Posts Tagged ‘‘Fitness for Work’ Tests’

Shaw on Imperialism: Exploitation Abroad, Poverty and Unemployment at Home

May 13, 2020

As I may have already said, I’ve been reading George Bernard Shaw’s The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism, Capitalism, Sovietism and Fascism. It’s a brilliant book, in which the great Fabian playwright attacks and exposes the contradictions, flaws, poverty and inequality in capitalism and argues for a gradual, socialist transformation of society through nationalisation and the equalisation of incomes. Although it was written between 1924 and 1928 some of the topics Shaw covers are still acutely relevant. He argues for the nationalisation of the banks because private bankers have caused massive financial problems and concentrate so much on big business that small businessmen and women suffer through lack of funds. He also shows how the extremely wealthy should have their incomes reduced, because instead of doing anything genuinely productive with their money they simply hoard it. And that means sending it overseas. This is an acute problem now, with the super-rich hoarding their money unspent in offshore tax havens, instead of properly paying their fair share to build up the country’s health service and infrastructure.

Shaw is also acutely critical of imperialism for the same reason. He is not against imperialism per se. Indeed, he states that it would be admirable if we really had taken over the different lands of the empire for the benefit of the indigenous peoples. But we hadn’t. We’d taken them over purely for the enrichment of the capitalists through the exploitation of their non-White inhabitants.

The process, according to Shaw, began with the arrival of a single British trading ship. This was fine on its own, but others also arrived. Soon a trading post was set up, and then the merchants behind the trade demanded the entire country’s annexation. Capitalism preferred to fund socially destructive enterprises, like gin, rather than the socially useful, like lighthouses, which had to be set up and managed by the government. The market for gin had been saturated, and so the capitalists had proceeded to look abroad for more profits for the gin trade. And once a country was conquered and incorporated into the empire, its Black inhabitants were forced into commercial labour unprotected by legislation, like the Factory Acts, that protected British workers.

These overworked, underpaid, exploited colonial workers were able to produce goods that undercut those of domestic, British manufacturers. As a result, British businesses were going bankrupt and British workers laid off, except for those in the service industries for the extremely wealthy. The great mill and factory towns of the north and midlands were declining in favour of places for the genteel rich, like Bournemouth.

Ordinary working people couldn’t starve, as the capitalist class had grudgingly allowed the establishment of the dole following the mass unemployment that followed the First World War. But there weren’t any jobs for them. This was why the British government was encouraging them to emigrate, promising to pay £12 of the £15 fare to Australia if the worker would provide £3 him- or herself.

Now Shaw’s description of the foundation and expansion of the empire is obviously over-simplified, but nevertheless contains more than a grain of truth. Both Fiji and New Zealand were annexed because they had suffered an influx of White settlers through trading ships. The people arguing for their annexation, however, did so because they were opposed to the indigenous peoples’ exploitation. The White settlers in Fiji were aiming to set up a government for Whites with an indigenous king, Cakobau, as puppet ruler to give it a spurious legitimacy. More enlightened colonists therefore persuaded Cadobau and his government to approach Britain and ask for annexation in order to prevent the dispossession and enslavement of indigenous Fijians. In New Zealand the request for annexation was made by Christian ministers, who were afraid that the country would be conquered for Roman Catholicism by France on the one hand, and that the whalers and other traders who had already settled there would destroy and exploit the Maoris through alcohol, prostitution and guns.

And the enslavement and exploitation of the indigenous peoples certainly occurred. Apart from enslavement and dispossession of the Amerindians and then Black Africans in the first phase of British imperialism from the 17th century to the end of the 18th, when the British empire expanded again from the early 19th century onward, it frequently did so under the pretext of destroying the slave trade. However, once we were in possession of those territories, indigenous slavery was frequently tolerated. Moreover, British colonists often used forced labour to build up their plantations and businesses. This occurred around about the time Shaw was writing in Malawi. When slavery was outlawed in the British empire in 1837, the planters replaced it with nominally free indentured Indian labourers, who were worked in conditions so atrocious in the notorious ‘coolie trade’ that it was denounced as ‘a new system of slavery’.

The British government had also been encouraging its poor and unemployed to emigrate to its colonies as well as the US in what historians call social imperialism from about the 1870s onwards.

Reading this passage, however, it struck me that the situation has changed somewhat in the last 90 or so years. Britain is no longer exporting its surplus labour. All the countries around the world now have strict policies regarding emigration, and the developed, White majority countries of Canada, New Zealand and Australia are busy taking in migrants from the developing world, like Britain and the rest of the West.

But the super rich have found a way to surreptitiously go back on their early policy of providing welfare benefits for the unemployed. Through the wretched welfare reforms introduced by Iain Duncan Smith and other Tory scumbags, they’ve torn holes in the welfare safety net with benefit sanctions, fitness to work tests and a five week waiting period. The result is that the unemployed and disabled are starving to death. And those that aren’t are frequently prevented from doing so only through food banks and private charity. This has been changed somewhat with the expansion of welfare payments for workers on furlough and food packages for the vulnerable during the lockdown, but this is intended only to be a temporary measure.

I can remember when globalisation first began in the 1990s. It was supposed to lead to a new era of peace and prosperity as capital moved from country to country to invest in businesses across the globe. But the result for Britain has been mass unemployment. And while developing nations like India have massively profited, it has been at the expense of their own working people, who are now labouring for lower pay and in worse conditions than ever.

The empire has gone to be replaced by the commonwealth. But what Shaw said about it and the exploitation and poverty it caused is true of today’s neoliberal global economy.

