Posts Tagged ‘John Major’

Corbyn: Labour Is the Real Party of the Centre

October 5, 2017

I didn’t put up an article about this, when Corbyn made the claim last week at the Labour conference. So I’m doing it now. In his speech to the Labour conference last week, Corbyn proclaimed that Labour is the real party of the centre. This should upset and frighten the Blairites, Lib Dems and Tories, who have been busily screaming that Corbyn and Momentum are Trotskyite entryists, and that Labour has moved to the far left.

Blair did this a little while ago, when he turned up from whichever stone he’s been hiding under since he handed power over to Broon, and flew off, having done his best to finish Maggie’s and the Tories’ goal of privatizing the Health Service in Britain, and aiding George Bush and the Likudniks in their demented project to turn the Middle East into a gigantic charnel house for the sake of big business and the American-Saudi oil companies. He’s trying to set up his own Blairite party, which he claims will represent the true centre ground of British politics.

No. It won’t. Blair and the Tories were never the centre ground. They were right-wing. Indeed, following the victory of Maggie Thatcher and her abandonment of the post-War consensus that advocated a mixed economy and state investment in industry, and comprehensive welfare provision, the Tories and their entryists in the Labour party in the form of Blair, New Labour and Progress, the Tories were far right. They stood for absolute privatization and the dismantlement of the welfare state, aims which Blair, as Thatcher’s political golden boy shared.

The press, Tories and Blairites have been whining ever since Corbyn won the leadership election, however, that Labour is now a party of the far left. And indeed there was a letter repeating that lie in the I newspaper today. But it’s untrue. Under Corbyn, Labour party has become once again a party of the centre-left. It advocates a mixed economy, a properly funded and state-run NHS, and proper welfare provision, so that 100,000 of us don’t have to rely on food banks to stop ourselves from starving, and 7 million of us don’t have to worry about whether we can afford to feed ourselves or pay the utilities bills. And where the trains actually run on time. As they did, or did more regularly, before John Major privatized them.

These are not extreme left-wing policies. They way entirely mainstream policies in the thirty-odd years from Labour’s election victory after the end of the Second World War to Thatcher’s election in 1979. This was a period of economic growth and prosperity and where the difference in wealth between rich and poor was at its narrowest.

This has all been wrecked, thanks to Thatcher and her followers in the Tory party and New Labour. And it is excellent that under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is set to reverse nearly forty years of Thatcherite misgovernment and exploitation, and return politics to its true centre ground.

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More Tory Lies as Jeremy Hunt Claims the Tories Set Up the NHS

October 5, 2017

The Tories really can’t stop lying, can they? Now that the British public’s becoming very disenchanted with neoliberalism, and the Thatcherite ideological legacy is up against the wall, waiting for Corbyn to shout ‘Fire!’, they’re doing their best to steal the credit for Labour policies. On Tuesday Mike reported that, while Nye Bevan did indeed set up the NHS in 1948, it was ultimately created by the Tory MP, Henry Willink, who authored a government White Paper about it in 1944.

Willink did indeed author a White Paper laying out plans for something like the modern NHS. However, Mike’s article quotes the Independent’s report on the matter. This in turn cites the comments of Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s Shadow Health Minister, who states very firmly that the Tories voted against it 22 times. The Indie wrote

“Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “Jeremy Hunt’s claim the Tories created the NHS is laughable. The Tories fought it tooth and nail all the way through Parliament on a three-line whip. In fact they voted against the creation of the NHS 22 times including at the third reading.

“Over the last 70 years, the Tories have under-funded and tried to sell off the NHS. Labour governments have always stepped in to fully fund and rebuild the NHS. And so it will again fall to the next Labour government to give the NHS the funding it needs and rebuild it to deliver the quality world class health service every patient deserves.”

Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine added to was “astonishing” that Mr Hunt has the gall to claim a Conservative minister was responsible for setting up the NHS, then in the next breath says the health service should be above party politics.”

Quite. In fact, the NHS and the welfare state is based on the Beveridge Report, written in 1944. Beveridge was a Liberal. However, the Socialist Medical Association had been campaigning for a state-owned health service since in the 1930s. And the ultimate origins of the NHS can be found in the minority report published by Sidney and Beatrice Webb way back at the beginning of the 20th century in their comments about the state of medical care in Britain.

