Posts Tagged ‘Chingford’

The Fascist ‘Charter of Labour’ and Tory Attitudes to Work and the Banning and Control of the Unions

March 13, 2016

One of the institutions of the Italian Fascist state was the Corporations. This was partly developed from Syndicalism, the form of Anarchism that advocates the abolition of the state and the control of industry by trade unions. The Corporations in Fascist Italy were a type of giant trade union, based on the medieval guilds, which included both the trade unions and the employers’ organisations for a particular industry. Instead of parliament, there was a council of corporations, which was supposed to regulate the economy. Il Duce claimed that this was the cornerstone of the Fascist state, which had transcended both capitalism and Socialism, and had created social peace. In fact the Fascist corporations were a device used to break the power of the unions, and place them under the control of the state and the employers. The main ideological influence in their creation was that of the Nationalist, Alfredo Rocco, rather than radical National Syndicalists like Augusto Turati or Panunzio.

And so of the regulations contained in Musso’s Charter of Labour read very much like standard Tory screeds against welfare scroungers, nationalisation and the trade unions. The Fascists did indeed grant some concessions to the workers, like free Sundays, an annual paid holiday, extra pay for night work, and insurance paid both by workers and the employers.

It begins with the statement ‘Work in all its forms is a social duty’. Articles VII and IX also state ‘The Corporative State considers private enterprise in the domain of production to be the most efficient method and the most advantageous to the interests of the nation … The state intervenes in economic production only when private enterprise fails or is insufficient or when the political interests of the state are involved’. See Elizabeth Wiskemann, Fascism in Italy: Its Development and Influence (Basingstoke: MacMillan Education 1970) 23. As well as making work ‘a social duty’, the Charter also criminalised its withdrawal. Strikes and lockouts were banned under the Fascist state, and there were Labour Courts which were supposed to settled industrial disputes.

The Tories certainly have the first attitude, that work is a duty, and are doing their level best to criminalise strikes without making them illegal. Hence Cameron’s passing a law that makes a strike illegal, even if the majority of union members have voted for it, if less than half of the members of the trade union have turned up and voted. If this same principle is adopted for politics, then this government should similarly be in jail, as only about 30 per cent or so of the population actually bothered to turn out and vote. They have also voted to use agency workers to act as blacklegs in strikes, just as Mussolini supplied blacklegs in Italian strikes, and his British imitators, the British Fascisti did over here. Cameron also wanted strikers on picket lines to give their names to the police and wear armbands identifying who they were, but this was a step too far even for David Davies, who called it a ‘Francoist’ idea.

Thatcherism has been described as ‘Corporativism without the working class’, and there is more than element of truth in that. The Tory party has been drawn overwhelmingly from the upper and middle classes, including the heads of businesses, and makes no secret of being the party of business. This is when it suits them, of course. At other times, they’re claiming to be the party of the poor. Which is why Cameron, aIDS and Osbo are all pukka Eton-educated Toffs. The legislation they pass is designed to protect the businesses they run, including smashing the unions and keeping wages low to provide a constant supply of cheap, dispensable labour.

Interesting, the Charter of Labour also states that industry was only to use labour from the Fascist controlled Labour Exchanges. I’ve reblogged a piece today from Private Eye, about how the Tories stopped the JobCentres from finding jobs for people, because they were better at it than the private firms that have been set up, and whose directors no doubt donate generously to the Tory party. It also casts a different light on a jobs fair held in aIDS’ Chingford constituency the other year. This was held in the local Conservative Club, which tells you how close Chingford business is to the Tories, and ominously suggests the Tory determination to maintain outright political control of the Labour market.

The Tories got very angry indeed when one leading trade unionist compared their anti-union legislation with the Nazis, but as this shows, there are very strong comparisons with Fascist Italy as well.

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Vox Political: Jeremy Hunt Cancels Tory Fundraiser after Junior Doctors Threaten to Show Up

February 12, 2016

Jeremy Hunt’s parliamentary colleague, Ian Duncan Smith, has a long history of running and hiding from his critics. Faced with the prospect of meeting the victims of his wretched policies, the Spurious Major either runs and hides, or hides behind big men with guns. He’s hidden from protestors in laundry baskets in Scotland, run out the back door of a Job Centre in Bath, and scheduled his speech at a jobs fair run by his local Conservative party in Chingford for early in the morning, so he could get away before the proles arrived. And when he was called to speak to the parliamentary Work and Pensions Committee, he turned up surrounded by armed rozzers. And this idiot fancies himself as a leader of men.