Except instead of encouraging emigration, the Tories and the rich have found ways to starve to death Britain’s surplus workers.

Tories Have Fiddled the Statistics on Coronavirus Deaths – Is Anyone Surprised?

April 4, 2020

Last Tuesday, 31st March 2020, Mike put up a piece reporting how the Office for National Statistics had caught the Tories fiddling the figures for the numbers of deaths from the Coronavirus to date. According to the government’s figures, the number of dead up to March 20th, the cut off date for the ONS figures, stood at 120. However, they achieved this figure by only counting deaths in hospitals. When the ONS factored these in, the real number of fatalities increased by 23.5 per cent or more, rising to 210. The official death toll at the time Mike put up his article was 1,408. But if the ONS’ estimation of the real figures is correct, then the real number of deaths was 1,739. This assumes that the proportion of deaths in hospitals has remained constant, but as Mike pointed out, it could be much higher.

Mike pointed out in his article that these stats are important, as they show that the government’s figures cannot be trusted. It also means that the government cannot be trusted when it claims that the spread of the virus is slowing. He was concerned that the government would be tempted to lift the lockdown prematurely, which would allow the virus a whole new lease of life.

Coronavirus: UK government death figures are FALSE

Mike wasn’t the only person smelling a rat with the government’s official Coronavirus stats. The previous Thursday, March 26th, Zelo Street put up a piece about how the government’s statistics had mysteriously changed as they altered the rules regarding how the deaths were counted. That Tuesday, the Department for Health and Social Care declared at 15.51 on Twitter that the number of people, who had tested positive for the virus, stood at 8,077 and 422 had died. But on Wednesday the situation appeared to change. At just past a quarter past two, the Department’s Twitter feed announced that the figures would be announced later that afternoon, but reassured readers that they were working hard to compile them. However, the figures were only released on Twitter at 2300 hours, after they had been given to the media. The number of people, who had tested positive was now 9,529, but there had been only 463 deaths in total.

Sienna Rogers of LabourList reported that it had been claimed that the government was changing the way it was releasing the death figures. The numbers of deaths reported may not be the same as the number of deaths that had occurred in the previous 24 hours, as family consent was now required to release the figures. Luke Cooper of the LSE called it what it looks like. He said that family consent was not required if the information was anonymised. This looked like the Tories were fiddling the stats. Chris Smyth of the Times then added that the low figure of the 28 new deaths that had been recorded wasn’t a piece of good news, but the opposite. There were now so many new deaths that the government had changed the cutoff time from 1 pm to 7.30 am. This was supposedly to give the government more time to inform the families and get the details on the locations of the deaths before releasing them. Zelo Street contrasted this with the situation in Italy and Spain, the two countries worst affected, where the hundreds of new deaths are freely reported to the media. The Street concluded that

‘We are told that there is bad news coming down the track; a new NHS facility is being built at the ExCeL centre in London’s Docklands; that facility, NHS Nightingale, has provision for thousands of beds and two morgues; individual reports of deaths are everywhere; TfL staff report scores of their colleagues falling ill from the virus; and the numbers dry up.

This is the stuff from which conspiracy theories spring. Government must come clean.’

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/03/virus-stats-is-government-being-honest.html

This, alas, is too much to hope for. The Tories are a party of liars – always have been, always will be. Their record on the unemployment stats abundantly testifies to that. When unemployment under Maggie Thatcher shot up to over 3 million – an unheard of record at that time, the Tories immediately changed the way the unemployment figures were counted in order to make it smaller. And they’ve kept doing it. A few years ago, when Dave Cameron was the latest malign presence squatting in No. 10, it was revealed that they’d changed the way the stats were collected once again. The unemployment figures were based only on those currently claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance. Which meant that the peeps, who were unemployed but ineligible to sign on, or who had refused to do so because of the humiliating way they were treated by the staff and the infamous ‘work coaches’, who ring you up at home to harangue you into getting work, weren’t included.

This is a government that prefers to hide embarrassing statistics. The DWP under another malign presence, the utterly vile Iain Duncan Smith, fought tooth and nail to stop Mike and the other great disability bloggers from getting the statistics for the number of people, who had died after being declared ‘fit for work’ by the government assessor, outsourcing company Atos. They stonewalled, tried to claim that Mike’s request was vexatious, appealed against the Information Commissioner’s ruling when he ruled in favour of Mike, and, when they finally had no choice but to release the stats, interpreted Mike’s request to give him a slightly different set of figures than those he requested. But these were damning enough, even so.

And the subsequent Tory leaders, Tweezer and now Boris, really don’t like meeting the public. They run away and hide from unexpected meetings and questions from the media. Tweezer’s appearances on the campaign trail were carefully choreographed with selected groups and closed to the general public. So were Johnson’s, who fled when confronted by someone he didn’t expect. Remember how he disappeared into a fridge when he was visiting a dairy in order to escape questions from a TV journo? And then we had the unedifying spectacle a few months ago of Boris and Cummings trying to divide the media lobby into inner and outer groups. The inner – who were all their loyal supporters – were to be rewarded by being invited to a press conference on Brexit at No. 10. That attempt to control the media didn’t work, as all the media, even those that staunchly support the Tories, immediately balked at such overt, cynical manipulation and walked out in protest.

The Tories are congenital, irremediable liars. No-one should be surprised that they fiddled the stats. They tried to hide the number of deaths of disabled people, who had been falsely declared fit for work. They’ve falsified the unemployment figures. It should come as no surprise that, as they have shown themselves incompetent and out of their depth at handling the Coronavirus crisis, they should be fiddling those statistics too.

