Posts Tagged ‘ESA’

Corbyn Attacks Tories For Using Food Banks as Photo Opportunity

December 6, 2018

Here’s another great little video from RT where Corbyn once again savages May and the Tory party for causing nothing but despair and poverty for millions of working Brits. In this one, of just over a half a minute, Corbyn takes them to task for cynically using food banks as photo ops. He says

The Trussel Trust has also pointed out foodbanks face record demand this December. I just gently say to her and the MPs behind her foodbanks are not just an opportunity for Conservative MPs, who themselves, all of whom supported the cuts in benefit that have led to the poverty in this country.

Corbyn’s again absolutely right. It’s disgusting, hypocritical and disgraceful that the Tories are exploiting foodbanks in this manner.

Mike put up an article about this earlier this week, showing Dominic Raab, Claire Perry, Ross Thomson and Stephen Crabb posing at foodbanks and alongside Tesco workers, who were supposed to be contributing some of the produce at their stores to the banks. He also included the comments of the peeps on Twitter, including comedian David Schneider, neurologist Prof. Ray Tallis, Claire Hepworth OBE, Charlotte Hughes, the author of the Poor Side of Life blog, teenage corbynista Hasan Patel and many, many others, all of whom tore into the Tories. James Colwell tweeted about Perry’s voting record, reminding the world that she

consistently voted against raising benefits, almost always voted for reducing housing benefit, & generally voted against spending to create jobs for young people. She is one of the reasons foodbanks are needed.

These are the people, who have left over a quarter of a million people needing to use foodbanks to stop themselves starving to death through their insistence on low wages and benefit cuts and sanctions, the work capability tests and the introduction of alterations to the way benefits are paid, so that people have to wait even longer for them.

All of this is to create a cowed, obedient workforce will put up with any form of exploitation in order to keep their jobs, and give massive tax breaks to the rich.

As for the Tories posing in the foodbanks, Steve Perry pointed out that all the tweets about them were following a script. And the Labour whips immediately smelt a very large, odoriferous rat. The tweets and photos came at the same time as May was applauding a batch of new Tory candidates ready to fight the next election. The Labour whips put two and two together and concluded that they made four: the Tories were preparing for a possible general election if May’s Brexit deal goes sour.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/12/02/hypocritical-tories-try-gaslighting-us-with-foodbank-photocalls-but-is-something-more-serious-behind-it/

Now today we have the spectacle of the Beeb and the rest of the media castigating Corbyn for concentrating on the poverty the Tories had created at yesterday’s Prime Minister’s Questions, rather than Brexit. He dropped the ball on this one, they chorus. Those repeating this nonsense included Laura Kuenssberg and the Macclesfield Goebbels, Nick Robinson. This provoked the retort from the Labour supporters on Twitter, including Mike, that Corbyn had done very well. If Corbyn had asked May about Brexit, she would have used it as an excuse to get out of debate with him about it later, arguing that she had already discussed the matter. But he didn’t, and she can’t. And the peeps on Twitter applauded Corbyn for concentrating on poverty and bitterly criticized May for laughing about the poverty she had caused in parliament. Mike on his blog quoted Clare Hepworth, who said

Jeremy Corbyn was ABSOLUTELY right to major on the Alston report and the JRM report – there are FIVE days of #Brexit.
It was OBSCENE to witness the PM and the Tories LAUGHING at the mention of poverty, deprivation & low wages !!
The pundits on #PoliticsLive didn’t mention that !

And she was one of very many.

They also ripped into Kuenssberg, Robinson and Co. for being part of a complacent media elite, sealed inside the Westminster bubble, who have no idea what it’s like to be genuinely poor.

They also connected this to the four Tory MPs posing at food banks this weekend. Tory Fibs and Another Angry Voice applauded Corbyn attacking May for the Tories exploiting them to promote themselves. Clive Lewis said of them

.@jeremycorbyn: “Foodbanks are not just for photo opportunities!” #PMQs > 14 million people are in poverty in the UK. That’s one in five people. It’s not just @UKLabour saying it – even the @UN has said that the Tories are in a “state of denial” about poverty in this country

As for May’s response, and in particular her comment about ‘making difficult decisions’, Lisa Nandy and Mike had their answers to this pathetic, timeworn excuse.

