Posts Tagged ‘Jobcentres’

Labour to End Tory Persecution of Sick, Disabled and Poor

May 16, 2017

This is excellent news for anyone on a low income, or who suffers from a long term sickness or is or cares for a disabled person. And it’s going to send the Tories, the Blairites and the parasites in the private insurance industry, who recommended the current high persecutory disability policies, absolutely incandescent with fury.

Mike over on his blog has reported that Labour have made the following promises in their manifesto:

* to scrap the work capability assessments and Personal Independence Payment assessments.

* to stop the endless reassessments of people with severe long term conditions.

* Scrapping sanctions.

* Scrapping the bedroom tax.

* Increasing ESA for people in the work-related activity group, and reversing the cuts in UC LCW.

* Uprating carers allowance.

* reinstating housing benefit for young people under 21.

* Reversing the cuts to the bereavement support payments.

* Reviewing the cuts to work allowances in Universal Credit.

* Reviewing the decision to limit tax credits and Universal Credit to the first two children in a family. Which is, as Mike points out, the Rape Clause. This odious piece of legislation was defended in Scotland by an equally odious piece of work, Ruth Davidson, the leader of the Tories up there.

Mike states

The Labour Party manifesto, released today (May 16) has confirmed what we all saw in the leaked version last week – a bonfire of the cruel legislation that has led to the deaths of thousands upon thousands of vulnerable people.

But remember – this is only what Labour would do, if elected back into office on June 8.

With the mass media lining up to attack Labour over any slightest quibble, that will be hard to achieve.

So please make sure all 12 million sick and disabled people, and all of the unemployed and under-employed get to see this.

He also applauds Labour’s promises to end the way the Jobcentre staff and the benefit system itself demonises those with disabilities and the unemployed, so that it becomes more supportive and enabling.

He gives due credit to Debbie Abrahams, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, saying that this confirms what he has known about her, that she is a woman of strong professional integrity, who will act on her promises.

Mike concludes

If YOU have a long-term illness or disability, this is all the reason you need to vote Labour on June 8. If you don’t, but know somebody who does, please share this information with them.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/05/16/confirmed-labour-will-end-tory-persecution-of-the-sick-disabled-and-poor/#comments

I agree with Mike on just about every line of this. And I won’t be remotely surprised when the Tories and their lapdogs in the press and media go absolutely insane at this.

It is a direct reversal of the welfare policies introduced by Blair and the Tories, at the behest of American private healthcare firms and insurers. The wretched work capability tests were recommended by John Lo Cascio, the head honcho of the American insurance fraudster, Unum. This was based on bogus science, that has now been comprehensively refuted. I’ve reblogged material from Johnny Void and Kitty S. Jones and many, many others over the years, which provide a very detailed critique which absolutely demolishes its pretension to scientific fact. But still the Tories tout it.

And Labour’s pledge to stop the demonization of the sick and poor is a direct attack on one of the fundamental principles of Thatcherism: that those dependant on welfare payments, the sick, disabled and unemployed, must be humiliated as much as possible, in order to deter them from becoming a burden to the taxpayer. Meaning the rich, who must be given tax breaks and corporate subsidies at every opportunity.

It’s called the principle of Less Eligibility, and it was the reason why the workhouses were such places of degradation and misery. But Thatcher celebrated it as one of her ‘Victorian values’, which she really wanted to call ‘Victorian virtues’, but her spin doctors wouldn’t let her.

Like the Tories, the Blairites are Thatcherites, who adopted her vicious, spiteful and punitive attitude to poverty.

This is also a comprehensive rebuttal to the refrain you also hear from Tory voters when the work disability assessments are criticised: no, they’re not going to vote Labour, ’cause Labour introduced them.

Well, they can’t use that excuse now, because Labour’s committed to scrapping them.

This will be bitterly resented by the Tory press, not just because it is a strong attack on decades of Tory policies, but because newspapers like the Torygraph make their money from advertising, and are afraid to do anything that will offend their advertisers. The Torygraph is particularly sensitive to this, as they’ve been spiking stories that would offend their advertisers. It was the reason one of the columnists, Peter Oborne, walked out and very publicly denounced them in the rest of the media, including Channel 4, a few years ago. As the Torygraph seems determined to lock itself into a death spiral of continuing cuts and sackings in order to maintain its share price, while its readership plummets, I’m not remotely worried if these policies help put another boot into the Tory paper.