Now, it seems, his habits have spread to Hunt. According to another article over at Vox Political, Hunt was due to appear at a fundraising event for Fairham Conservative Association. This was cancelled after news of the event and its location were circulated on social media, and junior doctors bought tickets. See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/02/12/jeremy-hunt-meet-and-greet-drinks-event-cancelled-after-junior-doctors-buy-tickets/.

Mike points out that this clearly demonstrates how absolutely unpopular the new contracts are, even if it costs our junior medical professionals £15 a head to tell Hunt to his face.

This reminds me of the various incidents where teenagers have seen their homes comprehensively trashed after they made the mistake of telling the world they were holding a party on Facebook, and suffered an invasion of gatecrashers as a result. Except that this was an event that was open to the public, and the doctors bought tickets. They didn’t just turn up. For some reason, the Tories are putting on a lot of these fundraisers. They did one in the summer, where for a certain amount you could get to go on a nine mile run through the Pennines or the Yorkshire Dales with aIDS. I joked with a friend that I was prepared to go in for that, just to get the opportunity of pushing the dreadful man over a cliff.

But there is a more serious point underlying this: the Tories are clearly experiencing a problem with funding. The actual grassroots membership of the Tory party, easily the largest political party in the country at one time, has shrunk massively. Those that remain in the constituency party are angry that their views were ignored by the parliamentary leaders. This is partly due to Cameron, like Bliar and New Labour, taking the party’s ordinary supporters and voters for granted, and running around rich donors for funding instead. It’s bad for democracy, as it’s leading to the gradual withering away of political parties and their replacement by oligarchies funded and maintained by rich paymasters.

It’s another reason why the Tories hate the unions supporting Labour. They’ve always hated the unions and the union levy, but it means that Labour has a grassroots source of funding that they don’t. And it also means that they’re really afraid of Jeremy Corbyn. Apart from being left-wing, he’s also managed to bring tens of thousands more back to the Labour party.

Against this, the Tories put on cheese and nibbles parties, and hope the proles don’t attend.

Vox Political: An Open Letter to the People of Chingford

May 3, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political has published an anonymous open letter he’s been saving up since last December. It’s from a forty year old, disabled man appealing to the good people of Chingford not to vote Iain Duncan Smith back in. This poor fellow has been out of work for four years, and all that time he’s been subject to continual assessment and harassment by the DWP. He says it’s been hell. Anyone who’s had any contact with the DWP will agree. He urge people to go and vote, but not Conservative. He makes this appeal on behalf of everyone worried about whether they can heat their home this winter, and the old lady, who couldn’t even afford a mince pie. He also reminds us that people have died, thanks to the sanctions regime.

Chingford, as Mike informs us, is a Tory safe seat. IDS got in with a majority of 12,000. But this year is unusual, and it’s possible that if enough people vote, IDS may well be voted out.

If this shabby excuse for a mass-murderer is voted back in, however, the only hope is that the voters in other areas very definitely do not return Tories. Mike says

Remember: It doesn’t matter if your Tory seems nice, or capable, or reasonable, or safe – a vote for any Conservative is a vote to put Iain Duncan Smith back in charge of benefit-related genocide. Yes, it may be described in those terms. Why else would the DWP hide the number of benefit-related deaths, if that number isn’t shockingly high?

Enough is enough. Let’s put the prosperity of the nation before our own selfish, sectional interests and do something genuinely good at this election.

Alternatively, as the “open” letter asks, will you let him take your mum next year?

The article’s entitled Dear Chingford’: An open letter about Iain Duncan Smith, and it’s at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/04/29/dear-chingford-an-open-letter-about-iain-duncan-smith/.

Go and read it and help stop IDS murdering more people.