Lisa Nandy tweeted

Theresa May says the Tories had to take “difficult decisions” on benefits. They cut taxes for the richest and cut benefits for the poorest. That isn’t “difficult”, it’s immoral #PMQs

And Mike posted these two tweets

.@theresa_may is going over the usual arrogant nonsense about benefits. People are NOT better-off, and the govt is NOT saving money. We heard about her #ContemptOfParliament yesterday – now we are seeing her contempt for the people she is supposed to serve. #PMQs #PoliticsLive

.@theresa_may has no defence against claims by .@jeremycorbyn about mistreatment of the poor. All she can do is attack .@UKLabour because she cannot defend herself. We’ve heard this before and she’s coming across as a silly, braying old Scrooge. #PMQs #PoliticsLive

But if the Tories are secretly preparing for another general election, and the Tory photographs at foodbanks were part of that, as the Labour whips suspected, then Corbyn was absolutely right to remind Britain of the grinding poverty they had created.

Disability campaigner Paula Peters also tweeted asking people to remember the suffering and death done by the Tories and their benefit cuts. She tweeted

While everyone is concentrating on Brexit, spare some thought for disabled ppl losing PIP, social care, ESA, claimants sanctioned, facing eviction, going hungry. Many are dying & having human rights violated. Christmas isn’t happening for many. Rise up! #GTTO

Mike concluded his article with the statement:

It seems Mrs May has scored enough own goals herself to make such an uprising – at the ballot box – a distinct possibility.

Let us hope we all have a chance to demonstrate our opinion of her, and the privations she has inflicted on us, in the very near future.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/12/06/pmqs-drama-corbyn-outplays-may-and-her-poodle-press-by-highlighting-poverty/

Any such chance won’t come too soon!

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RT Video on WASPI Women’s Protests Before Tomorrow’s March

November 21, 2018

This is another very short video from RT, put up in anticipation of the march tomorrow by the WASPIs – Women Against State Pension Inequality. It shows some of the protests and questions in the parliament that these ladies have raised over the past few years.

It begins by showing scenes in parliament, followed by a demonstration outside, with protesters holding banners, one of which says very clearly, ‘You Are Killing Us.’ This is intercut with a woman explaining why they were marching. She says

We are marching against the acceleration to the state pension age that began for women in 1995.

This is followed by a female MP with a Scots accent saying

Given that the Prime Minister is a WASPI woman herself, how he can justify a rise of 413 per cent in the number of women over 60 in receipt of ESA, because of this government’s refusal to give them their pension?

This is followed by someone from the government benches standing up to say

I do accept that the government must do all we can to assist everyone affected into retraining and employment and provide support if that is not possible. And that commitment to provide support is clear, unequivocal and ongoing.

It’s the usual Tory lies we’ve heard whenever the opposition or campaigners show that state welfare provision is woefully inadequate. They immediately start lying, telling everyone that state support is there, and how there is more of it in real terms than there was under Labour. Or a big increase is coming. As for all this guff about retraining, this reminds me how the Tories have tried to disguise the exploitation of the unemployed in their wretched ‘welfare to work’ training by presenting it as teaching the unemployed the necessary skills, discipline and experience to get a job. Or by pretending that the ‘Jobs Coaches’ who ring up the unemployed to pressure them into getting work are something other than officious pests, whose job is to humiliate and degrade their victims into feeling so wretched that they’ll leap at any job, no matter how poorly paid or exploitative.

We’ve heard these lies before. So have the women in the video, who respond to this load of Tory nonsense with cries of ‘shame’ and ‘Shame on you!’

Women generally have been the worst hit by the Tories’ austerity campaign, but as it’s ordinary people suffering, it really doesn’t matter whether the PM is a WASPI woman or not. She’s rich and entitled, and so couldn’t care less what happens to those women, or people generally, for that matter, who are less fortunate than her. At the same time, the Tories will show off her, and their other female MPs, as a demonstration that they’re somehow empowering women. But all the women they’ve empowered, are rich girls, who, like the blokes on the Tory benches, seem to get a kick out of inflicting more and harsher poverty, degradation and despair on those lower down the social ladder.

I’m sick of their lies, and wish the ladies on the march every success. And I hope it will encourage a few more people, who might be inclined to listen to them, to turn their backs on the Tories, and hasten their departure from power. If May goes tomorrow, it won’t be too soon.

