Posts Tagged ‘Gordon Brown’

Vote for Corbyn to Stop the Work Capability Tests

June 8, 2017

This is the text of another of my table-top pamphlets, this time against the notorious Work Capability Tests. These were also introduced by New Labour at the behest of Unum and other private healthcare providers.

These are not objective tests to assess who is well enough to support themselves. They are simply a callous, bureaucratic mechanism for throwing people with disability off the benefits they need to support themselves. These have included severely disabled people, including terminal cancer patients in comas!

This iniquitous system has been retained and expanded by the Tories – David Cameron and his Lib Dem lackey, Nick Clegg, and now Theresa May.

It is killing people. As I’ve mentioned far too many times before, about 600 + people have died in misery and despair after having their benefit withdrawn due to these tests. Stilloaks, Johnny Void, Mike at Vox Political and DPAC have put together lists and videos putting names to faces, to show the human reality of these statistics – whose mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters were killed thanks to the Thatcherite insistence of cutting down on welfare.

The number of people, who have died after having been assessed as ‘fit for work’ is well above ten thousand, though the true figure may never be known. Mike and the other disability activists, who tried to get the figures were blocked by IDS and the DWP at every turn when they tried to get them.

Jeremy Corbyn has also promised to end workfare.

So vote for him. Don’t let the Tories kill more disabled people under the pretence of saving money.

Stop the Work Capability Test –
Before More People Die

by David Sivier

One of the very worst policies introduced by various governments as part of their campaigns to dismantle the welfare state over the past decade has been the Work Capability Test. This was introduced by New Labour in October 2008 along with a new benefit for the disabled and long-term sick, the Employment Support Allowance, which replaced Incapacity Benefit. The Work Capability Test is intended to show if the person claiming benefit really cannot work. It consists of questionnaire, in which boxes are to be ticked in answer to particular questions about the claimant’s health and disability. 2Ten of these tests were on the claimant’s physical health, and another ten are on their ‘mental, cognitive and intellectual’ fitness. There may also be a brief physical examination. The tests are performed by medical doctors working on behalf of a government outsourcing company. This was given to the French company, Atos, but the company was forced to terminate its contract a year early in 2014 following public anger at the system’s incompetence and maladministration. The contract was then given to an American company, Maximus. The tests may be repeated as often as the JobCentre Plus decides. If the disabled person scores low in the tests, they are judged fit for work. They lose their ESA and are told to apply for Jobseeker’s Allowance.

The tests are based on a monograph, The Scientific and Conceptual Basis of Incapacity Beneft, by Gordon Waddell and Mansel Aylward, of 2005 and a succeeding work, Is Work Good for Your Health and Wellbeing? By Gordon Waddell and Kim Burton. They were also strongly influenced by a 2001 New Labour conference, in which Aylward was a contributor, Malingering and Illness Deception. These led in turn to the publication of a Green Paper in 2006, A New Deal for Welfare: empowering people to work – an independent assessment of the arguments for the proposed Incapacity Benefit reform. Both Waddell and Aylward were professors at the Unum Provident Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research at Cardiff University, which was funded by the American insurance giant from 2004-9. The Work Capability Test uses a form of Bio-Psychosocial model of assessment, developed in America by Unum Provident. This model of assessment is considered to have been devised by George Engel in 1977. In 2006 a paper produced by Professor Christopher Butler and his colleagues attacked the model as ‘wanting’ and inadequate. Waddell and Aylward’s 2006 paper has also been attacked and discredited by Emeritus Professor Alison Ravetz.

Unum, and pseudo-medical testing actually became part of the disability benefits system twelve years or so prior to the Waddell and Aylward’s paper, in 1993, when the-then Conservative Health Secretary, Peter Lilley, introduced tougher testing designed to evaluate whether claimants were totally incapable of work. They had previously been awarded benefit if they were unable to do their job. Lilley considered that this approach was to open to sentimental interference by doctors, and so set up an ‘Incapacity benefit medical valuation group’, whose members included Dr John Le Cascio, the second vice-president of Unum Corporation. Lo Cascio had recently been seconded to its British branch, Unum Ltd, based in Dorking in Surrey. In 1994 Lo Cascio was appointed to train the British doctors charged with carrying out the tests by the Benefits Agency Medical Services. New Labour claimed that the purpose of the Work Capability Tests has been ‘to get people back into work’. This was always a misleading claim. New Labour had a ten-year plan to remove one million people from the 2.8 million receiving disability benefits. Their Secretary of State for Health declared ‘We know that being in work can be good for your wellbeing’, echoing the title of the paper by Waddell and Burton. 13 Years before that, Lilley introduced the tests with the aim of cutting £2 billion from the benefits bill.

And Unum itself regarded the benefit cuts as a great commercial opportunity. In their report in 1994, Chairman Ward E. Graffam was enthusiastic about ‘exciting developments in Britain’, saying ‘the impending changes to the State ill-health benefits system heralded in the November 1993 Budget will create unique sales opportunities across the entire disability market and we will be launching a concerted effort to harness the potential in these.’

Atos immediately decided that three-quarters of those in receipt of benefit were fit for work.16 Between the introduction of the tests in October 2008 and February 2012, the Department for Work and Pensions made over 1.36 million decisions on whether to award ESA following the administration of the tests on claimants. It declared 794,000 sick and disabled people ‘fit for work’. From the very beginning, the tests were criticised as being vastly inaccurate, and the treatment of claimants under it as cruel and degrading. ‘We Are
Spartacus’, a network of disability researchers and campaigners, denounced the way claimants were ‘wrongly assessed, humiliated and badly treated’. In response to repeated requests by disability campaigners, the DWP finally released the figures for the number of people dying over 11 months in 2011 while in receipt of ESA. 10,600 people in total had died. Of these, 1,300 had died after being taken off benefit following the decision that they were ‘fit to work’. Some of the people, who have died, committed suicide in despair at having their income terminated. One of these was a 47 year old man, who took a drug overdose. Others experienced a deterioration in their mental health due to the stress of assessment. Between 2008 and 2014, there were 600,000 appeals. This constitutes a third of all assessments, and in 2012-13 there were 465,000 appeals, with a success rate of 39 per cent. In some areas, lawyers had a success rate of over 80 per cent overturning decision by Atos against the claimant receiving benefits. 60 per cent of those, who had successfully appealed had scored zero. That is, Atos had declared them entirely fit for work. In 2013, however, the Conservative government took the decision to end legal aid for claims for welfare payment, which meant that fewer people would be able to afford to take the government to court.