And Mike is right. They are a menace. Boris dithered and tried everything possible to delay imposing a lockdown until it was too late, because he was too worried about the economy at the expense of people’s lives. And a sizable proportion of the Tory party and their supporters, like the noxious Brendan O’Neil of Spiked, Toby Young of the Spectator, Trevor Kavanagh of the Scum, still believe that people should sacrificed for the sake of the economy.

There is therefore a very real danger that the Tories will use the falsified stats to justify lifting the lockdown prematurely, and so starting off a new wave of illness and deaths.

Cartoon: The Dead Thatchers – Kill the Poor

April 3, 2020

And now for another of my cartoons, in which I try to express my outrage, anger and disgust at the Conservative party and their murderous, destructive policies. This one takes the form yet again of a CD cover or promotional poster for the totally imaginary band, the Dead Thatchers. I was inspired to invent them by the American punk band, the Dead Kennedys. Their angry songs bitterly attacked the economic and social conditions of Reagan’s America. One of their songs, which I’ve based this cartoon on, was ‘Kill the Poor’.

As you can see, the cartoon shows a firing squad shooting dead a representative selection of poor folks, that the Tories despise and have been killing for years, while all the while claiming to help them. Looking on are David Cameron, Theresa May and Boris Johnson, their eyes blood red. The people shot represent the disabled, the unemployed, single mothers, low paid workers and asylum seekers.

And as left-wing bloggers and activists like Mike, Another Angry Voice, Zelo Street, The Poor Side of Life, Diary of a Food Bank Helper and so many, many others have shown for the past decade and more, Tory and Thatcherite policies are killing the poor. The harsh regime of fitness to work tests and benefit sanctions imposed by the DWP, as well as cuts in the amount paid and a waiting time of five weeks from making the claim to first payment for Universal Credit, have resulted in an estimated 120,000 people dying from austerity. Over a quarter of a million people a few years ago were forced to use food banks to keep body and soul together. Millions of children and adults were living in poverty. And thanks to Boris’ incompetent, bungled and penny-pinching handling of the Coronavirus crisis, that’s all got worse. Much worse. Firms have sacked their workers, rather than apply for the government help to pay 80 per cent of their wages. The government has promised to pay 80 per cent of the earnings of the self-employed and small businesses, but this is calculated on whether they pay business rates. Not all businesses do. Some, which share a building, leave it to their landlord. Those firms won’t get anything. And the small businessmen who will qualify won’t get it until June. For many of them, this will be too late.

And don’t be misled. The Tories do hate the poor. They despise and revile anyone on benefits as a scrounger. They see them as biologically inferior, people who should ideally be discouraged from claiming benefits or even allowed to die, rather than become a burden to the rich. Boris Johnson, Dominic Cummings and their brief hireling, Andrew Sabisky, all have this eugenicist view. As does the wretched, loathsome Toby Young, who attended a eugenics conference alongside real anti-Semites, racists and Nazis. And then there are all the Tory and other right-wing hacks, like Brendan O’Neil of Spiked, Trevor Kavanagh of the Scum and others, who complain bitterly about the lockdown, because, like BoJob and Cummings, they believe old people, the disabled and the weak should be left to die rather than the economy be damaged. Thanks to this attitude and the decades-long campaign of vilification in the press, the British public thinks that 27 per cent of all benefit claims are fraudulent, whereas the true figure is something like 0.2 per cent. This hatred also extends to single mothers, of course. Tory minister Peter Lilley had them on his little list of people he despised, who he sang about as a pranced about the stage in a parody of the song from Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado at a Tory party conference back in the ’90s. And nearly two decades before then, in the mid-70s, Thatcher’s mentor Sir Keith Joseph declared they were a threat to our stock, provoking mass outrage at such a Nazi comment.

And of course the victims include asylum seekers because of the very long tradition of Tory racism, a racism that has led to their brutalisation by profiteering and incompetent government outsourcing companies like Serco in the detention centres. Not that the racism is just confined to asylum centres. A large section of the Tories is deeply racist, and particularly towards Muslims. They are also far more genuinely anti-Semitic than Labour. A few days ago David Rosenberg of the Jewish Socialist Group put up a piece detailing some instances of their anti-Semitism. This included an incident remembered by the former speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow. He was told by an unnamed Tory MP that if he had his way, ‘people like you’ would not be allowed in the chamber. Bercow asked him what he meant – lower class people, or Jews. The man replied ‘Both’.  But never mind, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis heartily loves the Tories and warmly welcomed Tweezer entry to 10 Downing Street. Mirvis seems to consider anti-Semitism as synonymous with anti-Zionism or hostility to Israel, so he and the rest of the Jewish establishment have precious little interest in combating real anti-Semitism when it comes from genuine Nazis or the right. Comfy little Tory supporters, they’re only interested in manufacturing spurious claims and smears against the left.

As for the low paid, they hate them because not only do they claim benefits, but, like the unemployed, the believe it’s their fault they’re poor. In their idea of capitalism, a version that has never existed apart from their imaginations, the free market rewards merit. If a worker is low-paid, then it’s their fault. They should either work harder, or actively find a better paid job. Even if, thanks to the low-wage policies they’ve imposed since Thatcher, there are none about. In that case, it’s just tough. The free market is somehow sacrosanct and inviolable.

Here’s the cartoon. I hope you like it, and, as always, please don’t have nightmares.

