Posts Tagged ‘Foodbanks’

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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The Slum Past – the Tories’ Dream Future?

March 29, 2018

I found this picture of a London slum in 1889, the year Fabian Essays was published, in Deirdre Terrins and Philip Whitehead’s book, 100 Years of Fabian Socialism 1884-1984.

Protesters Chant ‘Tories Out’ at Jacob Rees-Mogg Meeting

October 4, 2017

This is a very short video from the Groaniad. It’s just over half a minute long, but it shows the protesters at the Tory Conference in Manchester disrupt a meeting held by Jacob Rees-Mogg. The crowd hold up placards and chant ‘Tories Out!’

I think this is just one of a number of protests that have taken place in Manchester against the Tories. I put up a brief video of one that was held outside their conference hall the other day. And I can’t say that I’m not happy that they held this protest in an event held by the Young Master. Rees-Mogg is being touted by some Tories as the next leader of the party, presumably after they dump May. The editor of Conservative Woman was writing in the I the other day, praising Mogg as ‘personable’ and ‘popular’. Well, she’s welcome to her opinions.

I have to say that Mogg in his coat reminds me of a figure from Andean folklore. This is the Pishtaco, described as a White or mestizo (person of mixed Spanish and indigenous heritage) man in a long dark coat, underneath which he carries a pair of long knives. This man kills indigenous children for the grease their bodies contain, which is used to lubricate the machines of European industry.

On the other side of the world, the Asian Indians had a similar story back in the days of the infamous ‘Coolie Trade’. This was the trade in indentured migrants from Indian and China to South America, the Caribbean and Fiji, to work on the sugar plantations to replace the enslaved Black workers, who had just been freed. Pay and conditions were appalling, and the immigrants were treated as slaves. There were also instances of kidnapping, and the British several times organised raids in India, where kidnapped Indian labourers had been forcibly imprisoned prior to their transportation half-way around the world. Furthermore, no provision was initially made for the migrant labourers to keep in touch with their families or send part of their earnings back home. Families were thus torn apart, with no word from their relatives, for years at a time. The imperial authorities responded to the trade by passing legislation regulating the trade, stipulating minimum living and working conditions and demanding that systems should be set up to allow the families of labourers to come with them, and migrant workers to send part of the wages back home to support their wives and families.

However, the kidnapping and complete absence of any news about some of the men, who had gone abroad to work had resulted in the rumour that rather than being taken to work on the plantations, the labourers were being taken to secret factory or workshop, where they were killed and their skulls drained of the cerebrospinal fluid. As with the Andean Amerindian stories about the grease from the bodies of murdered children, the fluid from their skulls was exported to Europe for use in industry there.

These stories are just folklore. However, they were a metaphorical response to conditions of colonial oppression and exploitation. Mogg, with his tall, lanky frame certainly reminds me of the Amerindian figure. And as metaphors they also fit the Britain under the Tories. We are seeing people exploited, with capped wages, zero hours and short-term contracts, welfare to work legislation designed to get the unemployed working for the benefit – but not real wages – for the big supermarkets, and benefit sanctions to make the jobless and those threatened with unemployment feel as threatened and as powerless as possible. And people are starving. There’s about 100,000 forced to use foodbanks as they cannot afford to buy food. Something like seven million live in food insecure homes. And three million British children this summer went without having enough to eat.

Meanwhile, the Tories have given massive tax cuts to immensely rich, cuts which Rees-Mogg has fully supported, while at the same time voting to increase the tax burden for the poor, and cut benefits. And people are dying. I’ve mentioned the long lists and articles on those, who have died in starvation and misery due to benefit cuts by Mike, Johnny Void, Stilloaks, DPAC and so many others.

So the legends of South America’s indigenous peoples and its Indian counterpart also metaphorically apply to today’s Britain. Our people are being exploited and killed by the Tories and their austerity campaign for the benefit of the big corporations. Rees-Mogg himself has always been perfectly polite when he’s appeared on TV, and I dare say that personally he’s probably entirely decent the way he treats others. But his party is responsible for starvation, exploitation and death through a set of policies he firmly supports and wishes to expand.