In America, Unum Provident was fined $31.7 million in a class action lawsuit in California in 2003 for running ‘disability denial factories’. Two years later in 2005, John Garamendi, the California Department Insurance Commissioner, fined the company $15 million, declaring ‘Unum Provident is an outlaw company. It is a company that has operated in an illegal fashion for years’. The insurance commissioners of 48 American states had made a settlement with the company by 2006 that required it to review 200,000 claims and pay a $15 million fine. In 2008 the American Association of Justice declared that the company was the second most discredited insurance provider in America.

Despite public anger at Atos’ conduct of the Work Capability Test for ESA, the government in 2012 awarded the company another contract, worth over £400 million, for assessing whether disabled people were suitable for the Personal Independence Payment that was scheduled to replace the Disability Living Allowance in 2013. The Disability Living Allowance provided the handicapped with up to £130 per week to help them look after themselves. This was mostly awarded to help people cook, wash, and assist those with mobility problems. In the three years from April 2013 to 2016, this is to be phased out and replaced with the PIP, which is designed to get people back into work. The government was determined to cut spending on the PIP by twenty per cent during these three years, after the number claiming DLA rose by 30 per cent to 3.2 million people between 2002 and 2011. This was expected to throw 500,000 people off disability benefit.

As with their administration of the ESA fitness to work tests, Atos has proved to be less than efficient in its administration of the PIP. Those applying for the benefit may have to wait months before being notified that they are entitled. The cancer charity, MacMillan Cancer Support, stated that there were serious delays in the approval of payments. As well as leaving the terminally ill without this benefit, it also meant that they were unable to claim other vital benefits with which PIP was linked. As a result, some were forced in their desperation to take out loans from payday loan companies, which have a truly exorbitant interest rate. The number of problems with ESA dealt with by Citizens Advice rose by 54 per cent from 2011 to 2012, when the bureaux dealt with 450,000 of them.

Paul Farmer, the head of the mental health charity, Mind, criticised the tests for failing to consider the effects of mental health on people’s ability to work. In an interview with the Guardian in 2012, he said

The system is based on assumptions that claimants need to be forced back to work, rather than supported on their own terms, and that those not well enough to go back to work are somehow perceived as scroungers. These attitudes only serve to further damage individuals’ mental health and increase the time until they may be ready to return to work.

Richard Hawkes, the chief executive of Scope, another disability charity, stated that the tests ‘should be more than an exercise in getting people of benefits. It should make sure disabled people get the specialist, tailored and flexible support they need to find and keep a job.’ The House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee condemned the tests, stating that the system was so flawed it needed to be completely overhauled.

Guy Standing in his A Precariat Charter states that governments have been able to cut benefits for the disabled far more than for other groups, because they are a minority and so there is likely to be fewer objections to their treatment and lost votes. He also recommends that any firm hired by the government to provide services for the disabled should be bound by three commitments. The first should be to the disabled themselves; the second should be to the government; and the third should be to the whole of society, as the rest of us could be next. The employment contract awarded to such outsourcing firms should include penalty clauses requiring them to compensate the disabled claimant directly when they do not award them the correct benefits. This compensation should be much more than the benefits the disabled person did not receive. They should also be penalised for their mistakes. This would be a start, but it is not enough. The problem lies not with the companies administering the tests, but with the whole system of tests itself. The cause of the problem is attitude of successive governments, from John Major’s Conservatives, through Blair and Brown’s New Labour and then the Conservative-led governments of David Cameron, that the disabled should automatically have their benefits reduced, regardless of the poverty and hardship involved. The goal should be to provide benefits to support the poor and disabled, rather than cuts intended to reduce the tax burden for the rich. The Work Capability Test and the poverty and stress it inflicts should be stopped. Now.

Labour’s Warning of the Destruction of the NHS under the Tories

June 6, 2017

I caught Labour’s election broadcast last night, and found it deeply moving and very informative. The short film featured interviews with doctors and other healthcare professionals talking about the current crisis in the NHS. One of the speakers was a senior doctor, who explained that the NHS is being underfunded by 3 per cent per year. This debt has accumulated to a shortfall of 10 per cent, and is expected to grow to 30 per cent. He and the other medical professionals made the point that this was part of the Tories’ campaign to privatise the NHS.

They made the point that the NHS is on the verge of collapse and privatisation. Over half of NHS services are now commissioned from private healthcare providers. There are record levels of people waiting for operations and increases in diseases such as cancer.

The senior doctor was visibly moved to the verge of tears when he described one boy, who had a serious illness, but the nearest hospital that could take him was in Scotland, despite the fact that he and his family lived in England. They thus had to make a four hundred mile round trip to visit him.

This section was followed by a teacher, a young Asian woman, talking about the way education too, and teachers, was being deliberately starved of funds. She and the doctor made the point that the Tories were only interested in running services for profit.

And this will include the NHS.

The doctor warned that if the Tories win another Term, they’ll destroy it.

This is exactly what Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis have been warning about in their book, NHS-SOS. As has Dr. David Owen in his book, and very many others.

Thatcher wanted to privatise the NHS, but stopped due to a cabinet revolt and warnings about how appalling the American private healthcare system was. Nevertheless, she carried on with a campaign to encourage 25 per cent of British people to take out private health insurance.