 

Iain Duncan Smith Denounces Plan to Introduce Universal Basic Income

March 30, 2020

Universal Basic Income, the scheme by which governments give a specified guaranteed income to all their citizens regardless of personal wealth or employment, has been widely discussed in recent years. I think some countries may already have such schemes in place, and there might be a programme about it this week on Radio 4. It was also one of the ideas mooted to help people out of their financial difficulties caused by the Coronavirus lockdown. Ten days ago, on Friday, 20th of March 2020, Mike put up a piece reporting that Boris Johnson was then considering the idea. And not only that, the idea had the support of some British industrialists, like Liam Kelly, the chair of the Baltic Triangle group of companies. Kelly said that the scheme wasn’t quite as radical as dropping money from a helicopter, but was a plausible solution to the problem of the present crisis. He said “It will help stave off the unprecedented economic challenges we face and protect us from another. This is a sensible fiscal stimulus and it’s time it went directly to the people, not just to the banks.” This might be a reference to one of the criticisms of the government’s financial bailout of the 2008 banking crash. The money went to the banks, who have carried on as before. Some critics have said that what Brown should have done instead is given the money to the public, so that their spending would solve the crisis the bankers had created. Who would have to face the consequences of the massive financial bubble they had created, rather than expect everyone else to bear the costs imposed through austerity while they continued to enrich themselves.

One voice, however, spoke against this scheme: Iain Duncan Smith. The pandemic has had a profound personal effect on some people. It’s brought out the best in them, as friends and relatives rally round to look after those, who are too vulnerable to do things for themselves like go shopping. IDS, however, has remained untouched by this. He still remains a shabby, deplorable excuse for a human being. In an article in the Torygraph stuck behind a paywall – because the Tories don’t let the proles getting anything for free – IDS issued his criticisms of the scheme. He blandly stated that the scheme would make no difference to the financial problems of low-income households and would not alleviate poverty. For which he provided no evidence whatsoever. He also said that it would disincentive work, and cost an astronomic amount of money. This is despite the scheme being budgeted at £260 billion, which is £70 billion less than the £330 billion Rishi Sunak has already imposed.

Mike says of … Smith’s appalling attitudes that they come from a man, who seems to believe that the solution to poverty is killing the poor themselves. Why else, Mike asks, would he have imposed policies that have pushed the vulnerable so deeply into poverty that many have died.

Mike also makes the point that he’s also trying to protect his own political vanity projects, like the Bedroom Tax, Universal Credit, PIP and ESA assessments, which would all become redundant with the introduction of UBI. Mike concludes

And he wants to ensure that we do not get to see the beneficial effects of UBI, even if it is only brought in for a brief, experimental period.

It seems clear that, while the Tories are claiming to be doing what they can in the face of the crisis, the evil that motivates them remains as strong as it ever was.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/03/20/coronavirus-trust-iain-duncan-smith-to-try-to-wreck-our-chances-of-survival/

This is absolutely correct, though it can be added that the Gentleman Ranker isn’t afraid of seeing his own political legacy discarded, but the whole Tory attitude to poverty and the question of wealth redistribution. The Republicans in America and the Tories over here hate redistributive welfare policies. The rich, they believe, should be left to enjoy their wealth, ’cause they created it and its all theirs, and the poor should have to work for their money. If they can’t work, or are poor, it’s because of some fault of their own – they’re idle, or simply don’t have the qualities to prosper in the meritocratic society created by unfettered market capitalism. And since Maggie Thatcher, Tory and Blairite welfare policy is based on the assumption that a large percentage of people claiming disability or unemployment benefit are workshy scroungers. Hence the fitness to work tests, in which it has been claimed that the assessors are instructed to find a certain percentage fit, because Tory ideology demands that they do. Even if in reality they are severely disabled, terminally ill, or in some cases actually dead. This also applies to Jobseeker’s Allowance and Universal Credit, and the system of sanctions attached to them. It’s all the principle of less eligibility, by which the process of claiming benefit is meant to be as harsh, difficult and degrading as possible in order to deter people from doing it. It is designed to make them desperate for any job, no matter how low paid or degrading. Or if they cannot work, then they are expected to find some other way to support themselves or die. The death toll from benefit sanctions runs into hundreds, and the total death toll from Tory austerity is 120,000, or thereabouts. And many of these deaths are directly attributable to IDS’ wretched, murderous policies.

If Universal Basic Income were to be introduced and shown to be a success, it would effectively discredit Tory welfare policy. The idea that state welfare stops people from looking for work has been a Tory nostrum since before Thatcher. But with Thatcher came the belief that conditions for the poor should be made harder in order to make them try to do well for themselves. I can remember one Tory, or Tory supporter, actually saying that on the Beeb during Thatcher’s tenure of No. 10. But these ideas would be seriously damaged if UBI were successfully implemented. It would also help undermine the class system the Tories are so keen to preserve by closing the gap between rich and poor through state action, rather than market forces. Which, indeed, have never done anything of the sort and have only created glaring inequalities in wealth.

Iain Duncan Smith couldn’t bear to see this all discredited. And so to stop this, he blocked UBI, even though it offered a plausible solution to some of the financial difficulties people are suffering.

Which shows you exactly how despicable he is, and how devoted to the maintenance of a welfare system that has done nothing but push people into poverty, starvation and death.

 

 

Cartoon: Iain Duncan Smith – Laundry Basket Case

March 5, 2020

Welcome to yet another of my cartoons attacking the Tory party and its odious ministers. They’re inspired by old Horror and SF films. In this case, it’s Basket Case, a bit of ’80s grue about a young lad travelling around America carrying a basket containing something unpleasant that kills people. It’s his deformed conjoined twin, and the two are on a mission to kill the doctors and surgeons that separated them. The pic’s also based on an incident in which IDS apparently hid in a laundry basket to hide from angry demonstrators. So much for the courage of the man, who once led the Tory party. He also once turned up at a parliamentary inquiry surrounded by armed policemen to protect him, just in case the disabled people and their carers in the public gallery turned violent. He’s a bully and a coward, who has killed tens, if not over a hundred thousand people, with his wretched welfare reforms of benefit sanctions and fitness to work tests.