And, of course, it’s going to inflame the already fevered tempers over at the Daily Mail massively. The Heil has been one of the papers that has been at the very forefront of demonising people on disability benefit as scroungers. Mike has shown that the true statistics for benefit fraud is 0.7 per cent – a vanishingly small amount. But thanks to the Tories and the lies of the press, the British public believe that it’s 27 per cent.

And the rich, who have been pushing for these policies so they can enjoy ever greater profits and tax breaks are afraid.

How else can you explain today’s headline in the I, which screams that Labour intends a ‘tax grab on the rich’. The term ‘tax grab’ seems to show a little panic on the part of the editor, no doubt on behalf of the Russian oligarch who owns the paper.

So don’t be deceived by the lies and hysterical denunciations of these policies. Unlike the rubbish spouted by May, these are sincerely meant, and if implemented will lead to a better, fairer, and healthier Britain.

Because the destruction of the sanctions regime and the work capability tests will stop people dying. Look at Stilloak’s website and the site Atos Miracles to see how many have died in poverty, misery and starvation due to these vile and evil policies.

So please vote Labour on May 8.

Middle Eastern Asylum Seekers Forced to Use Food Banks or Starve

May 8, 2017

I heard this from my mother after she came back from church yesterday. It’s one of those stories which makes you wonder what’s wrong with the people of this country. And the minister, who told it, made it very clear he thought something ought to be done about the poverty being inflicted on the poor and desperate right NOW.

One of the ministers at our local church also helps out at one of the city’s food banks. He told mum that one of the people, who is now forced to use it is a female asylum seeker from one of the war-torn countries in the Middle East. The woman was married with a husband and child, who she had left behind. Fortunately, when she arrived here she was able to claim benefits.

That is until she was joined by the rest of her family. This should have been a joyful reunion. Another family given sanctuary from fear and murder in Blighty. And I dare say for a time it was, until the DWP told the lady that, as her circumstances were changed, she was no longer entitled to benefits.

And so, like over a hundred thousand other people in this miserable country, she was forced to come to the food bank or starve.

The minister was upset and outraged by this obvious injustice. And it’s just one of a hundred thousand others. I’ve reblogged pieces before from some of the great sites and pages on the Web by people, who work in food banks, or who otherwise have contact with those who do, or are forced to use them.

The people, who come to them are genuinely desperate. They don’t use them, as the Tories have lied ad nauseam, because it’s free food. You need to be referred by your local jobcentre because you have no money. And thanks to the government’s determination to brand every job- and asylum seeker a potential scrounger, and throw them off benefits, an increasing number are. And all so the government can appeal to the embittered souls, who read the Daily Heil, and play up to the growing anti-immigrant sentiment in this country.

Except, contrary to all the lies put out by the Tory press, these people aren’t taking our jobs. They do jobs we don’t want to do, as shown in the film, Dirty Pretty Things. Many of them are also highly educated people, frequently with technical backgrounds, whose skills this country needs.

They also are a net contributor to what remains of our welfare state. Immigrants and asylum seekers pay into through taxes and NI contributions, but are less likely to be on benefits than the traditional population.

As for the fears that we shall be overwhelmed with them, they impression I have had is that they really don’t want to leave the homelands. They have genuinely been driven out because of real threats against their lives and those of their families. When the wars in their native countries end, or the oppressive regime is overthrown, they’ll be only too glad to go back.

But you ain’t going to hear about this from the likes of the Scum, the Mail, and the Express. You’re just going to hear tales of violent criminals sponging off the system, or of militant Islamists trying to islamicize the place by stealth.

Not only is this playing up to the worst aspects of the national psyche, it also has a more obscure, but equally important role in promoting the interests of right-wing parties like the Tories and UKIP, before their decimation in the election last week. Playing on fears of immigrants helps divide the working class, just as portraying the rest of the genuinely poor and desperate as scroungers, and trade unionists as evil troublemakers determined to wreck the country. Since the collapse of Communism the Tories and their lickspittles in the press haven’t been able to claim that they’re all the tools of Moscow. this might come back, though, with the new Cold War and the determined campaign to blame everything on Putin. At the moment, however, they’re just content to harp on about the ‘Winter of Discontent’ and the ’70s.