And it was Peter Lilley, the prancing pratt with the ‘little list’ of people he hated at a 1990s Tory conference, who set in motion the handing over of NHS hospitals and services for private companies like Circle Health, Virgin Healthcare, et al to run, because he wanted to open up the state sector occupied by the NHS to private industry.

This programme of privatisation has been carried on by Blair, Brown, Cameron, Clegg and now May.

Don’t believe May’s lies about increasing NHS funding. She and her party have lied so often before you can’t trust anything she says.

Believe Labour.
And vote for them, to reverse the privatisation of the NHS on June 8th.

This may be our last chance to save the NHS.

Sun’s ‘Red Tory’ Propaganda Shows Conservatives Scared of Corbyn

May 20, 2017

Remember when the Tories and their baying lapdogs in the press were all howling that Jeremy Corbyn was unelectable? They’re still trying to make this stupid and risible claim, but the increasingly hysterical puff pieces about Theresa May show that they really believe the opposite: They’re scared that he’s all too electable.

Looking through the newsagent’s yesterday, I glanced at the cover of the Scum. Its headline proclaimed that May’s manifesto showed that she was a ‘Red Tory’. They even hailed it as ‘Socialist’.

All lies of course. There’s nothing remotely ‘Socialist’ about it – it promises more privatisation, more cuts and more poverty and misery for the poor. Standard Tory policies. But it also shows that the Tories are very afraid of the Labour party manifesto and the return of real Socialism under Jeremy Corbyn.

The nonsense about May being a ‘Red Tory’ is just a rehash of the way David Cameron tried to rebrand his party in his campaign against Blair and Brown. It’s also the title of a book by his mentor, Philip Blond, which tried to argue that under Cameron, the Tories would be the true friends of the working class, citing episodes from the early 19th century when paternalist aristos like Lord Shaftesbury passed the Factory Acts and other legislation to improve conditions for workers in the mines and industry. He also spouted a lot about the Russian anarchist, Peter Kropotkin.

This was all part of Cameron’s campaign to present himself as being more left-wing than New Labour. He promised to ring-fence and protect funding for the NHS. He and the Tory faithful also went out and campaigned against hospital closures.

It was all a front, with absolutely no substance behind it, of course. Once in power, Cameron threw out all these promises, and did the exact opposite. He carried out with a programme of cuts and privatisation, including that of the NHS. This included Andrew Lansley’s Health and Social Care Act which removes from the secretary of state for health the obligation to provide healthcare, along with further legislation allowing the NHS to be broken up, sold off to private healthcare firms, and to charge for services.

Just as May is doing even now.

And to make sure that people didn’t remember how they’d been lied to, the Tories started removing their election pledges from their website, in a blatant rewriting of history, which would be familiar to anyone who’s read Orwell or knows a thing or two about Stalin.

Blair and Brown were easy targets for the ‘Red’ Tory approach, as they were neoliberals, who were also determined to privatise the NHS, and many of their policies were directly lifted from the Tories. Like the Private Finance Initiative to hand government infrastructure over to private firms to build and operate, including hospitals. It was easy for the Tories to pretend to be more left-wing than them, as the Tory ‘wets’ probably were. The Tories complained about Labour’s hypocrisy over these privatisations, stating quite correctly that they never dared to go so far when they were in power, as the Labour party would have bitterly and entirely rightly criticised them for it.

One in power, however, Cameron and the Tories changed their tune, and proved to be even more extremely right-wing than New Labour.

The return of this piece of shop-soiled propaganda under Corbyn conveys a rather different message, however. The Blairites and the Tory press were howling last year that Corbyn was a ‘Trotskyist’, leading dreaded Marxist radicals to infiltrate the party. The line is that his policies will lead us all back to the 1970s. And, in any case, Corbyn is ‘unelectable’. The British public don’t want his policies, and will prefer instead the neoliberalism that has kept them poor for the past forty years, as preached and followed by Thatcherite politicians like Tony Blair, Dave Cameron, and Theresa May.

But by trying to paint May as a ‘Red’ Tory with ‘Socialist’ policies, however risible this claim is, the Sun has tacitly admitted that they, and their Tory masters, are dreadfully afraid that Socialism and Jeremy Corbyn are genuinely popular, that neoliberalism is no longer popular as an economic and social policy, and that unless they try to paint May as somehow a ‘one-nation’ Tory, Corbyn is only too likely to get elected.

So let’s make their fears come true. Vote Labour on June 8th to end Tory rule and bring prosperity back to Britain’s real working people.

Vox Political: Eoin Clarke Shows How Labour Will Pay for Its Policies

April 24, 2017

Mike over at Vox Political has reblogged a piece by Eoin Clarke, who’s on Twitter as @LabourEoin, showing how Labour will pay for their reforms. It’s to counter all the critics, who complain that Labour haven’t shown where they’re going to get the money from.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/04/23/sick-of-people-telling-you-the-uk-cant-afford-labours-plans-show-them-this/ and follow the links to Eoin’s original article.

This also answers, in part, a deeper object that you’ll always hear from the Tories: That the country can’t afford Labour’s welfare policies. Of course it can. As Mike has shown ad infinitum, Labour kept well in budget during its time in power. The only period of massive overspending was when Gordon Brown had to pump money into the global economy after the banking crash. This wasn’t Labour’s fault. Labour had contributed to it by following the same ‘light touch’ regulation – in fact continuing the Tories’ deregulation of the financial sector – but the direct cause was the massive speculation and bizarre financial shenanigans of Goldman Sachs et al in Wall Street. I’m not a fan of Gordon Brown. Despite claims that he was ‘Old Labour’, I’ve seen no evidence to suggest that he did not share Blair’s neoliberalism. But Brown did keep us out of the Euro, and he did save the global economy.

What is clear that is the country and its people definitely can’t afford another five years of the Tories.