The protesters are quite right to demonstrate against him and his wretched, murderous party.

May’s ‘Shared Society’: Tory Spin for Corporatism, Exploitation, Poverty and Exclusion

January 9, 2017

Theresa May was due today to outline her vision of British society and her government’s overall strategy for reforming it. Today’s I newspaper carried an article by David Hughes, ‘PM’s ‘shared society’ vision to focus on those above welfare level’ laying out the expected contents of her speech. Commenters have already pointed out that her talk of a ‘shared society’ is just a scaled-down version of David Cameron’s Big Society. And that was just Cameron trying to use a phrase recalling the American ‘Great Society’ of Woodrow Wilson to justify a government strategy of more job cuts, privatisation and the destruction of the welfare state as idealism on the grounds that this would mean more people having to step in and surrender their efforts voluntarily to keep much of the infrastructure of a civilised society going. Like keeping libraries open, and food banks stocked, so that the victims of his government’s wretched welfare cuts only gradually starve to death on the streets.

And May’s statement that she intends to focus on those above welfare level actual gives the lie to all of the guff she spouts about ‘caring Conservatism’. She’s really not interested in the poor and those struggling to get by on benefit, but on those comfortably off, but are still finding it a struggle to get their children into the right school and so on. In other words, she’s targeting once again the Middle England so beloved of the Daily Mail .

And for all her talk about the days of laissez-faire individualism being over, this is basically just more of the same old, same old. It’s just another round of Thatcherism, dressed up in even more threadbare rhetoric. Thatcher’s ideal was that by ‘rolling back the frontiers of the state’, as she and her ghastly minions put it, private charity would step in to fill the vacuum left by the removal of state provision. And the people hitherto left dependent on the state would be transformed into sturdy, self-reliant citizens. It didn’t work, and the gradual destruction of the welfare state has resulted in massive and increasing poverty.

But let’s go through what the I reported May was going to say, and critique it. The article runs

Theresa May will insist the state has a significant role to play in helping to shape society as she sets out her vision to help people who are struggling to get by.

The Prime Minister will vow to tackle the “everyday injustices” faced by those who feel they have been ignored by West minster as part of her “shared society” vision.

Mrs May will use a speech in London today to mark a break from Conservative predecessors and argue previous administration focused too narrowly on the very poorest through the welfare system. People just above the welfare threshold felt the system was “stacked against them” she will argue.

Mrs May will say: “This means a Government rooted not in the laissez-faire liberalism that leaves people to get by on their own, but rather in a new philosophy that means Government stepping up.

“Not just in the traditional way of providing a welfare state to support the most vulnerable, as vital as that will always be.

“But in going further to help those who have been ignored by Government for too long because they don’t fall into the income bracket that makes them qualify for welfare support.”

Government and politicians need to “move beyond” the language of social justice and “deliver the change we need and build that shared society,” she will say.

“We must deliver real social reform across every layer of society, so that those who feel the system is stacked against them – those just above the threshold that attracts the Government’s focus today, yet those who are by no means rich – are given the help they need.

The PM will say her goal is to change the way the system works for those struggling to get by, facing challenges such as getting children into good schools or getting on the housing ladder.

“All too often in the past people have felt locked out of the political and social discourse.” (p. 7).

Now let’s deconstruct some of this rubbish. It’s pure Orwellian doubletalk, in which the words utter mean exactly the opposite of what they actually mean. I’ve already pointed out that ‘shared society’ is just her attempt to evoke the same imagery and idealism of Wilson’s ‘Great Society’, just as Cameron tried to do so with his shop-soiled talk about the ‘Big Society’. It’s also cribbed from all the rhetoric going round about insisting of ‘shared ‘British’ values’, to prevent ethnic minorities forming their own parallel societies. One important aspect of which is preventing Muslims from becoming radicalised and turning inwards against the host society.

