Posts Tagged ‘Ian Duncan Smith’

Damian Green Excited about Taking Away Worker’s Rights to Stable Hours, Pensions, Sick Pay and Holiday Pay

March 23, 2017

Iain Duncan Smith’s loathsome successor at the DWP, Damian Green, has described his government’s moves to strip workers of the rights to stable working hours, holiday pay, sick pay and pensions as ‘exciting’ and with ‘huge potential’, Mike reports over at Vox Political. Mike makes the point that Green, as a former journalist, has enjoyed all the rights that he now wants to see taken away from working people in Britain.

He wants to see the majority of people consigned to poverty, job insecurity and the fear of contact with the assessors at his draconian department. And if this is viewed alongside the government’s other policies, it’s very clear that he’s delighted at employees not being able to afford to take time off when they’re ill. And in any case, after the Tories privatise the NHS, they’ll never be able to afford treatment any way. Just as he wants people to be unable to afford to retire, so that they have to keep on slaving for exploiters like him right up to the moment they did.

Mike concludes

Please, Britain, get a clue. This man – and his friends – hate you. They only want to hurt you. Put a stop to their plans while you still can. Never vote Conservative.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/03/23/twisted-damian-green-thinks-its-exciting-that-future-jobs-may-not-have-stable-hours-holiday-pay-sick-pay-or-pensions/

Be prepared also for the drivel that the Tories will spout to justify this. If challenged about this, we’ll doubtless hear how such reforms are needed in order to make the labour market more ‘flexible’. It’s the same drivel the Tories and Blairites have spouted, when they started stripping workers of their rights and introduced such wonderful, exciting, reforms as making it easier to sack workers, introducing zero hours contracts and the like. The same journalists and business managers also found it wonderful when John Major’s governments introduced the legislation that permitted employees to be kept on short-term contracts. I can remember the Financial Times raving about how workers would be able to move from job to job, and create ‘job portfolios’ to impress employers. Thus was the beginnings of the current precarity introduced under the Tories back in the 1990s, and sold to the public, or at least the financial class. I think some of the journalists have woken up to the fact that short-term contracts and the idea of ‘job portfolios’ are nonsense. Not that the press hasn’t gone so far as to scrap the whole idea of job insecurity. That would mean scrapping one of the key planks of Thatcherism and Blairite ‘New Labour’.

The Continuing Scandal of the DWP Asking the Depressed Why They Haven’t Committed Suicide

March 18, 2017

Mike this week put up a piece reporting and commenting on the admission by Maximus that they do indeed ask depressed people questions about suicide as part of the Work Capability Assessment. See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/03/11/dwp-contractor-admits-routinely-asking-sickness-benefit-claimants-dangerous-questions-about-suicide/There are several questions. The first questions simply ask them if they have had thoughts about suicide, and the frequency and severity of these thoughts. These are, in my view, reasonable questions. Or rather, it would be if it were part of a genuine medical examination as part of a real programme to make that person well again. Depression isn’t a case of being ‘a bit down’. It is, as the British medical scientist, writer and Humanist, Lewis Wolpert described it in the title of his book, ‘A Malignant Sadness’. Clearly, if someone does have thoughts about suicide, they are extremely unwell and desperately need help.

The other questions, however, is unwarranted and frankly dangerous. The depressed person is then asked

“And what is it that stops you from acting on the thoughts that you have?

“Can you think of any reason that you’re not doing that? Is it friends or family support?”

Now it should be clear to anyone with the most meagre level of intelligence that asking people, who are already mentally fragile and have admitted they think of doing themselves injury or actually killing themselves, why they haven’t done so is extremely dangerous. My guess is that the way it is phrased in particular makes the question seriously unethical, as it seems to assume that the depressed person is not seriously troubled by these thoughts unless he or she has tried to act them out.

I don’t know, but I can imagine that if a social scientist or medical professional doing research amongst the clinically depressed asked the question, they could be hauled up before their relevant bodies overseeing professional standards for ethics violations or misconduct. As part of their training, social scientists are told not to phrase questions in the form of ‘You’re not…are you?’ And the Hippocratic Oath, a form of which doctors were required to take until recently, contained the provision ‘And I shall do no harm.’ These questions seem close enough to the first question, at least in spirit, to make them also unethical, while violating that provision of the ancient doctor’s Oath in that they could seem to some to be suggesting that they should.