RT Interview with Paul Peter of DPAC on Tories Ramping Up Distress for Disabled People

October 12, 2018

This is another excellent video from RT, in which the presenter of their ‘Going Underground’, Afshin Rattansi, talks to Paula Peters from the disability organization, DPAC. Peters makes it very clear that, despite the lies of the Tories and particular Esther McVey, their cuts to benefits are causing immense mental distress to the disabled and constitute a human catastrophe, that was called such by the UN, who criticized the Tories for it.

The video begins with Peters stating that ‘She (Esther McVey) is ramping up mental distress for disabled people through the heinous policies that she and the Conservative party are implementing today.’

Rattansi goes on to state that The Department for Work and Pensions Secretary gave quite a barnstorming speech at the conference, raised quite a few eyes across the sector and that he is sure she would deny what Peters is saying. He asks her if there is any hope that the United Nations investigation into what she’s doing at the DWP for these alleged atrocities that people like DPAC are alleging, any hope that the UN can do something?

Peters replies that first of all they refute Wholeheartedly what Esther McVey said last week. The cuts to PIP payments, ESA, JSA, are real news, and they have eight years of evidence to back this up.

Rattansi asks, ‘She called if fake news?’

Peters replies, ‘Yeah, well, it’s not fake news, they are real stories and millions of people affected by these policies can say that, you know, are being plunged further into poverty and destitution as a result of their heinous policies and regarding the UN’s investigation there’s been years of written and oral evidence to back up millions of claimants who have been plunged further into mental distress, further into isolation as a result of DWP policy and it should be noted the government were the first state in the world to be formally investigated under the United Nations Convention of the Rights of People with Disabilities and found guilty of grave and systemic human rights violations. Then in 2017 the Committee ruled that the cuts that disabled people and people in mental distress were experiencing were a human catastrophe on our lives, and the UN rapporteur for poverty is about to visit the UK here in November and there coming here because there’s overwhelming evidence to show that disabled people and people in mental distress are plunged further into poverty by the cuts this government are making. This is not fake news, it’s real news and we need to continue the fight to get the truth out of what this government are doing.’

The video also include three pieces of explanatory text at the bottom of the screen. One states that a spokesperson for the Samaritans had said that McVey had stepped down from their advisory board due to her commitments as secretary of state for work and pensions. She had been invited to become a member of the board in early 2017 when she was chair of the British Transport Police Authority, which was one of the partners the organization works with to reduce suicides on the railways. The organization now states they no longer have an advisory board.

The second piece of text says that they contacted McVey and the DWP about DPAC’s allegations that the cuts were pushing people into poverty, but didn’t get an answer.

And the third quotes the DWP as saying on the subject of the UN that

‘The UK has a close working relationship with UN bodies and is committed to upholding the rule of law and [a] rules-based international system … The UK has a standing invitation to all Special Rapporteurs and it is UK government policy to accept and facilitate such visits, and to encourage other UN member states to do the same.’

Peters is absolutely right. DPAC, other disabled rights organisations, poverty campaigners and left wing bloggers, vloggers and activists have amassed abundant information that fully confirms that the Tory cuts are pushing people into poverty. And no, the government does not like giving the information to people. Mike had to fight very hard getting the statistics from the DWP under the Freedom of Information Act about how many people had died after they had been found ‘fit for work’ by ATOS under the Department’s rules. And even then, the information they sent him wasn’t exactly the information he requested.

I also remember Mike blogging about the UN’s condemnation of Cameron’s government for their maltreatment of the disabled, and the angry denials this due from the Tories.

As for McVile’s speech going down a storm with the Tories at their conference, well, to paraphrase Christine Keeler, it would, wouldn’t it. The Tory party is composed of the entitled, the rich, and the bigoted, who have a vicious hatred of anyone they think is a drain on their money. And that means the poor, the disabled, the less privileged, the working class, the unemployed and Blacks and ethnic minorities. You could see that from Peter Lilly’s prancing about the stage at one conference way back in the ’90s, when he decided to put on his version of a piece from Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado. Like the Nazi U-boat commander in Dad’s Army, he had a little list. It was full of the people the government had decided were welfare spongers and malingerers, like unmarried mothers. As I’ve blogged about many times, the Tories have no sympathy with the poor and disadvantaged, and their policies seem designed to push them into suicide or death by starvation in what Mike has described as ‘Chequebook euthanasia’. Or the Nazis’ Aktion T4 by any other name.

My cartoon of McVey and other Tory lowlifes.