A little while ago I had someone turning up on this blog to try to argue that the Tories had also been involved in the creation of the NHS, and weren’t its enemies. As I’ve said, Willink was involved. But Labour was the strongest champion of the Health Service, while the Conservatives lost support in the 1940s by postponing its implementation, citing concerns about cost. Then, five years after the NHS was set up, the Tory right revolted and demanded its privatization, on the grounds we couldn’t afford it.

And coming from Jez himself, this is just more hypocrisy. Thatcher wanted to privatize the Health Service, and was prevented from doing so because there was a massive cabinet revolt. Indeed, it was described as the closest thing to a riot. Her personal private secretary, Patrick Jenkin, made her very aware that the American, private healthcare system, was rubbish. So she modified her policy to simply recommending that 25 per cent of all Brits should have private medical coverage.

Then there was the introduction of the Private Finance Initiative by John Major and Peter ‘I’ve Got a Little List’ Lilley, under which private healthcare companies were and are being given license to build and run hospitals and provide other medical services. Why? Not because of efficiency. The system is spectacularly inefficient, and leads to smaller, fewer, and more expensive hospitals than under the normal system of state funding and management. But Lilley and his Tory colleagues were upset that there was this highly lucrative state sector that their pals in private industry couldn’t get their mitts on. They wanted to open the NHS up to private investment. Providing better healthcare didn’t come into it.

And New Labour continued the privatization of the Health Service. This shouldn’t be surprising, as Blair was Thatcher’s protégé across the Green Benches. She stated that he was her greatest achievement, and was the first person to visit him in 10 Downing Street after he moved in.

And then, in 2012, came Andrew Lansley’s Healthcare Bill, which effectively absolves the Health Minister of his statutory duty to provide effective medical care to everyone. It’s heavily disguised in tortuous, convoluted prose, but this is what it does.

And Jez himself is a massive hypocrite in all of this. As Mike has blogged over and again, Hunt has said in his own book that he wants the NHS privatized. But in order to lull the British public into a false sense of security, he’s trying to tell us how much the Tories ‘treasure’ it. And that they set it up.

He’s saying all this because Labour is going to renationalize the NHS, end PFI and move it all in-house. And that scares him and his big business paymasters absolutely witless. But we desperately need this to happen. We really cannot afford for Britain to succumb to the Tories and their free market hogwash, and become like America, where millions cannot afford medical insurance, and where thousands wait in their cars overnight to get access to free healthcare, when it’s offered.

Save the NHS.

Get the Tories out!

From RT: McDonnell States We Will Not Sell Arms to States Abusing Human Rights

September 29, 2017

In this short clip from RT, presenter Afshin Rattansi asks John McDonnell about the party’s policy regarding arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Both he (McDonnell) and Jeremy Corbyn have both said that arms sales to Saudi Arabia should be suspended because of their use against civilians in the war in Yemen. Rattansi then asks him if he doesn’t find it odd walking past posters for BAE Systems. McDonnell replies that their stance is that Britain has an arms trade, but we must stop selling arms to human rights abusers, like Saudi Arabia. And this has to stop immediately, because people are dying.

I find it grossly immoral that the Labour party has accepted sponsorship from BAE, which has for decades sold arms to every dictator and butcher on the planet, as well as desperately poor states, who don’t need them, can’t maintain them, and whose purchase diverts money that could be better used on welfare or development programmes for their people. They are also responsible for making weapons that are illegal under international law, such as electric shields and batons.

Unfortunately, big business has wormed its way into the sponsorship of the Labour party, and Tony Blair was as fully supportive of the merchants of death as the Tories were. McDonnell’s statement that he and Corbyn won’t sell arms to the Saudis and the other repressive regimes around the globe sound like a restatement of the late Robin Cook’s ‘ethical foreign policy’, which became a dead letter almost as soon as Labour got into power.

Cook was, in many people’s eyes, the man who should have been head of the Labour party instead of Blair. Speaking at the Cheltenham Festival of Literature nearly two decades or so ago, Giles Brandreth said that when he was a minister in Major’s cabinet, Cook was the man they were most afraid would lead Labour because of his ‘forensic intelligence’. He was genuinely further left, and Private Eye opined that Blair included him in the cabinet because ‘it was better to have him in the tent p*ssing out, than outside p*ssing in.’