Benefits And Work: IDS Runs from Meeting Sister of Sanctions’ Victim

May 2, 2015

Benefits and Work have this piece, IDS flees from sister of dead claimant, posted three days ago on the 29th. The minister for killing the poor and disabled was due to appear on a hustings in his Chingford constituency with six other candidates. One of the speakers was the sister of David Clapson, the diabetic ex-serviceman, who died of starvation and his illness thanks to the government’s sanctions. Suddenly, IDS couldn’t make it, because he was unexpectedly called away to the north of England.

The story, and Benefits and Work’s own comments on the incident, can be read at http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/news/3084-ids-flees-from-sister-of-dead-claimant.

I am not remotely surprised that RTU, or ‘Tosser’, as he was known to the squaddies in his unit, ran away from debating with her. For all Cameron’s boasting last week about how physically tough he is, there is very little evidence that he could crush someone’s skull with his kneecaps. Instead, he has a long history of running away from the slightest hint of trouble. Upon in Scotland, he hid in a laundry basket to avoid a confrontation with angry opponents. Speaking to the House of Commons Select Committee on Work and Pensions, he surrounded himself with armed police and bodyguards. Just in case any of the disabled people or their carers in the public gallery decided to attack. When opening a jobcentre in Bath, he sneaked out the back. He was due to open a jobs fair held by the Tories in Chingford, but did so much earlier than the advertised time. This looks again like a piece of monumental cowardice.

This says so much about the man, who is apparently proud of the reforms he has introduced into the benefits system, and has even had the audacity, if not the megalomania, to compare it with William Wilberforce’s abolition of slavery. Somehow, I don’t think Wilberforce, Thomas Clarkson or the other anti-slavery campaigners, like Olaudah Equiano, ever shrank from meeting the victims of slavery or human suffering.

Cameron and IDS have absolutely no sympathy with the disabled, or the people, whose lives have been destroyed by their sanctions. Cameron himself desperately tried not to answer Andrew Marr’s question about whether he realised just how much ordinary people were suffering from these reforms. When he finally did answer, he said that the sanctions regime was entirely appropriate.

They know, however, how hard it is hitting ordinary people, and how bad that makes them look. And so they try to change the question, and run from debate with its victims as hard and as fast as possible.

Or failing that, just get a thuggish goon to manhandle their prospective interlocutor away, as Boris did today with Rupa Huq, sister of Konnie, former Blue Peter presenter and wife of Charlie Brooker.

Brooker has recently taken to writing dystopian SF in the shape of the Black Mirror tv series. The violence and thuggish behaviour of certain Tory candidates would seem to be a fitting premonition of a very grim near future if the present lot get back in power.

Coming Soon to TV this Christmas: IDS – A Real Video Nasty?

December 13, 2014

Ever since Charles Dickens invented the ‘traditional’, Victorian Christmas with A Christmas Carol, ghost and horror stories have been a part of the season’s entertainment. In the 1970s and ’80s the BBC broadcast a series of ghost stories, including a version of Dickens’ The Railwayman, and the chilling tales of the master of the British ghost story, M.R. James. The latter were told by Robert Powell, taking the part of James himself, who every Christmas settled down in his room at Oxford to tell a story of the ghastly and supernatural to his students. Last year Mark Gatiss of the League of Gentlemen and now Dr Who, presented a documentary on James’ life and career. Gatiss and the other members of the League were horror fans, and arguably much of the new Dr Who has its roots less in Science Fiction than Dark Fantasy and Horror. He therefore was a good choice as the programme’s presenter.

Other spooky delights on offer on TV in the past were Hammer’s gory and grisly tales, such as Dracula, Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell, and The Wolfman, featuring Oliver Reed as a werewolf, a part, which it could be said, he continued playing in many of his subsequent dramatic performances on chat shows around the world for much of his life. Some of his still remember his finest hour when he was thrown off the final programme of the discussion programme, After Dark.

Now watching the trailers last night for the forthcoming seasonal delights on the Beeb, I came across something that was genuinely unpleasant, far more so than anything dreamed up by Terence Fisher and the other fevered minds at Bray Studios in the 1960s. It was for a celebrity edition of University Challenge, and one of the faces looked like that of IDS.