Thanks to the Tories’ privatisation of essential services, we are paying more for a worse service for everything from the NHS to the railways. We are paying more in subsidies for the rail network than we were when it was nationalised. And contrary to Tory claims, during the last years of British Rail when the network was operating under Operating For Quality, the company offered better value for service than any time since nationalisation or after privatisation. Since then, fares have been raised and services cut.

The same is true of the Tories’ privatisation of the NHS. Private healthcare is actually far more bureaucratic than socialised medicine, as the private healthcare companies charge for advertising and their legal department as well as administration. They also must show a profit for their shareholders. Thus, as the Tories have outsourced NHS services, a process that began with Peter Lilley and the PFI, costs have actually gone up due to the inclusion of private industry.

Not Forgetting the millions of low and unwaged workers, and the unemployed, Cameron and May have created.

There are 8 million people in ‘food insecure’ households, according to the UN. This is because Cameron and May have deliberately kept wages low, and introduced zero hours contracts, among other tricks, in order to keep labour costs down and the workforce frightened. As a result, we’ve seen millions of people forced to rely on food banks for their next meal. These are hardworking people, who have been denied a living wage, all for the profit of big corporations like Sports Direct.

Then there are the millions of unemployed and disabled, who have been thrown off benefits under the absolute flimsiest of pretexts. This has been covered by left-wing bloggers again and again. And tens of thousands have died from poverty and starvation. See the stats and biographies of some of those, who have been murdered by these policies, collected by Stilloaks, Johnny Void, Mike over at Vox Political, Another Angry Voice and so on.

It isn’t a case of Britain being unable to afford Labour. The country cannot afford not to have Labour in power.

Kenneth Surin on Media Bias, and the Tories Feasting while Millions Starve

April 21, 2017

Kenneth Surin, one of the contributors to Counterpunch, has written a piece giving his analysis of the obstacles facing Jeremy Corbyn in his battle with the right-wing media, the Blairites, and the Tories. He points out that the tabloids, with the exception of the Mirror, are solidly right-wing, or owned by the very rich, who will naturally be biased towards the Tories. The Groaniad is centre, or centre-left, but its hacks are largely Blairites, who will attack Corbyn. He suggests that some of this vilification comes from the fact that Corbyn is not a ‘media-age’ politicians, but speaks as ordinary people do, rather than in soundbites. He makes the point that the Tories have copied Blair in trying to promote a Thatcherism without Thatcher’s scowls and sneers, and so Labour has no chance electorally if it decides to promote the capitalist status quo. He notes that Labour lost Scotland to the SNP, partly because the SNP placed itself as rather more Social Democratic than Labour. As for Labour ‘rust-belt’ heartlands in the Midlands and North of England, he thinks their dejected electorates now find UKIP and its White nationalism more palatable. He also states that the less educated working class, abandoned by Labour’s careerist politicians, also find UKIP more acceptable.

He suggests that if Labour wants to win, it should have the courage to abandon Thatcherism, and also attack the millionaires that invaded the party during Blair’s and Miliband’s periods as leader. These, like the Cameron’s Chipping Norton set, are obscenely rich when 8 million people in this country live in ‘food-insecure households’. And he goes into detail describing just what luxurious they’re eating and drinking too, far beyond anyone else’s ability to afford. Artisanal gin, anyone?

He also recommends that Labour should embrace Brexit, as this would allow the country to get rid of the massive hold a corrupt financial sector has on the country.

See: http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/04/20/the-uk-general-election-corbyns-vilification-and-labours-possible-fight/

I agree with many of his points, but profoundly disagree on others. Promoting Brexit won’t break the dead hand of the financial sector over this country. Quite the opposite. It’s being promoted by the financial sector because it will allow them to consolidate their stranglehold on the British economy by making the country an offshore tax haven for plutocratic crims.

I also think he overestimates the electoral strength of UKIP. Since Brexit, they’ve been on their way down and out. Many of the people, who’ve voted Leave have since been aghast that they won. They only wanted to give the establishment a nasty shock. They did not really want to leave Europe. Also, UKIP at heart was a single-issue party. Alan Sked founded them to oppose European federalism. Now that the Leave campaign succeeded – sort of – they’re struggling to get votes, and have been going through leaders as though it was going out of fashion. They have tried to pick up votes through some very unpleasant racist and Islamophobic policies and statements by their leading members. This has contributed to a disgusting rise in racist incidents. However, UKIP’s electoral base tend to be those aged 50 and over. The younger generations are much less racist and prejudiced against gays. Please note: I realise that this is a generalisation, and that you can find racist youngsters, and anti-racist senior citizens. Indeed, it was the older generation that did much to change attitudes to race and sexuality in this country. So the demographics are against UKIP. Racism and White nationalism also won’t save them from defeat, at least, I hope. The blatantly racist parties – the BNP, NF, British Movement and the rest of the scum – failed to attract anything like the number of votes or members to be anything other than fringe parties, often with trivial numbers of members. One of the contributors to Lobster, who did his doctorate on the British Far Right after the 1979 election, suggested that the NF only had about 2000 members, of whom only 200 were permanent. Most of the people, who joined them were only interested in cracking down on immigration, not in the intricacies of Fascist ideology. Also, many right-wingers, who would otherwise have supported them, were put off by their violence and thuggery. One of the Tories, who briefly flirted with them in the early ’70s quickly returned to the Tory party, appalled at their violence. Since then, the numbers of people in the extreme right have continued to decline. As for UKIP, even in their heyday, their strength was greatly – and probably deliberately – exaggerated. Mike and others have shown that at the time the Beeb and the rest of the media were falling over themselves to go on about how wonderful UKIP were, they were actually polling less than the Greens.

But I agree with Surin totally when it comes to throwing out once and for all Thatcherism and its vile legacy of poverty and humiliation. He’s right about the bias of the media, and the massive self-indulgence of the Chipping Norton set.