Then there’s the issue of May’s talk about ‘help’. This does not mean what it usually does when Tories say it. Way back in the 1980s, whenever Thatcher cut welfare benefits, she justified this by piously intoning that it was more ‘self-help’. What she was doing was in reality no help at all, but she tried to make it sound virtuous and idealistic by saying that it was encouraging people to help themselves. Hence, whenever a Tory starts speaking about the help they’re going to offer, it means that in fact they’re going to cut the level of help currently available.

Her comments about her government not being rooted in laissez-faire individualism similarly have to be taken very carefully. It looks like she’s saying that her government will be more left-wing, in the same way that the Liberal party moved away from laissez-faire individualism in the 19th to embrace the first tentative movements towards the modern welfare state in the New Liberalism of the 1890s. But again, past history shows that this is not what is necessarily meant. The corporate state of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany were also reactions against laissez-faire capitalism, but from the Right, not the left. Modern corporatism, in which company directors and senior managers are given control of government departments and shaping government policy is also similarly a rejection of laissez-faire capitalism. In laissez-faire capitalism, the state is supposed not to concern itself with industry or the economy, except to act as nightwatchman to guard against crime and the emergence of monopolies. But neoliberalism is the precise opposite. It’s been described as ‘socialism for the rich’, in that the big corporations favoured by the government received vast subsidies and tax cuts. You think of the British rail network. Although private, we’re now giving it more money in subsidies than it received when it was nationalised. The Private Finance Initiative and Academy schools are also schemes for funneling taxpayers’ money into corporate coffers.

So when May opened her mouth to talk about her government not being ‘rooted in laissez-faire liberalism’, she was right, but meant the exact opposite of the way it sounded. It sounds left-wing, with help coming for the poor. But it actually means more money for the corporate rich.

If, indeed, she means anything by that at all. Six years or so ago I was reading a book by a British philosopher, who stated that neoliberalism had come to an end and that all the policies British governments had taken over from Milton Friedman and the thugs and illiterates of the Chicago School should be scrapped. Then, about three pages later, he was raving about how school voucher were a good idea and should be tried in Britain. School vouchers, in which the money the state would spend on a child’s education, are given in vouchers for the parents to spend on private schooling, is one of the neoliberal policies advocated by Friedman, and adopted by Pinochet’s Chile. The result has been more cuts, and the exclusion of people from poor backgrounds from higher education. This little example shows how, despite their verbiage trying to distance themselves from it, the Tory instinct is to promote privatisation, even while saying the complete opposite.

The claim that the Tories value the welfare state should also be treated with scepticism. They value it in the same way that Jeremy Hunt is passionate about the NHS. They’re profoundly against the welfare state. Thatcher wanted to dismantle it completely. Under her and John Major there was much talk of ending ‘welfare dependency’. Now they’ve realised that this type of rhetoric has had its day. Hence also the rhetoric adopted by Major of targeting help where it’s needed the most, and not wasting it on those not in need.

As for targeting that part of the population just above the welfare level, who are struggling isn’t anything new either. One of the issues regularly debated is the fate of those, who don’t quite qualify for state aid, who can be left worse off than those who receive it. And Tory rhetoric is also specifically directed at the embittered Middle England, who resent all the state aid going to those they don’t consider deserve it. Like single mothers, immigrants, the voluntarily unemployed, those fraudulently claiming disability benefit, and other benefit scroungers. As I said, May’s talk in this respect is directed to the type of people who read the Daily Mail, the Express and, indeed, the Scum. And in practice she’ll carry out the same shopworn policies of more privatisation, corporate control and cutting welfare benefits further. All on the pretext that this will help the middle income voters she wants to appeal to. For example, the Tories justified their attack on state education by claiming that the creation of schools outside the management of Local Education Authorities would provide parents with more ‘choice’ and raise standards through competition. Of course, it didn’t work, and their version of New Labour’s Academies collapsed. They also ended the system of catchment areas on the grounds that this would stop parents from being forced to send their children to failing schools. They would now have the opportunity to send their children to the school they wanted.