The Tories are positive threat to the health, lives and wellbeing of the people of this country. Get them out!

A Word of Encouragement after Esther McVile Returns to the DWP

January 15, 2018

Like everyone else, who really cares about what happens to the poor and disabled in this country, I am angered and dismayed by the return of Esther McVey to the cabinet in charge of the DWP. When she was in charge of disability, McVey presided over a system that saw tens, if not hundreds of thousands of severely ill people declared ‘fit for work’, and left without any means of support after their benefits were cut off. People like Mike, DPAC and other disability rights activists and campaigners have accused her of pursuing a murderous, genocidal policy against the disabled. For them, it’s eugenics by the back door. The disabled are being culled, but unlike the Nazis and their infamous Aktion T4 programme, with which Tory policy has been compared, they aren’t dragging the disabled away to be gassed in a hospital run by murderous doctors and uniformed, military thugs like the SS. No, they’re simply told their fit for work, and have their benefit cut off, so that they starve to death, or take their own lives through misery and hunger. Stilloaks has compiled a list of the victims, as have various other left-wing bloggers and activists. One artist even made a picture composed of the faces of all those the Tories had murdered through their welfare reforms.

If you want to know just how nasty McVile is, take a look at some of the recent articles Mike has written about her return over at Vox Political. And some indication of the depth of feeling against her is shown by the fact that someone altered her Wikipedia page a few years ago, so that it read that she was in charge of the genocide of the disabled.

It’s an utter disgrace that this woman, who was nicknamed ‘the wicked witch of the Wirral’ by her constituents, and who lost her seat at the last election, should come back into front bench politics.

And her return has resulted in very vulnerable people feeling afraid. Florence, one of the great commenters on this blog, said here in a response to a previous post, that she knew disability activists, who worked hard for 48 hours solid after her return, trying to stop frightened and distressed disabled people from committing suicide. That alone shows how disgraceful the Conservative party and their attitude to the disabled is. The Tories consistently deny that there is any link between their murderous and pitiless ‘welfare reforms’, and the suicides that have already occurred. Even though some of the victims have written suicide notes explicitly stating that it is. All you get is May, IDS, McVile or some other Tory spokesperson coming out with a flat denial, and then assertions that these reforms are helping people into work – they aren’t, but the Tories don’t worry about the truth when a lie is so much better. Meanwhile, the Daily Mail and the rest of the pestilential right-wing press tries to tell us all that everyone claiming sickness benefit, ESA or whatever, is a malingerer sponging off the British taxpayer. Florence said that she’d been abused when she’s had occasion to use her wheelchair. I’ve a friend in Cheltenham, whose wife is severely disabled, and similarly has to use a wheelchair if she goes out. He told me that they’ve been abused.

This shows how low this country has sunk under the Tories and the Blairites. One of our uncles, with whom our family used to go on holiday when Mike and I were young, had Parkinson’s Disease. This is a deterioration of part of the brain governing movement, and it leaves sufferers paralysed. There are drugs that can treat it, the best known being L-Dopa. Despite this many sufferers, including our uncle, was confined to a wheelchair. I can remember Mike and myself pushing him along esplanades on holiday with the rest of our family, and no-one made any adverse comments. In fact, I don’t recall my aunt telling us that there had been any problems when she had gone out with him, though she was embarrassed about going into cafes. But here again, I don’t recall anyone else saying anything at the time.

Britain has, thanks to four decades of Thatcherism, become more hate-filled and prejudiced.

But I don’t think people need despair just yet. McVey is a vile piece of work, as is Tweezer for appointing her. But she must surely be aware of how much she’s hated, and this will take its toll. Remember when the Gentleman Ranker, IDS, wanted to leave the DWP? He was whining about how everyone was blaming him for food banks, when it was Blair who introduced them. Well, it was, but only in a limited way for asylum seekers. Which is bad enough, but it wasn’t the wholesale replacement for state aid that it’s become under David Cameron and Tweezer. IDS was held in contempt by everyone concerned with disability issues and poverty, and it clearly got to him. Just like the outcry against Toby Young’s appointment to the university’s legislative panel clearly got to him, and forced him to resign. Even though Tweezer had given her backing to this far-right, eugenicist clown.

The Tories are vulnerable. Even those like IDS, who was boasting how he’d been a major in the army. Despite the fact that no-one can find any record of him actually being one.