And as they do, it helps keep working people from uniting with others, who are deliberately being kept poor and desperate so that May, and Blair and Thatcher before her, could give tax cuts and a supply of cheap, disposable labour to big business.

It’s time people saw through the lies and propaganda, and realised their common interests with the long term unemployed, the disabled, and asylum seekers, everyone who is sneered at and demonised by the Tories and the neoliberals in the Labour party.

We shouldn’t need food banks. We should have a decent benefit system, which gave people what they need to survive, and recognised that the people, who are out of work, have been thrown there due to a rigged economic system and collapsing jobs market.

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.

In Defence of Left-Wing Anger

August 17, 2016

I’ve been meaning to get this off my chest for a little while now. One aspect of the anti-Corbyn Labour MPs that really annoys me is the hypocrisy that comes with their constant playing at being the victims of terrible abuse by Momentum and Jeremy Corbyn. Every so often they make pleas for political discourse and exchange to be made kinder or more genteel, while showing precious little of such qualities themselves. Jess Philips, according to the Groan, is having a panic room installed at her constituency office. But Mike’s already stated that she herself is an abrasive character online. This doesn’t justify any threats against her, but it doesn’t make her quite the innocent victim she claims either.

I’ve reblogged a video several times made by a couple in Angela Eagle’s constituency pointing out that Eagle’s story about the brick being thrown by Jeremy Corbyn supporters through her constituency window is a load of hogwash. It begins with footage of Eagle giving her story to the press. She concludes by saying that ‘We need a kinder, gentler style of politics’, before turning smartly on her heel and marching off, surrounded by her aids. This little piece has infuriated me ever since I’ve seen it. Firstly, it seems more than a little imperious. It’s bit of ‘I, the Great One, am speaking. Mortals listen!’ I also object to it on the grounds that it seems to be trying to deny the fact that her critics and opponents just might have entirely justifiable reasons for their anger. She seems to want to have the kind of exchange where everything is calm and mild. Now this is the kind of exchange I prefer. I honestly don’t like abuse and trolling. But on certain issues, if people do become abusive, it can be because the issue they’re discussing has all too real implications and consequences for them.

And many of the policies enacted by the Blairites have had terrible consequences for Britain as a nation, and specifically for the poor and working class. Let’s go through them.

Firstly, Blair took Britain into an illegal war in Iraq. The country had not threatened us, and at the time we invaded, Saddam Hussein was pretty much a joke to the rest of the Middle East. He was a thug, but he was contained. And the country over which he ruled was relatively prosperous, and with an advanced welfare state and educational system, at least for the region.

This has all changed. A quarter of a million Iraqis have died, and the country degenerated into a bloodbath of competing factions. Their economy has been wrecked, and ISIS and related death squads have terrorised its population. Our squaddies have been sent to fight and die, not to keep the world safe, but to produce even greater profits for the oil companies and American multinationals wishing to get their mitts on the country’s appetising state industries. Domestically it reinforced the view of many Muslims that the country was being targeted simply because it was Islamic. So it’s increased more racial and religious friction and intolerance over here. Is the Iraq invasion a good reason for people to get angry. Yes.

Then there’s the privatisation of the NHS. Blair, Brown and the others in New Labour took over the Private Finance Initiative and massively expanded it as official labour policy. They also began to split up the NHS into different commissioning groups, with the intention of creating competition. These commissioning groups were to provide healthcare not only from the NHS, but also from private healthcare companies. Hospitals and doctors surgeries have been taken over by private hospital chains. More than half of all hospital treatment is now commissioned from private healthcare providers. The ‘walk-in’ centres, or polyclinics, that were set up were also intended to be privately run. New Labour took as their care model a private American company, Kaiser Permanente. These policies have been taken over and further extended by the Tories after they won the 2010 election. Now it’s almost set to be totally privatised. Frankly, this makes me absolutely furious.

Let’s take the Work Capability Test. This was adopted by Blair and co. because they uncritically swallowed the Tory rubbish about most disabled people, the long term sick were malingerers and scroungers. They took over a tick-box questionnaire approach to examining people’s health pioneered by Unum, an American health insurance company that was guilty of some of the biggest insurance frauds prosecuted by the American state. The questionnaire used, and its underlying assumptions, are scientific nonsense. The policy is so notorious, that Atos decided to throw in the towel early, and were released from their contract a year before it was due to expire.

