Posts Tagged ‘Derbyshire’

Tweezer’s Brexit Party Woes for Euro Elections

April 23, 2019

Another piece of woe for Tweezer. Not only are Labour 10 points above them in the polls, but according to yesterday’s I, over half of all Tory activists are planning to vote for the Fuhrage’s wretched Brexit party in the European elections. They want to send May a clear message to get lost.

The article by Nigel Morris, ”Over half of Tory activists’ plan to support Brexit party’ in the paper’s edition for 22nd April 2019, on page 8, ran

Almost 60 per cent of Conservative activists are planning to switch sides and vfote for Nigel Farage’s new Brexit Party in next month’s European elections, a survey has revealed.

Mr Farage predicted that his party would “sweep the board” in the UK part of the contests expected on 23 May, claiming it was attracting large numbers of Tory and Labour voters alike.

Amid growing predictions of a Conservative meltdown at the ballot box, the senior MP Sir Graham Brady will warn Theresa May that 70 per cent of her MPs want her to step down by the end of June.

The 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, which is chaired by Sir Graham, will meet tomorrow, when Parliament returns following a truncated Easter break.

It is understood that they will discuss whether the party’s rules can be changed to bring forward a challenge to her leadership.

The scale of the grassroots backlash over the Prime Minister’s handling of the Brexit process was revealed in a survey for the ConservativeHome website.

It found that 61.7 per cent of Tory members intended to support the Brexit Party in the elections , which will take place if Mrs May fails to win a Commons majority for her Brexit proposals within the next five weeks.

Just 23.1 per cent said they were still loyal to the Conservatives.

Paul Goodman, the website’s editor, described the findings as “the most astonishing we have ever published.”

He suggested that a “really bad result” next month for the Tories could lead to Mars May being forced out of office.

The findings reinforced a Survation survey for the Mail on Sunday in which 40 per cent of Tory councillors said they prepared to support the Brexit party.

Just over half -52 per cent – said that they would vote Tory, but that figure would rise to 65 per cent if Mrs May was replaced by Boris Johnson.

Mr Farage said yesterday: “Westminster has just underestimated how the country feels about this.”

He claimed his new party already had more than 60,000 registered supporters paying £25 each – with a new recruit signing up every 12 seconds.

There was also a report in a box on the same page that Conservative members of Derbyshire County Council had last week informed Tory HQ that they would not deliver leaflets or canvass for Tory candidates next month.

While it’s fun watching May destroy the Tories almost single-handed, there are also serious problems with this. Farage, and presumably his new Brexit Party, are far-right neoliberal privatisers. They may not be as openly racist as Batten’s UKIP, but Farage himself was dogged with very credible allegations of racism and Fascist sympathies, and UKIP under his aegis was still beset with scandals about racism and connections to far right groups.

And Mike has rightly pointed out that we shouldn’t wish Tweezer gone, because her replacement would probably enjoy a honeymoon period in which they would destroy the welfare state even further and privatise the NHS, selling it to some American megamillionaire like Trump.

So we should just hope that Tweezer remains in power, and continues the Tory meltdown, ready for the replacement of the entire party by a Corbyn Labour government at the next elections.

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The Press’ Censorship of Violence against the Strikers during the Miner’s Strike

June 4, 2016

Mark Hollingworth in his book on the press attacks on the Labour party and trade unions in the 1980s, The Press and Political Dissent: A Question of Censorship, also notes the way the press suppressed and ignored stories about violence against the strikers during the miners’ strike. He discusses in particular the press’ refusal to print a photograph of a policeman beating a women with a baton, police agents provocateurs, and how the fourth estate very rapidly lost interest in an arson attack on a miner’s car when they found out that the victim was a striking miner. Hollingworth writes

On a direct level there were dozens of examples of news stories and photographs involving intimidation of striking miners. Yet, in contrast to the almost blanket coverage of violence by pickets, the vast majority of allegations concerning police actions on the picket line were ignored. Perhaps the most notorious example was the photograph of a young woman, Lesley Boulton, being attacked by a truncheon-wielding mounted policeman at Orgreave coking plant on Monday 18 June 1983. She had been shouting at the police to ‘get an ambulance’ for a middle-aged injured miner. John Harris, a photographer with the International Freelance Library, managed to take two frames of film of the police attack and then ran off. Later that Monday afternoon his agency offered the pictures to the Daily Mirror who rejected them because they had ‘got all they wanted’. Harris’ photographs were freely available to Fleet Street later that week, but of Britain’s 17 national newspapers only the Observer published the picture of Boulton the following Sunday. Instead, it was left to some European papers like Stern magazine to print it. However, the public display of the photograph at the 1984 Labour party conference in Blackpool forced an interest from Fleet Street. Their response was to suggest that perhaps the camera angel or depth of field gave a misleading impression.

