refused to publish the information on the allocation of workfare labourers to private firms. The government flatly refused to reveal the identities of the participating firms on the grounds that if they did so, the scheme would fail due to public pressure forcing them to drop out. A list of the firms involved has recently been released after a series of Freedom Of Information Act requests. The two largest workfare contractors also refused to comment, when they were asked if they were forcing the workers contracted to them to work for private companies.

Additionally, many of the private companies administering the scheme are run by, or have links to, politicians, which is symptomatic of the general corporate corruption of parliament and the revolving door between corporations, MPs and senior civil servants. Tomorrow’s People, the charity that became notorious for stranding the workfare labourers it had employed for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee under London Bridge, where they were forced to sleep, was run by a Conservative peer.

Conclusion: End Workfare Forced Labour

Workfare is thus highly exploitative, and should be banned. It is the thin edge of a wedge leading to the increasing use of force against the poor and unemployed. One staff member from the Citizens’ Advice Bureaux described the situation to Standing thus

The boundaries of the acceptable are being pushed further in the direction of unfree labour. We’ve been here before – breaking stones in return for food during the Irish famine, and similar schemes in 16th & 17th century England, the difference being that technology means peoples’ activity can be monitored more and informal economy lifelines are being pushed further underground. I was talking with a colleague who has picked up growth of prostitution as one means of survival. I don’t know what it would take to break us (society, whatever that means) out of apathy to make protests against what we’re doing to ourselves.

Standing also makes a very apt point, directed at those members of the Left, who refuse to take a stand on it, fearing that it would damage their parties’ chances of winning elections. He states

It is a moralistic policy that should be passionately opposed by every liberal and progressive. If doing so puts political success at risk, so be it. Values matter.

This looks like a dig at Blairite New Labour, which has consistently abstained on the workfare issue instead of firmly opposing it. The Blairites based New Labour’s electoral success on appealing to swing voters, and not challenging Tory policy, except on the grounds that they could administer it more efficiently and were more concerned with social justice. The latter view is particularly specious, as in many cases New Labour went much further in its austerity and privatisation programmes than the Tories. It’s a concern that still motivates the Blairites in their repeated campaigns against the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn. And it’s not an excuse for failing to tackle this new form of forced labour, a system that is slowly edging towards real slavery.

Bibliography

Alexander Berkman, ‘Lazy Men and Dirty Work’, in George Woodcock, ed., The Anarchist Reader (Fontana Press: 1986) 334-338.

Alex DeJonge, Stalin and the Shaping of the Soviet Union (Fontana/Collins 1986) 270-2.

‘Miss World and Mrs Mao’ in Clive James, The Crystal Bucket (Picador: 1982) 232-4.

Guy Standing, A Precariat Charter: From Denizens to Citizens (London: Bloomsbury 2014) 262-79.

‘Labour Service (Reicharbeitsdienst – RAD)’ in James Taylor and Warren Shaw, A Dictionary of the Third Reich (London: Grafton Books 1988) 213.

‘Unemployment’ in James Taylor and Warren Shaw, A Dictionary of the Third Reich (London

My Cartoon Against the Daily Mail

June 12, 2017

A few years ago I made a series of drawings, in which I attempted to give visual expression to everything I hated about the Tory party and the British press. One of these was a picture of the Daily Mail, symbolised by its editor, Paul Dacre, and Margaret Thatcher. I drew Thatcher as a flayed corpse, as despite the fact she’s been dead for about five years, and was forced out of office way back in 1990/1, she’s still been a powerful ghost haunting British politics.

The inks ran a bit, so the writing’s difficult to read. It runs

Daily Mail

Hatred, bigotry, racism, fear of:

The poor,
the jobless,
the sick,
the disabled
single parents,
Blacks,
Asians,
Eastern Europeans,
feminism,
gays,
Muslims,
Anyone who didn’t go to Eton.

Adulation of:

The rich,
the cruel,
the murderous – here I was thinking of the Iain Duncan Smith, and the genocide of the disabled thanks to the Work Capability Assessments and benefit sanctions,
private enterprise,
multinationals,
corporate power.

Maggie Thatcher.

Corbyn Storms It, While ‘Strong and Stable’ May Collapses

June 12, 2017

Okay, it wasn’t an outright victory for Jeremy Corbyn. But it wasn’t a defeat either.