But the policy goes on, and it has had terrible real world consequences. Seriously ill people have been thrown off their benefits, and in some cases, have actually starved to death through lack of an income. Those with mental health problems, like anxiety and depression, have become worse, often much worse. As an example of how farcical this is, you consider some of the worst incidents, where people terminally ill in comas have been told they should find a job. Or when an amputee was asked when they expected their limbs to grow back. People are suffering and starving because of this. This isn’t a case of abstract policy, an interesting intellectual puzzle, which has no clear consequences for people’s lives. It makes a different over whether people are actually able to put food on their tables, or have a roof over their head, or can live out their lives with dignity.

It’s the same with the issue of benefit sanctions. Thanks to them, and the flexible employment policies Blair and Brown were so keen to employ, there are about 4.7 million people living in ‘food poverty’ in this country. There are cases where mothers are starving themselves, because it’s the only way they can afford to feed their children. And I can remember an incident I read on one of the other blogs, about how people in one town came to the aid of a young man, after he broke down in tears outside the Jobcentre, because they wouldn’t help him. As with the Work Capability Test, this is an issue that all-too real consequences for millions of people. And when nearly five million are going hungry in the fourth richest country in the world, you bet people have a right to be angry.

You can expand this to include the way the treatment of jobseekers has been deliberately made as humiliating and degrading as possible, with the imposition of workfare, capitalist forced labour brought to you by Sainsbury’s and the myriad other firms using it to cut down on labour costs. This was introduced as part of Margaret Thatcher’s return to ‘Victorian values’, which in this case meant the same values on which the workhouse system was established. The DHSS and the Benefits Agency always had an element of danger with them, because claimants naturally got angry with the state bureaucracy that could deny them money. People are left angry, despairing and furious with their treatment by the Jobcentre. But they also have a right to direct this rage at the politicians, who created the system.

And here New Labour have also shown themselves to be despicable. Cameron introduced workfare, but Ed Miliband ordered his cabinet not to oppose it, in case the Labour party should be seen to be soft on ‘benefit scroungers’ by the Tory press. Again, people have a very definite right to be angry.

I also think part of what makes me angry about Eagle’s behaviour, is her manner. It’s as if she seems to be completely insulated from the grim reality of the suffering New Labour have inflicted. She sounds to me like a bureaucrat or manager, completely obsessed with administering the policies that have been set, and getting irritated because somebody, somewhere, has had the temerity to object to it. I’ve remarked before that many of the Blairites seem to come from affluent, privileged, middle class backgrounds. My guess is that they genuinely don’t appreciate the harm they’re doing, because they’ve never experienced it themselves. They’ve only ever seen these policies from the vantage point of people, who’ve taken on the task of carrying them out. And they find it confusing and intensely infuriating when the masses don’t just accept what’s being done is for their good.

I am not saying that people have a right to abuse politicians or Jobcentre staff, or threaten them, let alone attack them or try to damage their property. I am very definitely against all of that. But people do have a right to be enraged at what has been done to them by the Thatcherites, both in the Tories and in New Labour.

And anger, as John Lydon sang, is an energy.

The gaol should now be to use this anger, this resentment against an unfair and deliberately cruel and exploitative system, to argue, research, expose and organise and keep the pressure on relentlessly to overturn these policies.

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.

Owen Smith Unveils His Policies, but None Are His Own

July 28, 2016

Mike yesterday put up a piece reporting that Owen Smith had finally unveiled 20 policies of his own, with which he hoped to challenged Jeremy Corbyn. They’re all good, as far as they go. The trouble is, none of them are his own. Mike reported that the Corbynistas have already pointed out that they were taken from the Institute of Employment Rights’ Manifesto for Labour Law, which Jeremy Corbyn had already adopted as the basis for future Labour policy last month. Mike quotes the response of the Jeremy Corbyn for Leader Campaign to Smith’s policies, who said that they welcomed Smiff’s support for policies announced in recent months by Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. They pointed out that Smudger’s speech showed that Corbyn did possess true leadership, and that a Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn would reverse the damage caused by the decline in manufacturing jobs due to the failed economic policies of the last thirty years. Northern communities, hard hit by industrial decline, would be a particular priority, and would be regenerated through economic devolution that would put people and jobs first.