Now catchment areas were a real problem. I know many people in my part of Bristol, who did their level best to send their children to the local church schools because the local state comprehensive was terrible. But the removal of catchment has left the most popular schools oversubscribed, and so parents still face problems getting their children into them.

To sum up, May in her speech offers the usual deceptive Tory rhetoric and platitudes. She wants to sound nice and caring, but it really is just the nasty party doing business as usual. Only this time she has given something of a warning. She has said that she intends to focus on those above welfare level. Which means, stripped of her meaningless reassurances about the value of the welfare state, that those on benefits can expect no help at all.

Not that they ever could.

Don’t be deceived by May’s lies. Kick her, and the rest of her lying, vindictive pack out.

Your Unrepresentative Representative: Esther McVie in Wirral West

March 25, 2015

Mike in his series exposing the lies, hypocrisy and sheer malignancy of Tories in marginal constituencies has also turned his attention to Esther McVey. McVey’s views and the policies she embraces are so unpleasant, that she has been dubbed ‘Fester McVile’. It seems, however, that from the number of falsehoods she has spun to justify herself and her continuing punitive attitude towards the poor and less fortunate, that she should equally be called ‘Festering Lie’. And Mike goes on to list the lies she has told.

She said it was impossible to hold a cumulative impact assessment into the effect of government welfare reforms. Untrue.

She also lied, and denied the existence of a loophole in the bedroom tax legislation that meant the government removed housing benefit from people, who were actually exempt. At least one person, Stephanie Bottrill, committed suicide because she feared she could no longer support herself because of the reduction in her benefit. She also denied she knew anything about how many people were affect by the loophole. Mike cites FoI requests that show that at least 16,000 people have been affected.

It was Mark Hoban, rather than Lie, who came out with the next whopper. He claimed that independent reviews of the work capability assessment showed that the government was working to improve it. Studies instead showed that almost 2/3 were either incompletely or inadequately put into practice.

It’s on the subject of foodbanks that she really begins to lie. She claimed that the government’s austerity programme was due to uncontrolled spending under Labour, and not from the greed and venality of out-of-control bankers. She then declared that foodbanks were Labour’s ‘nasty little secret’, until Jim Cunningham set the record straight by pointing out that under Labour they were set up to support asylum seekers awaiting decisions on their cases, and not poor citizens.

She’s repeated the lie that the Coalition came about to solve ‘the mess we’re in’, rather than as the result of a cynical political deal by two parties desperate for power. She claimed that 60,000 people would go to a foodbank in 2014. Jim Murphy pointed out that that was an underestimate. It’s the number of people in Wales, who would be forced to go to them. In 2013-14 the minimum number across Britain was 913,138.

She attacked Labour for allowing five million people to be supported on benefits for being out of work, with two million children living in families without jobs, and claimed that children were three times more likely to be in poverty if they lived in households where the parents were unemployed. Another lie. The Joseph Roundtree Foundation found the number of working households in poverty has risen to 8 million, while unemployed households in poverty is now 6.3 million.

She boasts that the Coalition has got more people into work than ever before, but doesn’t mention that this is nearly all zero-hours, part-time or self-employed contracts that deprive workers of certain basic rights and pay low wages. She claimed that the tax cuts meant families were better off by £700 per year, but in fact low wages and the cost of living means that people or £1,600 worse off.

And when you examine her voting record, it’s pretty much the same tale that emerged with Anne Soubry, Nick de Bois and Kris Hopkins: she supported the cuts to all the welfare benefits, including benefit uprating cap, and legislation making councils responsible for their citizens ability to pay council tax, while depriving them of the funds to do so. She also strongly supported the Bedroom Tax.