Like many people, I was surprised and delighted by last week’s election result. I’d gone to bed early Thursday night, as I couldn’t bear to watch the election coverage. I was afraid that, despite the polls showing that Labour had cut the Tory lead down to only one per cent, there would still be a Tory landslide, or at least a workable majority.

I was, therefore, highly delighted to wake up to find that May had lost her overall majority, and was therefore looking around for anyone or anything that would shore up her government by going into coalition with her.

Unfortunately, she has found one in the Democratic Unionist Party, founded by Ian Paisley in 1986 to oppose the 1986 Anglo-Irish agreement. The DUP is socially Conservative and deeply sectarian. They back teaching Creationism in schools, denying climate change, keeping abortion banned in Ulster and violently denounce gay rights. This goes back to when Ian Paisley in the 1970s founded S.U.S. to oppose the legalisation of homosexual acts between consenting adults. The organisation’s name stood for ‘Save Ulster from Sodomy’. This always struck me as an hysterical reaction. It’s as if he was afraid that Northern Irish people’s heterosexuality was so fragile, that the moment homosexuality was legalised every man and woman in the province would immediately turn gay. Or else he had some kind of nightmare that gays from across the world were massing at the Irish border or just across the Irish Sea, ready to charge in like an invading army.

Just as worrying is the party’s hatred of the Irish Republic and Roman Catholicism, and its links to a series of Loyalist paramilitary terrorist groups, most notably the UDA. It’s leaders have posed with Kalashnikovs in their mitts, and wearing the uniform of Loyalist terror groups. These links remain strong, despite the DUP’s official rhetoric condemning terrorism in Ulster.

In short, they’re the type of organisation, which several Protestant Ulster people I know came to Britain to get away from. Just as I know Irish Roman Catholics, who don’t want to go back to Ulster because of the same violent prejudice in their communities.

May hasn’t exactly gone into coalition with these clowns. She’s trying to hammer out a ‘supply and confidence’ agreement, in which the DUP will support the government on a bill-by-bill basis. And even that’s looking rocky, and she made the mistake of annoying her new partners in government by announcing the alliance before it was to be formally arrange on Tuesday.

May’s formation of government with these bigots is also something of a problem for many Conservative MPs. About 19, according to Mike, are openly gay, and so put in a very awkward position through this alliance with a rabidly homophobic party. Ruth Davidson, the gay head of the Conservative party, and who is going to marry an Irish Roman Catholic, has already Tweeted her displeasure. Not that this may make any difference. Despite Cameron’s attempts to make the Tories look nice and friendly to minorities – pro-gay, anti-racist, more women MPs – this alliance shows the real nature of much of the Tory party. They’re reverting to type. As for the 19 gay Tory MPs, given the entrenched hypocrisy of the Tories, where the say one thing and do another, it’s likely that they’ll swallow their principles and troop through the ‘Yes’ doors to support the government anyway.

Even with the DUP on board, the Tories only have a bare majority of two. That means that they’ll have to do as Labour did when they only had a majority of five in the mid-70s: cram every single one of their members into the chamber to support them. To the point where they sent the whips round to check no-one was in the toilets.

Far from being ‘strong and stable’, May’s position looks very, very precarious. The Bow group, a Tory think tank, are considering holding leadership elections and there are murmurings from the backbench 1922 Committee. Unfortunately for the Tories – but good for us – all the other contenders for the leadership are actually more unpopular than May. The leading figure is Boris Johnson, but while 23 per cent of people said that he was more likely to make them vote Tory, 33 per cent stated that he’d put them off.

People have started discussing the possibility that there might be another election in October. Mike has put this forward, and suggested that it could be as early as August. And May herself may not last the week.

As for Corbyn, he’s increasingly looking like a prime minister in waiting. This has been the biggest movement towards Labour for the past forty-five years. And it has roundly refuted the claims of his critics that he was ‘unelectable’. Instead, it has confirmed the worst nightmares of the neoliberal establishment – that he is only too electable. The Blairites now have absolutely no grounds for their intrigues against him. Indeed, if Corbyn can do so well despite their attempts to unseat him, it’s probably fair to say that if the Blairites had done the decent thing and supported their leader and the broad mass of the party’s members and supporters, he’d probably be in Number 10.

His success shows that a very large section of the British people are sick of austerity, sick of Thatcherism, sick of the privatisation of the NHS and private ownership of utilities, sick of exorbitant rents, the threat of homelessness, stagnant wagges and a harsh and callous attitude to the poor, the sick, disabled and the unemployed, which has seen them thrown off benefit, to die in misery and despair.