The Tories, Lib Dems, the Beeb, the rest of the media, and big business are terrified of Corbyn and McDonnell. This strongly suggests to me that they are afraid that Corbyn, unlike Blair, means what he says. And McDonnell is right: the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia needs to be stopped now. The war hasn’t just killed the people hit by the bullets and bombs. It’s also created a famine that may kill 7 million people.

The Saudis have butchered innocent civilians in factories, mosques and schools, simply because they’re Shi’a. They were also responsible for the 9/11 attack that plunged us into the War on Terror and which was falsely blamed on Iraq. They have also funded and supplied other aid to ISIS in its trail of murder and chaos across the Middle East. I’m aware that the Saudis have turned against ISIS after they released a video trying to encourage the people there to rise up against their rulers. Even so, my guess is that support for the jihadis is nevertheless very strong. Any guns and other ‘wonderful kit’ – in the words of David Cameron – we sell to the Saudis therefore has a strong chance of being passed on to the fanatics to be used against our troops.

There are thus very strong humanitarian and selfish reasons for not selling any further weapons to the Saudis.

BBC Claims of Impartiality Shattered as Another Newsman Joins May’s Campaign Team

July 8, 2017

The Beeb constantly answers any criticism that it is biased towards the Tories by repeating its claim that it’s impartial, bound by its official charter and so on. Anyone writing to the Corporation to complain about its egregious bias, such as against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour, as shown in its coverage of the last general election and the barrage of lies and sneers long before by Laura Kuenssberg, John Pienaar et al are given this standard reply. The Beeb, you are sanctimoniously and haughtily told, is above suspicion, so you should go away and mind your own business.

Mike, as he reminds us, received one of these letters when he complained about the Beeb’s bias. So have many of his commenters, after they complained. Buddy Hell, over at Guy Debord’s Cat, got a similarly sniff missive from the Corporation when he did.

But the bias is real. Researchers at the media units at Edinburgh, Cardiff and Glasgow universities concluded that the Beeb was far more likely to interview Tory MPs and financial experts, and accept their comments, than talk to Labour MPs and trade unionists. Barry and Saville Kushner, in their book, Who Needs the Cuts, described how they were moved to campaign about austerity partly by the way the Corporation uncritically accepted the need for its savage cuts against the poor and working class. They cited one example where a leading trade unionist was effectively shouted down by a BBC presenter on the radio when he dared to say that they were unnecessary and the arguments for them didn’t hold water. The proles were getting uppity and questioning the impeccable logic of their lords and masters, and so had to be shut down.

You can hear the same claim of impartiality repeated ad nauseam on the Beeb’s own public relations programme, Points of View, where the Beeb takes a look at the letters its received about its programmes. Private Eye has criticised this many times over the years as simply an exercise for allowing the BBC to answer its critics while playing very fast loose and with the actual evidence. For example, if one programme comes under fire from a section of the public, the Beeb will cites correspondence it has received in support of the programme. However, it won’t mention the actual volume of correspondence it has received on the issue. So if it receives, say, 30 letters of complaint about a programme, and only two or three letters of support, those two or three letters will still be trotted out, along with a few remarks from the show’s producers, to give the impression that opinion was equally divided when it was anything but.

As for political bias, when this is raised the BBC will trot out the remark that all administrations have felt that the BBC was biased against them. This is probably true. Way back in the 1990s under John Major the Tories were constantly screaming how the ‘left-wing BBC’ were biased against them. They do the same today, on website like Biased BBC, where right-winger – and often extreme Rightists – whine about how the Corporation is pro-Islam and full of ‘cultural Marxists’.

These claims of impeccable impartiality were seen to be increasingly threadbare this week, as two more of the Beeb’s news managers vied with each other to join Theresa May’s team. The two candidates for the post of head of May’s communications team were Robbie Gibb, the head of the BBC news team at Westminster, and editor of the Daily and Sunday Politics, and John Landale, the deputy political editor at the Corporation. Landale, it seems almost needless to say, is another Old Etonian. One of the previous heads of communications for the Tories was Craig Oliver, another newsman from the Beeb. Oliver was responsible for revamping the News at 10 at organising the coverage for the 2010 Election.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/07/05/pro-tory-bias-confirmed-as-bbc-news-men-vie-to-be-theresa-mays-comms-chief/

In the end, Gibb got the job. Well, he is the brother of Tory politico Nicolas Gibb, the former chief of staff for Tory Francis Maude, and was best man for another Tory candidate, Mark MacGregor. He was also the vice-chair of the Federation of Conservative students.