Surin writes

The context for analyzing this election must first acknowledge that the UK’s media is overwhelmingly rightwing.

Only one tabloid, The Daily Mirror, avoids hewing to rightwingery.

Of the others, The Sun is owned by the foreigner Rupert Murdoch, known in the UK for good reasons as the “Dirty Digger”.

The Nazi-supporting and tax-dodging Rothermere family have long owned The Daily Mail.

Richard “Dirty Des” Desmond (the former head of a soft porn empire) owns The Daily Express.

A Russian oligarch owns The Evening Standard.

Of the so-called “quality” newspapers, only The Guardian is remotely centrist or centre-left.

All the other “quality” papers are owned by the right-wingers or those on the centre-right.

Murdoch owns The Times, basically gifted to him by Thatcher, who bypassed the usual regulatory process regarding media monopolies to bestow this gift. The Times, which used to be known in bygone days as “The Old Thunderer”, is now just a slightly upmarket tabloid.

The tax-dodging Barclay brothers own The Daily Telegraph.

Another Russian oligarch owns The Independent.

The BBC, terrified by the not so subtle Tory threats to sell it off to Murdoch, and undermined editorially by these threats, is now basically a mouthpiece of the Tories.

This situation has, in the main, existed for a long time.

The last left-wing leader of the Labour party, Michael Foot, was ruthlessly pilloried by the right-wing media in the early 1980s for all sorts of reasons (including the somewhat less formal, but very presentable, jacket he wore at the Cenotaph ceremony on Remembrance Sunday).

Every Labour leader since then, with exception of Tony Blair, has been undermined by the UK’s media. Blair’s predecessor, Neil Kinnock, was derided endlessly by the media (“the Welsh windbag”, etc), even though he took Labour towards the right and effectively prepared the ground for Blair and Brown’s neoliberal “New Labour”.

***
Corbyn, the leader of the Labour party, has been vilified ever since he was elected as party leader by a percentage higher than that achieved by Blair when he was elected leader (59.5% versus Blair’s 57% in 1994).

The disparagement and backbiting of Corbyn has, alas, come from the Blairite remnant in his party as much as it has come from the Conservatives and their megaphones in the media.

But while this is to be expected, a powerful source of anti-Corbyn vituperation has been The Guardian, supposedly the most liberal UK newspaper. Its journalists– most notably Polly Toynbee, Jonathan Freedland, Suzanne Moore, Anne Perkins, and Owen Jones– have done as much as Murdoch to undermine Corbyn.

To some extent this viciousness on the part of the Blairite faction, and its media acolytes, is understandable. Corbyn, who voted against the war in Iraq, believes Blair should be in the dock of the international court at The Hague for war crimes. The Conservatives, always a war-loving party, want no such thing for Blair, even though he defeated them in 3 general elections. Blair however is a closet Conservative.
***
Labour needs to go on the attack, on two fronts especially.

The first is Thatcher’s baleful legacy, entrenched by her successors, which has been minimal economic growth, widespread wage stagnation, widening inequality as income has been transferred upwards from lower-tiered earners, mounting household debt, and the extensive deindustrialization of formerly prosperous areas.

At the same time, the wealthy have prospered mightily. Contrast the above-mentioned aspect of Thatcher’s legacy with the world of Dodgy Dave Cameron’s “Chipping Norton” social set, as described by Michael Ashcroft (a former Cameron adviser who fell out with Dodgy Dave) in his hatchet-job biography of Cameron. The following is quoted in Ian Jack’s review of Call Me Dave: “Theirs is a world of helicopters, domestic staff, summers in St Tropez and fine food from Daylesford, the organic farm shop owned by Lady Carole Bamford”.

The Tories and their supporters are partying away as a class war is being waged, and Labour has been too timid in bringing this contrast to the attention of the electorate: the Chipping Norton set feasts on Lady Carole’s organic smoked venison and artisanal gin (available to the online shopper at https://daylesford.com/), while UN data (in 2014) indicates that more than 8 million British people live in food-insecure households.

“New” Labour did have a credibility problem when it came to doing this– Ed Miliband had at least 7 millionaires in his shadow cabinet, and another 13 in his group of advisers. So, a fair number of Labour supporters are likely to be connoisseurs of Lady Carole’s luxury food items in addition to the usual bunch of Tory toffs.

The austere Corbyn (he is a vegetarian and prefers his bicycle and public transport to limousines) is less enamoured of the high life, in which case the credibility problem might not be such a big issue.

Organic, artisanal food, holidays in St. Tropez, helicopters, smoked venison – all this consumed at the same time as Dave and his chums were claiming that ‘we’re all in it together’. We weren’t. We never were.

And remember – many members of the media, including people like Jeremy Clarkson, were part of the Chipping Norton set. And some of the BBC presenters are paid very well indeed. Like John Humphries, who tweeted about how he was afraid Labour was ‘going to punish the rich.’

As he is benefitting from a massive shift in the tax burden from the rich to the poor, it’s fair to say that he, and the wealthy class of which he is a part, are literally feasting at the poor’s expense. Furthermore, the affluent middle and upper classes actually use more of the state’s resources than the poor. So Labour would not be ‘punishing the rich’ if they increased their share of the tax burden. They’d only be requiring them to pay their whack.

‘Lib Dems Offer Strong Opposition to Tories’ – Who’s Farron Trying to Kid?

April 18, 2017

May’s just called a snap election for June, hoping that she’ll get a 2/3 majority in parliament. She claims it’s about Brexit, and that she needs to challenge the Scots Nationalists and the House of Lords, some of whom – naughty boys and girls – are undermining her, and she wants a united front in dealing with Europe. I’m sceptical about this claim. I think it’s also, as Ian Duncan Smith, the former minister for disabled death, has admitted, about beating the Labour party when they’re weak. The BBC pollsters have put Corbyn 20 to 21 points behind May.