People know McVile, and massively and collectively hate her. She isn’t going to have it easy, by any means. She may well be tougher than IDS – this is, after all, a man, who came into a parliamentary inquiry with armed bodyguards, just in case the peeps in wheelchairs and their carers in the public gallery turned violent. And who hid from demonstrators in Scotland in a hotel laundry basket. But enough people complain, criticise and attack her, it should make her feel uncomfortable, and hopefully bring her down.

And people are going to do just that. Just like they did when she was in charge of disability the first time round.

So don’t despair.
Get mad.
Get even.
And get her out!

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

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.

Future Possible ESA Space Launchers from 2005

March 26, 2017

The British Interplanetary Society published these designs for a possible future space launcher for ESA, the European Space Agency, in their magazine Spaceflight, vol. 47, no.5, for May 2005. Below it was a caption explaining some of them. This read

Artist sketch of several concepts considered under ESA’s Future Launcher Preparatory Programme (FLPP). On top left are the European eXPEriment Re-entry Testbed (EXPERT) capsule and the Intermediate Experiment Vehicle (IVX), a hypersonic re-entry demonstrator. Below are the Phoenix suborbital reusable demonstrator and two concepts advanced reusability demonstrators.

On the right are concepts for future operational launch systems – a fully reusable winged shuttle, a fully expendable launcher and partly reusable launch vehicle.

Maintaining a guaranteed access to space for Europe is one of ESA’s strategic missions. In order to prepare the future European launch systems, which might replace the current Ariane launchers when they will have to retire, ESA and European space industry are reviewing multiple concepts to ensure the continuity of European space transportation while reducing the cost of putting payloads into orbit.

In 2001 it was proposed the ESA Council should set up a programme to assess concepts for future European launchers. The result was the decision to set up the FLPP. This programme, kicked off in 2004, covers the further development of expendable launchers as well as the identification and assessment of technologies required to design partly or fully reusable launch systems.

I’m afraid I don’t know what, if anything, was decided about these spacecraft. For all I know some or all of them may still be under consideration. If Skylon does become a reality and begins flights from a British spaceport in 2020, I think it’ll probably stimulate interest in competing spaceplanes from the other European nations, such as the Hermes spaceplane in France and the Saenger craft in Germany.

American Politico Rick Santorum Calls People with Medical Conditions ‘Scammers’ Trying to Steal Health Insurance

March 2, 2017

In this video from The Ring of Fire, presenter Farron Cousins rips into Republican politician Rick Santorum for his mean-spirited, bigoted comments about people with pre-existing medical conditions. Santorum appeared on CNN this week, where he described people with these conditions as ‘scammers’ who were trying to steal others’ medical care. Farron points out that he didn’t describe how this was being done, when a scam is a deceit that is carefully planned and executed. He points out that people with medical conditions like diabetes or heart conditions aren’t scammers, trying to cheat others out of their healthcare. They are often people, who haven’t even spent a day doing anything wrong, who would otherwise find it extremely difficult to get medical care without Obama’s Affordable Care Act. How dare they take medical care away from those Americans, who don’t really need it! He makes the point that this is the common Republican strategy of trying to get people to turn on each other, as they’ve done with immigration.

This time, however, it won’t work. Ill health affects everyone, regardless of their political affiliation, Republicans and Libertarians just as much as Democrats, Green Partiers or whoever. By sneering at people with these medical problems, Santorum also shows how much he despises that segment of the Republican party who have them.

Cousins then lays into Santorum’s own massive political incompetence. He’s repeatedly tried and failed to get the presidential nomination. Cousins makes the point that he’s a stupid man, who says whatever comes into his head, who has so far been fundamentally lucky, but thinks it’s due to his own cleverness. With heavy sarcasm Cousins ends the clip ‘Good luck with your political career, Mr Santorum. You’re going to need it.’

Santorum is indeed no stranger to controversy. A few years ago his vocal opposition to gay marriage resulting in outrage gays and their supporters taking their own bizarre revenge against him. The submitted his name to the Urban Dictionary as the name for a substance too crudely biological to be decently mentioned in a family website.

It would be easy to dismiss Santorum’s comments as another product of the weird mentality of the American Right, which has no relevance to us Brits. But his mindset isn’t confined to him by any means.

It’s also very much the attitude of the Tories and the Blairites in the Labour party.