Other Tories, who have found agreeable posts at the Corporation include James Harding, who is head of news and current affairs across the Corporation. He’s another Murdoch employee and a friend of George Osborne. Then there’s Andrew Neil, who was editor of the Sunset Times under Murdoch, a chairman of Sky TV, and chairman of the Press Holdings Group, which own the Spectator. Among the commenters on Twitter, who remarked on this latest blatant link between the Beeb and the Tories was Owen Jones, who reminded his readers that Cameron, Boris Johnson and George Osborne all took their spin doctors from the Beeb. Another commenter, Will Black, said that with the numbers of Tories at the Beeb, the news should be written off as a Tory election expense, rather than be paid for by the licence fee.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/07/07/proof-of-dodgy-link-between-bbc-and-tories-robbie-gibb-is-theresa-mays-new-communications-chief/

This latest move of a high-ranking newsman at the Beeb makes it even more difficult for the Corporation to deny that it has a right-wing bias. Although I have no doubt that they won’t stop trying. Expect more guff about how the corporation is utterly impartial and above reproach, even when the careers of editors and presenters and the content of the news itself screams otherwise.

Cartoon – Cameron and Osborne Laughing at the People, Who Elected Them

July 1, 2017

This cartoon is simply a straight drawing of David Cameron and George Osborne, based on photographs of them from Private Eye. These showed them laughing like a malignant, old Etonian Nazi version of the Chuckle Brothers. Of course, the Tories enjoy a good laugh mocking the Labour party, or anybody else in parliament who dares to tell the truth about the mass poverty they’re inflicting for the profit of big business. Remember the way May laughed robotically shortly before the election, when Jeremy Corbyn dared to remind her of it?

But it’s also not hard to imagine that they are laughing, not simply as a way of trying to shrug off the entire accurate attacks on them and their vile policies, but also at the poor and the very people, who are suffering through their policies. Mike put up a picture a year or so ago of Cameron and Ian Duncan Smith, the minister in charge of culling the disabled, having a real belly laugh in parliament at a speech, in which the sufferings of one disabled woman due to their welfare reforms, were being read out and described.

If you want a graphic demonstration of the Tories’ real attitude to the poorm that was it.

The Tories are dismantling what’s left of the welfare state and privatising the NHS, all for the benefit of the rich and big business. They have seen their tax rates cut, while the tax burden has increasingly shifted to the poor and working class through the imposition of indirect taxes. This has been a direct consequence of nearly forty years of Thatcherism. Left-wing economists, politicians, and writers have said that it is the largest redistribution of wealth upwards for decades.

The result has been massive wealth for the few, while the 75 per cent of the population who aren’t rich have been thrust further into poverty. Over a hundred thousand people are forced to use food banks. Seven million people live in food insecure households, just about feeding themselves today, but unsure whether they’ll have enough tomorrow. Wages are stagnant and below the rate of the inflation. The disabled and unemployed are thrown off benefit at the whim of jobcentre clerks and decision makers. Many of those fortunate enough to have jobs are stuck in short-term, part-time or zero hours contracts. Insecure short-term work, which does not pay enough to support them or their families. The majority of people claiming benefits aren’t the unemployed, but people in work hit by this type of poverty.

And the Tories are hitting the working poor as well. If you’re low paid and need benefits, it’s your fault for not being able to get a better job, rather than due to structural faults in the economy and decades of Thatcherite employment policies. So they’re busy trying to find ways of sanctioning these poor souls as well.

This is all done in the name of creating a fluid jobs market, enabling employers to hire and fire workers at will, and not having to pay those workers they do retain if they don’t need them that day. This is supposed to create employment.

But the Tories aren’t interested in creating mass employment. 19th century free trade economists and their monetarist successors wanted to keep a certain proportion of the population – about 8 per cent – unemployed in order to use the threat of unemployment to keep the working class in line and wages low.

This has made the rich much richer. And some of the Tories were very frank about what it meant at the time. Private Eye, reviewing one of the ‘heritage’ books that came out during Thatcher’s period in office about the wonderful lives and stately homes of the aristocracy, quoted Hugh Massingberd’s comments about it in the Times. After decades of attack by Labour governments, who had imposed death duties on them to break up their wealth, the aristocracy were returning to their old power and status. It was, he declared, ‘a social restoration’.