As always, I hope you enjoy this bit of humour at the Tories’ expense. And please, don’t have nightmares.

 

‘I’ Newspaper: True Number of Claimant Suicides May Be Far Higher than Thought

February 11, 2020

Mike’s already covered this story about the National Audit Office’s criticism of the DWP over claimant suicides. Here’s the I’s report on the issue from Saturday’s edition, 8th February 2020, by Same Blewett.

The suicides of 69 welfare claimants have been investigated by the Government but the true scale of such deaths may be far higher, a watchdog has warned.

The National Audit Office (NAO) said it was “highly unlikely” that the cases completed by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) amounted to all those that could have been investigated in the past six years.

A failure to keep a robust record of investigations in the past and now failing to give clear guidance on when investigations should be launched were highlighted by the government watchdog. Only nine internal process reviews (IPRs) arose from communications with coroners; 19 were prompted by media reports while others were triggered by claimants’ families.

Figures also showed a steady rise in investigations, with the 21 cases investigated between April and November outnumbering the total of the previous two years combined.

“It is highly unlikely that the 69 cases the Department has investigated represents the number of cases it could hvae investigated in the past six years,” the report said.

A DWP spokeswoman said the department was taking the findings “extremely seriously”.

I’ve no doubt that the number of suicides is higher, much higher. But the DWP hasn’t taken them seriously. Or rather, it has, but only as a threat to their policy of culling the sick and the poor. The department did everything it could to dodge having to give the stats to Mike on the number of people, who died after being found fit for work by ATOS. And it persistently denied there was a link between its policy of sanctions and throwing the disabled off their benefits through highly contrived and falsified test results and the suicides of their victims. They even denied it when the evidence was there for all to see in suicide notes left by those victims, in which they blamed DWP polices.

Now Mike reports that yesterday the DWP made a series of pledges, promising that it would learn from the NAO’s report and put in place measures to investigate ‘customer’ experiences and improve procedures, as well as internal communications so that staff are aware of the processes for reporting a suicide.

But Mike states that he has absolutely no faith in all this, as we’ve heard it all before.

And we have. The DWP under the Tories won’t do anything. It will carry on killing people, because the Tories want it to. And every time it gets caught out, it will repeat the same mantra about learning lessons and putting in place procedures to stop it all happening again. Until the next death that can’t be blithely waved away, when it will trot out these same smooth lies.

The Labour manifesto was right. The DWP needs to broken up, its current managers sacked, and the system returned to the structure and ethos of the former Department of Health and Social Security.  

Don’t believe DWP pledge to learn from cases linked to suicide – we’ve heard it all before

Therese Coffey: Another Tory Minister Who Thinks Food Banks Are Brilliant

January 30, 2020

Yesterday the Canary reported that the Labour MP Zahra Sultana, who called food banks a ‘national disgrace’, wrote to Coffey about the obscene injustice of nurses having to use food banks while fat-cat bosses are rewarded with massive payouts. Sultana was understandably upset that there were now more food banks in the UK than branches of McDonald’s and that the British boss of the fast food firm had received a settlement of £30 million after they had fired him.

She got this bland reply from Coffey:

I visited a similar food bank in my own constituency that has been working together with food redistribution schemes. Marrying the two is a perfect way to try to address the challenges that people face at difficult times in their lives.

Coffey also called the people using food banks ‘customers’, thus giving the misleading the impression that they had some kind of choice over whether or not to be there.

Sultana wasn’t impressed, and neither were other commenters on twitter. She commented

I just asked the Secretary of State for Work & Pensions about the gross injustice of nurses relying on food banks while the rich get richer.

Her response? She called food banks a “perfect way” to meet the challenges of those in poverty.

The Tories are totally out of touch.

The article goes on to report that BristolLive had also said that they’d been told by one volunteer at a food bank that four or five nurses had visited a food bank in one week.

The Canary’s article also criticised Coffey for not mentioning that food banks run by volunteers are supported through donations. They’re there to help poor people struggling to feed themselves and their families because of ten years of Tory austerity, welfare cuts and Universal Credit. And Coffey certainly wasn’t going to tackle the problem of bloated salaries for fat-cat bosses and widening inequality.

The Canary further reported that the Trussell Trust had stated in April 2019 that food bank use had reached a record high point. Between 1st April 2018 and 31st March the charity had distributed 1.6 million food parcels. This was a rise of 19 per cent from the previous year. About half a million of them were given to children.

Sabine Goodwin, the head of the Independent Food Aid Network, commented that Coffey’s remarks showed how food bank use had been normalised in the UK, and that they were now the fourth emergency service.

The Canary concluded:

The DWP is not fit for purpose. And Coffey’s latest response highlights just how dangerous it truly is.

See: https://www.thecanary.co/trending/2020/01/28/dwp-minister-thinks-foodbanks-are-a-perfect-solution/

This is just the latest scandal in which a Tory minister has made a bland, evasive statement praising food banks and ignoring the underlying problem of the massive suffering the Tories themselves have caused. I think the last one was Jacob Rees-Mogg, who was similarly blasted for his complacency. In fact, food banks and the volunteers who run them are doing an excellent job. I know that two of the great commenters on this blog are involved with those in their communities. That isn’t the point. The point is, they shouldn’t be needed. There should be no benefit sanctions nor false or falsified fitness for work tests throwing people who are too ill or disabled to work off benefits. The unemployed and disabled should be given benefits at a level that allows them to live properly, paid the moment they request and need them. They should not have to wait a few days, let alone five weeks, before receiving a payment. Working people should also be paid a decent wage, so that they also can afford to feed, heat and clothe themselves and their families.