She’s against tax increases for the rich, wants to see corporation tax cut, and also supports increasing VAT. She is also in favour of further military action overseas, but against strengthening the military covenant. In education she support the privately run academies and free schools, voted to raise tuition fees, and end state support for 16-19 year olds in education. She also supported the privatisation of the Royal Mail and Britain’s forests, and is against localism and the devolution of further powers to local authorities. She is also in favour of deregulating gambling and allowing rail fares to rise without government restrictions. And she’s also a supporter of the piecemeal privatisation of the NHS.

She was also one of those in favour of the police and crime commissioners, the secret courts, restrictions on legal aid, and the expansion of government surveillance. She doesn’t support equal rights for gays and same-sex marriages. She’s also voted both for and against a referendum on Britain’s EU membership.

Mike’s article begins:

There is little that this blog can add to the litany of outrage against the woman who has been dubbed ‘Fester McVile’ by commentators who are feeling kind towards her.

In a previous column, this blog stated that the employment minister, who works under Iain Duncan Smith, “has accumulated a reputation so bad that the only way she can hide the metaphorical stink from the public is by associating with …Smith himself, in whose stench she seems almost fragrant. But not quite”. How accurate those words are.

This is a woman who has lied to the public that it is impossible to carry out a cumulative assessment of the impact on the sick and disabled of the Coalition’s ‘final solution’ changes to the benefit system.

This is the woman who, in the face of public unrest about the prevalence of zero-hours contracts, announced that Job Centre advisors will now be able to force the unemployed into taking this exploitative work.

She has previously misled Parliament over the loophole in Bedroom Tax legislation that meant the government had removed Housing Benefit from thousands of people who were exempt from the measure – including Stephanie Bottrill, whose suicide has been attributed to the pressure of having to survive on less because of the tax. Asked how many people had been affected by the loophole, McVey played it down by claiming she did not know the answer, while other ministers suggested between 3,000 and 5,000. In fact, from Freedom of Information requests to which just one-third of councils responded, 16,000 cases were revealed. Esther McVey is a very strong supporter of the Bedroom Tax.

Mark Hoban stood in for McVey to trot out the lie that independent reviews of the Work Capability Assessment had identified areas of improvement on which the government was acting. In fact, out of 25 recommendations in the Year One review alone, almost two-thirds were not fully and successfully implemented.

Mike’s article is at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/03/24/will-wirral-west-divest-itself-of-esther-mcvey/

Read it and decide for yourself if this is a woman, who should be anyway near power and public authority.

The Groaniad on how Sanctions Leave Claimants Hungry for Months

March 10, 2015

Last Tuesday, the Guardian published a piece, Food banks: benefit sanctions leave clients hungry for months , reporting the findings of a study into poverty in Cheshire, Cheshire Hunger, carried out by West Cheshire Foodbank, the Trussell Trust and the university of Chester. The report, by the paper’s Patrick Butler on his Cuts blog, begins

A new study finds that vulnerable people who fall foul of benefit rules can be plunged into reliance on food parcels for up to half a year

Benefit sanctions can plunge families into financial crisis, hunger, and dependency on food banks for up to half a year, far longer than the period for which they have had payments stopped, according to a new study.

The study, Cheshire Hunger looked in detail at the reasons why people had been given food bank vouchers and estimated the length of time they would be dependent on food aid.

It adds to a growing body of evidence directly linking welfare reforms with food bank use, and comes as a coalition of major churches call for an overhaul of the “inhumane” sanctions system.

Overall, it found problems with social security benefit payments accounted for nearly half (47%) of referrals. The bulk of these problems related to administrative delays, benefit sanctions and incapacity benefit stoppages.

The length of client crisis triggered by negative interactions with the benefits system typically ranged between seven and 28 days, but in extreme cases up to 26 weeks. Crisis is defined as the estimated period for which a food bank client would be reliant on food aid.

The piece gives the average number of weeks claimants could lose benefits due to a number of causes. They included administrative and other delays, sanctions, changes in benefit and stoppages of Employment Support Allowance. It notes that the largest cause of people needing emergency help for food, after benefit delays and sanctions was low incomes and debt. These resulted in many getting caught up in recurrent debt cycles because of the need to use expensive credit.