The anonymous reviewer pointed out what this meant for the rest of us. The rich were winning back their old seats in society, and the rest of us were going to be sat on.

Meanwhile, the Tories have sought to maintain their grip on power through lie after lie. They claim that only they represent the real working class, defending hardworking people against idle scroungers like the unemployed and asylum seekers. The NHS is being privatised and cut to the bone, but they then claim with a straight face that in real terms, there’s more money being spent on it than ever before. They aren’t depriving people of benefits, only reforming it so that it goes to the people, who deserve. Yeah, it’s because these reforms are so accurate that we have so many people dying of starvation.

As for food banks, people are only using them because it’s free food. It’s another lie. You can only use them if you have a chit from the jobcentre to say you have no money and can’t feed yourself. But the truth is irrelevant to Tories mouthing this nonsense, like Edwina Currie.

And at the top you get the sneers and condescension from very rich Tories, who are doing very well, thank you very much. Johnny Void, Mike and the Angry Yorkshireman at Another Angry Voice carried a sample of some of these a few years ago. One Tory patrician declared that the homeless were ‘the people you step over coming out of the opera’. And Matthew Freud, who was briefly a member of Blair’s New Labour before jumping ship and joining the Tories, declared that the poor should be more flexible than the rich, as they had less to lose.

These people are out of touch, and are sneering at the victim of the poverty they have imposed.

After the elections in the early 1990s, which saw John Major enter downing street as the new Tory pm, Spitting Image ran a series of sketches. These showed the Tories turning up outside the homes of ordinary people and asking them if they vote for them. When they said ‘Yes’, Major and his cabinet chanted ‘Stupid, Stupid’ at them. This was because the British public had voted them back in, despite massive poverty due to cuts and a housing crisis that had created a rise in homelessness as people had their homes repossessed for not being able to repay their mortgages.

Just as the lack of affordable housing now means that the majority of working people will be unable to afford their own home, and rents are also high.

So behind the carefully crafted veneer of ‘one nation’, ‘compassionate’ Conservatism – which is in fact anything but – it’s not hard to see that the Tories are having a laugh at the British public, sneering at the ordinary people, who elect them sincerely believing that they mean to serve them.

They don’t serve us, and have nothing in common with us, despite all that bilge about how ‘we’re all in it together’. They serve only the rich, and despise and hate the working and lower middle classes.

But for a genuine politicians, who does have the interests of the poor at heart, vote Labour and get Corbyn into office when ‘strong and stable’ May’s administration finally collapses.

Vote for Corbyn to Stop the Work Capability Tests

June 8, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Jeremy Corbyn has also promised to end workfare.

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

Stop the Work Capability Test –
Before More People Die

by David Sivier

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does the ‘I’ Really Believe People Hate May Because of her Gender?

June 7, 2017

On the front page of the I, the paper boasted that it had an article by novelist Philippa Gregory on the eight prejudices that have historically been levelled against women rulers.

Is this supposed to imply that opponents of Theresa May are motivated solely by sexism?

It wouldn’t surprise me. After all, the paper gave a lot of support to the various female Blairites, who claimed that voting for Jeremy Corbyn and not for his female rivals in the Labour leadership elections was very, very sexist indeed. Despite the fact that Corbyn had far better policies for women, while the Harriet Harman and Angela Eagle had all been Blairite neoliberals, who had backed the failed economic and social policies that have actively harmed women.

If this is what the newspaper intends, then I have got news for them.

May’s gender is completely irrelevant to me.

I would loathe and despair her, even if she was a bloke called Terry. Just as I despised her male predecessors, the unfunny comedy double act David Cameron and Nick Clegg.

I despise May because she has

* Cut and done everything she could to privatise the NHS, running it into the ground.

* Cut and done everything she could to privatise the education system.

* Maintained the current system of tuition fees, which are loading students with mountains of debt.

* Carried on with Cameron and Clegg’s policies of massive welfare cuts, including the Bedroom tax and the humiliating and murderous Work Capability Tests, which have thrown thousands off benefits and into misery and starvation.

* Cut the numbers of police, armed services, border guards and other services back so that Britain was left dangerously vulnerable. A policy that ultimately allowed the Manchester and London terrorists to commit their horrendous crimes.