This is genuinely grotesque. Christmas is traditionally a time of peace and goodwill to all, and yet there’s precious little of that on display with IDS and his actions. This is the politician, who has cut benefits and imposed sanctions to the point where claimants have actually died of cold and starvation on Britain’s streets, in their homes, or taken their lives through desperation. This is the politicians, who has lied and lied again about the effects of his policies to parliament. Not only that, but he is also personally treacherous and utterly without honour. When one lady, a Dutchwoman who had grown up here, worked all her life and paid her tax came to him as her MP about immigration problems, not only did … Smith refuse to help, he tried to have her deported.

Good King Wenceslaus, the song goes, took pity on a poor man ‘gathering winter fuel’, and so took him home to share his food and hearth out of charity. The real King Wenceslaus was the early medieval king of Bohemia, now part of the Czech Republic, who converted the country to Christianity. I’ve got the feeling that the Czech version of his name is Vaclav, which is obviously still a popular name in the Republic. It’s the first name, for example, of the dissident poet and first democratic Czech president after the fall of Communism, Vaclav Havel. I don’t know whether the real King Wenceslas ever did what the carol describes, but it’s not impossible. Medieval religion strongly emphasised charity and the ‘works of mercy’ as part of the co-operative grace granted to humanity through which they could gain salvation partly through their good works. It formed what modern scholars have termed an ‘economy of salvation’ in which wealthy merchants and rich noblemen were careful to work out exactly how much money they should spend on charity for the poor in order gain time off in Purgatory. Looking after the material needs of the poor was particularly important, as it was believed that they far dearer to the Lord than the rich, and so their blessings and prayers were particularly important in securing God’s pardon.

For all IDS’ rhetoric about ‘social justice’, I’ve seen precious little evidence that IDS has anything but hatred and contempt for the poor. Far from helping the poor man collect his firewood, and show due concern for the page following in his footsteps against treacherous, icy footing, IDS strikes me as far more likely to have taken away the pauper’s firewood as above the level allowed by feudal law, and given him a strong lecture on his improvidence and lack of self-sufficiency in not having rationed his firewood properly in the Christmas season. And the page would have to have made his own way to keep up with the king, as this would have been the only way to give him the proper training to compete in the go-ahead, globalised economy of the 11th century.

It also struck me as the beginning of a charm offensive by the Tory party in preparation for next year’s election. The Tories are keenly aware that they have an image as ‘the nasty party’. IDS himself is surely aware that he is one of the most hated men in Britain. It’s why he opened a jobs fair in his constituency, Chingford, early and left before the masses arrived. It’s also why he has been forced to sneak out the back when appearing at a job centre in Bath, as well as hide in laundry baskets to escape protesters. He’s also such a physical coward that when he appeared before a select committee in parliament to give evidence, he was surrounded by bodyguards and armed cops, pointing their guns at the public, including a number of disabled people and their carers in the public gallery.

His appearance on a festive edition of University Challenge looks like an attempt to present him as genial and family-friendly, a jolly type quite prepared to make a fool of himself on a quiz show at this time of year, rather than the vindictive, mean-spirited curmudgeon his really is.

It also seems to bear out a comment by Mark Kermode about the personal character of the makers of Horror and Family movies. Kermode’s the film critic on Radio 5 Live. He’s a long term Horror fan, having written books on Horror cinema and spoken before the British Boards of Film Certification about the censorship of particular video nasties. You remember them. They were films like Driller Killer, I Spit on Your Grave and Last House on the Left, that were so disgusting that when they appeared in the 1970s and ’80s they were banned. Kermode has said in his reviews that the makers of Horror movies all invariably tend to be really nice people. Wes Craven, who made Last House on the Left and then the Nightmare on Elm Street series, was actually a genuinely nice, highly educated, intelligent man. Craven has said in interviews that the extreme and genuinely disgusting violence and brutality in Last House on the Left was partly inspired by the images that were coming out of Vietnam in 1973. He saw the film as a polemic against violence, and showing how violence simply begets even more violence. To that point, he once walked out of one of Quentin Tarentino’s flicks. When one of the horror great Horror directors asked him how he could walk out of Tarentino’s movie, after he had directed something as revolting as Last House on the Left, Craven replied, ‘Well at least my movie’s about something!’