The report also notes that there are few, if any safeguards for vulnerable people. It also records that the number of people referred to foodbanks increased by 14% in the period May-November compared to the previous year.

The report adds further details corroborating the findings of the Trussell Trust relating the government’s benefit reforms to the rise in foodbank use. It also indicates that the period in which claimants went hungry went beyond the three days’ worth of food provided by the foodbanks.

The article’s at http://www.theguardian.com/society/patrick-butler-cuts-blog/2015/mar/02/food-banks-benefit-sanctions-leave-clients-hungry-for-months. Go and read it, if you haven’t already.

The article demonstrates the increasing length of time the victims of IDS’ benefits reforms are kept hungry. It’s also good that it’s attempting to provide further evidence to rebut the Coalition’s claims that there is no connection between foodbank use and their reforms. We have seen time and again this falsehood trotted out by government spokesman, including Edwina Currie. As for the lack of safeguards, this was explicitly denied by Esther McLie when she was asked about a case involving a person with serious mental health problems. This is further evidence against both these self-serving lies by the Tories to deny their responsibility for the growing hunger and deprivation in Britain.

Welfare Weekly: Cost of Benefit Sanctions to Unemployed Soared 3,000%

March 10, 2015

Welfare Weekly has this article, Cost To Jobseekers Of Benefit Sanctions Rockets 3,000% reporting on the analysis of government unemployment statistics by the PCS union. It begins by describing the massive increase in the costs to the unemployed of benefit sanctions, the numbers forced to use foodbanks because of these, and, most worrying, the number of children, who were penalised last year by the new regime. It begins

The cost to job seekers of having their benefit payments stopped has rocketed by 3,000% under the Tory-led coalition Government, new figures show.

Analysis of Government figures by the PCS union reveals that the value of Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) payments sanctioned in the year to September 2014 was £355 million, compared to just £11 million in 2009/2010.

PCS says the shocking figure explains why benefit sanctions have been directly linked to a surge in food bank users.

The food bank charity Trussell Trust supported more than 913,000 people with three-days worth of emergency food in 2013/14.

The new research from PCS is published ahead of a Dispatches investigation to be broadcast this evening into the government’s sanctions regime.

The documentary will feature details of a new report from a coalition of major churches, which reveals that nearly 100,000 children were affected by benefit sanctions last year.

Under changes to the sanctions regime, the length of time sanctions can be imposed for has increased, with the minimum set at four weeks, rising to 13 weeks and up to three years.

The article quotes Mark Serwotka, the General Secretary of the PCS Union and TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady on the injustice and cruelty of the sanctions system. Serwotka remarked on the way the regime punishes and vilifies the unemployed for their inability to find work. They do not help them to find jobs, and should be scrapped immediately. O’Grady also comments on the failings and injustice of a system that has reduced 100,000 children to poverty, and which has become a maze in which even the most hard-working and desperate to find a job can be sanctioned for the most trivial infraction of the rules. She also criticised the system for the way Jobcentre staff no longer provide positive help, but merely bully both claimants and their frontline staff.

The article can be read at http://www.welfareweekly.com/cost-to-jobseekers-of-benefit-sanctions-rockets-3000/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+welfareweekly+%28Welfare+Weekly%29.

Serwotka has spoken out many times about the failings of the benefits system and its victimisation of claimants. Owen Jones quotes him extensively in his book Chavs. His and O’Grady’s comments are entirely accurate summaries of the present grim, degrading state of the benefits system. It’s a regime entirely based on the humiliation and degradation of the very poorest in our society, promoted by fake science and the fear-mongering and naked hatred of right-wing rags, particularly those owned by Murdoch and Dacre. And it takes its lead from the incompetent bully at the top, IDS, who seems to be trying to make up in vindictiveness for his manifest unsuitability for real power.