* Lied about her intention to put British workers in the boardroom, while she’s done just about everything in her power to get rid of workers’ rights.

* Her policies have also resulted in stagnant wages and maintained high levels of unemployment, to the point where most of the people on benefit are those ‘hard-working’ folk she and the Tories have patronised with their condescending rhetoric.

* Shown that she is completely incompetent to negotiate a fair deal for Brexit, which will enable British firms and other organisations contact with the EU and access to their markets.

* Done everything in her power to support the erosion of our precious civil liberties begun by Major, Blair, Cameron and Clegg. This means the massive expansion of the surveillance state and the malignant system of secret courts, in which you may be tried without knowing the crime, the evidence against you, who your accuser is, and behind closed doors. Like Nazi Germany and the Stalinist Soviet Union.

* Cut taxes for the rich, while transferring the burden to the poor. Which, incidentally, was one of the reasons behind the French Revolution.

* Repealed legislation protecting our environment, so she can sell off Britain’s forests and trash our green and pleasant land with fracking for the profit of her friends in the oil industry.

* Supported Tory policies that have, instead of drawing the peoples of our great island nation together, have instead caused even further division by supporting islamophobia, fear and resentment of immigrants, and general racial intolerance.

* Not that she’s simply worked up racial intolerance. She and the Tory press have also done their utmost to whip up prejudice against the disabled to justify cuts in their benefits. The result has been a massive increase in hate crime against people with disabilities.

* Carried on with policies which will result in the break-up of the United Kingdom after three hundred years in the case of Scotland and England, and two hundred in the case of Britain and Northern Ireland.

The ‘Celtic Fringe’ – Scotland, Wales and Ulster don’t want Brexit. The Welsh and Scots Nationalist leaders want their nations and Ulster to be part of the Brexit negotiations. And all of the Northern Irish parties want to keep the open border with Eire. But all this is in jeopardy through May’s high-handed attitude to the nations, and her determination to promote only ‘Leave’ supporters to manage Britain’s departure from the EU.

And I could probably carry with more. Much more.

This is why I despise Theresa May and want her voted out, along with the party that chose her and has done so much serious harm to this country and its people for seven years.

I therefore urge everyone to vote Labour tomorrow to get her and them thrown out.

Theresa May Wants Greater Regulation of the Internet after Terror Attacks

June 6, 2017

Here’s another threat to liberty in the UK: the further expansion of the massive surveillance state erected by New Labour and the Tory-Lib Dem coalition.

After the terrible atrocity in Manchester last week, Theresa May and the Tories demanded greater regulation of the internet in order to crack down on terrorism. At first, this doesn’t look too unreasonable. ISIS and al-Qaeda before it have disseminated their propaganda through the Net. Several British converts, including the stupid schoolgirls, who ran off to the Middle East to be jihadi brides, were drawn to the terrorists through the loathsome beheading videos these butchers put out.

However, there are dangers as well. Further regulation means that the state has greater powers to spy on all of us, and presents a danger to free speech and conscience generally.

In this clip from the David Pakman Show, Pakman and his producer, Patrick Ford, point out the dangers of such legislation. They cite the intelligence whistleblower, Edward Snowden, who made the point that despite the massive expansion in the American surveillance state after 9/11, there is no evidence that the increased policing of the net prevented further terrorist attacks. They also ask their audience to imagine what would happen, if a generation arose, who believed climate change did not exist because all references to it had been scrubbed from the Net, or if the government used its regulation of the Web to whip up support for another war.

Pakman and Ford state clearly that they are afraid we Brits are going down the same road America went down after the attack on the Twin Towers.

Pakman and Ford are absolutely right to be very worried about this. Blair stood for the expansion of the surveillance state in Britain before 9/11, as did John Major, the Tory prime minister before him. And privacy and civil liberties groups have been extremely worried about this intrusion into the lives and private matters of innocent citizens and the threat it poses to genuine freedom.

The terror attack in Manchester was just the latest pretext to take more of our freedoms away. A few years ago it was the threat of paedophilia and pornography. Tom Pride, of Pride’s Purge, found that some of his readers were finding it difficult to view him, because their internet provider had decided that his blog was ‘adult’ and so not suitable for children. The blog is indeed adult, but only in the sense that it’s a political blog, dealing with an adult topic. Which sometimes involves very forthright language from Mr Pride. But it certainly ain’t porn, and its blocking – and those of similar left-wing blogs – looked very much like an attempt by the Tories and their Lib Dem enablers to clamp down on left-wing bloggers.