But this is precisely what Tories like Coffey do not want to happen. They are dismantling the welfare state because they wish to relieve high earners – the rich – of the tax burden of supporting the poor. They originally tried justifying this with specious arguments about ‘trickledown’. The money the rich saved would trickle down to the poor as their social superiors opened new businesses, employed more people and paid higher wages. But they don’t actually do any of that. It just stays in their banks accounts, accumulating interest while they boast about how many hundreds of K they’ve trousered. I also believe the Tories actually like food banks because they see them as the British counterpart to the American system of food stamps.

They also have absolutely no problem with rising inequality. In fact, I remember them openly being all for it. Right at the beginning of the Thatcher project in the 1980s, various Tories appeared on BBC documentaries about benefit cuts and wage restraint raving about how wonderful it was. They believed that conditions should be made worse for the poor, as this would encourage them to ‘do well’. Thatcher herself was a fan of the less eligibility system of Victorian poor relief. Like them, she believed conditions should be made as humiliating and oppressive as possible for those on welfare in order to make them get a job as quickly as possible. He successors have weaponised it further, and now see it as a means of culling the sick and poor. 130,000 people have been killed so far by austerity in a campaign described by Mike and other bloggers and welfare commenters and organisations as the genocide of the disabled.

Food banks are not a perfect solution for people people at a difficult point in their lives. They are a severely inadequate attempt to ameliorate some of the worse effects of Tory austerity and welfare cuts. It is great that people are there, trying to do something for the poor.

But it is a glaring disgrace that they should be needed in first place. Coffee is a smooth, smiling dissembler trying to put a good front over utterly disgraceful, murderous Tory policies. She and the wretched government she serves can’t fall soon enough.

Why Do People Ignore the Suffering of the Disabled and Unemployed?

December 19, 2019

It’s just a few days into the new reign of Boris Johnson, and already he’s hitting those on the benefit, including and particularly the poor and unemployed. Mike put up a piece a few days ago listing all the reforms Labour would have brought in, which would have ended this. And it began with a heartfelt cry of despair by Mrs. Mike.

“Basically now we are all buggered.

“No hope left for me as I’m disabled and they’ve messed me about so much already.

“I don’t see any compassion for people like myself and all the others like me out there – and to all the ones who have already taken their lives because of cuts cuts cuts cuts n more cuts.

“I’m so disappointed in people in general because of all the hatred towards different groups of people.

“And it’s now going to get worse. Thanks a bunch.”

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/12/17/faced-with-five-more-years-of-tory-persecution-disabled-people-are-losing-hope/

Mrs. Mike is not alone. I know some readers on this blog with health issues were afraid that the Tories would win before the election result, and what it would mean for them. And this feeling is likely to be shared by the disabled, long-term sick and unemployed generally. So why have people ignored them, and voted for a government which actively persecuted them?

I don’t quite have all the answers, but here’s some ideas I have. Firstly, I think most people are unaware of the problems those hit by New Labour’s and the Tory’s welfare reforms have in making ends meet. And they almost certainly don’t know how biased and humiliating the ‘fitness for work’ tests and the Jobcentre can be.  Unless they’ve actually been in an interview with a disabled person, and see it all happen for themselves, or personally experienced it, it has no meaning for them. The newspaper reports are just that. Something that’s in the paper. And it’s out of their minds as soon as they turn the page.

And the Tories and Tory press have been very good at framing the narrative in Orwellian terms to hide and distort the truth. Left-wing bloggers and advocacy groups have pointed out that, thanks to papers like the Heil, the general public now believes that 27 per cent of welfare claims are fraudulent. The reality is that it’s only 0.7 per cent.  And if you talk to people, there’s always someone they know, who’s managed to work the system. Sometimes it’s personal, sometimes it’s just an individual or group of people they’ve seen on TV, particularly in ‘poverty porn’ shows like Benefits Street. This is used to maintain the attitude that the state really is supporting people and giving cheats more than enough money, and to dismiss the genuine suffering of others.

Older people may also be more inclined to dismiss or ignore stories of rising poverty because of conditions they endured when they were younger. I remember that even in the 1970s, when the affluent society supposedly was just beginning, it could be a real struggle for working/ lower middle class people. This was ameliorated in many cases through the greater sense of community, where neighbours and relatives helped each other out. That sense of community seems to have vanished as society has in general become more affluent and individualistic. And so some older people ask how the younger generation can really be poor and need to use food banks when they can afford luxury items like satellite & cable television, computers, mobile phones and so on. In fact, computers now aren’t a luxury item. I don’t know about primary schools, but some universities at least expect their students to write their assignments on computer. Computers are used to search out information for homework, and so for many school pupils and students, they’re a necessity. But nevertheless, the attitude among some people is that if people are poor, it’s because they’re ‘feckless’, to use Gordon Brown’s notorious term. They’re profligate with their money, frittering it away of luxuries which they never had in their youth. Being poor, to them, means being dirt poor and definitely not being able to afford the goods and services which are now taken as part of normal, everyday life.

This is reinforced by the Tory press, which seeks to divide those in work but struggling from those on welfare. The line pushed here is that the virtuous, thrifty but insecure are being penalised through high taxes to support scroungers.