Tony Greenstein, one of the great people, who comments on Mike’s blog, has written on his own that the one thing that Corbyn should not do is water down his policies to make them more acceptable to those inclined to vote Tory. And he’s right. Not only would this leave some of the causes of Britain’s misery in place, it would weaken his own position electorally. People are heartily sick of a Labour party which does its best to emulate the Tories. This was the reason why New Labour lost five million of its supporters from 1997 to its fall, and why Ed Miliband lost the 2015 election.

Corbyn now needs to keep the pressure up – to continue his attack on the Tories. According to Survation, he’s now several points above them in the polls. Let’s hope and do what we can to maintain and increase this lead, until the government falls and we can have a real, Socialist, Labour leader in Downing Street.

For further informed comment, see the following blogs and posts:

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/06/09/may-spoke-of-the-coalition-of-chaos-now-shes-going-to-form-one/

https://buddyhell.wordpress.com/2017/06/09/oh-what-a-night/

https://buddyhell.wordpress.com/2017/06/09/the-tory-dup-pact/

http://azvsas.blogspot.co.uk/2017/06/general-election-2017-7-weeks-ago-this.html

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/06/11/downing-street-mistaken-over-dup-deal-this-inspires-no-confidence-over-brexit/

And male feminist vlogger and general scourge of the far right, Kevin Logan, has produced this video showing precisely how deeply unpleasant the DUP are:

Vox Political: Tories Lie about Labour as Set to Lose Overall Majority in Parliament

May 31, 2017

As I’ve mentioned in a post earlier today, the Heil and Torygraph are spreading more lies about Labour. This time they’re claiming that Labour has drawn up ‘secret plans’ to let in millions of unskilled immigrants after Brexit. And the Mail Online has put up another piece, claiming that Labour will impose a ‘garden tax’.

As you would expect, this is all rubbish and fake news from the two newspapers that hate and fear Corbyn the most. It was the Fail and the Torygraph that were pushing the most the smear that Corbyn was a ‘Trotskyite’. As for drumming up fears of a mass influx of foreigners, well, no surprise there either then. Both papers have been ranting about uncontrolled immigration and ‘unassimilable foreigners’ since the 1960s. Several of the hacks, who’ve written for the Mail, such as Simon Heffer, even contributed chapters celebrating the centenary of Enoch Powell.

Although it’s not being put in such crude, racist language, we’re back to the old smear of ‘If you want a n***er for a neighbour, vote Labour’. And many people in modern Britain do live in multiethnic areas, and get on perfectly well with people of different ethnicities and skin colour, thank you very much. And many White older folk appreciate the respect given to the elderly in other cultures, such as amongst Asians.

Of course, the Mail should be very careful when trying to stir up fears of mass immigration. This brings back painful memories of the 1930s, when the newspaper screamed its support of Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists with the notorious headline, ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts’. It was avowedly pro-Hitler, supported the Nazi regime and published tirades warning the country of the supposed threat from Jewish immigration. That is, from people fleeing unimaginable persecution in Germany and eastern Europe. Just as it now attacks the refugees from the Middle East fleeing the chaos and terror western imperialism has inflicted on their native countries.

Mike over at Vox Political has put up a piece showing why the Tories have gone back to playing the race card: they’re set to lose their overall majority in parliament by 16 seats. At the moment they’re set to win 310 seats, Labour 257, the SNP 50, Lib Dems 10, the Greens and ‘Northern Irish’ 1 each, and other parties 18.

UKIP are set to get no seats at all. So much for the mighty revolution in British politics which Farage was supposed to have unleashed.

Mike’s article also graphically shows why no disabled people should vote for the Tories. The article contains a disturbing video by a disabled woman, Aleesha, of the privations she suffers thanks to the Tory cuts. This lady lives in an unadapted home. She cannot walk, and so must crawl painfully from room to room, even heaving herself up painfully onto the toilet. She states that she has fallen off it several times, and knocked herself out on the bath. She has stopped taking her medicines, or some of them, because she could not afford to pay the prescription charges for the four sets of drugs she needs to take each day. The cuts to her benefit also means that she subsists on milk, and has lost many pounds in weight. This has also exacerbated her eating disorder. She also suffers from incontinence, but again, has no money to pay for the special underwear, and so has suffered from the humiliation of soiling her clothes.