Just as YouTube has taken the campaign against fake news as the opportune to demonetise left-wing vloggers. This will force left-wing news programmes off YouTube by denying them the advertising money they need to support them.

Britain has some of the harshest anti-terror legislation in Europe. Thanks to Blair, Cameron and Clegg, British law now provides for secret courts, where you can be tried without knowing the precise charges, the evidence against you, or who your accuser is, and where the press and the public are excluded, if the government decides that a normal, public trial would be a threat to national security.

As I’ve pointed out time and again, this is the travesty of justice the great Czech writer, Kafka, described in his book The Trial and The Castle, and which became horrific realities in Nazi Germany and Stalinist USSR.

As Pakman and Ford point out, no-one is arguing that governments shouldn’t have the tools they need to prevent terrorism. But this should not mean a further erosion of civil liberties.

I believe we are very much at that point now.

Don’t let May use the terror attacks to create a totalitarian surveillance state, where the only material allowed on the Net is right-wing, Tory propaganda.

Vote Labour on June 8th for a sensible approach to terrorism.

Guy Debord’s Cat: Edwina Curry Claims to be Another Poor Pensioner

May 2, 2017

Another Tory, who lies about food banks also surfaced two months. Edwina Curry responded to comment by Buddy Hell of Guy Debord’s Cat on Twitter with the statement that she was a 70 year old pensioner, who occasionally works for the BBC and is on low pay and benefits.

The Cat had remarked that it was all right for her to sneer, as she didn’t have to rely on benefits to top up poor wages from work. And that was her response.

The Cat comments further on her reply that

She’s on low pay and she receives benefits? I doubt that. As the poster below remarks, she receives a generous final salary pension to which all former MPs are entitled. Although she may not be, in her words “filthy rich”, she has the kind of income that many pensioners can only dream of. Her appearance on I’m A Celebrity netted her a cool £100,000. As for her appearances on the BBC, let’s put it this way: she won’t be earning peanuts. Currie and her second husband also own two (possibly more) properties.

He also speculates that perhaps she thought he’d forgotten her comments about salmonella in eggs and her four year affair with John Major.

he concludes

If Currie thinks her pension isn’t enough for her to live on, maybe she could get a job at her local supermarket? Just a thought.

See https://buddyhell.wordpress.com/2017/03/15/edwina-currie-just-another-poor-pensioner/

No, Edwina Currie is very definitely not a poor pensioner. In fact, from what I’ve seen of her performances on television, she has absolute contempt for them, just like she and her party has for anyone else who’s poor. About a decade ago she turned up on the Clive Anderson show. Anderson asked her about the furore she caused when she was in Major’s government. The government had decided to cut pensioners’ winter fuel allowance. This understandably upset very many people. Curry’s response was to tell them to ‘wrap up warmly’. She repeated her comments, and added a snide remark about how it would ‘teach them’.

This offhand sneer at poor senior citizens went down as well as you would expect: the audience started booing.

This provoked an amazed response from Curry – she started peering around with the kind of fixed smile people put on when they know something’s not quite right, but don’t understand what. She really, really couldn’t understand how anyone could find her comment offensive.

She’s another one who’d fail the Turing test. In fact, there are probably ZX81s still out there, with 1 byte of memory, that stand a better chance of passing for human.

She also comes across as incredibly thick. She’s an Oxford graduate, and presumably had a very expensive education, but you do wonder how she got in. Way back in the 1990s, when Have I Got News For You was still more than halfway funny, she tried locking horns with Ian Hislop. Answering a question about some legal tussle she’d been involved in, she looked across to the editor of Private Eye and remarked ‘Aren’t you glad I didn’t sue you?’

To which Hislop frostily replied ‘Aren’t you glad, my dear!’

I think she’s now an MP for Derby. She turned up a few years ago on a documentary about starvation in Britain and the rising use of food banks. She was interviewed to give the Tory line. So standing in the middle of a bank’s stores, she repeated the lie that people weren’t using them because they were starving, but because it was cheap food.

Wrong. You can only use a food bank if you’ve got a chit referring you from the Jobcentre.

This was pointed out to her by the presenter. But, like a good little follower of Goebbels on the art of political lying, she repeated the lie.