Mike also points out that several of Smudger’s policies are vague. They just appear to be cosmetic, and don’t address the real, underlying problems. Such as his promise to concentrate on ‘equality of outcome, not equality of opportunity’. Mike makes the point that this is so confused as to be almost meaningless. He also makes the point that Smiff’s promise to increase spending on schools and libraries is fine, but he doesn’t promise to end private-sector involvement in schools, or reopen the libraries that have closed. His promise to reinstate the 50p top rate of tax is also cosmetic, and will be attacked as such by the Tories. His promises to reverse the cuts to the capital gains tax, corporation, inheritance tax and his plans to introduce a new wealth tax similarly look cosmetic. They’ll bring more money into the treasury, but he says nothing about how they’ll be spent. As for ‘ending fuel poverty by investing in efficient energy’ – this is notable because he does not promise to renationalise the electricity firms, thus meaning that we’re still going to be paying the foreign owners of our energy companies.

Mike concludes his article with the statement:

Smith makes a big deal of being able to deliver these policies – asking us to accept that Mr Corbyn can’t. How do we know either of those things? We don’t. In fact, it seems unlikely that this list is anything more than a catalogue of empty promises and he’ll go back to right-wing neoliberalism if he gets the chance.

It’s not enough. It’s painting a new face on New Labour. It’s reacting to Jeremy Corbyn.

And perhaps this is the biggest point to be made:

Why have Fake Corbyn when we can simply keep the real Corbyn?

See Mike’s article: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/07/27/20-policy-proposals-from-owen-smith-but-how-many-are-his-own/

This is a very good point. Smudger is reacting to Corbyn, and while it’s welcome that Corbyn’s leadership of the party is forcing Smiff to embrace some left-wing policies, they aren’t as good as the full range of policies articulated by Jeremy Corbyn’s camp. And we have absolutely no guarantee that once in charge of the Labour party, Smiffy will carry out any of his policies. In fact, there’s a lot of evidence to the contrary. Smiff’s a New Labour, neoliberal privatiser. He left a job in the Labour party to work for Pfizer, and then returned to the Labour party. While at Pfizer, he pushed for the privatisation of the NHS. Back in the Labour party, he was part of the unit that maintained good relations with the company and the other private healthcare firms hoping to get a cut of NHS action. When questioned about his connection with Pfizer, Smudger lied about it, claiming that he worked for them before he joined the Labour party, thus hiding the fact that he was already working for the Labour party before he joined them. And while he has said that he doesn’t intend to privatise any more of the NHS, he hasn’t promised to renationalise what has already been sold off.

And his faction, New Labour in the form of Progress and Saving Labour, has a record of appalling mendacity. His rival, Angela Eagle, lied about having a brick thrown through her office window, just as she lied about being abused at a meeting for her sexuality. The anti-Corbyn camp have smeared and libelled decent people, many with a sincere and proud record of anti-racism and opposing anti-Semitism, as anti-Semites. This has included Jews and people of part-Jewish heritage. They have adopted the deceitful strategy of PR companies to try to present themselves as the victims in a concerted campaign to smear and discredit Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters. There was the ‘Eradicate Blairite Scum’ T-shirt, which was devised by a Blairite and her pet PR person. Mike has put up a piece today reporting that the elderly gentleman wearing that claims he was tricked by the two, and feels that he has also been smeared because of it. Then there was the letter by over 40 female Blairite MPs complaining that they had been abused in his name, when there is no evidence that anything of the sort had occurred. Quite apart from the staged heckling of Corbyn himself at a gay rights rally, done by another PR person from Portland, a company owned by Will Straw, the son of Jack Straw.

I also notice that he makes absolutely no proposal to tackle the New Labour and Tory welfare cuts, despite the fact that these have thrust millions into precarity and grinding poverty. The Work Capability Assessment has resulted in at least over a thousand seriously ill people dying after being found ‘fit for work’ by Atos and their successor, Maximus. In some areas, 80 per cent of those told they were fit for work had their judgements overturned on appeal. But the damage inflicted on very many vulnerable people through the stress of these tests is severe. It has made the mental health of nearly 300,000 people worse, sometimes seriously so. He hasn’t promised to end the system of benefit sanctions, despite the hardships and injustice these have caused. The blog ‘Diary of a Food Bank Helper’ has put up numerous cases of those working at the sharp end of poverty in the UK. Kitty S. Jones, Johnny Void and so many others have also put up their accounts of people, who’ve been thrown off benefit for often the flimsiest reasons. Like they’re turned up a few minutes late, because they had to arrange alternative means of getting their children to or from school. Or they were in hospital, and so couldn’t attend the interview. Or some other bullsh*t excuse.