M.R. James seems to be another case in point. Rather than being a pale, sour misanthrope, Gatiss’ programme described James as quite a jovial, very sociable figure in real life, who enjoyed physically romping with his fellow students. Gatiss talked to the son of one of James’ students, who said that his father believed him to have been a non-practicing gay. Regardless of the speculation about James’ sexuality, what was clear was that James was a genuinely friendly man, who enjoyed his friends’ company and affection.

By contrast, according to Kermode, you can bet that the people who make family films are personally nasty. Well, this seems pretty much the case with IDS, which is no doubt why he wants to appear on TV in a positive light. Forget Hammer, Frankenstein, Dracula and Freddie Kruger, this is one Horror story I’ll be glad to miss.

Class War: Unemployed Forced to Attend Jobs Fair Held by IDS Conservative Association

November 16, 2014

The militant anarchists of Class War have discovered that the jobs fair held last Friday, 14th November, in the Assembly Rooms in Chingford, were in fact organised by IDS’ local Conservative Association for Chingford and Woodford Green. Moreover, the publicity literature was printed by Metloc Printers, a company managed by another Tory, Stephen Metcalfe, MP for Essex.

Benefit claimants had not option than to attend. If they did not, they would be sanctioned.

Here’s the proof below, in letters received by Class War.

jobsfair3

idsthreat

Class War’s article can be read here: http://www.classwarparty.org.uk/unemployed-forced-attend-tory-party-event-threat-sanctions/

This, it seems to me, has two aspects. The first is the very obvious use of coercion to make the jobs fair seem like a success, and so boost IDS’ and the Conservatives’ image.

The second is that it shows the desire by the Tories to have absolute control over the workforce, to decide who has a job, and who doesn’t, and make sure that power stays firmly in the hands of the employers.

We are very nearly back to the old Elizabethan legislation, under which an unemployed man could be enslaved and forced to work for a prospective employer if he turned down their job offer.

Very nearly. As in the case of the man, who was forced to work for the firm that had just sacked him under the Workfare legislation. See the article over at Glynis Millward’s blog, http://www.classwarparty.org.uk/unemployed-forced-attend-tory-party-event-threat-sanctions/

That was too harsh even for the Elizabethans, and it had to be repealed. Let’s hope it’s not too long before Tory dodges like this are similarly unpopular.

Panorama on the Rise of Food Banks

March 5, 2014

Monday’s edition of the BBC’s investigative documentary programme, Panorama, covered the massive expansion in food banks across the UK. Filmed in Bristol and Derby, the programme’s host, Darragh McIntyre, spoke to the organisers of the food banks, including a community of Anglican nuns in Bristol, the Sisters of the Church, who provide food to over 2,28 people, the unemployed and destitute forced to use them, and Tory spokesmen defending the government’s policies, including Edwina Currie. The people filmed using food banks including a young couple living in a homeless hostel. The young woman had been referred to the food bank by the staff at her hospital, as there were complications with her pregnancy and they feared that she was not eating enough. The reported stated that many of those being fed by the nuns had drug and alcohol problems. Another Bristolian using the food banks was Steve Hudson, who, although he was unemployed, was not yet on benefit. The man had gone without food for days on end, and there was literally nothing in his fridge except a bit of ketchup and a tin of kidney beans. He had to walk the four hours to the Jobcentre because he had no money for the bus fare to get there. The programme later returned to Hudson. By this time he had got a job, but it hadn’t worked out and he was back on the dole. He was again forced to use food banks as most of his dole money went to paying off the utility and debts. They also spoke to the head of the East Bristol Food Bank, Andy Irwin, which was run in partnership with the Trussell Trust. Three years ago the Trussell Trust had only 50 food banks across the UK. Now they have more than 300. The programme state that the food banks in Bristol feed about 8,000 people. The Trust claims that they supply food to hundreds of thousands of people across Britain, and that since 2012 demand has tripled.

Food Banks Created Through Poverty, Not Scrounging

The programme also reported the Tories claim that the existence of the food banks was responsible for the increasing numbers of people using them. They showed a clip of Ian Duncan Smith in parliament, reading out a statement from a member of staff at the Oxford Food Bank, stating that although food banks do a good job, the people using them were often those, who had asked members of the various welfare agencies, such as their social workers, to refer them. This claim was rebutted by Chris Mould, the chairman of the Trussell Trust, who stated that it was ridiculous as it suggested that the 18,000 members of the various agencies, that had signed referrals for the food banks, were somehow in collusion to rip the system off.