The Work Capability Test itself is a scientific travesty. It is based on spurious and scientifically invalid research supposedly linking recovery to illness to mental attitude. The whole wretched test was introduced by Blair and his coteries on the recommendation of the American insurance fraudster, Unum, in a conference in the first years of this century. It is based on the attitude, shared by the Blairites and the Tories, that nearly everyone claiming invalidity or sickness benefit is a malingerer, despite the fact that such fraud only counts for 0.7 per cent of such claims.

The question also shows the immense double standards about health that persists between us and our rulers. It’s assumed that asking a severely ill person why they haven’t harmed themselves or committed suicide is acceptable. But heaven help anyone, who asked the same question of a captain of industry or leading politician why they haven’t tried to commit suicide, and you can imagine the feeding frenzy from an outraged press.

For example, the Blairite contender for the Labour leadership and flagrant liar, Angela Eagle, was asked by Andrew Neil on the Daily Politics about Tony Blair and whether the vile warmonger should face trial for leading Britain into an illegal war. Tellingly, she said no, as ‘Tony’s been through the wringer’. Thus showing that she cared more for the Dear Leader’s anguish than for the real horror he has inflicted on hundreds of thousands, of not millions of innocent people, who have been killed, tortured and forced out of their homes through the carnage he and that other malignant creature, George Dubya Bush, have created through their war. I don’t know what Neil’s response was, but can you imagine the outrage that would have resulted if Neil had said, ‘Well, he can’t be going through too much trouble, ’cause he’s still walking’.

Or if one of the other interviewers asked the same question of one of the Tories, like Theresa May, David Cameron, or the people directly responsible for the question: Ian Duncan Smith and Damian Green. There would have been fury directed at the ‘left-wing’ BBC. How dare they suggest that a minister of the realm isn’t doing his job if he hasn’t committed suicide for his failures! Or even the suggestion that they have failed in their job, which the Tories have, spectacularly.

But if it is acceptable to ask a gravely disturbed person why they haven’t acted out their desires to harm themselves, then by the same standard it should be acceptable to ask the same questions of anyone, including and particularly the ministers that have formulated that question.

Now I am not suggesting that Blair, May, Cameron, aIDS or Damian Green should be asked these questions, or otherwise be told to kill themselves, for precisely the same reason I don’t think anyone should be asked these questions. I am merely trying to point out the double standards involved here.

Now I imagine that if they were asked about this question, Damian Green or his predecessor, the Gentleman Ranker (and a right ranker he truly was) would say, in their inimitably patronising manner, that they are only trying to gauge the severity of the illness. This is rubbish. The whole test is structured so that the government can find some pretext to deny paying the ill person disability benefit on the grounds that they’re still somehow fit for work.

And Mike and many other bloggers and disability activists also see something much more sinister here. Many tens of thousands of people have committed suicide, or died in poverty and misery after being thrown off benefit, although the DWP continues to deny it. See Stilloaks website and the blog, ATOS Miracles, for further coverage of this and the biographies and individual cases of some of the victims. For Mike and people like Jeff Davies, one of the long term commenters on my blog this is evidence of a covert, secret genocide of the disabled. The government wants them dead, because that way they don’t have to pay out to support them. They can continue lowering the taxes of their rich donors.

This is how it’s beginning to look to very many of us, whether we’re disabled or fit. The presenters of the Channel 4 comedy review show, The Last Leg, even said so themselves. There should be mass outrage about these questions and the test itself. That there isn’t is a major disgrace in itself.

Chip Shops and Pubs Offering Meals to the Homeless at Christmas

December 24, 2016

Yesterday, Mike over at Vox Political put up a piece commenting on the decision by two brothers in Brum, Hamid and Asef Faqiri, who own the Classic Fish Bar, to open on Christmas Day between 13.00 and 16.00 to give free turkey dinners to the elderly and the homeless. They state that they want to help those in need and make the community happy. One of the brothers, Asef, remarked that he had seen a lot of homeless people, and always wanted to help.

While Mike welcomed the twos generosity, he also pointed out the obvious danger. That by doing something to help the poor, this would be used by the Tories to justify the government doing nothing. They’d try to argue that this is David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ at work, where private charity picks up the slack from government.

Mike makes the argument instead that we pay our taxes on the understanding that the government does everything in its power to make sure that citizens aren’t homeless and starving.

He concludes:

We don’t make that argument often enough and, in the Season of Goodwill, it might be more appropriate than ever to point out that very little goodwill is coming from Westminster.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/12/22/free-christmas-fish-and-chips-for-the-homeless-gives-tories-a-chance-to-justify-their-apathy/

I think there are a number of places doing this up and down the country. I heard that some of the Asian restaurants and take-aways in Cheltenham will also be doing the same, as will the Market Inn pub in Glastonbury, according to today’s Western Daily Press.