Fabian View of the Necessity of Press Regulation

April 20, 2014

Fabian Book Pic

I’ve posted a few quotations today from Peter Archer’s paper on ‘The Constitution’ in Ben Pimlott’s collection of papers Fabian Essays in Socialist Thought (London: Heinemann 1984). There’s another section from the same paper, which is also extremely timely, in which he advocates better regulation of the press to protect the public against propaganda and distortion. He believes this is necessary, as we needed a well-informed electorate with access to reliable, unbiased information to make democracy properly work. Archer states

The second, and converse, problem which has accompanied the expansion of the news industry is what, if anything, can be done about the abuse by large sections of the press of their opportunities for manipulating opinion. Those who wield a giant’s strength, in the absence of a saint’s conscience, are likely to endanger the very values which they helped to nurture (as the media are never tired of reminding the trade unions).

Electors cannot exercise their power of decision in a vacuum. Inevitably those who have access to presses and microphones will be in a position to control the supply of facts and ideas. And however high their standards, there are limits to the degree of detail or profundity attainable. The attention earned by any pronouncement will depend less upon its importance than upon its sensation value. Sometimes the sacred right to free speech will be invoked on behalf of the spiteful and the trivial. What is not inevitable is the veritable absence of control over standards of accuracy and fairness, which in the 1983 election probably reached an all-time low.

There is of course a whole range of inhibitions upon the right of the media to report information which has come their way. any civilised community requires rules relating to contempt of court, to defamation, to privacy and to obscenity. It is arguable that in some respects they are too restrictive, and the reports of Royal Commissions and committees accumulating dust on departmental shelves bear witness to the reluctance of successive governments to lift even a corner of the lid from this Pandora’s box. Almost certainly the subject will need to be treated as a package, but these statutory restrictions are sufficient neither to guarantee an informed electorate nor to protect the privacy of individuals. Every annual report of the Press Council offers fresh evidence of the need for a code of conduct relating to respect for privacy, the correction of inaccuracies and misleading innuendoes, and redress for unfair selectivity. There is also a need for a body with power to impose statutory sanctions. Indeed, the more responsible sections of the press (not only the ‘quality’ papers) have supported the suggestion. Of course, such a body would have to be independent of government. It would need to respect the vitally important freedom to publish facts and express opinions. But the existence of the Press Council itself demonstrates the need for restraints which go beyond the present legal categories. And in their absence, a democratic electorate is like a navigator dependent upon distorted instruments.

Well, the Mail on Sunday, along with its week-day sister and much of the rest of the press smashed its moral compass long ago. Murdoch’s journos are in the dock because of the phone hacking scandal, which has itself resulted in state regulation of the press. And today the Mail on Sunday printed a disgraceful and shameful attack on food banks, largely because their rise embarrasses the government’s claim people aren’t starving under their austerity programme. Mike over at Vox Political has expressed misgivings about the campaign on Change.org to have the journalist, who wrote the article, sacked. The man was simply given a job to do by the editor. This does not excuse him, but the real responsibility for the story lies with the newspaper itself, and it and its editor should be subject to extreme censure.

For decades the British press was allowed a large degree of freedom to print its lies and bile because both Tory and Labour administrations felt they could use its support. John Major felt that he should have moved to limit Murdoch’s power after the newspaper magnate abandoned the Tories for Tony Blair. And Blair was constantly worrying about what Murdoch and Dacre would have to say about any of his policies. As a result the power of the press has grown, and journalistic standards become even lower. And this vile, partisan attack on food banks is the result.

The Mail on Sunday should be ashamed of itself, and held to account for its lies and falsehoods for attacking the one institution that now stands between many people and starvation.

Cameron and Ceaucescu: United in Opposition to Journalistic Freedom

February 3, 2014

I’ve reblogged Mike’s and David Hencke’s pieces about the threat to journalistic freedom posed by recent government legislation that would force journalists to reveal their sources to the police. If they do not, then the police may seize their records, including their computers.