Anglican Bishops Condemn Rise of Food Banks and Government Policy

The programme also talked to one of the 27 Anglican bishops, who had written a letter roundly condemning the rise of poverty and hunger in Britain. This was after they had interviewed David Burrowes MP, the chairman of the Conservative Christian Fellowship, who claimed that the bishops were exaggerating the problem. He stated that although they had the right to address their concerns, they did it in the wrong way and so had been used as ‘pawns in a wider political agenda’. This was rebutted by the bishop of Manchester, David Walker, who said that it was ridiculous that they were being used as part of anyone’s agenda. He quoted Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who said that there comes a time when, having fished enough people out of the river, you go up river to see why they’re falling in. And this, said the good bishop, inevitably draws you into politics.

Founder of Bristol Food Bank and Prof Elizabeth Dowler also State Food Banks due to Poverty

They also spoke to Mark Wing, an evangelical Christian, who runs the Matthew Tree in Bristol. This is the seventh food bank he’d opened in the city. When he was asked if Bristol needed seven food banks, he replied that it absolutely was. Wing aims not only to feed people, but also to reform their lives, and so those using the food bank are expected to show their bank accounts. They also interviewed Professor Elizabeth Dowler, the author of the government’s report Household Food Security in the UK. She too rebutted the claims that the explosion in the number of food banks was due to the number of people using them. She stated that it was simply because there were many more people in need. She pointed to the rise in food prices coupled with wages remaining the same or falling as a reason for the increasing numbers of people forced to use them.

Derbyshire County Council Funding Food Banks, Criticised by Edwina Currie

The programme mentioned the government’s view that the best way out of poverty was through work, and their statement that unemployment was falling. However, the programme pointed out that official figures show that 9.8 million people were living in relative poverty, that is, they had an income below 60 per cent of the British average. They also spoke to Julie Hirst, the Public Health Specialist on Derbyshire County Council. Previously the council had been concerned about healthy eating. Now they were worried about ‘food poverty’ – that people were not eating at all. As a result the county was investing £126,000 pound for its public health budget into food banks. They then invited one of the critics of food banks, Edwina Currie, to one run by a church pastor, Christian Thorpe, who church feeds 60 people a week. Currie was polite, but made her disapproval of the whole affair very clear. Shown the stores of food at the bank, she immediately picked at some of the items, asking whether they should really be giving food like it to the hungry. She objected to food banks, because they weren’t teaching people to live within their means, plan for a rainy day and not get into debt. Pastor Thorpe stated that they were indeed working with other agencies to teach people responsibility. Currie then stated that she felt food banks were ‘a bit of a trap’, and said that there wasn’t a need for food banks. She said that there should be more help for people with problems, but said that she didn’t believe there was food poverty. It was all due to people making the wrong choices. People, according to Currie, were not making the right, responsible choice because they knew they could get free food. Back in Bristol, Andy Irwin rebutted Currie’s remarks. 23 per cent of the people they saw, the largest single group of users, were people who had problems with their benefit, such as it being stopped. This was confirmed by the Citizens’ Advice Bureau. The government, however, denied that there was any link between their reforms and the increasing numbers of people forced to look for free food. They repeated the line that their reforms were encouraging the unemployed to find work.

People Forced to Use Food Banks Through Sanctions

The programme also spoke to Ian Hoswell, a man who had been sanctioned by the Jobcentre and had his benefit stopped for three months after he missed three interviews. McIntyre reported that for breaking the rules, you could have your benefit stopped for the minimum of a month to the maximum of three years. He also reported that the DWP had said that the conditions were made clear to claimants, and that they could apply for hardship payments and loans. Hoswell had applied for a hardship loan, but as you don’t get this for a fortnight, he had been forced to sell his CDs in order to eat. He was forced to go to the Matthew Tree for food because the £46 odd hardship payment left very little left over after he had paid his bills and also bought cigarettes. An increasing number of people are in Hoswell’s position. The programme cited government statistics that last year 875,000 people were sanctioned. They interviewed the founder of the Matthew Tree, Mark Goodway, who said that the people they saw were those who had no money. He felt that, while it could be debated whether the sanctioned claimants should have the money, they shouldn’t be starved while this was done. Back in London, Burrowes admitted that he realised that people went to food banks because they had no money, and that for many it was because they had been sanctioned, but the government was working to supply local authorities with funds for hardship payments.