I completely share Mike’s views on this issue. What these places and the people who run them are doing is very commendable, but it runs into the trap of appearing to validate the Tories’ cuts and dismantlement of the welfare state. Maggie Thatcher began her attack on it back in the 1980s with the deliberate goal of reducing the tax burden and forcing people back on to private charity to support them. She believed it would strengthen religion, and particularly the churches, if people had to come to them for aid, rather than the state. Hence the eagerness of the Salvation Army to acquire government contracts for dealing with poverty, as well as the desire of so many of the corporate management types now running very many charities likewise to do so, while at the same time demanding that the government enact even more stringent policies against the poor, the unemployed and the homeless. For the grim details, go to Johnny Void’s blog and look up his entries on these issues.

It’s a nasty, cynical attitude to bringing people back to religion, and it many Christians believe it runs contrary to the teachings of the Bible and the Gospels. In the last of the series of Advent talks held at our local church on Thursday, the minister made precisely this point. Not that this would have had any effect on Maggie. When she gave a talk to the ruling body of the Church of Scotland back in the 1980s, expounding her view that people who didn’t work, shouldn’t get something for nothing, the guid ministers and layfolk greeted what she said with frowns and silence. It was obvious that they were very unimpressed. But it didn’t stop Maggie cutting welfare provision left and right.

So I heartily endorse Mike’s point. It needs to be repeated over and again, until someone in Westminster either gets the point, or is unable to drown it out and stop others from hearing it. If you want to see the drawbacks of this attitude, look at America. Americans are extremely generous in charitable giving. But there is a massive problem with extreme poverty in America, and one that is growing thanks to Reagan and corporatist Democrats like Obama and Killary. Private charity cannot adequately tackle poverty, no matter what Thatcher, Cameron, May and Iain Duncan Smith and Damian Green want us to believe. And this message needs to be hammered home, until the public very obviously turns away from the Tories and their lies.

New Book on Foodbank Britain

November 20, 2016

Also going round the bookshelves in Waterstone’s on Friday, I found a book with the title, Foodbank Britain, or something similar. It was about foodbanks, and people’s experiences of using and working on them. This is interesting and very much needed. I’ve reblogged pieces before now from the website, Diary of a Foodbank Helper, as has Mike over at Vox Political and a number of other great, leftwing bloggers. ‘Diary of a Foodbank Helper’s’ written by a lady, who, as her blog’s title says, helped out at her local food bank. She describes the people she encounters, who come for its aid, and gives their often heartbreaking stories. These are hardworking people, who’ve been made redundant, or been forced to leave work through invalidity, who’ve found themselves sanctioned by the DWP under any one of the various petty excuses they use to make sure people can’t claim Jobseekers Allowance. Or else they’ve been declared ‘fit to work’ by ATOS/ Maximus, when they clearly are very much unfit for work.

Against this, we have the continued lies of the Tory party, particularly the heads of the DWP Damian Green and Iain Duncan Smith, and poisonous former ministers like Edwina Curry. They repeatedly refuse to release the statistics showing how many people have died after being declared fit for work, and when they’ve been finally forced to release them, have fiddled them to make them misleading. They also repeat the lie ad nauseam that no-one in Britain is really starving, and that people are using food banks voluntarily, because they’re a source of free food. This has shown to be a lie over and over again, but they keep on repeating it. They’re all students of Goebbels, who said that the secret to successful propaganda was repeating the lie again and yet again, until enough people believe it. And aided by an equally lying and mendacious press and a disgracefully biased Beeb, people will.

I didn’t buy it, as I’ve bought several books recently on poverty in Britain. But I thought this one was a useful addition to the armoury of books criticising government policy and the mass poverty its created. Unfortunately, I think we’re going to need many more of them before we can break the lies that supports the mass starvation food banks are intended to alleviate.