Detailed allegations of police harassment were also carefully documented. On 7 June 1984, a Nottinghamshire miner claimed he had recognised two plain-clothes policemen posing as pickets and inciting other miners to throw stones. But perhaps the most remarkable incident occurred on 15th June 1984 when two more plain clothes policemen were caught red-handed posing as miners at the Cresswell Strike Centre in Derbyshire. The police officers, P.C. Stevens and Sergeant Monk, were even identified by local reporter Carmel O’Toole, whose paper, the Worksop Guardian, carried the story on its front page. O’Toole then phoned through the story to the Daily Mail and Daily Mirror. They spiked the story. Names, addresses, telephone numbers and sworn statements concerning several alleged incidents were compiled by Tribune for any inquiring journalist or editor. Fleet Street turned a blind eye.

Discrimination by the press between violence against working and striking miners, particularly in the Midland’s coalfields, was starkly exposed by the case of Derbyshire miner Pete Neelan. In January 1985 his car was set on fire, his garage burned down and the word ‘Revenge’ spray-painted on to his house. As soon as it was announced that he was a miner at Worksop Main, Derbyshire, several Fleet Street correspondents and an ITN team flocked to his house to record the details for publication. However, when Neelan told them he was on stroke there was suddenly a loss of interest in the news story. ‘Everyone seemed terribly disappointed,’ said Neelan. The questions stopped and the journalists went home. The next day there was no sign of the story in the press. (p. 264-5).

Mike reported in Vox Political last week that there were calls after the release of the report in the Hillsborough disaster, which exonerated the Liverpool fans, that a similar inquiry should be held into the miners’ strike. Mike doubted that we’d ever get the truth about the strike from Theresa May, the Home Secretary. Considering how massively implicated nearly all of the press in the gross distortion of the news, I doubt very much that we can expect any truth about the strike, either from May nor from the press. There are too many high-ranking Conservative former editors with careers and reputations at stake. Besides, it might cause Rupert Murdoch to have palpitations.

Anti-NHS Privatisation Rally at 1.00 PM Today, Stoke on Trent

May 4, 2015

I’m sorry this is somewhat late, but it’s only just come through my inbox.

Gail Gregory, one of the campaigners against the privatisation of the NHS, and particular local hospitals in Staffordshire, has been part of a team organising events this Bank Holiday weekend. She has sent out another release letting everyone know that there is another rally today at 1.00 in Stoke On Trent. She writes

Dear friends,

I know you may not be able to join us, but I though you would like to know just how amazing the March we have helped organise is going. We set off from Burton on Saturday morning – and before we reached the finish line we had Harry Leslie Smith confirm he would like to speak in Stoke on Monday (today) and welcome us across the finish! What a day. We will put footage up online for you – but in the mean time here are the details of the final day and the speakers we have!

Cancer Not for Profit Announce STAR speaker for May Day Rally!

Star speaker line up revealed for finish line rally of the 3 day, 30 mile, M’aide May Day March For Our NHS in Hanley Park, Stoke on Monday 4 May at 1pm:

Harry Leslie Smith – author of ‘Harry’s Last Stand’ and 91 year old survivor of the Great Depression, a second world war RAF veteran and an activist for the NHS, the poor and for the preservation of social democracy.

Lord Philip Hunt – Labour Spokesperson for Health in the Lords

Sarah Perry – Cancer Patient and 38 Degrees Campaigner

Professor Ray Tallis – Co Author of NHS SOS

Tristram Hunt – Labour Stoke Central PPC and Shadow Minister for Education

Christine Venables – Save Our NHS Campaigner – South Derbyshire

Paul Walker – East Staffs TUC Chair and cancer patient

Representatives from the CCGs have been asked to attend but are unfortunately unavailable on this occasion.

Health Campaigners Cancer Not For Profit and East Staffordshire TUC are calling on the public to join them at the FREE event on, Monday 4 May at 1pm, to hear stirring speeches from famous NHS campaigners and why we need to fight the privatisation of our NHS in Staffordshire.

The M’aide, May Day March for our NHS began on Saturday in Burton on Trent with a 10am rally where 50 concerned health campaigners, members of the public and patients set off for Uttoxeter in a bid to highlight the privatisation of the NHS in Staffordshire. On Sunday 3rd May the NHS crusaders were joined by more supporters as they left Uttoxeter for Blythe Bridge to complete stage two of the march. On Monday 4th May the final stage of the march between Blythe Bridge and Stoke on Trent will culminate with a mass rally with expert contributions from prominent NHS campaigners as walkers arrive in Hanley Park at 1pm.