She also made another appearance on a chat show a few years ago, in which she made much of her Liverpool roots. She put up on the accent, and tried to pass herself off as a real ‘Dicky Sam’.

Liverpool’s a great city. It has given the world the Beatles, Hornby Railways and Meccano. It has a brilliant museum and art gallery, and was one of the first museums in Britain to open a display on its role in the slave trade. In the 19th century, it’s literary and philosophical society was a major centre of scientific research in England. It has also produced the great writer and playwright, Alan Bleasdale. Unfortunately, Edwina Curry has also appeared to lower the tone.

She’s another Tory liar with a contempt for the poor, who tries to hide it behind further lies.

My YouTube Video Urging People to Vote Labour to Defend the NHS

April 30, 2017

I’ve had my own YouTube channel for a few years now. I haven’t posted anything on there for quite a while, and most of the stuff I have posted up there is about archaeology, early musical instruments and few home-made space videos. However, today I put up a video urging people to vote for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour to prevent the Tories privatising the NHS.

I state that it began when Margaret Thatcher came to power as part of her campaign to dismantle the welfare state, but that Thatcher was stopped from doing so by her a cabinet revolt and her Personal Secretary, Patrick Jenkin. The cabinet realised that if she did privatise the NHS, it would immediately result in the Tories losing an election. Also, Jenkin went to America and realised just how bad the American system of private healthcare was. So Maggie settled for trying to expand private healthcare in Britain, aiming to have 25 per cent of the British people take out private health insurance.

A few years later in the 1980s there came a dispute between her and the dentists, which resulted in very many of them leaving the NHS. The result of that is that, while there still are NHS dentists, you need to look for them. And private dental care is not cheap. So people are going without proper dentistry.

After that, Peter Lilley in John Major’s administration introduced the Private Finance Initiative, under which private corporations build and manage hospitals for the NHS. It’s essentially a scheme to keep the costs of construction and management off the books. In practice it’s massively more expensive than simply having them build by the state. Those hospitals, clinics and other medical services built through it also tend to be smaller than through ordinary hospitals built by the state. See the chapter in George Monbiot’s Captive State. This was all done to open up the NHS to private investment.

This programme was expanded by Tony Blair, as he, like the Tories, was approached by private healthcare firms such as Unum, Virgin Health, Circle Health and BUPA to privatise more NHS services. His health secretary, Alan Milburn, wished to reduce the NHS to a kitemark for services provided for the state by private healthcare companies. He split the NHS up and handed its management to CCGs – Community Care Groups. This was supposed to be giving doctors greater freedom and more choice. However, it doesn’t do this as most doctors simply don’t have enough time to spend on administration. The CCGs were given the power to raise money privately, and commission services from private healthcare providers. Again, hospitals and the health centres or polyclinics Blair also built were also to be managed by private companies.

This programme did not stop when David Cameron’s new Conservative government was voted into power in 2010. Cameron had claimed that he going to stop further cuts in the NHS. He didn’t. He expanded the privatisation programme even further. The 2012 healthcare act formulated by his health minister, Andrew Lansley, is a convoluted document, but it removes the Health Secretary from having to provide medical services. Furthermore, the Tories have also passed legislation allowing the NHS to charge for services, even ambulance care. And this is still going ahead under Theresa May.

There is a real danger that the NHS will be abolished, and the country will return to the way it was before the Labour government introduced it. Private healthcare is not more economical and efficient than state healthcare. Private insurance companies and hospitals spend much more on management, including advertising, legal teams and simply trying to raise money from investors, to make sure their shareholders see a profit. There are about 50 million Americans without health insurance. 33,000 Americans die every year from lack of medical care. And it was like that before the NHS, when the charity hospitals, where people were sent if they didn’t have private health insurance, or weren’t covered by the state health insurance scheme, spent much of their time trying to raise money. And millions of people were denied healthcare, because they couldn’t afford it.

Jeremy Corbyn has said that he will renationalise the NHS. Dr. David Owen has also sponsored a bill to renationalise the NHS. They need our support. And so, if you want to keep the NHS, you should vote for Jeremy Corbyn.

For further information, see the following books:
NHS-SOS, edited by Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis (London: OneWorld 2015)
Dr. Youseff El-Gingihy, How to Privatise the NHS in 10 Easy Steps (Zed Books)
and my own, Privatisation: Killing the NHS, published by Lulu.