The Poor Side of Life: Hammersmith Jobcentre Producing Propaganda Photos of Claimants

September 20, 2016

The Poor Side of Life have put up a piece reporting that Hammersmith Jobcentre has been approaching claimants and trying to get them to pose for promotional photos, showing them as happy, smiling satisfied customers. This follows a message they had from one such claimant, who was approached in this way by the supervisor. They turned the request down, though as the Blog states, the claimant was hard to intimidate. Others, who were more scared and intimidated by the threat of sanctions, would more likely have given in. The blog states that it has confirmed their view of the propagandistic nature of much of the material from the Jobcentre, and particularly after they found many of the claims made in support of Iain Duncan-Smith’s wretched Universal Credit misleading. The piece concludes

Now, it’s extremely rare for a claimant to be actually smiling inside a Jobcentre. You are usually extremely stressed and it’s the last place that you want to be in. And shaking an advisors hand? This very rarely happens, at best claimants are treated like they have the bubonic plague. A decent advisor still won’t shake your hand. Manners don’t really exist in a Jobcentre.

It’s just more evidence of the DWP trying to send out a completely misleading message.

Kudos to the claimant for sharing this. And watch out for the new fake smiley photos posted in local newspapers and Jobcentres.

https://thepoorsideoflife.wordpress.com/2016/09/20/hammersmith-jobcentre-approaching-claimants-to-take-photographs-for-dwp-promotional-material/

This is the DWP building Potemkin villages for us peasants. These were fake villages put up in 18th century Russia, after Catherine the Great complained that she wanted the peasants to be better housed and prosperous. So her prime minister, Potemkin, order a number of fake villages to be built. The houses in these villages were just facades. Catherine was taken through them, and shown how fine they were and that the peasants were happy and well housed. But it was all fake. Just like this.

Jobcentres are terrible places. I’ve a young cousin, who didn’t sign on for ages because of the way the staff treated them. I’ve also had a taste of their abuse myself, after I was more or less told to stop going there and signing on. But unless you have experience of this maltreatment, or hear about it personally, then you don’t realise what it’s like. As all too many people don’t, lulled into believing that the Jobcentre really does have some kind of ethic about helping people, while since Iain Duncan-Smith and probably a few years before, it’s all been about keeping as many people as possible off benefit so the rich can get their tax cut and the government can massage its unemployment figures.

Disgusting. And it’s also disgusting that Ed Miliband was all too willing to go along with this and the Tory welfare cuts, as he didn’t want to be seen as weak on benefit scroungers. Which is how he would have been presented by the Tory press.

It’s no wonder we’ve got mass starvation in this country. And apart from the government and nearly 40 years of Tory ideology determining benefit cuts, part of the blame must lie with the people peddling these bogus stories in the right-wing press: Rupert Murdoch, the Barclay Twins and Paul Dacre. They should all be kicked out now.

The Young Turks on 7 Million Teens Turning to Crime and Prostitution because of Starvation

September 20, 2016

This is truly an outrage. In this video from The Young Turks, they report on an academic study which shows that 7 million teenagers in America are turning to crime, prostitution and selling drugs to get money for food. The report cites one of the study’s authors, Popkin, who says that what they found surprising wasn’t that kids were doing it – it’s been done on a smaller scale for a very long time – but the sheer scale of the problem. When the researchers inquired why these children didn’t use the state welfare system instead, like the SNAP and food stamp programmes, they were told by their young informants that they were too ashamed. The Turks’ anchors are naturally angry at this, pointing out what a disgusting scandal that 7 million children should be forced to become prostitutes or starve in the richest country in the world.

I’ve reblogged a number of videos about American politics in the past where they’ve had direct relevance to similar political situations here in Blighty. This is another of these. The Tories’ ‘welfare reforms’ – their euphemism for cutting benefits and letting people starve – is copied very much from America, although attacks on the welfare state have always been part of Tory policy. Maggie Thatcher, John Major and the rest took their view, hawked by the Tory press, that there were large pockets of intergenerational poverty in Britain, where some families had never had a job for three generations, from the Republicans in America. It was rubbish over there, and it’s rubbish over here. But that hasn’t stopped it being repeated by Iain Duncan-Smith, the former Minister for Killing the Disabled.

About a year ago I found a pamphlet put out by Duncan-Smith’s wretched Centre for Social Justice – a complete oxymoron coming from the Tories – arguing for welfare cuts based precisely on this stupid, spurious view of poverty. It raved about how changes to welfare legislation in America had wiped millions off the welfare budget.

At the same time, the Tories have been very impressed by the Victorian doctrine of ‘less eligibility’. As many bloggers have stated, including Another Angry Voice, Johnny Void and myself, this was the Victorian principle behind the workhouse. The idea was that you make conditions as harsh and humiliating as possible so that people don’t go to the state for aid. There are even quotes from Thatcher herself talking about how she admired the Victorians for it. It’s why, despite the Tories keenness to show the staff at the Jobcentre as helpful, with smiling, grateful claimants, the opposite is true: you are frequently treated with grave discourtesy and contempt by staff, who are themselves treated like dirty by their superiors. All with the deliberate intention of making the whole experience of signing on as unpleasant as possible.