The Tories and the compliant press are also devious in the way they present their reforms. Mike and others have posted pieces pointing out exactly what it means for the disabled when the Tories abolish the need for doctor’s note for decisions on whether a disabled person is fit for work. This means that the assessor can arbitrarily decide that a person is able to work based on their own prejudices or pressure from those higher in the administrative chain without needing to consult their doctor, who obviously may have a far better understanding of that person’s needs and disabilities than they do. It leaves disabled people vulnerable to being considered ‘fit for work’ and thrown off benefits when they are in no such state. But as Mike has shown, the headlines about it in the Tory press present it positively. The sick and disabled, it proclaims, are freed from the burden of having to make a doctor’s appointment. Less bureaucracy! Less hassle! I doubt many people like having to make medical appointments like that, but they have to be done. But the Tory spin is that it saves people from unnecessary trouble without mentioning how vulnerable this makes them.

And it’s through lies and spin like this that the British public is gulled into believing that the Tories aren’t destroying the welfare state, just making it more efficient. Giving more to honest claimants while weeding out the fraudsters. 

But there are very few real fraudsters, and the Tories are destroying the welfare state. Just like the Blairites also wanted. Fighting back means directly tackling and refuting the lies and poisonous attitudes.

130,000 people have already been killed by Tory welfare reforms. And if the Tories carry on, there’ll be at least a hundred thousand more. All denied by the Tories and their collaborators in the press, and justified by smooth lies and evil smears.

Labour Promises Inquiry into Deaths Caused by Tory Benefit Cuts

December 3, 2019

Mike put up a very encouraging piece last Thursday reporting that, according to the Disability News Service, the Labour Party will, if elected

“set up an independent inquiry into the deaths of disabled benefit claimants linked to the actions of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and its private sector contractors.”

This is excellent news. So far, an estimated 130,000 people have died due to victimisation by the Department for Work and Pensions due to the reforms brought in by the Conservatives and their coalition partners, the Lib Dems. Mike, however, points out that this is probably the minimum number, and the real figures almost certainly are shockingly higher.

This is exactly what Mike and the other disability rights activists and campaigners have been fighting for. Mike says he’s been doing so almost since he set his blog up in 2011. And he had despaired of any such inquiry ever occurring. The Tories would definitely try to stop it, just as they did everything they could to prevent Mike getting hold of the information on the number of people, who had died after being declared ‘fit for work’. Mike requested this information under the Freedom Of Information Act, as his readers will recall, and the government did everything they could not to give this information to him. Even going so far as to challenge his appeals to the Information Commissioner. Eventually they released some information, though they interpreted his request in a manner so that they could avoid giving him the precise information he wanted.

Mike states that he felt Labour would also do its best to avoid confronting the problem, and points to the ‘dark days’ when Rachel Reeves was Work and Pensions Secretary. But Jeremy Corbyn’s accession to the leadership of the Labour party has given him hope. Hope that could be fulfilled if Labour gain power. He states that under Labour, we might just see the people responsible for those deaths brought to justice.

He concludes

So if you don’t have any other reason to support Labour, do it for this.

The families and friends of the dead need this.

Vote Labour for justice.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/11/28/labour-will-hold-an-inquiry-into-all-the-benefit-related-deaths-overseen-by-tories-vote-labour/

And Trev, one of the great commenters on this blog, has pointed me in the direction of a piece by the Disability News Service reporting that a five year long investigation by them into the deaths of five people found ‘fit for work’ – Mark Woods, David Barr, Michael O’Sullivan,  Paul Donnachie and a woman known as ‘Ms DE – has provided them with ‘strong and clear evidence’ for the prosecution of the two ministers responsible for the Tory policies – Iain Duncan Smith and Chris Grayling – and the senior civil servants who share that responsibility – for misconduct in public office.

It’s a lengthy report, going into the circumstances of the deaths of these five people, four of whom killed themselves due to mental health problems and the first, Ms DE, starved to death. I’ve done no more than skim it and am not a legal expert by any means. But it does seem to be a substantial piece of research.

https://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/dwp-the-case-for-the-prosecution/

If this was possible, and actually went ahead, so that IDS and Grayling found themselves in the dock it would be utterly fantastic. I’ve made several comments expressing my utter disgust at their culpability, exacerbated by their flagrant lying and denials, that they should face prosecution for murder. They won’t, but this is clearly the next best thing, and perhaps the best we can hope for.

I’m not sure such a prosecution will ever get off the ground, for the same reason that attempts to prosecute Blair and George ‘Dubya’ Bush for war crimes for the illegal invasion of Iraq were frustrated. But I hope I’ll be surprised. Even if they aren’t convicted, the trial should be very interesting and extremely revealing.

In the meantime, if you want to stop the Tories killing more disabled people, who could be your friends, relatives or even you yourself, then I urge you:

Vote Labour.

Because Tory policies have killed over a hundred thousand victims. And will kill a hundred thousand more.

But your vote for Labour will help stop them.

Have the Tories Killed More Disabled People than the Nazis?

April 9, 2019

Some may be outraged by the question, but it’s perfectly legitimate. The Nazis were Social Darwinists, who believed that the social elite, aristocrats and businessmen, were biologically superior to those at the bottom of the social hierarchy. And like Social Darwinists elsewhere in the West, they bitterly despised the disabled. They were ‘lebensunwertigen Leben‘, ‘life unworthy of life’, and a danger to the racial purity and biological fitness of the German people. Other nations had attempted to prevent the congenitally disabled from breeding through eugenics legislation providing for the sterilisation of the congenitally disabled and mentally handicapped. 22 American states had passed such legislation prior to the Nazi seizure of power, and when the Nazis in their turn enacted such laws, they claimed they had done nothing new. But they went much further, setting up a programme of official euthanasia in which the disabled and the incurably insane were taken by the SS to special clinics, where they were medically murdered.