It is disgusting that anyone in Britain in the 21st century should suffer such humiliation and poverty.

And this is being done to give by the Tory party and their paymasters in big business massive tax breaks and a cowed workforce, which is prepared to suffer poverty wages in order to avoid the threat of unemployment. There are 100,000-odd people, who have been saved from starvation only through food banks. There are seven million people living in ‘food insecure’ households. That means that they don’t know where their next meal’s going to come from. It means mothers, who are starving themselves in order to feed their children.

It means 600 disabled people and rising have died in misery and starvation.

By contrast, Labour have promised to repeal the work capability tests, the repeated testing of people with severe illnesses or disabilities, so you won’t have any more amputees asked the moronic question of when they expect their limbs to grow back, and increase carers’ allowance by £30. As well as scrapping the sanctions regime.

As Mike point outs in his article, if you’re disabled or care about disabled people, you’ll love Labour’s manifesto. But if you’re a Tory, you’re going to hate it.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/05/31/want-to-know-why-the-papers-are-printing-lies-about-labour-policies-heres-the-answer/

Don’t be misled by Tory lies. These reforms have all been costed. And they are not, contra the claims of George Alagaiah and John Pienaar on the Six O’clock News yesterday, going to come from extra taxes on ordinary people.

They’re going to come from the rich.

Which is why the Tories and their lapdogs in the press are going berserk and trying to smear the Labour party with everything they have.

And it’s very clear why the Mail and Telegraph are going to hate it especially. Quite apart from the bitter hatred these papers have for the poor and working people, both are owned by rich tax-dodgers. Viscount Rothermere, who owns the Heil, has non-dom tax status inherited from his father. Despite this, he seems very much domiciled in this country, where he has a stately home. The Torygraph is owned by the weirdo Barclay twins, who have their own private island, Brecqou, in the Channel.

Don’t let these people lie to you.
Don’t let any more people die of starvation, or live in fear of it.
Don’t stand for the poverty and degradation they’re inflicting on the disabled.
And don’t let them keep Britain divided by stirring up hatred against ethnic minorities and immigrants.

Vote Labour June 8th.

Labour to End Tory Persecution of Sick, Disabled and Poor

May 16, 2017

This is excellent news for anyone on a low income, or who suffers from a long term sickness or is or cares for a disabled person. And it’s going to send the Tories, the Blairites and the parasites in the private insurance industry, who recommended the current high persecutory disability policies, absolutely incandescent with fury.

Mike over on his blog has reported that Labour have made the following promises in their manifesto:

* to scrap the work capability assessments and Personal Independence Payment assessments.

* to stop the endless reassessments of people with severe long term conditions.

* Scrapping sanctions.

* Scrapping the bedroom tax.

* Increasing ESA for people in the work-related activity group, and reversing the cuts in UC LCW.

* Uprating carers allowance.

* reinstating housing benefit for young people under 21.

* Reversing the cuts to the bereavement support payments.

* Reviewing the cuts to work allowances in Universal Credit.

* Reviewing the decision to limit tax credits and Universal Credit to the first two children in a family. Which is, as Mike points out, the Rape Clause. This odious piece of legislation was defended in Scotland by an equally odious piece of work, Ruth Davidson, the leader of the Tories up there.

Mike states

The Labour Party manifesto, released today (May 16) has confirmed what we all saw in the leaked version last week – a bonfire of the cruel legislation that has led to the deaths of thousands upon thousands of vulnerable people.

But remember – this is only what Labour would do, if elected back into office on June 8.

With the mass media lining up to attack Labour over any slightest quibble, that will be hard to achieve.

So please make sure all 12 million sick and disabled people, and all of the unemployed and under-employed get to see this.

He also applauds Labour’s promises to end the way the Jobcentre staff and the benefit system itself demonises those with disabilities and the unemployed, so that it becomes more supportive and enabling.

He gives due credit to Debbie Abrahams, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, saying that this confirms what he has known about her, that she is a woman of strong professional integrity, who will act on her promises.

Mike concludes

If YOU have a long-term illness or disability, this is all the reason you need to vote Labour on June 8. If you don’t, but know somebody who does, please share this information with them.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/05/16/confirmed-labour-will-end-tory-persecution-of-the-sick-disabled-and-poor/#comments

I agree with Mike on just about every line of this. And I won’t be remotely surprised when the Tories and their lapdogs in the press and media go absolutely insane at this.