McIntyre reported the ‘shocking statistic’ that in 11 months, over 133,000 sanctions had been overturned on appeal. This was almost 400 every day. It can, however, take weeks to overturn the DWP’s decision, during which time the sanctioned claimants were left with little or no money. He spoke to Dr David Webster, of Glasgow University, who has investigated and strongly criticised the immense number of people sanctioned by the government. He stated that there would be many more sanctions overturned if more people appealed. He also stated that part of the problem was the bureaucratic procedure, which people had to negotiate to overturn their sanctions, during which time they had little or no money. He stated baldly that people who started poor, would be driven into complete destitution. He talked to Susan Harkins, a woman with a partner and two young children. They had been forced onto benefit after her husband became to ill to do his job, and she lost hers. They were wrongly sanctioned, and placed on a low income of about £63 a week due to a clerical error. She stated that this meant that she and her husband had gone for days at a time in order to feed their children. They eventually managed to get the sanctioned overturned, but by that time they had been on an extremely low income for three months. She stated that her in opinion, such sanctions were simply a way for the government to save money.

Government Sanction Targets

In support of this statement, McIntyre showed the wall chart showing savings from sanctions, that was on display at a Jobcentre in Grantham last year. According to this, one three-month sanction would save £932. They spoke to Charles Law, of the Public and Commercial Services Union. Law stated that the government tells their members that there wasn’t a target, but then expects them to do the same as a cluster of other job centres over a week or month. He stated what was obvious: this was a target.

Needless to say, this was denied by the government, who said that the wall chart was only an isolated incident, which did not reflect policy, and that there were no targets for sanctions. Most of the decisions were correct, and the appeals process was an important part of the systems safeguards.

Part-Time Workers also Using Food Banks

McIntyre also reported that it wasn’t just the unemployed, who were forced to use food banks. He spoke to another Bristolian, Lisa Hall, who lived in one of the city’s suburbs. She worked in McDonalds, and had been forced to go to a food bank after going for days without food. Although she took home £900 a month, she was left with only a tenner a week after paying bills and debts. Her children had left home, and so with two empty bedrooms she had been hit by the government’s ‘bedroom tax’. They asked her the obvious question: why didn’t she move. She replied strongly that she didn’t want to, and explained at length that it was her home. She had managed to get another job, delivering pizzas, that kept her working sometimes till four in the morning. This meant she was earning enough not to need the food bank.

Food Banks funded by One Third of All Councils

McIntyre reported the government’s statement that food banks were not part of the welfare system. The lines were, however, increasingly blurred. In IDS’ own constituency of Chingford in London, the two councils which comprised it were spending £70,000 a year on food banks. The film-makers had contacted every council in the country, and 140 of them – a third – had confirmed that they were funding food banks. In the last two years, £2.9 million had been devoted to combating food poverty in the UK.

The Government’s Statement on Food Banks, but No Interview Given

The Trussell Trust’s Chris Mould stated that the concerns that food banks were becoming a part of the welfare state were valid, and that they should be tackled by politicians. Elizabeth Dowler of Warwick University declared that they were ‘an inadequate plaster over a gaping wound’ and the fact that they were being presented as a solution was ‘deeply immoral’. McIntyre said that they had tried to get someone from the cabinet to talk about their investigation into food banks, and had been shunted from pillar to post. The Department for Work and Pensions referred them to the Cabinet Office, and the Cabinet Office referred them back to the DWP. They were then referred back to the Prime Minister’s own press team at 10 Downing Street. They were not, however, given an interview. The government simply issued a statement that local authorities were now responsible for giving emergency help, and that they were being given additional funding to pay for it. It was giving help to families with the cost of living, and that thanks to its reforms three million households would be better off.

Do We Want People to Have to Survive on Food Hand-Outs?