And that’s the result. 7 million children are forced to steal, peddle drugs, or sell their bodies to get enough to keep body and soul together.

There are 4.7 million people in ‘food poverty’ in this country. Hundreds of thousands are being kept from starvation by food banks. Stilloaks in his blog, Johnny Void, Tom Pride, and so many, many others, including Vox Political, have put up the figures of the number of disabled people, who have starved to death through benefit cuts. It was something like 590 last time I checked. It’s probably many, many more now. And if you go to Stilloak’s blog, you can see the names and biographies of those, who have died. Be warned: it’s a harrowing read. It’s why Mike has referred to this policy by the Tories as ‘chequebook genocide’.

And it’s a cert the same thing is happening over here.

I can remember back in the 1980s, when Thatcher was throwing everyone out of work, the media woke up to the existence of rent boys. I don’t think they could really do anything else, as a number of MPs, mostly Tories, had been caught using them, like Harvey Proctor. I can remember reading an article on them at the time, which said that the majority were actually heterosexual. They were doing it to make money to buy consumer goods. Quite apart from the poor kids, who have been forced into it by the monsters running the care homes and social services in corrupt local authorities, it wouldn’t surprise me if there was a spike in it now, of teenage boys forced into it along with their sisters for exactly the same reasons – to buy enough food.

Reagan and Thatcher have led us down a social, political and economic dead end. It is neoliberalism that is the threat to western civilisation, not liberalism, socialism or Islam. It is Reagan’s and Thatcher’s policies that are seeing millions of people in debt and grinding poverty. The time’s long, long past when their heirs in both the parties of the Right and nominal Left should have been kicked out long ago.

Guy Standing’s Arguments against Workfare: Part 1

August 8, 2016

Workfare is one of the most exploitative aspects of the contemporary assault on the welfare state and the unemployed. It was advocated in the 1980s by the Republicans under Ronald Reagan in America, and in Britain by Thatcher’s Conservatives. At its heart is the attitude that the unemployed should be forced to work for their benefits, as otherwise they are getting ‘something for nothing’. Very many bloggers and activists for the poor and unemployed, including Mike over at Vox Political, Johnny Void, the Angry Yorkshireman, and myself have denounced it as another form of slavery. It’s used to provide state-subsidised, cheap labour for big business and charities, including influential Tory donors like Sainsbury’s. And at times it crosses the line into true slavery. Under the sanctions system, an unemployed person is still required to perform workfare, even if the jobcentre has sanctioned them, so that they are not receiving benefits. Workfare recipients – or victims – have no control over where they are allocated or what jobs they do. The government was challenged in the courts by a geology graduate, who was forced to work in Poundland. The young woman stated that she did not object to performing unpaid work. She, however, had wanted to work in a museum, and if memory serves me correctly, had indeed got a place at one. She was, however, unable to take up her unpaid position there because of the Jobcentre’s insistence she labour for Poundland instead. A young man also sued the government, after he was sanctioned for his refusal to do 30 hours a week unpaid labour for six months for the Community Action Programme. The High and Appeal Courts ruled in the young people’s favour. They judged that the government had indeed acted illegally, as the law did not contain any stipulations for when and how such work was to be performed.

Iain Duncan Smith, the notorious head of the Department of Work and Pensions, was outraged. He called the decision ‘rubbish’ and said, ‘There are a group of people out there who think they are too good for this kind of stuff .. People who think it is their right take benefit and do nothing for it – those days are over.’ This is rich coming from IDS, who was taking over a million pounds in farm subsidies from the EU. Eventually, Smith got sick of the criticism he was taking for the government’s welfare policies, and flounced off early in 2016 moaning about how unfair it all was that he should get the blame, when the notorious Work Capability Tests inflicted on the elderly and disabled were introduced by New labour.

They are in no sense free workers, and it similarly makes a nonsense of the pretense that this somehow constitutes ‘voluntary work’, as this has been presented by the government and some of the participating charities.

The political scientist Guy Standing is also extremely critical of workfare in his book, A Precariat Charter, demanding its abolition and making a series of solid arguments against it. He states that it was first introduced in America by the Republicans in Wisconsin, and then expanded nationally to the rest of the US by Bill Clinton in his Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act. It was part of his campaign to ‘end welfare as we know it’. Single parents receiving social assistance were required to take low-paying jobs after two years. Legislation was also passed barring people from receiving welfare payments for more than five years in their entire lives.