A similar attitude seems to underlie the Tories’ policies towards the disabled and the hated fitness to work tests. These are based on policies introduced by Blair’s New Labour, in that the disabled are required to undertake tests administered by private contractors like Atos and now Maximus in order to judge whether they are ‘fit for work’. Those that are, are thrown off benefits and left to survive on their own. And all too many don’t. As has been pointed out by left-wing and disability rights bloggers and activists, the tests are based on pseudoscience within an inbuilt assumption that people are malingering. Whistleblowers have also come forward to tell how there are targets set by the DWP for declaring a certain proportion of claimants well enough to work, even though they are anything but. Blogs like Atos Miracles and the satirical magazine Private Eye have reported incidents where people in terminal comas have been declared fit for work, along with others with serious physical and mental conditions. Amputees have been asked when they expect their limbs to grow back, and depressives suffering from suicidal thoughts have been asked why they haven’t attempt to kill themselves. People in real, pressing need have been thrown off benefits and left to starve to death. Mike at Vox Political and other activists and bloggers have fought hard  to get the statistics out of the DWP for the number of people, who have died after being declared fit for work. The Tories have attempted to refuse the information, and only very grudgingly released it. At the same time they have also consistently denied that there is any connection between their policies and the deaths of the disabled and the unemployed, who have suffered similar removal of benefits under the infamous sanctions system. This has been so even when people have taken their own lives, leaving behind notes explaining why they have taken their own lives and placing the blame firmly on the DWP’s iniquitous policies.

Yesterday John McDonnell, Corbyn’s chief ally, urged people to make their concerns about the hardships caused by the DWP and Universal Credit known to their MPs personally, especially Tory MPs. He believes that if MPs personally met people, whose lives have been made worse through the sanctions system and Universal Credit, MPs would have a greater understanding of their suffering than through the ordinary process of parliamentary debate.

Mike in his piece about it was sceptical, pointing out that the government shares the same fundamental attitude towards the disabled as ‘useless eaters’, and believe that any policy that cuts down their number is good for the nation. Which means that it allows them to give massive tax cuts to the very rich. Mike also points out that the same rich the Tories defend and promote are far worse parasites, as they contribute less to the economy and use more of the state’s resources, funded by the taxpayer. Many of the business elite aren’t responsible for establishing the businesses they own or run. They simply inherited them.

But contacting the Tories won’t do any good. They’ll simply spit out the same old stories denying that their policies are responsible for the suffering and death they have manifestly caused. Meeting the disabled and unemployed personally won’t do any good either, they’ll just nod solemnly, look concerned and then carry on as before. This is because the Tories want the disabled and the unemployed, who find it difficult to get work, to die. Mike feels that the only way the DWP’s reign of terror can be stopped is if a court case or public inquiry found that a reasonable person would conclude that there was a connection between their policies and the deaths of the unemployed and disabled. This would open the way to the government being prosecuted for corporate manslaughter, possibly of as many as 100,000 people, although this is a conservative estimate.

The only other possibility is through a general election which puts Labour in power, though this may not be possible. Although the public believes in Labour’s policies, they are being deliberately misled into thinking that Corbyn himself is a threat. Hence the spectacle last week of soldiers in Afghanistan shooting at a picture of the Labour leader. Mike concludes

The system is stacked against Labour, and therefore against anybody who is in a position of vulnerability; anybody who isn’t a vastly rich Tory.

So if you have a relative or friend who has to claim sickness and/or disability benefits, go and see them, and give them a lot of affection. They may soon be dead – and if you voted Conservative, it’ll be because of your vote.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/04/08/confront-your-mp-personally-about-tory-abuse-of-people-on-benefits-says-mcdonnell/

Mike here is absolutely right. The rich do use more state services than the poor, which is one reason why they should be charged a consequently higher tax rate. And the Tories have cut welfare benefits in order to give massive tax breaks to the rich. Who don’t pass the benefits of their increased wealth further down the social hierarchy in the form of wages increases or opening new businesses. It simply stays in their accounts. And they really do seem keen to kill as many of the poor and disabled as possible.

Which brings us back to the Nazi euthanasia campaign. This ran between January 1940 and August 1941, when public outrage led by the Roman Catholic aristocrat, Count Galen forced the Nazis to abandon it. By that time they had murdered somewhere between sixty to eighty thousand disabled people. See D.G. Williamson, The Third Reich (Harlow: Longman 1982) 68-9.

If the Tories are responsible for the deaths of 100,000 people through Universal Credit, benefit sanctions and the fitness for work tests, then they have killed at least 20 – 40,000 more people disabled people than the Nazis.

This is horrendous. I dare say that Tory supporters would reject the comparison, as those left to die are not being forcibly taken to places against their will, like the Nazis’ murder hospitals or concentration camps, where they are then murdered by SS soldiers or compliant doctors. They are just thrown off benefits to starve on their own, so that the Tories, with a clear conscience, can say that they had nothing to do with their deaths.

But they did, and are. And its a disgrace. It’s long past time the Tories’ murder of the sick, disabled and unemployed was ended. Ideally those responsible, like Iain Duncan Smith, should be personally brought to trial and charged with their manslaughter. But this is probably impossible. The best solution would, as Mike says, be a Labour government brought in by a snap election.

And the fact still remains that the Tories have now killed more disabled people than the Nazis, and that those who voted for them are complicit in this.