There are good reasons for doubting these figures. Guy Debord’s Cat has written a long article, pointing out that polls are done by newspapers and Conservative interest groups, in order to manufacture public support for the Tories. They aren’t about presenting an objective gauge of how the public feels about politics, as a form of ‘manufacturing consent’, in Chomsky’s words. See https://buddyhell.wordpress.com/2017/01/16/how-polling-works/ Even so, I am terribly afraid that the British public will be taken in by the media and Tory spin, and vote for May.

And the lying has already started. Ignoring the lies coming from the Tories, every word of which is sheer is a carefully crafted falsehood, Tim Farron has started lying on behalf of the Lib Dems. He was in Cornwall campaigning. Speaking from Truro, he made the claim that, unlike Labour, the Lib Dems would offer ‘strong opposition’ to the Tories.

Eh? Who’s he trying to kid.

Remember the 2010 election? The first thing Nick Clegg, the leader of the Lib Dems at the time, did was arrange to go into a coalition with the Conservatives. He claimed that he had negotiated with Labour, but that they had refused to remove Gordon Brown as their leader. This was, apparently, one of his conditions to entering government with them. Not having got what he wanted, he then switched to the Tories.

Except it was lies. Clegg had already made his decision to go with them anyway.

Just like Clegg also lied about opposing tuition fees for students. Soon as he got into power with the Tories, he was in favour of raising them. Far more so than Cameron, who was prepared to compromise with him on this. But Clegg was determined to raise them, and so student debt was increased to an even more crippling amount.

The Lib Dems were also more than willing to continue the Tories’ and New Labour’s privatisation of the NHS.

They were also eager to join the Tories in getting rid of Habeas Corpus and setting up secret courts, so you can be tried in secret, using evidence withheld from your lawyer, for reasons of ‘national security’. Just like Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Russia.

And there was a whole branch of Farron’s party – the ‘Orange Book’ Liberals, all slavering enthusiasts for massive privatisation, the destruction of the welfare state and workers’ rights. One of the noxious pratts promoting this bilge was the Lib Dem MP for Taunton Dean, who came from a very privileged background, having grown up in Kenya and other exotic locales.

It might be that Farron has been a new broom, sweeping all this away. But I doubt it. The Lib-Dems claimed to have opposed the Tories before. They also claimed to be a moderating force against Tory excesses when they were in power with them. That was not true. And I doubt it is now.

Thanks to Clintonites, Massive Fall in People Calling Themselves Democrats

March 23, 2017

In this clip from the Jimmy Dore Show, Dore and his three co-hosts discuss poll research showing that the number of people calling themselves Democrats has fallen dramatically. In 2008 when Barack Obama was elected, 40 per cent of Americans called themselves Democrats. Now, in March 2017, it’s only 25 per cent. The number of people calling themselves ‘Independents’ however has risen to 44 per cent. Dore makes the point that instead of automatically voting for Hillary Clinton and expecting her to work for them afterwards, the Democratic base should have made it very clear that they were not going to vote for her unless she did. He also suggests that Progressives wishing proper welfare reforms, worker’s rights and single-payer healthcare, should have considered voting for the Greens. If only 10 per cent of the people, who wanted Bernie to win the Democratic nomination, had voted for the Greens instead, then the Democratic party would have had to wake up to the fact that they needed to win votes there, and moved left. He also expresses disappointment with Sanders for staying loyal to the Democrat party and going Independent, where he could have stood a better chance of winning.

His female co-host makes the point that she is sick of the Democrats, because they aren’t doing anything for working, middle class Americans. Her fellows agree that the Democrats aren’t doing anything to challenge Trump, except to run Red scares and repeatedly claim that they’re fighting for ordinary Americans, when they’re just as corrupt and corporatist as the Republicans.

I’m posting this up not only to show how unpopular the corporatist Dems are in America, but also to refute the main argument and tactic of the Blairites in the Labour party. Blair modeled ‘New Labour’ on Bill Clinton’s ‘New Democrats’. The idea was to move rightward, away from the welfare state and the traditional Labour and Democrat bases in order to win votes from Conservatives in Britain and Republicans in America. This is the so-called ‘centre ground’ the corporatists in both Labour and the Democrats keep banging on about. Both the Democrats in America and the Blairites over here are absolutely convinced that elections can only be won through appealing to Republican voters.

This poll shows the opposite. It shows that rather than gaining voters, the ability of both parties to win elections has actually been harmed by their pursuit of Conservative policies. In Britain, the Labour party actually lost 5 million voters during Blair and Brown’s tenancy in Downing Street. The Labour party now is the largest Socialist party in Europe, and much of that is due to new members joining after the election of Jeremy Corbyn.

And, as the recent revelation about Rachel Reeves’ secret email shows, the Blairites in Labour are willing to do anything they can to keep Corbyn and his supporters out of power. They have shown more than once that they are prepared to split the Labour party, rather than have a genuine centre-left leadership.

Guy Debord’s Cat in one of his recent articles has argued that if all the left-wingers were to walk out and form their own party, the remaining Blairite rump would fade to insignificance. I think this strategy would be suicidally dangerous, but these polls show that it could happen. After all, there are enough disenchanted Democrats to make voting third party a possible viable option.

See: https://buddyhell.wordpress.com/2017/02/27/the-blair-murdoch-axis-and-the-lack-of-choice-for-voters/

I don’t want the Labour party to be split, however. What I would like is for the Blairites to get the message that their shenanigans are and will ruin the Labour party, and that they will never win an election trying to pose as Tory Party no. 2. Failing that, they should go and join the Tories. This is, after all, their natural home. The first thing Blair did when he got into No. 10 when he was elected was to invite her to tea. And the Blairite leadership of one CLP was so terrified of the Corbyn supporters winning, that they wrote to Conservatives and Lib Dems asking them to join to stop them.