Mike and the other left-wing bloggers have pointed out that welfare fraud only accounts for 0.7 per cent of benefit claims. But thanks to the Tories and their media collaborators, like the Daily Heil and the Scum, the general public believes that it’s far more than that, and that roughly a quarter of all claims are fraudulent. This is how the Tories get their support for cutting down ESA, PIP and continuing with the wretched health assessments by ATOS and now Maximus.

And speaking of the work capability assessment, let’s not let Blair and his coterie in the Labour party off the hook for introducing it. Blair introduced it based on advice from insurance fraudster Unum and its head, John Lo Cascio, based on a piece of scientifically invalid nonsense, that considers poor health to be largely determined by mental attitude. Critics of the conference in which New Labour formulated its introduction of the tests and took the advice of Unum and other private health insurance companies on its implementation have repeatedly pointed out that the policy assumes that a large number of benefit claims are simply malingering. Blair and his minions even stated this at the conference in so many words.

The result of this is that there has been a massive rise in hate crime against the disabled. Mike last week reported the case of a young man with learning difficulties, who was beaten to death by a couple of young thugs. They seem to have thought their victim was a paedophile, but Mike also points out how much of their hate was inspired by the constant demonization of the ill and disabled by the Tories and their media.

And then there’s the role of the tests in creating massive poverty in this country. Mike, Stilloaks, Johnny Void, the Angry Yorkshireman, Kitty S. Jones and many, many other left-wing bloggers have posted up the names of some of the hundreds of victims of the Work Capability Assessment, who have died of starvation, misery or despair after being thrown off benefit. There’s even a whole website devoted to criticising it and the harm it’s doing to the sick and disabled: Atos Miracles. As Mike reported, another poor woman ended her life this week, thanks to the same malignant policy.

Mike, and Jeff3, one of the commenters on this blog, have repeatedly asked the rhetorical question whether behind all this there is a deliberate eugenics programme to cleanse Britain of its disabled by stealth, just as the Nazis started murdering the congenitally ill in the infamous Aktion T4 during the Third Reich. It’s a good question. Thatcher’s mentor, Sir Keith Joseph, stirred up controversy in the 1970s when he claimed that single mothers were a threat to British genetic stock. If it wasn’t for the fact that he was Jewish, he would have fitted right in with the Nazi party.

Santorum’s stupid, bigoted comments about the long-term sick and disabled being ‘scammers’ aren’t the exception. They aren’t the peculiarly twisted view of some nutty American right-winger. They’re bog-standard across the transatlantic Right. You find them in the Tories, their Lib Dem enablers, the Blairites in the Labour Party, and screaming at you every day in the page of the Murdoch Press, the Heil, Express and other tabloids. And this is having an effect. They’re encouraging a government determined to deny people support even if, or especially if, it kills them.

If you accept Santorum’s comments, if you support the Republicans in their repeal of the Affordable Care Act, or support the Tories and Lib Dems over here, or hanker for the return of Blair or one of his cabinet of horrors to return to lead the Labour party, you are supporting this policy of bigotry, murder and death.

Vox Political on the Tory DWP Chiefs Forcing Paraplegic Miners to be Continually Reassassed

December 21, 2016

Yesterday Mike also put up a story about a protest by Alan Cummings, the secretary of the Durham Miners’ Association, against the DWP’s insistence that two miners should reapply for their ESA benefit. The two men had been made paraplegic in mining accident 25 years ago, and had not worked since. Nevertheless, the DWP still wanted them to fill in ‘a labyrinth of forms’, according to Mr Cummings, who accused the Department of acting like Scrooge.

Mike states that a spokesperson for the Department has tried to fend off these criticisms by claiming that Personal Independent Payment is a ‘dynamic’ benefit, which needs to reassessed as claimants needs change.

Mike makes the point that this statement is inapplicable, as they were claiming ESA, not PIP. Furthermore, the men had not worked for 25 years, and so were obviously extremely unlikely to find work now.

The spokesperson also announced that the government was going to make sure that in the most serious cases, people receiving ESA would no longer be required to be continually reassessed. Further details would be announced in due course.

Mike concludes that this looks like another case of official harassment to deter the former miners from receiving benefit, before the new legislation was brought in which would prevent this.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/12/21/tory-dwp-chiefs-know-paraplegic-miners-cant-work-but-still-make-them-take-reassessments/

This follows all the previous cases in which the DWP has harassed and hounded severely disabled and terminally ill people with demands that they be reassessed for their benefit. Such as the incidents where amputees have been asked when they expect their missing limbs to grow back, as if they were the shed tails of lizards. Or found people in comas, dying of cancer, ‘fit for work’.