I’m still haunted by some of these stories. Stilloaks on his blog put up the cases of some of the 590 people, who have died of hunger or through their own hands, after having their benefit stopped. This included a young mother, who leaped through an upper storey window, killing herself and her baby. There was an elderly couple, who committed suicide together, because they were starving and had come to the end. One of the accounts, not of a fatality, was of how members of the public came to comfort a young man, who broke down in tears outside the Jobcentre, weeping because they wouldn’t give him any money.

This is the kind of establishment bullying that had people marching in the streets back in the 1930s. It’s the casual abuse by the entitled privileged classes, that inspired the comrades of the National Union of the Unemployed to occupy the Ritz, leaving their patrons aghast because the proles had dared to show up! How dare they!

Some of these account of poverty were read out in parliament. It says everything you need to know about Cameron and IDS that they had a good chuckle about them, live on air. Yep, to the Tories, poverty and desperation are a damned good, jolly joke, provided those affected are just grammar school oik or the hoi polloi from the comprehensives and secondary moderns.

And from Owen Smith and New Labour – silence. Smudger abstained on the Tory welfare cuts. As did Eagle. Mind you, they couldn’t do anything else, as New Labour was responsible for introducing a fair part of the legislation on which they were based. Like the Work Capability Tests.

Giving people a decent wage is an excellent start. But it also needs to be coupled with policies that won’t lead to the starvation of those of on benefits. Smudger isn’t going to tackle this. And so whatever he says or does, he’s still content to see a fair chunk of the 3.7 million trapped in food poverty remain in it.

And then there is the authoritarian mindset behind these antics. Jeremy Corbyn is massively popular with grassroots Labour. And I’m confident that, if his parliamentary party actually bothered to take the trouble to represent their members and constituents, he’d be massively popular too with the electorate. After all, before the Tories shot into a 16 point lead ahead of Labour this week, there were only a single point ahead last week. And this despite all the abuse and smears.

But that’s too much for the Blairites. They can’t stand the idea that the neoliberal policies Tony Blair placed so much faith in as the electoral salvation of the Labour party, actually aren’t. And they definitely don’t see themselves as the ‘servants of the people’, as Andrew Rawnsley ironically titled his book on Blair and his coterie. They see themselves as the leaders, whom the grassroots members should automatically obey. And if they still persist, then they’re a Trotskyite hippy rabble wearing donkey jackets and smelling of patchouli, who should leave the party.

Smudger and his cohorts have an absolute contempt for ordinary people, who are to be sneered at, tricked and deceived. He and they have lied about Jeremy Corbyn. He will lie, and lie flagrantly, once he is in government. He and they cannot and should not be trusted with power. He will not restore the NHS. He will not renationalise the utilities, and he will not renationalise our failing railways. He’s a fake, and the genuinely progressive policies he’s adopted are their to disguise the privatising neoliberal underneath. And once he gets in power, it’s a fair bet that they’ll be forgotten, and he’ll carry on copying Tory policies as before. After all, it’s what Bliar did.

Dennis Skinner on Mike Ashley and Sports Direct

June 6, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has published a piece about Mike Ashley, the founder of Sports Direct, finally agreeing to meet the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee, who are investigating the employment practices in his firm. Among the issues they wish to inquire into are claims that working conditions at Sports Direct result in employees working for less than the minimum wage. Ashley was unwilling to meet them at their headquarters, and so invited them to come to talk to him at his headquarters, but this violates parliamentary transparency. So they threatened to apply sanctions. This finally worked, and Ashley has agreed to go to meet them.