Make no mistake, once this passes into law, these powers will be used. There have been a number of cases already where British journalists have had their computers, notes and records seized by the police after they have released information that the authorities would rather have kept under wraps. The EU can be just as bad. One German journalist working in Belgium had his computer and documents seized by the police after he started revealing just how corrupt the European Union was. He was lucky. One of the female officials inside the EU itself, who started raising awkward questions about the amount of corruption, ended up falling from the top floor of a Brussels multi-storey car park in highly suspicious circumstances. The EU is, of course, one of the bête noirs of the Tory Right, but this hasn’t stopped the Tories from emulating them in this attempt to suppress free speech.

David Hencke’s piece about it reports that some journalists’ organisations are protesting about the legislation. The Angry Yorkshireman over at Another Angry Voice wondered how the Right-wing press will react when they’re at the sharp end of this piece of legislation. I have to say I doubt they will make much fuss at all, except if this is done by a Labour government. Then it will be seen as another example of their Marxist perfidy. The parapolitical magazine Lobster has several times stated that a number of right-wing newspapers, like the Sunday Times under Andrew Neil, were used as conduits for disinformation by the British secret state. And there are certainly a number of journalists all too ready to collaborate with the harassment and intimidation of their fellow journalists, who are not prepared to betray their sources to the authorities.

About a decade ago Private Eye ran a story about a female journalist on one of the broadsheets, who had been working on a story about the activities of the terrorist organisations in Ulster. This attracted the attention of one of her male colleagues, who made much about his supposed links to British intelligence. He approached her several times saying that his masters ‘wanted a word’, and demanded to know, who her sources were. When she made it very plain that she was not going to end her career as a journalist by betraying them, he threatened her with the words, ‘Well, we can do this the nice way, or the nasty’.

Now I’ve made my disgust at terrorism of any variety very plain on this blog. However, it goes without saying that to get a story, and give the public a clearer picture of what’s really going on, good journalists sometimes have to talk to some ‘bloody nasty people’, to use a phrase describing certain members of the British Far Right. A lot of intelligence work, supposedly, simply involves going through the papers every morning. It’s hard to see how a piece of legislation that allows the police ample powers to force journalists to reveal their sources can serve the interests of national security, as it would have a chilling effect on journalists investigating anything that remotely touches on terrorism, or organised crime or anything else that would remotely excite the interest of Inspector Knacker. The press would be simply reduced to reporting safe subject, and repeating the statements passed on by their governmental superiors.

Pretty much like Tass did during the days of the former Soviet Union.
Hmmm… now I know what the business model for the new, Coalition-friendly BBC is. Possibly German radio under the Nazis would be a closer analogy. I wonder if Oliver Letwin is going to change his job title to ‘Minister for Public Enlightenment?

Either way, the Coalition has taken another step towards totalitarianism with this latest assault on free speech and free journalism. Ceaucescu, the Communist president of Romania, was so paranoid that his secret police, the Securitate, held copies of the typescript from all the typewriters in the country, just in case someone, somewhere, was writing all that nasty samizdat stuff that got authors like Solzhenitsyn and Pasternak published in the USSR. It’s only a short step to that from the government’s desire to allow the police to force journalists to reveal their sources without the current judicial checks and balances. Ceaucescu also caused massive starvation within his own country by exporting most of their agricultural products to get hard currency, leaving his own people poor with little food on sale in the state shops. Obviously this is not at all like the glorious, Thatcherite administration of David Cameron, where there is plenty of food in the shops, affordable to all, except the unemployed, who have to rely on foodbanks and skips, in hardship and famine created by his welfare policies. But then, which apparatchik in any of the totalitarian parties had much time for the ‘narod’, the people, the lower orders?

It took centuries for Britain to develop a genuinely free press. It’s now under sustained attack. If this succeeds, then we will be back in the 18th and 19th century, when journalists were regularly sued and put out of business for publishing ‘subversive libel’ when they attacked government policy or its ministers. And this would suit David Cameron, Osborne, and the rest of the pukka-Etonian establishment now in power just fine. After all, you can’t have the proles rocking the boat, can you?