The programme ended with Bishop David Walker saying that a clear statement from the government was needed whether or not food banks were part of the system, and if they were, how they could be improved. They reported some good news with the people they had interviewed using the food banks. Steve Hudson had now found work at a bar in Bristol’s city centre, while Lisa now had a full time job with B&Q. McIntyre ended with the statement that there was no doubt food banks are here to stay, and that they have helped very many people. He then asked the question, ‘Do we want to live in a society where people survive on food hand outs?’

Here’s the video

It can also be seen on Youtube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKVPwdNVb4s. The video is on a channel by someone called Theworkprogramme, who has posted a number of other documentaries and excerpts also tackling poverty in contemporary Britain.

It was a very, very good documentary, and did show the immense hardship experience by people due to the government’s welfare reforms. For that reason, I expect that it has already attracted the ire of the Tory faithful, who believe that the Beeb is composed entirely of liberals, Leftists and Commies dedicated to destroying British values. I do have some criticisms, however.

Firstly, I don’t trust the government statistics showing that unemployment is falling. Mike’s devoted a lot of time on his blog, as have a number of other Left-wingers on theirs, showing that these figures are the result of manipulation and falsification. The government’s figures only deal with those, who have been unemployed for under a year and are on a particular type of benefit. Those, who have been unemployed for longer and placed on the Work Programme are not counted as unemployed.

Then there’s the government’s statement that hardship payments are available for those, who have been sanctioned. This is another falsehood. While it may have been true when the documentary was made, the hardship payments are now being withdrawn. See Johnny Void’s pieces on this. Moreover, they were another benefit, about which claimants were not told by the Jobcentre staff.

As for help being available for families, this is being cut all the time. Mike and the other blogger have also extensively demolished the government’s claims that their reforms will make three million people better off. The fact that no-one from the government wanted to be interviewed seems to demonstrate that the government knows this is a lie, and really don’t want to have to face any intensive questioning on this issue.

As for the question of whether we want a society where people have to survive on food hand-outs, my guess is that the government does. The unemployed in several American states are given food stamps, rather than a welfare cheque, and it seems to me that food banks are being used in the same way here. It’s a way of punishing and humiliating the poor for their own poverty, exactly as it was intended to be.

As you might expect, I was also resoundingly unimpressed by Edwina Currie. She clearly was there simply to parrot the government’s line that poverty was all due to people’s own wrong choices. This is the attitude of the American Conservatives towards the grinding poverty that exists in the land of the free. One of the contributors to Lobster in one of its articles mentioned how it never ceases to amaze him about the way American deluded themselves about the cause of poverty there. He had been in a commercial conference in one of the American cities. During the conference, there was a report on the local news that 50,000 local citizens were homeless. When he asked one of the American attending the conference about how that could possibly occur, he was blandly told that they had all chosen to be homeless. Her comments also showed the strong influence of social Darwinism and 19th century notions of the deserving and undeserving poor, as well as a doctrinaire adherence to the party line that there was no link between the government’s reforms and poverty. It was also evident from the outset that she was not going to give the food bank a fair hearing by the way she picked around some of the articles and pointedly asked whether the bank should be giving such foods – like biscuits – to the poor and starving.

But then, my impression is that for all her Oxbridge education, Edwina has never been the sharpest knife in the kitchen cabinet. I’ve mentioned before how she looked bewildered when she was booed on Clive Anderson’s show on Channel 4 after making sharp comments about pensioners This was along the lines of ‘that’ll teach them to wrap up’, after he had asked her about her remark when in government telling them to wrap up warm when Major’s administration cut the cold weather payment for the elderly. She also made the mistake of locking horns with Ian Hislop a decade or so ago on Have I Got News For You. She was talking about how she had one a court case against someone for libel. She turned on the editor of Lord Gnome’s much-sued organ, and said, ‘Aren’t you glad I didn’t sue you?’ To this Hislop replied, ‘Aren’t you glad, my dear.’ I will give her some credit, however. Unlike IDS, Cameron, McVey or anyone else from the government, she did actually turn up and speak on camera. The others just seem to have hidden in the cabinet office and issued a press release in the hope it would all go away.

Unfortunately, it won’t. The poverty and starvation the government is wilfully creating is here to stay, and as long as it does, it should be criticised and challenged, along with the government, whose punitive cruelty creates it.