The Grim Implications for Britain of Chelsea Clinton and her Book on Global Health

February 27, 2017

In this short video from The Jimmy Dore Show, the American comedian and his co-hosts, Stef Zamora and Rob Placone, rip into the New York Times for publishing a bit of non-news from Chelsea Clinton. She’s the daughter of Hillary and Bill Clinton, and the NYT saw fit to publish on its pages a tweet from her, saying that the she read Fahrenheit 451 in 7th grade, and it still makes her feel uncomfortable. It’s widely considered that Chelsea Clinton is being groomed to follow her parents into politics. That’s the message that Dore, Placone and Zamora got from this tweet. They feel it’s a puff piece for her. And so did several of the NY Times’ readers. One Mr Flugennock tweeted back that the newspaper should come off it, as ‘we aren’t going to vote for her’. Accompanying this was a photo of Clinton junior with the caption, ‘Mommy, your clothes fit me now.’

Indeed they do. Both Chelsea and her vile parents seem to be highly critical of state medicine. During her election campaign last year, Killary declared that single-payer healthcare was ‘utopian’. As Dore and the other left-wing American newscaster repeatedly pointed out, it’s a utopian institution that every other country in the developed world has, except America. And Chelsea seems to think the same thing. I distinctly remember her saying something sneering and dismissive about socialised medicine or single-payer health care a few years ago.

Dore, Placone and Zamora joke about the essentially vapid content of the tweet. Zamora commented that she also read Green Eggs and Ham by Dr Zeuss in the 1st Grade, and it still makes her feel uncomfortable about green eggs. Rather more seriously, Dore remarks on her comments seem to suggest that she expected to feel more comfortable with age about the book’s dark subject matter. Fahrenheit 451 is one of SF and Fantasy author Ray Bradbury’s classic novels, alongside The Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man. The book takes its name from the temperature at which paper burns. It’s a dystopian book, set in a future where a despotic government has banned literature and reading. In this world, firemen are people, who start firesm not put them out, consigning books and learning to the flames. Of course it’s a disturbing book. It follows the real life burning of subversive literature by oppressive regimes and movements, like Nazi Germany. It’s why Dore also makes a heavily ironic joke about not getting used to the Holocaust either.

The NY Time’s also mentions that Chelsea Clinton has also co-authored a book herself. This is Governing Global Health, an ‘unbiased’ book, which examines public-private healthcare partnerships around the world, and looks forward to them becoming increasingly important in tackling world health. Dore, Zamora and Placone miss the serious undertones for this, joking instead about its supposed connection to Clinton’s comments about Bradbury’s masterpiece. This is supposed to have disturbed her so much, she wrote a book of her own.

But Clinton fille’s authorship of this tome has serious and very ominous overtones for state healthcare elsewhere in the world, and most immediately in Britain. Public-Private Partnerships are basically the Blairite ‘Third Way’, which they in turn inherited from the Tories’ foul Peter Lilley. This capering bigot was upset that private enterprise was locked out of the NHS, and so created the Private Finance Initiative. This is where the state bales out and subsidies private firms for building and managing NHS hospitals. It’s more expensive, and so the hospitals built under it are fewer and smaller. Even worse, perfectly efficient and excellent state hospitals have had to be closed, so that Blair and the Tories could provide more lucrative work for their friends in private healthcare.

Blair took over the Clinton’s electoral strategy and their corporatist, anti-working class ideology and injected it into the Labour party. Bill Clinton’s campaign was based on rejecting the Democrats traditional base in the working class, and abandoning what little welfare provision there was, in order to win votes from Reaganite Republicans. And the policy’s continued under Obama and Shrillary. Chuck Schumer, the leader of the Democrats, famously stated last year that he wasn’t concerned if they lost blue collar voters, as for every one they lost, they’d pick up two or three suburban Republicans. This is the same attitude that infects Blairite Labour. Blair, Mandelson, Broon and Campbell targeted affluent swing voters in marginal constituencies, sacrificing the interests of the working class in order to appeal to middle class Thatcherites. The policy didn’t work, and is creating massive poverty. But the corporatist elite love it, and so the Clintonites in America and Blairites over here are still pushing it.

And just as Blair took over the Clintonite free market ideology, the same corporate interests that infest American politics also came over her to win contracts in healthcare, the prison system and other parts of the state infrastructure. Companies like the notorious health insurance fraudster, Unum. The American private healthcare companies realised that the market in America was in serious trouble, due to rising costs. There was an excellent article in Counterpunch a month or so ago, which reported that in some areas it almost broke down before being rescued by Obama’s affordable care act. With the market in America glutted and sinking, they’ve come over here to win contracts from our NHS. And our politicos have been stupid and malignant enough to give them to them.

I think Dore and co. are right. Chelsea Clinton is being groomed to succeed her parents. And as a believer in private healthcare, she does want to push the privatisation of our NHS for the profit of her country’s private healthcare firms. She has to be stopped. If she enters politics to push her vile agenda, it’ll be bad for America and terrible for Britain and our NHS. Keep her – and them – out of politics and out of Britain.

The Massive Crisis in American Private Healthcare

February 9, 2017

Mike’s published several articles this week on the continuing stealth privatisation of the NHS by the Tories. Maggie wanted to privatise the NHS in the 1980s, and successive right-wing governments have been gradually undermining it ever since, including that of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. But America’s private healthcare system is in an even worse state. Healthcare costs are rocketing to the point where health insurance is unaffordable to many American citizens. Before Obama passed the Affordable Care Act, 20 per cent of Americans could not afford their health insurance. Now that figure’s been drastically cut. It is still, however, only a palliative stop-gap. Trump and his goons wish to repeal it, leaving millions of Americans without health insurance. So now, about 58 per cent of Americans now want single-payer healthcare.

