Posts Tagged ‘Hackney’

More on Progress, the Groaniad, and the Israel Lobby

September 27, 2016

Lobster 70 also had some very interesting little snippets about the Israel lobby, and its connections to sections of the Labour party and the press, specifically ‘Progress’, and the Guardian.

‘Progress’ is the Blairite faction within the Labour party. In ‘Tittle-Tattle’ for that issue, Tom Easton praises Solomon Hughes in the Morning Star for his work investigating and exposing Progress and its dodgy donors. Hughes had written about the close connection between Tristram Hunt and David Sainsbury. As I’ve blogged previously, Sainsbury was a big corporate donor to the Labour party under Blair and Brown. He stopped funding the party as a whole when Ed Miliband became leader, but, according to Hughes, he continued funding Progress. Just as he continued funding the SDP rump under Dr David Owen after the rest of it had merged with the Liberals. One of the SDP’s members was Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee.

In November 2014 Hughes described Hunt’s speech at the previous Labour Conference, in which he made a joke about the secretive and numerically small nature of the faction, which did not go down well with the Progress hordes. He wrote

‘When I went to the Progress rally at the last Labour conference, Tristram Hunt was one of the speakers, where he declared he was “delighted to be with Progress” because “you might be an unaccountable faction dominated by a secretive billionaire, but you are OUR unaccountable faction dominated by a secretive billionaire”.

Here were two dozen true words spoken in jest. Hunt’s joke was so close to the bone that the shiny happy people of Progress — this is one of the biggest events on Labour’s fringe — seemed embarrassed into silence.

Hunt’s insistence that Progress was “the Praetorian Guard, the Parachute Regiment, the Desert Rats of Labour” also raised few laughs, even though the meeting took place in a Comedy Club at the edge of the Labour conference site. Even joking that Progress is new Labour’s shock troops was a bit too much.’

One of Progress’ board members is Patrick Diamond, who is a long-time associated of Peter Mandelson. He is the Vice-Chair of Mandy’s Policy Network, as well as frequently contributing columns to the Guardian. Progress’ president is Stephen Twigg, a former chair of Labour Friends of Israel. Progress’ chair, John Woodcock, the MP for Barrow and Furness, contributed the foreword to the Labour Friends of Israel’s The Progressive Case for Israel. And when it seemed Liz Kendall was about to don the mantle of leadership for New Labour, she got a positive press from the Jewish Chronicle. The week after Labour lost the election, the newspaper ran the headline, ‘Labour Must Now Pass the Israel Test’. Which shows just how close New Labour is to the Israel lobby. And in another item in the same column, Easton states that another former chairman of the LFI is Jim Murphy, the head of Scottish Labour. Which sheds yet more light on his determination to block Rhea Wolfson’s attempts to get on to the NEC. Murphy persuaded her local Labour party not to back her because of her links to that terrible anti-Semitic organisation, Momentum, despite the fact that they’re not, and Wolfson herself is Jewish.

A further item, ‘Grauniada’, also comments that that the Graun’s connections to Zionism goes back ‘to the early days of both’, noting that the newspaper itself had told the story of its relationship with Israel in 2008 when it published Daphna Baram’s Disenchantment: The Guardian and Israel. The same item also notes that Jonathan Freedland, one of the leading critics of Jeremy Corbyn, is also a columnist for the Jewish Chronicle.

All this shows the very strong connections between New Labour, the Labour Friends of Israel, and the Jewish Chronicle, and how they are absolutely united in their hatred of Jeremy Corbyn.

The same item in Lobster also speculates on how long the connection between the Graun and Zionism will survive, now that the new editor-in-chief is Katherine Viner. Viner and Alan Rickman produced a theatre production based on the diary entries and writings of Rachel Corrie. Corrie was the American peace activist, who was killed by bulldozer driven by the Israeli Defence Force in Gaza in 2003.

There’s also another section in that part of the magazine specifically about the Israel lobby. Most of the politicians reported in that item, ‘Israel Lobby News’, are Conservatives and Lib Dems, such as Eric Pickles, Nick Clegg’s head of communications, James Sorene, who went off to head BICOM, while local councillors elected in May that year were invited to join the Local Government Friends of Israel by Rachel Kaye, the Executive Director of We Believe in Israel. Kaye stated that the director of We Believe in Israel was Luke Akehurst, a former Labour councillor for Hackney, and had worked with Peter Mandelson’s former press secretary in the PR and lobbying firm Weber Shandwick.