The biggest potential NHS privatisation in history still looms large for Staffordshire, with the £1.2 billion contract for of Cancer and End of Life care for 800,000 residents, yet to be decided. The bidders in the running include five private companies and only two NHS Trusts however since the 2012 Health and Social Care Act 70% of all contracts have been awarded to the private sector.

Virgin Care have recently won a controversial contract in East Staffs to provide Elderly Person Care worth around £280 million for 6000 frail elderly and 38,000 patients with chronic diseases in East Staffordshire as awarded by East Staffs CCG. Campaigners have condemned the contract fearing care will suffer as private companies seek to make profit out of an already cash strapped NHS.

38 Degrees are supporting local efforts to stop NHS privatisation with more than 60,000 people signing the petition to stop the sell off of Cancer and End of Life Care in Staffordshire in the past month. This adds to previous efforts which have secured more than 15,000 signatures from Staffordshire residents who presented concerns to the County Council in October but failed to secure enough support from the chamber to stop NHS privatisation, instead residents’ concerns were referred to the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs).

Monday 4th May

Blythe Bridge Rally point 10am Blythe Bridge Library ST11 9JR

to Hanley Park, Stoke On Trent for the final rally at around 1pm by the Bandstand

For full route and timings please see the website: bit.ly/NHSMayDayMarch

Enjoy your bank holiday if you do not join us – once again thank you for making this campaign happen!

Best Wishes,

Gail

This is very far from my home in Bristol, but I wish her, the event and the speakers every success.

One of the speakers, Ray Tallis, is a former neurologist and Humanist, who has written and spoken extensively on the mystery of human consciousness and cognition, as well as art and philosophy. I heard him speak last year at the Cheltenham Literary Festival, and he is well-worth hearing.

From 2011: Private Eye on the Failure of Working Links Workfare Firm to Find Jobs for Unemployed

April 13, 2014

workfare-isnt-working

This is from the Eye’s edition for the 25th November – 8 December 2011.

Workfare Update

Challenged in parliament over rising unemployment, David Cameron repeatedly offered the government’s Work Programme as the answer. But one of the main contractors running the welfare-to-work scheme has been deemed “inadequate” at helping the jobless find work, according to Ofsted inspectors.

Working Links, a partnership between Manpower and CapGemini, runs the Work Programme in Scotland, Wales and the South West. But according to an Ofsted report earlier this year: “The percentage of participants that progress iinto jobs is low”.

Ofsted marks services on a scale of one to four, from “Outstanding” to “Inadequate”. In Derbyshire the “outcomes for participants” – like jobs – got the worst mark. the inspectors also lamented that “the number of participants who joined the programme was significantly below the contract targets” and that “during this period only 13 percent of participants gained employment”.

The scheme is the brainchild of work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith, who had hoped to create a body of “Fairy Jobmothers”. Alas, the Ofsted inspectors were not over-impressed by some Working Links staff. “The personal consultants do not always negotiate and set clear targets for the completion of different activities. Often, they do not monitor these activities sufficiently well,” said the inspectors.

In the North-East, meanwhile, Working Links operations in cities like Middlesbrough, Newcastle, Tyneside and Sunderland, admittedly unemployment black spots, were underwhelming . Though the number of people finding jobs had improved slightly, job rates “remain low”, the inspectors said.

Working Links’ antics have sometimes been questionable. As Private Eye revealed in April, a confidential government audit into the partnership’s Liverpool operation showed that it was even claiming government cash for jobseekers who had found work without its help. As well as running the Work Programme, Working Links is now also part of the Community Justice Partnership, bidding for probation contracts (see last Eye).

Workfare is little more than a 21st century form of forced labour. A number of bloggers, such as Johnny Void, and including myself, have pointed out its similarity to the totalitarian forced and compulsory voluntary labour systems of Stalinist Russia, Communist Yugoslavia and Nazi Germany, all of which had schemes in which those persecuted by the regime, including the unemployed, were forced to work for industry. Johnny Void and several others have also shown that these schemes are terrible at getting people into jobs. The statistics actually demonstrate that you’re more likely to gain work through your own initiative than through the government’s Work Programme. Not that this seems to bother the government, as it looks like the whole programme is designed to supply cheap labour to industry, rather than actually combat unemployment. This piece by Private Eye adds more information on how useless the Work Programme is.

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.