Russell Mokhiber has written an interesting article in Counterpunch, in which he describes a discussion with an American electrical contractor, who is a staunch advocate of single-payer. The article states that before Obama passed Obamacare, the American health care system was near to collapse. And despite Obama’s efforts, it still is. Mokhiber writes

“There was word behind the scenes that by the mid 2000s the healthcare system as a whole in this country was heading for the rocks. I’m talking about a full blown collapse. For those that studied the problem it is believed that when the number of uninsured people hits forty percent in any region, then the healthcare system falls apart. That is the number at which hospitals pile up unimaginable amounts of debt from uncompensated services. We were at that point in 2007 in many regions of the country. That forced the Democrats’ hand. Obama, lacking the guts, decided to expand the current system using the coercive power of the tax system and some government subsidies to pump up the system sort of like a blood transfusion. And to that extent his Obamacare system worked. But it did absolutely nothing to address the underlying problem.”

“What Trump does should be interesting to watch. If he guts Obamacare like he promises, we could wind up back in the same situation we were facing in 2007 in short order. I would say something like 2019 to 2020.”

“Based on that analysis, the single payer healthcare movement should propose a three year plan that would set itself up for action when the collapse comes.”

See: http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/01/30/single-payer-engineer-rips-duplicitous-democrats/

Forty per cent of the people in certain parts of America in 2007 were without healthcare, because they couldn’t afford private health insurance!

This is one of the reasons the American healthcare companies are all over here, trying to get our governments to privatise the NHS. The American healthcare market is saturated and collapsing, so the only way they can make even more profits is by destroying socialised medicine elsewhere. Like Britain.

Don’t believe the lying rubbish spouted by May, Cameron, Jeremy Hunt, or even Blair and Brown about how wonderful private medicine is. It’s rubbish. And if we allow May, Hunt and the other thugs to privatise the NHS, we can expect a similar massive crash in the quality of healthcare in Britain.

Do we want forty per cent of Brits to be denied healthcare, just ’cause they can’t afford the premiums charged by May’s, Cameron’s and Blair’s mates in the private healthcare companies?

Support Corbyn’s campaign to renationalise the NHS, and kick out the Tories.

Lobster on Blair and the Israel Lobby

February 9, 2017

On Sunday, Mike reported a story from the Skwawkbox, that Louise Ellman, the MP for Riverside, and Chair of the Jewish Labour Movement and vice-chair of Labour Friends of Israel, and her cronies blocked calls for an investigation into Israel’s influence in the Labour party. The Skwawkbox noted that the Jewish Labour Movement was notorious because of its links Havoda, the pro-apartheid Israeli Labour party, while the latter, Labour Friends of Israel was mentioned by an official at the Israeli embassy, who was filmed by al-Jazeera talking about how he set up pro-Israel groups within the Labour party. And both organisations are behind the discredited, but still persisting, slurs about anti-Semitism in the Labour party.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/02/05/jewish-labour-movement-chair-and-exec-block-call-for-investigation-into-israeli-interference/

Ellman and her friends are staunch Zionists, so of course she’s going to do whatever she can to stop an inquiry into the grubby activities of her organisations in manipulating the Labour party.

In response to the Al-Jazeera’s revelations, Robin Ramsay, the editor of Lobster, has put up a piece from his 2002 book, The Rise of New Labour, describing how Blair’s contacts with the Israel lobby were partly responsible for his rise to the Labour leadership. Ramsay notes that Blair had always been sympathetic to Israel. When he became an MP, he joined Labour Friends of Israel, and he shared chambers with Eldred Tabachnik, head of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. In January 1994 he and his wife, Cherie, went on holiday to Israel, all at the expense of the Israeli government. Two months later, Blair was introduced to the businessman Michael Levy at a dinner party arranged by the number two diplomat at the Israeli embassy, Gideon Meir. Levy was impressed with Blair, and after John Smith’s death was responsible for raising £7 million for Blair’s personal use. Ramsay’s article gives the names, duly sourced, of some of those who donated money to the future Labour leader. They were

‘….a group of businessmen involved in Jewish charities whose decisions to give to Labour have been crucially influenced by the party’s strong pro-Israeli stance under both Tony Blair and his predecessor John Smith……Levy brought the world of North London Jewish business into the Labour Party…..some of the names whom Levy persuaded to donate include Sir Emmanuel Kaye of Kaye Enterprises, Sir Trevor Chinn of Lex Garages, Maurice Hatter of IMO Precision Control and David Goldman of the Sage software group…it is clear, however, that for this group Blair’s (and Smith’s before him) strong support for Israel is an important factor, especially with those such as Kaye, Chinn and Levy himself, who raise large sums for Israeli causes. Nick Cosgrave, director of Labour Friends of Israel, says Blair “brought back Labour Friends of Israel into the Labour Party, in a sense …….before the majority of supporters of Labour Friends felt uncomfortable with the Labour Party”.’

This allowed Blair to become independent of the Labour Party and the trade unions. He used the money to hire Alistair Campbell as his press officer and Jonathan Powell as his chief of staff.

Gideon Meir was also credited by Israel’s Jabotinsky Institute as cultivating both Blair and Gordon Brown, and making them favourable to the Israeli side in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Ramsay concludes

Blair joined Labour Friends of Israel and the Israelis helped to get him elected leader. He might have made it on his own – after four general election defeats the Labour Party was ripe for a televisual, middle class, Thatcherite, young careerist – but the money raised by Levy helped and made him independent of the Party.

See: http://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster73/blair-israel.pdf

This explains the very close relationship between the Blairites and the Israel lobby, and how both of them were deeply intertwined in the anti-Semitism smears against Jeremy Corbyn and Momentum.

Ramsay’s article is also interesting as it notes that Blair hated the Labour party and viewed it as his enemy. According to the Daily Mail, c. 1997, an unnamed barrister friend of Blair said that he joined it simply because he thought he’d rise faster in Labour than the Tories. Ramsay remarks that it sounds like the authentic statement of a careerist, but then again, it does come from the Daily Mail, which Michael Foot called ‘the Forger’s Gazette’.