As for this new legislation, which will exempt the most extreme cases from reassessment, I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for it. The Tories have shown themselves to be inveterate, shameless liars, always making promises they have absolutely no intention of keeping. Such as Cameron’s claim that NHS spending would be ‘ring-fenced’ against cuts. Or May’s promise to put employees in the boardroom. Or all the lies about not privatising the NHS. I think this statement is another lie, and that the Tories have absolutely no intention of exempting anything from their policy of harassing people to deter them from claiming benefit.

Stephen Hawking on Why British Science Needs the EU

June 1, 2016

One of the many piece Mike put up on his site yesterday reported on Stephen Hawking’s statement that British science would be put at risk if we left the EU. Hawking was speaking as a guest on the show Good Morning Britain, and stated that the EU was good for British science for two reasons. Firstly, it allowed scientists and students from different countries to travel, thus sharing their skills, knowledge and experience. Without this exchange of personnel and ideas, Britain would be come isolated and remote from the centres of scientific endeavour. He also stated that British science benefited from generous funding from the European Union.

Another EU personality clash: Stephen Hawking vs Michael Gove. Who do YOU think should win?

Hawking’s views here are, unsurprisingly, exactly right. In fact, British intellectual culture has benefited from the exchange of staff and ideas from across the continent. Many, perhaps the majority, of unis today have teaching staff and students from elsewhere in the EU and the wider world. In the archaeology department at Bristol University four years ago, when I was studying for my postgraduate degree, there were staff from Greece, Portugal and Germany. There were also speakers at the regular postgraduate seminars from countries such as Austria and Belgium, apart from those from the other parts of the Anglophone world. These archaeologists reported on excavations they had carried out not only in their home countries, but also in places like Turkey, Egypt, Romania and the former USSR. Well some of this is no doubt possible without the umbrella of the EU, it’s made much easier with it.

And Britain does benefit from the international contacts the EU brings at a corporate and financial level. ESA, the European Space Agency, operates a system of a juste retour. Under this system, the countries that contribute the most funding to a European space project get the most contracts for it. And we’ve missed out on the benefits of closer cooperation with the European Space Agency in the past. For example, we could have been much more involved with the Ariane satellite launcher. This was developed by France from the remains of the ESRO project to build a European launch vehicle. We developed our own launcher too, Black Knight, which successfully launched a British satellite in the 1970s, but was cancelled after its first mission. We could have had a place, or many more places for our satellites, aboard Ariane. Instead, some Whitehall mandarin decided that we should instead throw in our lot with the Americans’ space shuttle. Well, we suffered there, not just because of the horrific engineering problems with that space vessel, which resulted in the deaths of the crew of the Challenger and more recent fatalities. We also suffered because the launch of our satellites depended on whether there was space left over after the Americans had filled it with the experiments they wanted for their missions. Meanwhile, Ariane, quietly and successfully, carried other countries’ experiments and satellites into orbit, while we waited for the goodwill of the Americans.

And Ariane itself, the rocket launcher, is excellent value for money. It costs the same as the Space Shuttle to launch a satellite, but that’s only because the Space Shuttle was heavily subsidised by the US government. If you’re looking for something that justifies itself according to free market ideology, then it’s probably Ariane you’d go for.

Much of the cutting-edge, gosh-wow science that science educators love, because it captures young minds, like space, atomic physics and so on, is very expensive. I doubt whether the UK on its own could bear the cost of building a particle accelerator the size of CERN, or its rivals in America. So CERN was the result of collaboration between different European nations. And the importance of international contacts and intellectual mobility between countries is also underscored by the initial post-War success of American atomic physics. The Americans were able to build such huge nuclear reactors and accelerators, not just because they had the vast financial resources to afford them, but also because they benefited from the influx of all the scientists and engineers the Nazis had chased out of Central Europe.

Mike, following one of his esteemed commenters, asks who people should believe about science and Brexit, Stephen Hawking, or Michael Gove? Really, you don’t have to have read A Brief History of Time or understand the intricacies of N-dimensional String Theory to know the answer to that one. It’s definitely going to be Hawking.