See Mike’s article: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/06/06/sports-direct-founder-to-appear-before-mps-after-committee-prepares-to-apply-sanctions/

Shirebrook, where Sports Direct’s headquarters is located, is in Dennis Skinner’s constituency, and the left-wing Labour MP has a few sharp criticisms at Ashley and his firm in his autobiographical Sailing Close to the Wind: Reminiscences. Especially as the site occupied by it is on former coal tips, which were levelled and the land reclaimed through funding obtained by Skinner as the local MP. Skinner writes

Mike Ashley, the billionaire operator of sports shops on many high streets and the Newcastle United football club in the premiership, owns a huge Sports Direct warehouse in Shirebrook in the Bolsover constituency. I secured £21 million from Gordon Brown when he was chancellor of the exchequer to flatten Shirebrook’s pit tips and Ashley’s buildings sit on the reclaimed site. So Ashley’s plant was subsidised out of the public purse.

Sadly, MPs such as myself have no control over planning matters and East Midlands regional development agency didn’t heed advice to demand that trade unions be recognised. As a result, if all the workers I’ve seen from the place are representative of the whole workforce there, the warehouse is filled with hundreds of workers on insecure zero-hours agency contracts at little more than the minimum wage. So taxpayers subsidise Ashley a second time by topping up the low pay with benefits to enable his workforce to survive.

No trade union is recognised at Sports Direct in Shirebrook and I know from conversations with countless nervous workers that they’re terrified of speaking out of turn because they fear they’ll be sacked. Almost everybody I’ve come across was recruited through an agency, on poor conditions, rather than through Jobcentres. I know of very few workers there who are on full-time permanent contracts paying a living wage. I wrote to Ashley asking why at Newcastle United, the football club he owns, a trade union is recognised for the players but he doesn’t recognise a trade union for the workers at Sports Direct. Ashley never replied. What’s more, I, as the local MP, have never, on principle, set foot in the warehouse.

Greedy bosses such as Ashley are why I shall be a socialist as long as I breathe. He’s rich beyond the dreams of avarice by exploiting workers. Worth an estimate £3.75 billion, his loot increased by £1.45 billion last year according to the latest Rich List. He’s amassed a fortune even bigger than that grinning tax dodger Richard Branson. The helicopter Ashley flies in, to and from that Shirebrook plant, is paid for by the sweat of men and women who struggle to afford a bus fare home.

The truth is the Professional Footballer’s Association (PFA) forced Ashley to recognise a union at Newcastle United. Footballers are a tightly knit small group with a transfer value on the market. At Sports Direct, Ashley holds all the cards – the company hiring and firing at will. He dips into a large pool of vulnerable unemployed. (pp. 101-2).

This shows the double standards between the very lucrative world of professional football, and the poor souls, who slave away in sweatshops all over the world to produce the merchandising sold by exploiters and slave drivers like Mike Ashley. Sports Directs’ head should have much explaining to do, but I dare say he’ll get away with it, or escape with a bare minimum punishment due to the fact that he’s one of the go-getting entrepreneurs the Tories and New Labour just love. And bad luck for the rest of us.

Denis Curran, Head of Food Bank Charity, on Hunger due Welfare Sanctions

June 1, 2016

This is another piece I found on Youtube. It’s a charity worker for Loaves and Fishes, a food bank, before the Scots parliament way back in 2014, talking about his work delivering food to the absolutely poverty-stricken, hit by the government’s savage cuts and sheer exploitation by grasping employers. And it’s very powerful and moving stuff.

Mr Curran talks about people traipsing three or four miles from the town centre, just to get something to eat. A mother, who hasn’t eaten for three days, because she’s been trying to feed her children. And then there’s a man, who worked for two hours for a prospective employer, and, unbidden, cleaned up after himself, only to be told that ‘he wasn’t suitable’, and sent home without any pay for the two hours he’d put in. One man he saw had been sanctioned for eleven weeks. That’s eleven weeks without money. He talks about the rise in suicide from sheer desperation by the people hit by the cuts. He also talks about how some official agencies won’t store food, because their employees have left the room in a mess, and they don’t want to encourage it, or they fear cross contamination from the different types of food if they’re put together. Or they want it delivered, but they have to keep within their budgets, so there’s no help for it. Curran also states that he’s a pensioner, who uses two sticks and sometimes he can’t get about. But if he can’t make a delivery for a certain social work agency on a certain day, he’ll get told that he can’t make another delivery until Wednesday, because of the way that agency’s doing things. As a result, the family that needs it haven eaten up till then. He talks about people going to food banks to get baby clothes for a new baby. He states that the government see people on benefits as scroungers and layabouts, when this is not the case, and are penalising them for being poor. He describes how quickly the sanctions legislation was passed. They made the decision on a Thursday, and then five days later, the next Tuesday, it became law. He asks what would happen if MPs were forced to go without pay, their gas, water and electricity cut off, and their fridges emptied, so they were forced to use food banks. Not how they would cope financially, but how it would affect them mentally. He also states that he’s been coming to meetings like this since 1993, and the only thing changes is that he keeps coming to more meetings. And he expects to be coming to another one in 2016. He recalls that he and his wife grew up during the Second World War. And he criticises the government for making us a 21st century society, but with 1930s values. Back during the War they gave you a ration book. Now it’s vouchers for a food bank. ‘What’s the difference, eh?’