David Cameron, unsurprisingly, was also a fan of the Wisconsin system, and wanted to introduce it over here. In 2007 he made a speech to the Tory faithful at the party conference, proclaiming ‘We will say to people that if you are offered a job and it’s a fair job and one that you can do and you refuse it, you shouldn’t get any welfare.’ This became part of Coalition policy towards the unemployed when they took power after the 2010 elections. Two years later, in 2012, Boris Johnson, speaking as mayor of London, declared that he was going to use EU money from the Social Fund to force young adults between 18 and 24 to perform 13 weeks of labour without pay if they were unemployed.

Ed Miliband’s Labour party also joined in. Liam Byrne, the Shadow Secretary for Work and Pensions, declared that

Labour would ensure that no adult will be able to live on the dole for over two years and no young person for over a year. They will be offered a real job with real training, real prospects and real responsibility … People would have to take this responsibility or lose benefits.

This was echoed by Ed Balls, who said

A One Nation approach to welfare reform means government has a responsibility to help people into work and support for those who cannot. But those who can work must be required to take up jobs or lose benefits as such – no ifs or buts.

Standing traces the antecedents of workfare back to the English poor law of 1536 and the French Ordonnance de Moulins of twenty years later, which obliged unemployed vagabonds to accept any job that was offered them. He states that the direct ancestor is the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act, the infamous legislation that, under the notion of ‘less eligibility’, stipulated that those receiving support were to be incarcerated in the workhouse, where conditions were deliberately made much harsher in order to deter people from seeking state support, rather than paid work. This attitude is also reflected in contemporary attitudes that, in order to ‘make work pay’, have demanded that welfare support should be much less than that received for paid work. This has meant that welfare payments have become progressively less as the various measure to make the labour market more flexible – like zero hours contracts – drove down wages. The workhouse system was supplemented in 1905 by the Unemployed Workmen Act, supported, amongst others, by Winston Churchill. This directed unemployed young men into labour, so that they should not be ‘idle’ and be ‘under control’. Nor were leading members of the early Labour party averse to the use of force. Sidney and Beatrice Webb, two of the founders of the Fabian Society, were also in favour of sending the unemployed to ‘labour colonies’, chillingly close to the forced labour camps which became such as feature of the Nazi and Communist regimes. Liam Byrne also harked back to the Webbs to support his argument for workfare as Labour party policy. He stated

If you go back to the Webb report, they were proposing detention colonies for people refusing to take work … All the way through our history there has been an insistence on the responsibility to work if you can. Labour shouldn’t be any different now. We have always been the party of the responsibility to work as well.

The result of this is that many unemployed people have been placed on the Mandatory Work Activity – MWA – scheme, which requires them to perform four weeks of unpaid work for a particular company, organisation or charity. The scheme also includes the disabled. Those now judged capable of performing some work are placed in the Work-Related Activity group, and required perform some unpaid labour in order to gain ‘experience’. If they do not do so, they may lose up to 70 per cent of their benefits.

This has created immense fear among the unemployed and disabled. Standing quotes one man with cerebral palsy, who was so afraid of being sanctioned for not performing the mandatory work, that he felt physically sick.

The system also affects those in low-paid part-time jobs or on zero hours contracts. These must prove that they are looking for more working hours or a better paid job. If they do not do so, they may lose benefits or tax credits. In 2013 the Tory-Lib Dem government made it even harder for people to claim tax credits by raising the number of working hours a week, for which tax credits could not be claimed, from 16 to 24.

Vox Political: Racist DWP Official Calls Single Mum ‘Scrounging B*****d’

August 5, 2016

This is really appalling. Mike has put up a piece about an article in the Canary about the way a woman was left an abusive message on her answerphone by a member of the DWP, after she contacted them to see what benefits were available. The woman, Cecilia Garcia, has dual Mexican-British citizenship, and had worked in finance. All three of her children were born in Britain. However, her marriage had broken up and she was having trouble paying the rent, so she contacted her local Jobcentre Plus office in Bromley.

Her call was answered by Ann Goode, who left her abusive message on the answerphone because she had not realised that she hadn’t rung off after leaving her intended reply to Garcia. She was then heard discussing the case with a colleague, in which she said that she believed Garcia was probably claiming benefits up to £1,000 a month, commented that neither of Mrs Garcia’s names were English, and stated that she resented having on her caseload a ‘scrounging b*****d who’s popping out kids like pigs’.