Advertisements

Private Eye from 2012 on the Failure and Misgovernment at the DWP

March 13, 2016

In their edition for 1st – 14th June 2012, Private Eye devoted nearly a page to the disgusting actions, policies and general misgovernment in aIDS’ DWP. Here it is.

Not Working: A DWP Special

Freudian Slip
How serious does the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) treat cases of alleged fraud in its multi-million-pound employment programmes, under which private companies are meant to help benefit claimants find work?

Last week pressure from ministers led Tory MPs on the Commons public accounts committee (PAC) to oblige their colleagues to listen in secret to whistleblowers describing potential fraud by welfare-to-work firms like Working Links and A4E.

This was just the DWP’s latest attempt to hide its dirty washing: it has been shifty about possible cheating by the “benefit-busting” firms for years. Take, for example, the mysterious “annual report” on employment programmes which was promised to MPs before disappearing from sight.

In 2010, MPs on the Work and Pensions Committee said that reports of the “Risk Assurance Division”, which investigates allegations of fraud by workfare companies, “must be published where wrongdoing is found”.

While the DWP argued that publishing the reports would be unfair on contractors, its “delivery director” Alan Cave instead promised some “regular reporting of trends and lessons learned” in an annual report.

This March, when the Eye asked to the report, the DWP press office responded with contradictory answers. The report was published, it said, and a copy would be sent. Then it announced that the report was about to be published. Finally it stopped returning the Eye’s calls altogether.

Unable to get any sense from the press office, the Eye made a freedom of information request. The DWP pointed to a March admission to MPs by Mr Cave that the report had not been delivered. Cave said because of the new government and new Work Programme, it “seemed sensible to put a pause on that while we got the new system up and running before returning to that.”

Really? The Eye made another freedom of information request to see any papers relating to the report-but the DWP says there are none. In other words, all the work in providing MPs and the public with information on workfare fraud apparently hasn’t generated a single email, minute, letter or note.

In fact, the entire proposed annual report appears to be a fob-off, as it seems the DWP didn’t put any work into it anyway.

Missing Links
The evidence of Eddie Hutchinson, former head of internal audit at “benefit-busting” firm Working Links, confirms what the
Eye has been saying repeatedly: there is something seriously wrong with this company, which gets more than £100m a year from taxpayers (via the DWP) to help the unemployed.

Hutchinson told the Commons public accounts committee that fraud was “extensive” and “systemic” at Working Links, explaining: “All these frauds involved the falsification of job outcome evidence to illegally claim monies from the DWP, together with the false claiming of bonus payments by staff through the company’s incentive bonus system”.

In 2006, DWP research showed the firm failed to meet targets on benefit-busting schemes, whereas JobCentre staff did twice as well. The government responded by taking JobCentre staff of the job and handing more schemes to Working Links. In 2009 Ofsted found that Working Links was failing to meet targets – so the government stopped Ofsted inspecting benefit-busting programmes!

In 2011 the Eye saw a leaked report showing the DWP had caught Working Links claiming money for people it had not helped into work in Liverpool. Hutchinson’s evidence suggests that DWP clawed back cash for similar fiddles in South Wales (2007), Glasgow (2007 and 2008), Hackney (2008) and other areas. However, while the DWP asked for the money back, it does not appeared to have punished the firm.

* it may be generating bad headlines for its sloppy internal financial controls, but A4E still knows how to find work for people – if they happen to chums with the chancellor anyway.

A4E recently hired lobbyist George Bridges and his firm Quiller Consultants to help with its crisis management. Bridges, a personal friend of George Osborne, became head of Conservative Campaigns in 2006 and helped Osborne run the Tories’ election campaign in 2010.

Quiller Consultants itself is owned by Tory peer Lord Chadlington, who also happens to be Cameron’s constituency party chairman in Witney. His links with the prime minister caused embarrassment last year when it emerged that the lobbyist lord had sold Dave a strip of land used as a driveway and garage at the PMN’s Witney home. Chadlington bought the land and sold it to the prime minister, raising questions about lobbyists’ access to Cameron.