It’s powerful, angry stuff, from someone, who is on the frontline of trying to help people keep body and soul together. Mr Curran comes from East Kilbride, and describes how he travels about all over Scotland to deliver his food parcels. Listening to him, this viewer from south of the Border was reminded of Iain Patterson’s fictional Rab C. Nesbit and his acute observations on poverty, society and politics. Nesbit was a benefits’ scrounger, and the show was comedy, but it also took the opportunity to tell some very harsh truths about the attitude of the Jobcentres, smarmy politicians and clergy, who affected concern for the poor, but had little real understanding, as well as other manifestations of pomposity, meanness, stupidity and arrogance.

Unfortunately, this is all real. And its victims aren’t scroungers like Nesbit. And there’s nothing funny about this situation at all.

As for seeing how the MPs would survive mentally if you could off their household supplies, leaving them with only the food bank to rely on, it’s manifestly obvious that they couldn’t cope. And they know it. Thirty years ago when Thatcher started cutting benefits, Geoffrey Dickens was invited by Channel 4 to survive on the dole for a week. He couldn’t. By the end of the week, his water and electricity had been cut off, and the food cupboard was empty. But the Tories have learned their lesson. Unfortunately, what they’ve learned is not to take up such challenges. One Tory MP, it might have someone from IDS’ wretched department, was invited to take part in a similar experiment for television. He turned it down, saying it was just a stunt. He knew he couldn’t survive, and didn’t want to give the opposition and viewing public the opportunity to watch him have to eat his words, ’cause there was precious little else he had left. But that’s the only thing that’s changed. The rhetoric of reproach hasn’t. Mr Curran talks about how ministers accuse the poor of going to food banks because their lazy and scroungers, when the truth is far from that. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what Edwina Currie has been saying, to give one example. When Panorama did a programme on the rise of food banks, she appeared on it to give her view that people were using them simply because they could, and they didn’t represent a rise in real poverty. Well, they are an indication of the grinding poverty and hunger that’s gripping Britain. And Currie’s a disgrace, along with all the other Tories, who claim otherwise, and especially Ian Duncan Smith and Stephen Crabb, Cameron’s heads of the DWP, who are responsible for the implementation of the cuts.

Dennis Skinner on Ending Exploitation by Private Employment Agencies

May 31, 2016

I little while ago this evening I put up piece detailing Dennis Skinner’s own proposals for improving Britain in his book, Sailing Close the Wind. One of them was to end private employment agencies, and get back to using Jobcentres to notify people of available work. He gives a bit more information about his opposition to private employment agencies, which actively discriminate against trade unionists and, he argues, promote racism against foreign workers.

After discussing his success under Gordon Brown’s administration in creating an industrial estate that could provide 6,000 jobs, Skinner goes on to write

All the growth, however, has to be accompanied by a totally new employment strategy. the Labour government has to get rid of zero-hours contracts and agencies that exploit the workers and effectively outlaw trade union membership, refusing to hire anybody who joins a union. Let us get back to the days when the Labour Exchange or Jobcentres provided people with work, and employment agencies didn’t short-change and abuse people. Men and women today are worried about being undercut by foreign labour. The real problem is that agencies act as middlemen, taking a cut of wages. When I worked in the coal mines in the late 1940s, Poles and Ukrainians were employed in nearly every pit. They were regarded as displaced persons after the war. I can’t remember any serious objections. And why not? Simply because a) they were not employed by agencies, b) they were paid the same wages as us and c) they were all members of the NUM or the appropriate trade union! Today these lessons should be learned and practised in every private or public firm in Britain. (pp. 55-6).