Mike comments that at a time when our politicians are under heavy scrutiny and strongly criticised for prejudice against individuals because of race, sex, disability, sexual orientation or their religion, this shows that DWP officials are getting away with it. He also makes the point that this is not the first time it’s happened, and warns people to watch how May’s government will sweep this under the carpet.

See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/08/05/dwp-worker-calls-a-mum-of-three-a-scrounging-bd-on-answerphone/

I’m really not surprised by this incident. Unfortunately, hostility and prejudice towards claimants is now built into the system. Blair’s New Labour was convinced that a vast proportion of disabled people claiming benefits or the long term sick were malingerers, and showed the same attitude as the Tories to cutting benefits in order to force people back into work. Thatcher was very keen on the old Victorian idea of ‘less eligibility’ – making benefits so hard and unpleasant that it would deter people from seeking help, and more or less said so in so many words. As a result, there is a harsh indifference and indeed even hostility to claimants within the DWP. And the bile and recriminations aren’t just confined to them. Whistleblowers have also said that because of poor pay and conditions, and the threat of unemployment as DWP bosses like Iain Duncan Smith consider further ways of reducing staff, there is an atmosphere of backbiting and treachery amongst the department’s civil servants.

The Department desperately needs reforming, as at the moment it is very definitely not ‘fit for purpose’. But don’t expect this from Theresa May’s new, so-called ‘caring’ Tory administration. She is just going to carry on Cameron’s – and Thatcher’s policies, which massively reward the rich and impoverish the rest of us.

Pinochet, Hillary Clinton, and Theresa May’s Proposal for Worker Directors

July 30, 2016

I found this very interesting paragraph in a piece by Michael Hudson ‘Obama Said Hillary Will Continue His Legacy. And She Will!’ in this weekend’s collection of Counterpunch articles:

Obama’s brilliant demagogy left many eyes glazed over in admiration. Nobody is better at false sincerity while misrepresenting reality so shamelessly. Probably few caught the threatening hint he dropped about Hillary’s plan for corporations to share their profits with their workers. This sounds to me like the Pinochet plan to privatize Social Security by turning it into exploitative ESOPs (Employee Stock Ownership Programs). The idea is that wage withholding would be steered to buy into the company’s stock – bidding it up in the process. Employees then would end up holding an empty bag, as occurred recently with the Chicago Tribune. That seems to be the great “reform” to “save” Social Security that her Wall Street patrons are thinking up.

Hudson’s article is a sustained demolition of the liberal image Shrillary and the rest of the establishment Democrat Party have promoted. She is not remotely on the side of the increasingly impoverished Middle and working classes, but a neoliberal corporatist concerned with promoting the profits of her donors in Wall Street and Big Business at the expense of ordinary Americans. She stands for more austerity, further cuts to education and welfare programmes, including Medicare, and the TTP and TTIP free trade agreements, that threaten to outsource more American jobs.

She’s also an extremely militaristic hawk, who has supported a series of bloody interventions from Iraq, Libya, and Syria to Honduras. She promises a further escalation of American military action around the globe. To divert attention from the corrupt machinations in her favour by the Democrat party machine, headed by Debbie Wasserman Schultz, she has attacked Putin for supposedly hacking into the Democrat’s computer, which held details of these underhand deals. She’s also using Trump’s friendship with the Russian leader to attack him, in which Hudson sees as a return to the Red-baiting antics of the McCarthy era. He describes how she has appealed to Republic voters against those of Bernie Sanders and the progressive Left. And how Bernie Sanders has also ill-served his own supporters by endorsing her, despite the fact that she stands for everything he opposes.

Hudson also makes the wider point that many, if not most of the policy positions Hillary adopts are exactly the same as Obama. Obama was no radical: he described himself as a ‘moderate Republican’. The only radical feature about him was his ethnicity. He was Black, and this constituted a liberal point in his favour, just as Shrillary’s biological femininity is a point in hers. But Hudson makes the point that Shrillary’s biological gender is irrelevant to her politics. She does not embody the traditional female characteristics of empathy, but a very masculine aggressive militarism, in which she is ‘one of the boys’ with the other army hawks.