Downing Street meanwhile is considering hiring another Quiller Consultant, Stephen Parkinson, to pep up Number 10’s spin operation. Parkinson was also previously a Conservative Central Office apparatchik, underlining the close links between a4e’s new friend and the government.

Factory Fibs
Work and Pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith refused to apologise for declaring that disabled people in Remploy’s supported factories were “not doing any work at all… just making cups of coffee”.

Perhaps he was bolstered by Remploy chairman Ian Russell’s own foreword to the recently published 2011 accounts claiming that workers “have little or no work on most days of the week”. The comments help the case for closing 36 of the remaining 54 Remploy factories, despite union figures showing that 85 per cent of disabled workers made redundant in the last round of Remploy cuts remain unemployed.

One problem – a recent congratulatory internal letter from Remploy Enterprise Businesses (EB) managing director Alan Hill paints a different picture of life in the factories. “I am delighted to say the overall performance of EB has been outstanding,” writes Hill, reporting that sales have grown 12.2 per cent in the last financial year, reaching £117m.

Indeed, after cutting costs as well, the Remploy factories’ overall operating result had improved by a whopping 27.9 per cent, according to Hill. A KMPG analysis produced in Mary found that some of the Remploy businesses – such as making car parts and monitoring CCTV – were viable and even profitable, while others could also be made sustainable.

NEST beg

Misleading advertising is nothing new when it comes to financial product mis-selling, but few would expect the government to exploit a loophole to produce its own dodgy sale pitch.

The DWP has been busy pushing “workplace pensions”, using adverts that feature toy people building a rising wall. “A simple step to a better future” is the unequivocal message.

The principle “workplace pension” being promoted is the government’s default scheme into which employees will soon be automatically enrolled, the National Employment Savings Trust (NEST). But tis is a stock-market based scheme in which there will be a large number of losers after fees, the loss of other means-related benefits and the fact that stock markets can go down as well as up. Go in at the wrong time and you’re effectively screwed.

The standard disclaimer to this effect is, however, missing from the government’s adverts because, the DWP tells an Eye reader, its lawyers agreed that the adverts’ purpose “is to promote the general concept of saving through workplace pensions, rather than saving through a specific product”. Never mind that almost all such schemes, including the reassuringly branded NEST, are now stock market-based.

The government is effectively saying that volatile investments will be a good bet for a safe pension, risk-free. The next big mis-selling scandal, in other words.

This catalogue of incompetence, lies, fraud and failure also puts the lie to another claim by the Right: that Socialism somehow punishes excellence. By redistributing wealth and putting checks on the rapacity of senior management, the argument goes, Socialism and the welfare state somehow punishes the superior skill and talents of private entrepreneurs. This shows the opposite: that it actively rewards failure and punishes excellence. How else can you explain the determination to stop JobCentres finding work for the unemployed and hand it over to fraudsters like Working Links, or close profitable and potentially profitable Remploy factories? Or promoting potentially underperforming ‘workplace pensions?’ This is all about supporting failing private industry, the Tories’ paymasters, and punishing excellence in the state sector. This even goes as far as the personnel selected to run the Department. Ian Duncan Smith stands out as a man of precious little talent, but somehow this massive failure of a man has been awarded an entire department to run, and run into the ground.

Links to the Invitations to Tender for Workfare

April 30, 2014

Jess has kindly provided the links to Jobcentre Plus for the invitations to tender for the new Workfare contracts around Britain and in East London:

‘The tender invitations for workfare in E London!

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/local-partnership-opportunities-with-jobcentre-plus

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/244966/jcp-opp-hackney-borough.pdf’

The first actually gives you the contact and tender invitation documents for a number of regions up and down the country, including the North and Wales. I’m putting them up in case anyone wants to examine these documents to tackle how the government is presenting this new assault on the liberty and dignity of the poor and unemployed. They also give the contact details of the individuals operating the tender process, if anyone wants to contact them to protest about the policy. If you, please be polite and don’t make any threats. It’s the system we want to bring down, rather than simply intimidating people. Besides, it’s counterproductive. Any threats made will be used by the government to prevent further information about workfare and the companies using it from reaching the public, as well as justify further infringements of civil liberties.