It is a direct reversal of the welfare policies introduced by Blair and the Tories, at the behest of American private healthcare firms and insurers. The wretched work capability tests were recommended by John Lo Cascio, the head honcho of the American insurance fraudster, Unum. This was based on bogus science, that has now been comprehensively refuted. I’ve reblogged material from Johnny Void and Kitty S. Jones and many, many others over the years, which provide a very detailed critique which absolutely demolishes its pretension to scientific fact. But still the Tories tout it.

And Labour’s pledge to stop the demonization of the sick and poor is a direct attack on one of the fundamental principles of Thatcherism: that those dependant on welfare payments, the sick, disabled and unemployed, must be humiliated as much as possible, in order to deter them from becoming a burden to the taxpayer. Meaning the rich, who must be given tax breaks and corporate subsidies at every opportunity.

It’s called the principle of Less Eligibility, and it was the reason why the workhouses were such places of degradation and misery. But Thatcher celebrated it as one of her ‘Victorian values’, which she really wanted to call ‘Victorian virtues’, but her spin doctors wouldn’t let her.

Like the Tories, the Blairites are Thatcherites, who adopted her vicious, spiteful and punitive attitude to poverty.

This is also a comprehensive rebuttal to the refrain you also hear from Tory voters when the work disability assessments are criticised: no, they’re not going to vote Labour, ’cause Labour introduced them.

Well, they can’t use that excuse now, because Labour’s committed to scrapping them.

This will be bitterly resented by the Tory press, not just because it is a strong attack on decades of Tory policies, but because newspapers like the Torygraph make their money from advertising, and are afraid to do anything that will offend their advertisers. The Torygraph is particularly sensitive to this, as they’ve been spiking stories that would offend their advertisers. It was the reason one of the columnists, Peter Oborne, walked out and very publicly denounced them in the rest of the media, including Channel 4, a few years ago. As the Torygraph seems determined to lock itself into a death spiral of continuing cuts and sackings in order to maintain its share price, while its readership plummets, I’m not remotely worried if these policies help put another boot into the Tory paper.

And, of course, it’s going to inflame the already fevered tempers over at the Daily Mail massively. The Heil has been one of the papers that has been at the very forefront of demonising people on disability benefit as scroungers. Mike has shown that the true statistics for benefit fraud is 0.7 per cent – a vanishingly small amount. But thanks to the Tories and the lies of the press, the British public believe that it’s 27 per cent.

And the rich, who have been pushing for these policies so they can enjoy ever greater profits and tax breaks are afraid.

How else can you explain today’s headline in the I, which screams that Labour intends a ‘tax grab on the rich’. The term ‘tax grab’ seems to show a little panic on the part of the editor, no doubt on behalf of the Russian oligarch who owns the paper.

So don’t be deceived by the lies and hysterical denunciations of these policies. Unlike the rubbish spouted by May, these are sincerely meant, and if implemented will lead to a better, fairer, and healthier Britain.

Because the destruction of the sanctions regime and the work capability tests will stop people dying. Look at Stilloak’s website and the site Atos Miracles to see how many have died in poverty, misery and starvation due to these vile and evil policies.

So please vote Labour on May 8.

‘I’ Newspaper: Public Spending Watchdog Criticises Benefit Sanctions

December 1, 2016

Yesterday’s I newspaper for Wednesday, 30th November, contained a little snippet on its second page reporting that the ‘public spending watchdog’ had attacked benefit sanctions as useless. The report stated

Spending Watchdog Hits Out at Sanctions

Benefit sanctions that plunge claimants into hardship, hunger and depression are being imposed with little evidence that they work, according to a report by the public spending watchdog. It said use of the penalties also varies “substantially” across the country and referral rates have changed over time.

And that was it. It says much about the paper’s bias that, although there was a reasonably long article about the deep health inequalities in Britain, there were also much longer articles praising Theresa May for being a good manager, rather than a leader, and that the Tories had increased their lead over Labour in the polls. Though I’m not actually that worried about the latter either. The victory of the ‘Leave’ campaign and Donald Trump’s election to the White House both show that polls can’t be trusted. As Mike points out, they’re run by Tory companies that have very marked methodological biases. They’re essentially propaganda campaigns, run to tell the proles that, as everyone else is voting Tory, so should you. And the more people realise this, and reject them and their false claims of objectivity, the better.