See http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/07/29/obama-said-hillary-will-continue-his-legacy-and-indeed-she-will/

There is much here that parallels the political situation over here in Blighty. Owen Smith and the Blairites in Labour are also neoliberals, standing for austerity, welfare cuts, aggressive militarism and pursuing the aims and enrichment of the super-rich at the expense of the poor. It’s not even remotely surprising, as Blair modelled his New Labour project on Bill Clinton’s New Democrats. And both parties based their electoral strategy on trying to win over Conservative voters through the adoption of corporatist, anti-working class policies.

But the piece also indicated very strong parallels with Theresa May’s Conservatives. They’re even more corporatist than New Labour, but May announced when she entered No 10 that she was in favour of workers on companies’ boards of directors. This is a radical socialist policy. It’s one so radical, that leftwing Labour MPs like Tony Benn and Ken Livingstone were ruthlessly pilloried for endorsing it in the 1970s and 1980s. Now May, an arch capitalist, says she’s in favour of it.

She clearly isn’t, at least as far as it is conventionally considered. It may well be, as I’ve said before, just rhetoric, a piece of left-wing guff to make her sound more progressive than she actually is. David Cameron, her predecessor, did the same before he became prime minister. He and Ian Duncan Smith opposed New Labour’s welfare cuts, including the privatisation of the NHS, and made noises about supporting Green policies. Cameron’s political mentor, Anthony Blonde, claimed that neoliberalism had failed, and that the Tory party would support pro-worker policies in his book, Red Tory. He even made approving noises about the great 19th century Russian Anarchist, Peter Kropotkin.

Except that it was all rubbish. Once in power, the Green policies were swiftly jettisoned and fracking and nuclear power wholeheartedly endorsed. Neoliberalism was declared to be the only way forward. And he made deeper cuts under his austerity campaign than Labour, and, if anything, stepped up the privatisation of the NHS.

It looks like May is repeating that strategy: first appear a bit left, then, when your position has been consolidated, get rid of it all and carry on as normal.

But it may be that she does mean something about worker directors. If she does, it won’t be for the welfare of the working class. Hudson states that Hillary’s call for profit-sharing sounds like Pinochet’s attempts to privatise social security through turning it into a employee share scheme. Something like this is also likely over here with May’s worker directors. The Tory party has already tried to promote one scheme, by which workers were able to acquire shares in their company, if they signed away their employment rights. It looks very much to me that May will try something similar under the pretense of introducing industrial democracy. If she ever does anything like that at all in the first place, that is.

Owen Smith Joins IDS in Lying on his CV

July 28, 2016

Ian Duncan Rimmer

Mike also put up another piece yesterday, wondering whether there’s some kind of requirement that Work and Pensions MPs falsify their CVs. The classic example of this is Ian Duncan Smith, the Arnold Rimmer of British politics. Mike here recounts the classic lies he spun in order to make himself more impressive. Like he attended the Universita di Perugia in Italy, when actually he went to the Universita di Stranieri, which didn’t grant degrees, and where IDS didn’t even complete his exams. He wasn’t exactly educated at the Dunchurch College of Management either. This was a former staff college for GEC Marconi. IDS did study there. He did a number of courses, which only lasted a couple of days, and the total added up to a month of study. He wasn’t there for any length of time, and never gained a recognised qualification.

And now his namesake, Owen Smith, joins him in this roll call of mendacity and bloated egoism. Owen Smith claimed that he was a director and board member of Amgen’s UK and Ireland division. Except he wasn’t. Amgen is the one of the world’s biggest biotech companies, and they stated that Smiffy worked for them for 18 months, but was not an officer of the company, and not on the board of directors. However, Smiffy’s team defended his lie by saying that he was on director level when he was working for the company, but the company was only allowed to have one, and that was in the USA. Nevertheless, his online CV has been amended.

Mike asks whether we really want a(nother) liar as Labour leader?

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/07/27/is-it-a-requirement-that-work-and-pensions-mps-falsify-their-cvs/

Clearly, we don’t. But we didn’t exactly need to see his falsified CV to known that he’s a proven liar. You just have to look at the antics of New Labour in their campaign to vilify Jeremy Corbyn, with false accusation of anti-Semitism, threats, misogyny and abuse, to see that the basic concept of telling the truth is utterly alien to them. Now this campaign goes far beyond Smudger, but he’s been part of it. He also lied about how he wasn’t part of the Labour party when he was working for Pfizer, urging the privatisation of the NHS. Except that he had been, and left the party specifically to work for Pfizer, before rejoining Labour to work for a unit cultivating good relations with the company. So, more lies.

The answer should be ‘No’, we don’t want another liar in government, and especially not after the death and chaos caused by the last Smudger in the Department for Work and Pensions.